Photo Tips by Ken Finegan

I hope you all got to try last week’s tips about Aperture Priority and what aperture does to pictures. Even if you didn’t succeed the first time try, try again!!! It takes a bit of time to get used to where all of the buttons are but it’s worthwhile.

Don’t forget if you want to ask a question directly you can message me on my Facebook page: Ken Finegan Newspics Photography.

This week I want to talk about the other semi-automatic mode on your DSLR. It is Shutter Speed Priority. Shutter speed priority is represented by the letter ’S’ on Nikon cameras and ‘TV’ on Canon Cameras. ‘TV’ represents Time Value.

This mode is similar to Aperture Priority in that you control one setting, namely the Shutter Speed and the camera controls the aperture this time. The exact opposite to Aperture Priority. But, as with Aperture Priority, you will get pictures.

So what does a shutter do. When you press your shutter release button to take a picture the mirror lifts and then the shutter opens to let light into your camera making a noise (the one I asked you to listen to last week). The light hits the image sensor in a digital camera and the film in a film camera making the image.

The shutter speed ranges from very fast speeds of up to 1/8000th of a second to really slow speeds of 30 seconds depending on the camera model you have.

What is the effect of a slow shutter speed on an image?

Using a slow shutter speed allows you to show movement in an image to emphasise speed or motion. It is a beautiful effect and can even make a moving object appear semi-transparent or see through. In illustration ‘1’ you can see where I used a very slow shutter speed and the tennis ball is nearly invisibly. You would have a problem even recognising it as a tennis ball.

Illustration 1

Illustration 2

In Illustration 2, I used a slightly faster shutter speed which still blurs the ball but it is more apparent as a tennis ball and in illustration ‘3’ I used a faster shutter speed and stop the ball mid-air. Showing all of the detail.

Illustration 3

The 4th illustration sums up shutter speed in general. This picture was taken of people in an ice rink in France a few years ago. If you look in the background there is a girl who is perfectly sharp with no movement. This is because she is standing still. You will see varying degrees of blur or movement in other people in the image depending on the speed they were actually skating. So the amount of blur or movement is also related to how fast your subject is moving.

Illustration 4

Here is a guide (Rule of Thumb) I use on a day to day basis:

To show movement us a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second or slower.

To stop movement us a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second or faster.

For general images where there is no major movement, such as a family occasion use 1/125th or 1/250th of a second.

To use faster shutter speeds you need good light, so outdoors is the best place. I’ll be dealing later in the series with some specific settings which will assist with shooting faster shutter speeds in low light.

Now, we’ve discovered we can show movement in our images or stop movement. But remember there are two types of movement. The one we have already discussed is ‘Subject’ movement but the other is ‘Camera’ movement.

If we use a slow shutter speed we can become subject to camera movement often called camera shake. This can actually produce some really artistic and abstract images but for the moment we will try and stop camera shake.

The usual way to do this is to support your camera on a wall, something steady or a bean bag for instance. The best way is on a tripod. There are various models of tripods ranging from a few Euro to thousands of Euro. When selecting a tripod go for something that suits your camera.

In general when I suggest buying a cheaper tripod I always say extend the tripod to its full height and put some of your weight where the camera would go. If the legs bend or the tripod lowers under this pressure do NOT buy it!!! You should get a reasonably good tripod for around €100 and there are quite a few really great camera shops locally, all offering great advice.

When shooting really slow shutter speeds, such as night time views I would always suggest using a remote control or the camera self timer to fire the camera. This stops you touching the shutter release button and prevents movement as you press on the camera causing camera shake.

There is another general ‘Rule of Thumb’ I would suggest when you are experimenting with your new camera ‘Do not use a shutter speed slower than the focal length of your lens’.

What does this mean exactly? Focal length of a lens is measured in mm. As stated in previous tips you kit lens is usually around 17-55mm. The next lens most people get is a 70-300mm. This brings your subject closer (Zoom).

So to implement the rule of thumb with the 70-300mm lens I would not use a shutter speed slower than 1/300th of a second. This is just a general rule but a good one to keep in mind.

For sport such as Gaelic, Soccer, Hurling, Rugby etc I would rarely go slower than 1/500th of a second to keep my images sharp. This Rule works every time.

One thing I forgot to mention last week was ‘when I would use Aperture Priority’? In general I would always use manual settings to control my camera but I do use Aperture Priority.

The main situation where I use Aperture Priority in on a sunny day covering a match. If there is a shadow falling across the pitch from a stand or group of trees the camera can react quicker than me to adjust the speed. I know it can be either slightly over or under exposed BUT I will get an image which I can then adjust.

So until next week, enjoy your camera and keep safe!

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Photography Tips by Ken Finegan

For the last few weeks we have been concentrating on tips that give you more control over what YOU want to achieve with your camera and photography. This applies to both camera phone and DSLR.

This week I want to deal with ‘aperture’, what it basically is and what it does to our images. This may apply mostly to DSLR owners but is also a part of the more modern phones. The ones I have experience of are the Huawei P30 and P20.


Some people get a headache as soon as soon as aperture is mentioned, so let’s break it down. Basically an aperture is an opening, something similar to a tap.

Aperture controls the amount of light going through the lens and is measured in f numbers. Most entry level DSLR’s have a kit lens which have an f stop range from f3.5 to f29, and you control them with the rotary button on your camera. The Nikon cameras have them on the back- top right and the Canon cameras have them on the top right, near your display.

So, go get your camera and take it off the Green setting (Fully Automatic) and put it to ‘A’ in Nikon and ‘AV’ on Canon (AV stands for Aperture Value). We are now taking the first steps on our journey to Manual mode.

The mode we are in at present (A or AV) is ‘Aperture Priority’ and it is a semi-automatic mode. This means that YOU control one part of the camera setting and the camera controls the other. You will get a picture no matter what aperture (f stop number) you choose (I will deals with the consequences of different f stop numbers on shutter speed next week when you have tried out Aperture Priority).

The f numbers control the amount of light getting into the camera but also control a thing called ‘Depth of Field’. ‘Don’t go for the Anadin just yet’!!!

Right, what is depth of field? I’ll give you the definition firstly and then explain. ‘Depth of Field is how much in front and behind your subject (the part of the image you focused on) appears in focus. Therefore a small f stop number has small Depth of Field (DOF) and a large f stop number has large DOF’.

Small depth of field (f 3.5-5.6) has mainly the subject in focus and blurs the foreground, in front of the subject and the background, behind the subject. This is really great when you want to emphasise your subject, such as portraits.

Large depth of field basically has everything in the image in focus. This is ideal for landscape photography.

Let me show you some illustrations. The first illustration is of the tennis balls shot at a small f stop number. As you can see the tennis balls either side of the centre ball (the one I focused on) are out of focus.

The second illustration is of the same tennis balls from the same position but shot at a large f stop number. As you can see, all of the balls now appear in focus.

Have a go at this process and you’ll be very surprised how simple it is. The main thing to keep in mind is to focus on the centre object and go as close as you can to get the best out of the effect. For a start I’d normally do this outdoors as you have better light.

I’ve included another two images which show this effect also. The first image was taken at the Poc Fada. It shows large Depth of Field showing the trophies in the foreground to the mountains and Dundalk Bay in the background all in focus. The other is a portrait blurring out the background and foreground totally, making the subject stand out.

Two other things control Depth of Field as well. These are: How close you are to your subject and the focal length of the lens (the larger the lens (focal length/magnification) the less depth of field appears in the image).

While you are trying out this mode, ‘Aperture Priority’ start to listen to your camera. What? Yes listen to the sound your camera makes.

When you use a small f stop number (f 3.5 for example) your camera selects a shutter speed (remember I said you select one function and the camera selects the other). With a small f stop number your camera shutter and mirror inside make a noise. It will sound ‘fast’. Try it a few times and listen.

Now set you f stop number to a large number such as f 16 or f 22 and do the same. You will notice a change in sound and speed. Try this both inside and outside and hear/see the difference. As I said earlier I will deal with the consequences of this next week.

For the camera phone users these features are usually in the ‘Pro’ settings /menu. They are good and can get you similar effects. They can even automate the process for you.

But knowing what aperture actually does is very important.

Here is something to think about for next week. If you use a tap to fill a glass and not much water is going through the opening (aperture) how long will it take to fill the glass? Will it be slow or fast? But if we open the aperture fully how long will it take to fill the glass? This will make more sense next week.!!!

If you have any queries you can always go on to my Facebook page Ken Finegan Newspics Photography and message me.

So until next week, enjoy your camera and ‘keep safe’.

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Updated: Apr 1

Photo Tips Week 3.

This week we are going to look at some of the basic technical properties of your camera phone and DSLR. Don’t worry, I’ll do it in stages which will help everyone to get far superior images and more from their camera.

As I’ve said before, most camera phones are now designed to basically do everything for the photographer but they can, and do make mistakes. My aim is to assist you to know the necessary controls and improve images.

In the iPhone manual it states “Before you take a photo, the iPhone camera automatically sets the focus and exposure, and face detection balances the exposure across many faces”. This is wonderful but you’ll see from my illustrations that this does not always work. All cameras can be fooled, even the most expensive.

When I’m making an image on my phone, I firstly touch the point I want in focus and that starts the ball rolling. Next, I look at the exposure, basically is the image too bright or too dark. The secret to a great image is to have as much detail as possible in your highlights (Bright areas), mid tones and shadows (Dark areas).

If you now touch a light area on your image the phone will expose or adjust the image to suit that particular area. I’ve illustrated this with two pictures of our dog ‘Milo’. The first image was ‘suggested’ by my phone and the second ‘I’ selected the white hair on his chest. You can see a lot more detail in the second image.

If you want to manually adjust the exposure, do the following:

When the exposure symbol appears (right) drag it up or down to adjust the exposure, to either make it brighter or darker. This means that ‘YOU’ are deciding on the exposure you want.

To lock your manual focus and exposure settings for upcoming shots, touch and hold the focus area until you see AE/AF Lock (AE is Auto Exposure and AF is Auto Focus); tap the screen to unlock settings. This allows you to frame the image as you like and as long as the AE/AF lock icon appears it will stay at that exposure and focused on where you wanted.

Take Continuous shots.

This is similar on most phones. Press and hold the shutter button (the one you usually take the picture with) and the camera will take several images. Depending on the phone it counts the number of images. Simply take your finger off when you want to stop.

On my phone, if I’m using the highest quality setting it will NOT let me do ‘continuous mode’. I have to change the quality setting to 10 Mega Pixels instead of 40 Mega Pixels.

On iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max, swipe the Shutter button to the left to take rapid fire photos. On all other models, it the same as above.

The counter shows how many images you took.

1. Lift your finger to stop.

2. To select the photos you want to keep, tap the Burst thumbnail, then tap Select.

Gray dots below the thumbnails mark the suggested photos to keep.

3. Tap the circle in the lower-right corner of each photo you want to save as an individual photo, then tap Done.

To delete the entire Burst, tap the thumbnail, then tap .

To assist you with the ‘Rule of Thirds’, that we discussed last week, some phones have an ‘Align your shots’ feature.

To display a grid on the camera screen that can help you straighten your shots, go to Settings > Camera, then turn on Grid.

Zoom in or out

On all models, open the camera and pinch the screen to zoom in or out. Again, if you are using the highest quality settings this may not be allowed. Personally I would prefer to use the highest quality setting and crop the image myself to ‘move closer’ to the subject. For me you get better quality using this method as the next image quality to the best of 40 Mega Pixels is only 10 Mega Pixels.


If you are using the ‘Green or Auto Mode’ on your DSLR you will find the same problems occurring. Even though your camera may be more expensive, as I’ve stated before all cameras can be fooled. There are other ways around it, from using other available settings and experience but the one I’m going to explain now will get you started. The others I’ll explain later in the series.

The EV Button (Exposure Value or Exposure Compensation Button)

Exposure Compensation allows us to override exposure settings picked by the camera’s light meter, in order to darken or brighten images before they are captured. When a camera is pointed at something very dark, the meter will think there is very little light and brighten or overexpose the image, whereas a very bright subject, where the camera sees lots of light, like a snow scene will cause the meter to darken the exposure thinking there is too much light.

Our way around this is to use the EV Button while in automatic mode (this also works in other modes which we’ll discuss at a later stage). If you make an image and it appears either dark (underexposed) or bright (overexposed) use your EV button to either brighten or darken your image. This can take a few images to get right but it is worth it. Press and hold the EV button and move the value to either minus or plus to either underexpose or overexpose your image.

As you can see from the illustrations I underexposed the initial image by three f stops or three exposure values in one increment steps and then overexposed by the same quantity.

When we go through the other programmes on your DSLR I’ll give you ‘Rules of Thumb’ or general rules which will help you improve.

Until next week, enjoy your camera and stay safe!!

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