Mastering photography is without a doubt a slow and laborious process, regardless of your choice of medium. In my opinion, the best way to speed things up is to take two steps away from whatever automatic, or assisted shooting mode you have available to you and build an understanding of some fundamentals in practice. Sure, you may find you have a few wasted rolls of film but trust me, it’ll be worth it.

Depending on the age and type of your film camera, you may have any number of auto shutter, exposure, or aperture settings on your camera.  For the purposes of this article, lets say you’ve switched everything the manual and kick off with the image below, courtesy of the German blog, Photoblog Hamburg:

Photography cheat card via Photoblog Hamburg
Photography cheat card via Photoblog Hamburg

Whilst this graphic doesn’t give you shutter/aperture/ISO combinations, it does a great job of helping you visualize and understand the relationship between the three.

Lets say that you have 200 ISO film loaded in your camera and your light meter is giving you a reading of f8 at 1/250th of a second.  Let’s also say that you’re not worried about obtaining a fast shutter speed.  You could shoot at the recommended f-stop / shutter combination, or get a little creative and take your shot using any of the following combinations:

f-stopShutter speed
f221/30 sec
f161/60 sec
f111/125 sec
f81/250 sec
f5.61/500 sec
f41/1000 sec
f21/2000 sec

There are three simple points to take away from this:

  • The larger the lens aperture (smaller “f” number), the more light you let in.
  • The more light you let in, the faster the shutter speed can be.
  • The faster the shutter speed, the less motion blur you capture.

In addition, you should consider that the larger the aperture (smaller “f” number), the shallower the Depth of Field (DoF) becomes. What’s DoF? This might help.

Naturally, there’s a whole world to explore here that this short (too short) article can’t do justice to. More to follow!

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