There are a few basic settings on cameras that make a huge difference to the way a photograph turns out. Most people these days rely on an automatic function which adapts to the light and subject matter without any input from the photographer. This means that you will seldom get bad photographs, it’s also means you will seldom get great images either. These cameras do have a manual setting, which would allow the photographer to get much more precise results, if only they knew how to use them.
Below are four basic image results that can be achieved on a manual camera. It will definitely take a bit of experimenting and playing around but very soon you will instinctively change settings to get the type of image you’re after.
The f/stop (aperture) regulates how much light is allowed through the lens by varying the area of the hole the light comes through.
The shutter speed regulates how long the film is exposed to light coming through the lens.
Foreground in focus with a blurred background – shallow depth of field
Take the F-stop as low as it can go (opening up the lens area to its biggest) and counter this (it will over-expose otherwise) by upping the shutter-speed accordingly. Make sure to have the finest focal-point selection set on your camera so that the camera actually focuses on the subject and blurs everything in the fore and background. Using a zoom lens will increase this effect.
Extended depth of field (deep focus) – a landscape shot where everything in the foreground and background is in focus
Take your F-stop as high as it can go, counter this (as it will be dark/ under-exposed) by lowering your shutter speed (slowing it down) to allow in enough light so that the image is not under exposed.
An action shot where the subject is rapidly moving but still crisply captured
This is similar to taking a photo with a shallow depth of field. You should have a low F-stop (allowing a lot of light), countered by a very high/fast shutter-speed (so that it captures a split-second in time) and when possible these should be combined with a high ISO (100). In old film cameras this is a type of film (100, 200, 400) with digital you can change it whilst shooting.
Create silhouettes and intense sunrise/sunsets
Increase your F-stop to allow less light and increase your shutter speed to do the same. Allowing less light to enter the camera will increase the intensity of sunsets and sunrises as well as darken the subject/ background to a point of it being a silhouette or negative silhouette.