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1-3 Taking Pictures

While some of the procedures described below are only appropriate for the operation manually operated 35mm SLR cameras, most of the procedures and all the photographic principles apply to both advanced 35mm cameras and digital cameras.

Grasp the camera, lens facing forward, by the right side of the camera with the right hand.  The index finger and thumb of the right hand controls the shutter-release, shutter speed controls, or camera specific controls located nearest the shutter release. The left hand cradles the camera for support leaving the thumb and index finger free to control focus and other controls located on the lens.  The elbows should be held against the body to provide support. (Figure 1-13a)

When you can’t use a tripod, hold the camera in such a way as to provide support to the base.  It allows the manipulation of controls and provides a reasonably steady platform for the camera, thereby reducing camera movement.  It also ensures that your fingers won’t inadvertently cover a portion of the lens!  The method can be used for both horizontal and vertical format photography and is the same for right- or left-handed people.

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Figure 1-13-a  Correct  horizontal method

On vertical shots the left elbow should be placed against the body for support.  (Figure 1-13b)  For very long (telephoto) lenses cradle the lens in the left hand or use a tripod for support.

Many digital cameras have extended bodies that do not lend themselves to cradling the lens in the left hand.  By supporting the base of the camera with your left hand, you can provide a steady platform while keeping your fingers away from the lens.


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Figure 1-13b  Correct   vertical method

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Figure 1-13c  Improper handling of camera

An example of improper camera handling can be seen in Figure 1-13c.

Cameras and lenses will vary depending on inventory.   However, practicing these methods and applying them to the equipment on hand will result in fewer instances of blurred or unusable imagery.



Focus the camera on your subject.  Look through the viewfinder.  With the thumb and index finger of your left hand, rotate the focus ring until you obtain a sharp focus on your subject (see Figure 1-14).  Many modern cameras have "pushbutton," electromechanical focus controls and several automated, semi-automated or manual focus modes.  See your OM for specific information.

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Figure 1-14. Focusing aid.

Set the Film Speed/ISO Control

No matter how experienced you are, you should continue to make this vital check.  The film speed dial is incorporated into the shutter speed dial of most 35mm SLRs (like the Canon F-1).  Set the ASA/ISO dial to match the film's rating; e.g., for Kodak Tri-X you would set it at 400.  For a DCS, set the ISO in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation for the lighting conditions under which you will be shooting.


Activate the Light Meter

The meter on-off switch is located on the back of the Canon F-1. The light meter can be left on throughout the shooting assignment.  A light-sensitive photocell moves a meter needle inside the Canon F-1’s viewfinder.   When it is in line with the aperture needle, the F-1 is set for a proper exposure (see Figure 1-15).  Many advanced cameras have shooting modes that integrate the light meter with aperture and shutter controls.  In battery check mode, a meter needle position below the fixed index denotes a low battery.  Refer to the owner's manual for other cameras.

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Figure 1-15. Light meter

Set the Shutter Speed

The film manufacturer's instructions provide time-tested shutter speeds for varying light conditions, e.g., sunny, overcast and cloudy. However, photographers often prefer to freeze action or blur motion, and in doing so must manipulate the shutter speed in concert with the aperture control ring.  To capture a runner, the photographer may set his camera at 1/60th of a second to illustrate the speed; the runner's legs and arms are a blur of motion on the finished photograph.  If the photographer wants to freeze the action, he sets his camera at 1/250th or higher; the legs, arms and victory expression are "frozen."  For hand-held shots, choose a shutter speed no slower than the speed closest to the focal length of the lens.   Examples:  50mm lens -- 1/60th of a second; 200mm lens -- 1/250th of a second.   Many professional DCS coordinate shutter speed and aperture control as a design feature.  Consult the owner’s manual for the control/setting options available for your camera.


Set the Aperture Control

Adjust the f/stop on the aperture control ring to match the light meter requirement.

The aperture control can be used to increase or decrease the depth of field.  Increased depth of field is achieved with higher f/stop settings (smaller aperture openings)(f/11, f/16, f/22).  A narrow depth of field is achieved with lower f/stop settings (f/4, f/2.8, f/1.4). 

In a situation where you are assigned to shoot a photograph with two subjects in the field of view, one in the foreground, the other to the rear, the following would apply:

  • At an aperture setting of f/4 and a shutter speed of 1/250th, only the subject in the foreground is in focus.  You adjust the aperture to f/8, and now both subjects are in focus.  The depth of field was increased by "stopping down" two f/stops.
  • The shutter speed was changed to 1/60th in order to get an equivalent exposure.

Shutter speed and aperture control are correlated.   Whenever you manipulate the aperture control to alter depth of field, you must make an appropriate change in the shutter speed.  To maintain a correct exposure, increasing the shutter speed by one setting must be answered by lowering (or opening up) the f/stop one setting.  Likewise, decreasing the shutter speed by one setting must be answered by closing (or stopping down) the f/stop one setting.  Example: A correct exposure of 1/250th at f/8 is obtained by an initial light meter reading.  The following adjustments can be made in shutter speed and aperture settings without affecting the exposure:

Shutter Speed Aperture















Steady the Camera

Avoid camera movement unless you are intentionally using a creative technique, such as panning (following a moving subject).  The best way to steady the camera is with a tripod, but they are not usually used by reporters in a hurry to meet deadlines.  Wrapping the neck strap tightly around your right wrist and tucking your elbows into your waist will help to steady the camera.  Pressing your shoulder or back against a wall, a tree or some other stationary object will also help steady you.  Using the camera's self-timer to release the shutter instead of depressing the shutter-release button with your finger is also helpful in some situations.


Your job as a photographer is to take pictures that best serve the purpose of your assignment.  How well you do depends on how you use the necessary technical controls.

The most basic control is composition.  Crop (cut out unwanted parts of the picture) within the camera's viewfinder while taking each frame.

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Figure 1-16. Rule of thirds.

Employ the elements of photographic composition, including the "rule of thirds."

The rule of thirds uses two vertical and two horizontal lines to divide the viewfinder into nine equal parts (see Figure 1-16).  The subject (center of interest) should be positioned at or near one of the four focal points (intersections), depending on the direction the subject is moving or looking.   Subjects centered in the viewfinder create a dull, static photo.

When photographing a runner or other moving subject, allow him space to run into.  Examples of this can be seen in most any newspaper or magazine photograph.

The same is true of a simple portrait; allow space for an individual facing left or right to look into.  Crop as much as possible within the camera, eliminating any distractions.  Obtain a variety of horizontal and vertical shots from a variety of angles to give the editor more flexibility when laying out the story and photograph(s).


Shoot the Picture

First, adjust the focus so that the image in the viewfinder becomes sharp and clear.  Now, lightly depress the shutter-release button until the camera clicks.  Advance the film to the next frame, and you are set for the next exposure.

Record the "cutline" data for each frame or series of frames.  A notepad, tape recorder or audio "tag" may be used if your camera has this feature.  Note each frame and the names of individuals, the action taking place (the five W's and H) and the nomenclature of any unusual equipment.   If possible, record each frame as you shoot it. 

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