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Basic Photography, Part 2

Updated on September 13, 2011


In this part, I will discuss photography technology. It is important to understand what makes a good quality still photo or video. We will look at focus, white balance and lighting.


Obviously the most important part of photography. Here are some important things to remember about light.

When shooting outside, the light source, usually the sun, should be behind you. Never shoot in the direction of the sun. It will cause a very poor quality photo as your subject will be too dark, and you may get a reflection of the sun in your photo.

When shooting indoors, try to use additional lights. Usually there is not enough ambient light indoors to create a decent result. The exception to this rule is when shooting a news or sports event where you can't use additional lights.

When you do use additional lighting, it is recommended you use the 3-point lighting technique. Light kits will have all the equipment you will need. A key, a fill and a back light. The key is a spotlight and is the primary light source on your subject. Since the key light is harsh, and produces harsh shadows, you need a fill. The fill light is a softer light used to eliminate the shadows created by the key. The backlight is used to separate your subject from the background.

Lighting will be discussed in more detail in the "Color Temperature" section later.

Color Temperature and White Balance

When we look at something "white", we see white because our brain has an automatic white balance function. Cameras do not. It is important to understand color temperature and how to correct it if needed.

Actually, there is no such thing as "white". Everything has a color temperature which ranges from red to blue. Red has a lower temperature than blue. What's confusing is what we call a "warm white" is actually cooler in temperature than what we know as "cool white". Confused, yet?

Color temperature is measured in Degrees Kelvin, and usually ranges from about 3000 up to about 6500. 3000 K is an orangy-red, and 6500 K is a medium-blue.

The temperature is determined by the light source. Different sources of light give off a different temperature.

Sunlight covers all of these ranges, depending on the time of day. Sunlight is "bluest" (6500 K), at around noon. It is orange during sunrise and sunset.

Artificial lights vary depending on the light. Incandescent bulbs are around 3600 K. Fluorescents vary, but are usually around 4700 K. For the best quality photos and video, use lights that are closer to sunlight. In film production, they use HMI lights. These are very big, very expensive, and require special training to use. They are the closest to 6500 K an artificial light can get. However, there is a new lighting technology that is sweeping the photography world. LED lights. These are small, use very little electricity, some even run on batteries, and they are also very close to "daylight" color temperature.

One very important thing to remember when using artificial light, is to not mix different types of lighting. For example, if you are photographing in a room lit mostly by sunlight, and want to use additional lights, use lights that are around 6000 K. You can filter lights to different temperatures using gels or filters. This is a bit more advanced, and will be covered later in "Advanced Photography".

In addition to the lights, video and digital still cameras have white balance settings. There is Automatic, Preset and Manual. The best to use is Manual, but this is also advanced, and will be covered later. As a beginner, just use Automatic for now.

Film still cameras are always "daylight", so when using film, it works best outdoors, or with 6000 - 6500 K lights. If you have to use lights with a lower temperature, such as incandescent, use a color correction filter. The 80A filter is designed to color correct film to incandescent lights. 80A filters can be purchased from photography supply stores.

Depth Of Field: Keeping In Focus

The last item we will cover in this part is focusing distance, or depth of field. This is dependent on lighting as well.

When there are poor lighting conditions, the lens needs to be open wider, and this reduces your depth of field. This means that you will have to focus more often. This is called "riding the focus".

This is why you will see professional photographers and video producers often use additional lighting, even if it appears there is more than enough light.

Another reason for more light, also means using a higher shutter speed. This is especially important for sports to avoid blurring.


That is all for this section. In the next part, we will cover more advanced photography.


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    • paulbrec profile image

      paulbrec 6 years ago from Toronto,Ontario

      Thank you for your comment.

    • Naomi's Banner profile image

      Naomi's Banner 6 years ago from United States

      Another good Hub on photography. I am looking forward to the advance stage.