Photography 101: Learning the basics of photography

By Anna Chan

As part of an attempt to educate the masses, I decided it was about time we shared our limited knowledge of photography with other amateurs and beginners. This means you. This feature marks the beginning of a series of photo features in the Gauntlet. Once a month I, along with my fellow photogs and Gauntlet chums, will impart upon you our basic camera know-how and tips.

I’m no guru, omnipitent being or self-proclaimed expert, but if you have questions about the information presented in this feature, contact me at I’ll do what I can.

Lecture One: Getting to know the SLR

This lesson focuses on the single-lens reflex camera, or a SLR camera. The SLR camera uses a single lens which reflects the light coming in through the lens off a mirror inside the body of the camera and into the viewfinder. This means the image seen through the view finder is the same image that will be projected onto the film. Obtaining a proper exposure, one that’s not too dark or too bright, depends on the amount of light that passes through your lens, the aperture, and the amount of time the light comes in contact with the film, the shutter speed.


On older model SLR cameras the aperture is located on the lens. Depending on the lens, the f-stop can range from 1.4 to 64 or even greater, though not on the same lens. The aperture refers to the opening in the lens that controls the amount of light coming through. The f-stop is the ratio of the size of the opening (the numbers printed on the lens). The value printed on the lens actually represents this ratio, the value next to it will allow twice or half the amount of light. As in the case of the lens in the photo, a f-stop of 5.6 will let twice as much light through the lens as 8 will. Alternately 5.6 will let in half as much light as 4. The smaller the f-stop, the larger the opening, the greater the amount of light.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed indicates how long your film is exposed to the light coming through the lens. In the photo, the shutter speed is located on the dial on top of the camera, but its location can vary from camera to camera. The shutter speed is measured in seconds or fractions of a second. Numbers coloured in, such as one to eight in the photo, indicate full seconds, whereas the other numbers are fractions of a second. Setting the shutter speed at 60 actually means a 60th of a second. Setting the shutter speed at 125 will leave the shutter open for half as long as 60, 125 is a faster shutter speed than 60. The larger the value, the faster the shutter speed.

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