Photo Tips

This page will contain tips on how to understand your camera and techniques to help improve your photography.  If you have questions about any of this information, you can send them to Roger Doyle.

If you are not sure what this is or are struggling to learn to shoot in Manual Mode, the links below may help.  This series of YouTube videos prepared by Adorama TV addresses this issue.  Each video is under 10 minutes.  You should find these helpful in understanding how aperture, shutter, and ISO all work together to create good exposure.

Adorama – Exposure Triangle #1

Adorama – Exposure Triangle #2.

Adorama – Exposure Triangle #3 Aperture & Depth of Field.

Adorama – Exposure Triangle #4 Shutter & Motion.

Adorama – Exposure Triangle #5 Aperture Values.

Adorama – Exposure Triangle #6 Auto ISO.


Solid State Drives (SSD) are recommended for backing up your photos.  They have fewer moving parts than standard drives, therefore, lower failure rates.  One of our professional members, Mark Hilliard, recommends the Samsung Portable SSD T5 series drives with USB 3.1 Type-C and Type-A connections.  B&H Photo/Video has these from  $108 for 500gb, $228 for 1tb, and $598 for 2tb.  Drives with Thunderbolt connections are available (X5 models) but for significantly greater costs.  These are small drives with dimensions (L x W x H) 3.0″ x 2.3″ x 0.4″.




Aperture vs. Shutter Adjustment
Several attendees at Kate Philips’ presentation asked that we make available the exposure graphic showing shutter speed vs aperture so here it is:
Sunny 16 Rule
Used to determine optimal exposure on a bright sunny day with subject front lit.  Start by setting Aperture to f/16, Shutter to 1/100 and ISO to 100.  Any or all of these 3 settings can be changed as long as a corresponding offset is made to one or both of the others.  

Example for Birds in Flight:

Less depth of field and/or higher ISO is a good trade off to faster shutter speed.

Lower aperture to f/8 – this is 2 full stops brighter than f/16.

Raise shutter to 1/1600 – this is 4 full stops darker than 1/100.

With aperture 2 stops brighter and shutter 4 stops darker, a net of 2 stops more light, or ISO 400, is needed to give the proper exposure for the faster shutter speed and wider aperture opening.

You can use any combination of the 3 exposure markers depending upon if you need more speed to lessen blur, smaller aperture for more depth of field or lower ISO to keep the image noise level low.  ISO noise level keeps improving with digital technology improvements.  Higher ISO can be a good trade off for even faster shutter speeds like 1/3200 at ISO 800.

A couple of variations on this rule are to start with f/22 on a bright sunny day on the beach and f/11 for a bright overcast day.


500 Rule
Used for determining slowest shutter speed that can be used for any given lens in night photos before stars begin to blur.  500 divided by the true focal length of the lens equals the slowest shutter speed that should be used.  

Examples using a 12mm lens:

Full Frame Sensor (any brand camera) – 500/12=41.67 sec

Canon 1.6x crop (1.6×12=19.2) – 500/19.2=26.04 sec

Nikon DX/Fujifilm with 1.5x crop (1.5×12=18) – 500/18=27.78 sec

Olympus MFT with 2x crop (2×12=24) – 500/24=20.83 sec 


Hand Holding Rule (aka Reciprocal Rule)
Used to determine the slowest shutter speed that should be used when hand holding your camera and lens.  The calculation is 1/true lens focal length.  What does this mean?  For full frame sensors, the true focal length is the actual focal length of the lens.  For crop sensor cameras, the true focal length is the lens focal length x crop factor.

Examples using a 300mm lens:

1.5x crop (like Nikon and Fujifilm) – 300 x 1.5 = 450mm so minimum shutter speed would be 1/450 or the closest setting to 450 which would be 1/500 if shutter can be adjusted by ⅓ stops

1.6x crop (Canon) – 300 x 1.6 = 480mm so minimum shutter speed would be 1/480 or the closest setting to 480 which would be 1/500 if shutter can be adjusted by ⅓ stops

2x crop (Olympus MFT) – 300 x 2 = 600 so minimum shutter speed would be 1/600 or the closest setting to 600 which would be 1/640 if shutter can be adjusted by ⅓ stops

With longer telephoto lenses some suggest that you set the shutter at least one stop faster than this rule suggests for safest minimum hand holding to eliminate camera shake.  With much improved lens and in-body stabilization with the latest digital technology, much slower shutter speeds can still be used for hand-held photography with longer telephoto lenses.  On average this may be 3-5 full shutter stops slower.  This can be useful for static image subjects but image stabilization doesn’t substitute for higher shutter speeds when photographing moving objects (like flying birds).

Because remembering the crop factors and doing these calculations in your head when on the field taking photographs is not always easy, a simple alternative is to simply to set the shutter speed to 1/double the true focal length.  So using our examples above, all three types of crop sensor cameras would use a minimum shutter speed of 1/600 or the closest shutter increment above that number (1/640 if thirds stop increments are available).

For shorter lenses that would calculate to much slower shutter speeds, it is commonly accepted that 1/50 of a second would be the safest limit for hand holding without camera shake for a non-stabilized lens or body.


Fast vs Slow Lenses
You have heard other photographers refer to using a fast lens for better overall performance as well as attributing a poorer quality in their photograph to using a slow lens.  What exactly is a fast or slow lens and how does it effect the end result of my photographs?

Simply put, whether or not a lens is fast or slow depends upon the amount of light it lets in when the aperture is wide open.  The larger the aperture, the more light that enters, resulting in more efficient performance.  It has nothing to due with the speed of the autofocus mechanism in the lens even though it can effect autofocus performance.

Commonly used lenses have maximum apertures of f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6.  In this example, the f/1.4 would be considered the fastest lens and the f/5.6 the slowest.   For a given focal length the f/1.4 lens has the largest aperture opening and allows more light to enter the lens.  This does impact how efficiently your autofocus system and camera metering works since their accuracy is better the more light available.

So here is a question that is commonly asked.  If I want the most accurate and fastest autofocus my equipment can give, does that mean I always need to shoot with my lens wide open even though I need a smaller aperture for better depth of field?  The answer is no.  It doesn’t matter what aperture you are using to capture the image.  The aperture changes only when you fully depress the shutter button to capture the image.  When you half press the shutter button (or use the AF-on button found on many cameras) focusing takes place and the aperture hasn’t changed from its maximum opening.  So if you have a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 vs one with a maximum of f/4.0, there will be twice as much light for the AF sensor to use to adjust the focus no matter what your choice of aperture f/number may be.

So why aren’t all lenses made with maximum apertures like an f/1.0?  Camera and lens design, sizes, lengths, number of glass elements, cost, etc. are determining factors.  There are very precise mathematical calculations used by the design engineers to make all the equipment fit and work together.  However, the maximum f/number of a lens is a rather simple calculation.  The focal length of the lens divided by the diameter of the lens opening equals the maximum aperture of the lens (example 400mm lens focal length / 72mm lens diameter = f/5.6 maximum f/number).  This accounts for why a zoom lens often has a variable maximum f/number like f/4.0 – 5.6.  The shorter focal length can let in more light than the longer focal length.  This is one of the reasons many photographers prefer prime (single focal length) vs zoom (variable focal length) lenses.