Cameras 101: Basics You Should Know

One of the most revolutionary inventions of our lifetime makes up so much of the progress we see around us -- cameras! With the use of cameras, we're able to capture moments in time like never before. Imagine having to take a family portrait by sitting in a seat for hours while a painter sketched it out? No one has the time for that. Luckily, cameras were a gamechanger. 

Cameras are especially important in the social media atmosphere. Whether you're using a video camera, a DSLR, a GoPro, a Phone, or anything in between, most cameras follow some basic principles -- whether you're aware of it or not.

How a picture is taken

You click a button and boom, done. That's it right? Yes, but there is so much more going on in that quick second that it is worth discussing to fully understand the art that is photography and video! To do so, let's understand some of the mechanical pieces and theoretical elements of the camera:

Dept of Field: The area of acceptable sharpness within a photo that will appear in focus. In layman's terms: how in focus or blurry the background is.

Aperture: Aperture is the opening at which a lens will allow light to pass through in a camera. Think of it as the first gate in your camera that light must cross. If you look into a DSLR lens, the aperture comes in the form of blades that will close in or expand as you adjust the aperture in-camera. For some devices like your phone or a GoPro, the system will automatically adjust your aperture for you. For more professional-grade video cameras and DSLRs, you have the option of controlling this. The wider the aperture, the more light is let in, and the more shallow the depth of field (blurrier background). The smaller the aperture (more closed off), the less light it will allow in, and it will have a deeper depth of field (more in focus). The aperture is generally found in the lens.

Shutter/Shutter Speed: The shutter is the second gatekeeper for the light coming into your camera. In DSLRs, it is a small metal piece that will cover the camera sensor long enough to allow for proper exposure and not have the image blown out by overwhelming light. It is usually the source of the camera's "click" sound. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the light will be allowed to enter. Slower shutter speeds often work best in low light situations, where the sensor will be allowed to pick up and record any available light coming in -- but if a tripod isn't used and if the subject isn't completely stationary, the images often come out blurry. Light painting photos or night photography like the one used below make use of slow shutter speeds. Higher shutter speeds will close the shutter more quickly, allowing for less light to enter the camera. Higher shutter speeds are usually used for action shots (as in sports) where a fast-moving object or subject can be captured in a clear and sharp manner. Typically, if we're recording a Vlog or taking photos, we'll generally use a shutter speed of around 60, which will equate to around 24 frames per second in a video camera.

 

An example of slow shutter speed in light painting and night photography:

An example of high shutter speed in action shots:

ISO/Sensor: Lastly is the most important part of the camera, the sensor. The sensor is a highly photo-sensitive (light-sensitive) metal plate found inside your camera. Sidenote: NEVER touch the sensor or risk ruining your camera with dust and oil on your fingers. Whenever switching out lenses, be sure to keep your sensor protected or cover from any potential dust or debris.  When exposed to light, it will record that light information and translate it into the pictures you see on-screen. The main tool to control the sensitivity of the sensor is through the ISO. As you increase the ISO, you tell the sensor to become more sensitive to light. Perfect for lower light situations, increasing ISO will make the picture or video brighter. Be warned though, increasing the ISO too much will cause your image to look grainy. If you're outside on a bright sunny day, you will benefit by decreasing the ISO settings and making the sensor less sensitive to the overwhelming amounts of light available.

The camera sensor is that blue-ish green plate pictured below:

 

We definitely encourage creators to take this newfound knowledge and play around with their cameras! Understanding the mechanics of how the camera works is just another powerful toolset to help you create amazing content. Feel free to reach out to us for more information, and be sure to stop by our Tripod and Stands section or our Accessories section for more products to help make your camera adventures even greater.