Operating Your 35mm SLR Camera Manually
lIGHT Meter, aPERTURE & sHUTTER sPEED
These are the three things you need to know and get really comfortable with adjusting on your camera in order to take good photos.
The Light Meter is either a green/red or dial/arm that moves up and down to tell you if your exposing your shot to too much light, too little light or just the right balance of light. Depending on the type of light sensor on your camera if the green light is on or the arm is centered in the middle of the + or - sign that means there is a good balance of light to take the photo. Adjusting the light in the environment you are in can help to get the correct balance of light but sometimes we need to do more than just change the light in the room.
That's where the APERTURE and SHUTTER SPEED come in. The APERTURE determines the size of the opening in your lens that allows the light into your camera and also controls the Depth of Field, or amount that can be in focus in the viewfinder/shot. The APERTURE is controlled by the F-Stop # on the Aperture ring which is closest to the body of the camera and clicks when you turn it. The bigger the opening of the aperture the more light that comes in, the smaller the less light that comes in . If your light sensor can not get balanced, adjust the aperture ring until you can balance the light. The number of the f-stop determines how big the aperture opens or closes and it works like this an f-stop of 2 means you have a large aperture and an f-stop of 16 means you have a smaller opening. Think of it as opposites.
The other way you can control the light is through the SHUTTER SPEED. The Shutter speed controls how fast or slow the shutter opens and closes to allow the light in. It is determined by seconds or fractions of seconds for example 1sec, 1/8th of a sec, 1/60th of a sec, or as fast as 1/1000th of a sec. When you adjust that knob at the top of your camera it adjusts the light meter to help you balanace the light. Not only does it help you balance the light it is good to know that it controls your ability to capture movement or freeze movement in your photos. Always try to use at least 1/60th of a sec when holding your camera, anything lower would require a tripod to keep it steady so it won't blurr because the shutter is too slow. When you want to capture someone running or jumping and you want to freeze them in time, use a faster shutter speed. But pay attention to the light meter because you still need a good light exposure to capture the image.
See the diagram to the right for an easy guide to the various controls on your cameras.