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Help me learn how to use my new fancy ass camera

Rambo

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So I went out and bought a Canon S95 a few months back and its been sitting in the box for a little while now. I finally got off my fat ass and decided to open it up but I don't have any idea of what the fuck any of these settings are used for. I'm a camera illiterate so I could really use one of you camera nerds to break down when and why I would use and/or adjust all of these 6000 settings. I wouldn't know an aperture from an asshole. HALP!
 

Bartolo

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Originally Posted by Rambo
So I went out and bought a Canon S95 a few months back and its been sitting in the box for a little while now. I finally got off my fat ass and decided to open it up but I don't have any idea of what the fuck any of these settings are used for. I'm a camera illiterate so I could really use one of you camera nerds to break down when and why I would use and/or adjust all of these 6000 settings. I wouldn't know an aperture from an asshole. HALP!

I recommend getting and reading a good basic guide to digital photography. Amazon has quite a few. I was looking to see if there is a Magic Lantern video guide for the S95, but did not find one.

If you "don't know an aperture from an asshole," one piece of advice that I have is that it's important to learn some of these basics (the role of the aperture setting, shutter speed setting, ISO setting, and how they all interrelate to give you a suitable exposure, depth of field and a non-blurry image) before moving on to the particulars of your camera. The relationship between aperture, shutter speed and film speed (ISO), and how those effect depth of field, the ability to stop motion, and the overall quality of your image, is basic to ALL photography and needs to be learned first. These concepts are all very relevant to both film cameras and digital cameras alike. A good "basic" guide to digital photography should explain those first.

Otherwise, just put that sucker in "program" mode and take pictures
 

Rambo

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I've actually gone over a few online guides but I'm just having trouble getting the info to sink in. Was kind of hoping somebody could walk me through the basic definitions in English so I might be able to get a better grasp on them.
 

TRINI

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What exactly do you want to know?

In simple english:

Aperture - how big the hole that lets light into the camera is. The smaller the number (on the S95, it'll be f2.0), the bigger the hole. The bigger hole allows you to do 2 things: 1) have a blurred background when you're taking pictures of items/people and 2) take pictures in low light situations without having to use your flash.

If you're taking landscape shots, you'll want everything to be in focus so you should do the opposite - use a higher aperture (on the S95, it'll be f8.0) - i.e. a smaller hole.

Shutter Speed: How quickly the shutter moves to allow light in to the camera. Slow shutter speed = more light. But with a slower shutter speed, you're more liable to have camera shake and thus a blurry shot. A slow shutter speed is best used with a tripod to eliminate this issue.

Exposure - how bright the shot is. You can control this in real time with the S95 - just turn the exposure wheel either right or left and you'll see how bright your shot is in the LCD.

Depending on what kind of shots you want to take, the Program (P) mode or the Aperture Priority (A) mode are your best bets.

In the P mode, there are programmed combinations of aperture and shutter speeds that you can select.

Alternatively, in the A mode, you select the aperture and the camera will select everything else to suit that aperture setting.
 

wetnose

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Turn dial to auto and get out there and start. Get used to your camera first.
 

Rambo

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This is great Trini. Thanks. I got some follow ups for you (in bold):
Originally Posted by TRINI
What exactly do you want to know? In simple english: Aperture - how big the hole that lets light into the camera is. The smaller the number (on the S95, it'll be f2.0), the bigger the hole. The bigger hole allows you to do 2 things: 1) have a blurred background when you're taking pictures of items/people and 2) take pictures in low light situations without having to use your flash. So would a low aperture be good for taking pics of things for sale or self portraits? If you're taking landscape shots, you'll want everything to be in focus so you should do the opposite - use a higher aperture (on the S95, it'll be f8.0) - i.e. a smaller hole. Does the increasing or decreasing of the aperture have an effect on any other settings e.g. white balance or exposure? Shutter Speed: How quickly the shutter moves to allow light in to the camera. Slow shutter speed = more light. But with a slower shutter speed, you're more liable to have camera shake and thus a blurry shot. A slow shutter speed is best used with a tripod to eliminate this issue. Is there a corresponding shutter speed setting? Mine doesn't seem to have one. Exposure - how bright the shot is. You can control this in real time with the S95 - just turn the exposure wheel either right or left and you'll see how bright your shot is in the LCD. What's the on-camera name for exposure? Again, no "exposure" setting. Depending on what kind of shots you want to take, the Program (P) mode or the Aperture Priority (A) mode are your best bets. In the P mode, there are programmed combinations of aperture and shutter speeds that you can select. Alternatively, in the A mode, you select the aperture and the camera will select everything else to suit that aperture setting. See, this is where I get thrown off. I'd read most of the other stuff before but picking and choosing which mode to use and when throws me. Is there a good guideline for this?
Originally Posted by wetnose
Turn dial to auto and get out there and start. Get used to your camera first.
That's what I've been working with but most of the pics have been coming out overly bright and saturated. Without the flash.
 

indesertum

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Originally Posted by Rambo
This is great Trini. Thanks. I got some follow ups for you (in bold):





That's what I've been working with but most of the pics have been coming out overly bright and saturated. Without the flash.


read the s95 manual. should tell you most basics. also exposure should come up as ev or summit like that.

basically there's three factors on how bright or dark an image can be

1. aperture
2. shutter speed
3. film (or electronics) sensitivity aka iso/asa

aperture is the hole of the camera through which light enters. shutters are normally closed. so shutter speed is the speed at which the shutters will open and then close. film sensitivity is film sensitivity.

here's where things can be a little confusing. a lower aperture number means a bigger hole. shutter speeds are written can range from a few seconds to a few thousandths of a second. however on most cameras they thousandth of a second shutter speeds will be represented as whole numbers (eg 2000 on your camera is prolly 1/2000, not 2000 seconds, etc.). higher iso numbers means higher sensitivity of films.

here's how changing the values will change your image.

there is this thing called depth of focus. think of it like this. when you look through the camera there is a rectangular plane. everything on that plane is in focus. you can move that plane forward or backward, but everything on that plane is in focus. decreasing the hole size of your camera (ie increasing aperture number of f-stop number) increases the depth of that plane. in other words at a high aperture number (eg f/22) everything you see in the image will be in focus. at a low aperture number (f/1.7) only a shallow plane of the image will be in focus. this latter one is called a shallow depth of field and it's great when you want the viewer to concentrate on some part the image as the rest will be blurred out. great lenses make the blurred out parts really pleasing to look at.

however when you increase the hole size (ie decrease aperture number) a lot more light comes in (makes sense right?). so if you left the shutter speed value the same as before you decreased the aperture, a whole bunch more light will come in and your photo will be overexposed (ie way too bright). so accordingly you have to increase the shutter speed so that the light exposure will be much more limited.

and vice versa

as for shutter speed, faster shutter speed makes moving things look like they've frozen in time. so if you want to take a shot of somebody running and you want it to make it look like they've frozen in time you'd increase your shutter speed and decrease your aperture so you get enough light. conversely slower shutter speed means things that are moving get blurry. sometimes this is the effect you want to go for (eg waterfalls at slow shutter speeds almost look ethereal).

film sensitivity can also change exposure values. more sensitivity means less light has to come through for a good exposure (eg when it's dark). less sensitivity means more light can come through for a good exposure (eg when it's too bright). one caveat is that less sensitive settings allow for a much better picture quality, where as higher sensitive settings have a lot of pixelation or granulation (because random pixels or silver grains will be exposed to random photons of light much more randomly when they are more sensitive). so in general you want to always use the lowest sensitivity (best iso settings on most cameras are less than 200) unless you really want that pixelated or granulated look.

exposure is calculated based on the amount of light coming in relative to a neutral color. this exposure value is calculated by something called a light meter. some light meters only measure a very small spot of the image generally in the center and base calculations off of that. some are more complex and can break up the image into zones and average those to make exposure calculations. you can also use that first spot meter setting to look at differences in exposure in an image.

that might sound a little complicated, but you need to know that for lighting situations that are tricky. one example is taking a picture in teh snow. if you take a picture in teh snow most of your image will be white. since your meter calculates based off of an average if you shoot the image based off of an average in white part of the image perhaps the person you want to shoot will be way dark and you'll be unable to see details of the person. conversly if you meter the person than again because of the average the white parts will be way way bright. so you have to make a judgment call and meter somewhere that will give you best of both worlds (details on the person, but not too bright snow). most meters can't handle this very well, so those kinds of shots you want to be able to do manually.

that's the basic trifecta of exposure. most automatic settings will do all this calculation automatically, but as mentioned there are tricky situations or situations where you want a certain look that the auto algorithims won't do by itself.


composition is a whole nother ball game. but at least knwo you understand the basic of ligth exposure
 

aizan

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Originally Posted by TRINI
If you're taking landscape shots, you'll want everything to be in focus so you should do the opposite - use a higher aperture (on the S95, it'll be f8.0) - i.e. a smaller hole.
i don't want to overly complicate things for beginners, but small sensor compacts like the s95 should not be stopped down as much as we're used to (35mm or aps-c sensors) because the effects of diffraction become visible (i.e. will make your images less sharp) at larger apertures. instead of being diffraction limited at f8, we're talking around f4. in a nutshell, try to keep the aperture between f2 and f4.
 

Xericx

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+1. I have the same camera. I play around with it but the whole F-stop and shutter speed and exposure confuse me. I took a B&W photography class in college, but just took all my photos with the AUTO mode. Some of my photos in low light are better though.

this thread is useful.
 

aizan

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Originally Posted by indesertum
is it really that noticeable at f/8?

well, it depends on output. not a problem for web sized jpegs or 5x7 prints, something to keep in mind for 9x12 or 12x16 prints.
 

Notreknip

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Good summaries in this thread. Seeing as the OP is helping me out in some other areas, I feel the need to share a little something that I've found makes things "click" for people with zero photography background. (In a round-about way I do teach a lot of photography.) Firstly: Exposure is simply a BALANCE of three variables: shutter speed, aperture, and "sensitivity" which we'll call ISO. Get it through you brain early that 1/2 is longer or larger than 1/20 - half a second as opposed to a twentieth. Note: Shutter duration and shutter speed are inversely related; I try to teach shutter duration, because I think it is more intuitive, but either works. Also get it through your brain that with regard to aperture, a smaller number is a bigger "hole". (This was addressed earlier.) Indeed, above people have explained the variables well, but the key with photography, is determining your variable of priority, controlling it, and then balancing the other two variables in order to gain proper exposure. I strongly suggest using a histogram to evaluate your exposure after the photograph is taken; this is more critical than composition, so forget seeing the actual photograph and just look at the three variables and the histogram when reviewing a shot. You'll learn FAST, especially if you "get" what a histogram is. --- Okay, here we go: You're trying to fill a cup with water (right to the top, without spilling any) in your kitchen sink. The water is the light. The faucet is your camera. The size of the cup is the "sensitivity" (ISO), a shot glass is very sensitive, a pint glass is less sensitive. Less sensitive means lower ISO. For now we'll fill an average drinking glass/cup. Now what two things do you control in order to fill that cup? You control how much you open the faucet (i.e. the aperture) and you control how long that faucet is turned on/open (i.e. the shutter speed). It is that simple. You can fill the cup by opening it fully for a short time or by letting the water barely drip out for a long period of time (or anywhere in between obviously). It's a matter of how you want to do it! In regards to the size of the cup/glass, the smaller the size the faster regardless of the other two variables. But keep in mind it's harder to be "precise" with such a small (sensitive) cup, so whenever possible we're going to use the largest cup we can because there is less chance for spill-over. ...and any spill-over is bad, that is "lost water" (i.e. perfectly white pixels) than can never be recovered. In my opinion, if anything it is better to slightly under-fill. --- The trick is to decide what you want/need and then prioritize/control that. Remember that camera shake will occur around 1/100 and longer/slower for most people. For all intents and purposes, always try to keep ISO at 100 or 200. (The biggest cup.) It is easier to nail your exposure and you also avoid the "noise" (i.e. grainy-ness) that arises with high ISOs. 1) Say to yourself, "is this subject moving or am I moving?", if so, control the shutter (i.e. make the tap open for shorter) and fit the aperture to balance the exposure (i.e. open it more). 2) Say to yourself, "if the subject is not moving and I'm not moving, do I want the fore/background blurred?", if so, open up the aperture (i.e. to a lower number) and decrease the shutter duration (i.e. increase the shutter speed). This is essentially the same as the previous example; this is why moving subjects and blurred backgrounds kind of occur together, which is nice for sports shooters. 3) Contrary to our above example, if you want the whole photo ("from front to back") to be in focus, we need to in-effect "squint" so that everything is clear - we need to narrow the aperture, which will then mean that we need a long shutter duration and thus a decreased shutter speed. (i.e. a smaller denominator if you don't mind me using a math term) It's possible that in this situation we might be getting into 1/100, 1/60, or "slower" territory, which would likely benefit from a tripod or some other form of stabilization. 4) The last basic example or "combination" is that where you would purposely want to see some "motion blur" in your photo. In this case, decrease your shutter speed which will increase the shutter duration (e.g. maybe to 1/1 or longer) and then close the aperture so you don't over-fill your cup. ...after this, if you can meter, if you can focus, and if you can compose decently, you'll be on your way to some good out-of-the-camera photographs. (I just spent way too long writing that up and don't really have time to proof it now. Let me know folks if I made any silly errors. Hope it helps!)
 

Notreknip

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Histograms? ....briefly sure. Really, it's just a spectrum of all of the pixels in the whole image. Most people are aware of the notion of a bell/Gaussian curve of normal distribution. In general, you want your exposure to have this "normal" distribution, with the majority of the pixels being "in the middle" between light and dark. On the x-axis, dark/black is left and light/white is right. The y-axis is just the amount (of pixels if you will). Many times it is obvious if the image is very under/overexposed just by looking at it, but the difference between a good photo and a great one (among many other things artistic) is "well-balanced" exposure - we need to avoid slight overexposures and underexposures. This is tough for rookies to determine without the histogram. Simply put, try to get the "bump" of the histogram in the middle of the dark-light scale. By all means, try to avoid a lot of pixels on the absolute right end of the spectrum, because those pixels essentially become perfectly white and can never be changed/improved even with post-processing methods on your computer. These are often called "blown pixels". Assuming good focus, a good histogram and appropriate figures for your "variables" (SS/f-stop/ISO), you'll have the image you want. For most people, focus is easier than exposure. Also focus is really hard to evaluate on a small screen on the back of your camera, thus: assume focus, trust your SS/f-stop/ISO, and ASSESS the histogram. Ignore the person's expression or if their eyes are open/closed; it's easier just to take a few more photos and sort through them later on the monitor. ...now of course, any AUTO setting will make attempts to "center" your histogram, but we know that: a) AUTO is not a challenge and we like to say we shoot on MANual b) AUTO doesn't allow us control, and we want control, because we want our photos to look good
 

Notreknip

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Actually, indesertum's avatar just inspired me to say one more thing, and here's where photography gets dangerous in the sense that it becomes very expensive.


Let's take a few examples (you'll have to make up the "image" in your mind for some examples):


1) What we have in indesertum's avatar...

- a bug which likely moves fast (we want a fast shutter speed with a short duration, perhaps 1/2000)

- a bug is small and will often scurry when you get close, thus ideally we'd want a telephoto macro lens (we want perhaps a 200mm macro lens)

- with macro photography, particularly in combination with things that move, we want a large depth of field (i.e. we want most everything to be in focus except for things that relatively are quite far in the background, such as the leaves; thus we want a really tiny aperture, perhaps f/22)

- the quality of the image is clear and not "noisy" (we want ISO 100)

Such a lens doesn't even really exist, but even if it did, once you put all of the three variables together you'll realize that you're not going to be able to fill much of the cup - we just don't have enough light. Thus, we need flash and flash photography can be VERY tricky.


2) Imagine that crisp, close-up photo of some wide-receiver making a diving catch in the endzone...

- we need a telephoto lens
- we need a high frames-per-second capable camera
- we need a wide aperture to blur out the photographers and the crowd at the back of the endzone
- we need a fast shutter speed
- we need a camera with many "quick" focus points
- we need ISO 100 of course because we want it to be "clean"
- we need at least 10 MP because we're going to blow it up and put it on our kid's bedroom wall

Obviously, such lenses and camera bodies are both BIG and EXPENSIVE. Telephoto in combination with a huge aperture translates to a cannon (no pun intended) of a lens, and thus likely a tripod/monopod.


3) A photo of your favorite indie-rock band member in an intimate local bar with a "no-flash" rule...

- no surprise here, light (or lack of it) is going to be the problem
- open up the aperture as big as possible to let as much light in as possible (maybe to 2.8 or less if you can)
- shorten the shutter duration so that your subject doesn't turn into a motion blur, but don't shorten it too much otherwise you're losing light that you so desperately need
- in this situation, crank up the ISO to maybe 1600, to increase the sensitivity of the sensor, knowing that your shots will be a bit grainy
- be really steady holding the camera in the mosh pit

It's tough!



...the moral of the story is, there's no such thing as the perfect combination of equipment, and anything close to perfect is going to be big and expensive!
 

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