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8 Thumb Rules That Save You In The Most Tricky Situations

Here are some lesser known rules which come in handy when taking tricky shots. Most of these were found in the days of the film. But they are as relevant now as they were then.

  1. Sunny 16: On a bright sunny day, you can get a correct exposure value by setting the aperture to F/16 and shutter speed to 1/ISO. Keeping this law in mind, you can freely wander around with your camera and capture daylight exposures without the hassles of carrying a light meter.
  2. Inverse Square Law: This law states that if you move your subject away from light source (eg. from 1mtr to 2mtr) i.e, twice the distance, its brightness/illumination reduces to 1/4 of earlier observation. And in order to maintain same exposure, when you move your subject away from the light source, you will need to  increase the amount of light by four times. In other words, if you had previously set aperture to F/16, now you will need to dial it down by 2 f-stops to f/5.6 to allow same amount of light to enter your camera.
  3. Shutter Speed: Commonly referred to as camera shake rule this rule simply says that to avoid motion blur while hand-held shooting, set the shutter speed of your camera equivalent to the inverse of focal length/distance. Don’t bother about it if you have IS/VR (image-stabilization/vibration reduction) in your camera.
  4. Rule Of DOF: Narrow depth of field adds an element of contrasting beauty to your photographs. It also aids you in eliminating the cluttered background and thus improving your composition. Therefore, sometimes it becomes desirable to achieve narrow DOF. When you are confronted with such circumstances, just follow this simple rule: Focus 1/3 of the view to maximize the depth of field.
  5. The Moony Law: If you are fond of clicking and capturing the silent beauty of night, casting moon as the subject, here is a  thumb rule that would encourage you to experiment with various phases of moon. This law advices you to set the aperture to F/11 for full moon, F/8 for half moon and F/5.6 for new moon while keeping the shutter speed = 1/ISO.
  6. Sunset Capture: Sunset is one of the most beautiful scenes of the nature that is liked by and captured by most of the people. The moment when the sun sets, is magical and beyond expression. But somehow, sometimes sunset looses its credibility when captured through our camera. So, here’s a trick to always be perfect at your sunset shots: Meter the area directly above the sun (without sun in frame) and reduce the shutter speed by 1 f-stop so as to give an impression of delay of 1/2-hour. Also see how to shoot sunsets.
  7. Fill Flash: Set flash’s ISO to double the ISO on the camera, meter the scene and select f-stop; now set autoflash to the same f-stop. This will result in a 2:1 flash-fill ratio and will produce filled shadows 1 stop darker than the subject.
  8. Freezing Motion: For an action moving towards/ away from you use a shutter speed of 2-stops faster (if perpendicular to the lens). For action moving at 45 degrees to the lens boost the shutter speed by 1 stop.

You can derive more rules by these basics but remember, these are only rules. Following them saves you when you are learning. Once you are done, experiment with your own settings (infamously and controversially known as “breaking the rules”). Move around with your camera and toss the rules away.

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5 comments… add one
  • Shivanand Sharma Sep 27, 2011 @ 21:33

    @adi: You got it!

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