I have a rather interesting mix of heritage in my family. My Mum’s side is Irish and my Dad’s side is a mix of Latvian and Russian. Let me tell you now, when it comes to their differences, there is one that stands out above the rest; they are total polar opposites when it comes to their ISO!…. wait what?
That’s right, pop my Grandma (Ivy) in the sun on a 40 degree Melbourne Summer’s day and you get a sunburn resemblant of a pink fluorescent highlighter in seconds. My Latvian Grandad (John) however will get home after 8 hours of sun-time looking like a well tanned (but slightly worn) Louis Vuitton handbag. There is no doubt that many of us love the look of a nice tan, in fact it’s kind of like a great image; it just draws your eye toward it and to be honest, it’s not the only thing they have in common.
Remember, the higher the SPF+ rating the more sun blocked… same with aperture, the higher the f/ stop number, the less light allowed to the sensor!
A great tan is built by standing/lying/sitting out in the sun for a certain period of time and your skin develops a lovely colour and glow. Sit out for too long though and you’re going to end up with some pretty horrific burn, and sit out only a little while and you might not develop any tan at all… I would bet my bottom dollar that you already knew that though didn’t you? I bet you already knew that you could use different levels of sunblock to help you stay out in the sun even longer without burning as well right, SPF15+ vs SPF50+? And I would guarantee that you would all agree with me when I say that different peoples’ skin types have different sensitivities to the sun.
If you ticked yes to knowing these three facts then you shouldn’t have any problem using manual mode on your camera because it’s entirely the same concept.
Let’s think about this in a story because stories are way more fun than dictionary definitions. We’re going to pretend for a moment that our skin is the sensor on our camera and the tan/colour we develop is the image exposing. As your skin is exposed to light for different periods of time it develops more or less colour, dependent on a couple of elements including the intensity of the light. Firstly, the sensitivity of our skin (and also our camera sensor) plays a big part in how long it will take to develop an image. Skin that is more sensitive to light needs less time to develop a tan (think about the Irish half of my family and how quickly they might colour-up in the sun compared to my olive-skin Latvian side). We can also limit the amount of light hitting our skin in the first place using SPF+ rated sunscreen; the higher the SPF rating (read aperture F/ stop) the more sun is blocked from hitting our skin (read sensor) in the first place. To help demonstrate these ideas I want to put a couple of scenarios together for you:
Scenario 1: Bright light
The sun is shining and it’s 40 degrees outside (I know, I know… it’s winter.. wishful thinking). We want to get a nice tan without getting burnt to a crisp. Our options are:
1. Go outside for a super short time (fast shutter speed) with no sunscreen (wide open aperture)
2. Go outside for a longer period of time (slow shutter speed) but wear SPF50+ (close the aperture down)
3. Ensure our skin isn’t very sensitive to light (low ISO) so we can stay out longer
Scenario 2: Low light
The sun has gone down and you’ve joined me for a Monday night wine whilst I tap out a Tuesday tutorial and you really want to work on your tan at the same time but there’s not much light around… what can you do?
1. Stay for a really long time and try and absorb as many rays as possible (very slow shutter)
2. Make sure you’re not wearing any sunscreen allowing as much light to hit your skin as possible (aperture wide open)
3. Ensure you have super sensitive skin (known as the moon tan) where your colour will develop even with a single candle lighting the room (high ISO)
Lets flip these into photography terms now:
Scenario 1: Bright light
The sun is shining and it’s 40 degrees outside (I know, I know… it’s winter.. wishful thinking). We want to get
a nice tan without getting burn to a crisp. Our options really are:
1. Use a fast shutter speed (a quick trip outside) to ensure the sensor is not exposed to light for too long
2. Use a high f/stop with your aperture (high SPF+ rating sunblock )to block the amount of light getting through to your sensor
3. Check your ISO value to ensure it’s not too sensitive to light (think fair skin in the sun)!
Scenario 2: Low light
The sun has gone down and you’ve joined me for a Monday night wine whilst I tap out a Tuesday tutorial. You really want to work on your tan at the same time but there is virtually no light… what can you do?
1. Set the camera up on a tripod and use a really slow shutter (sit out in the moonlight trying to absorb rays for a very long time)
2. Open your aperture right up with a low f/stop number (low protection SPF5+)
3. Increase your ISO to make your camera super sensitive to light (think about that pale skin exposing quickly even in low light)
This week, escape the winter feeling by flipping your thinking on its head and try and relate your photography settings to a good old day out at the beach using your skin sensitivity, your SPF+ sunscreen and your chosen length of stay as your settings. Next week I’m going to discuss my hatred of sunscreen and why it should be your priority to rid your life of the greasy substance for your day to day shooting and maybe even think about investing in some sunglasses! Click the link below to subscribe and get part 2 straight to your email next week (no spam, I promise!). If this ‘clicked’ and made sense to you, imagine what you could learn if we spent some quality time together on one of my workshops! Check them out here!
Know a friend who would like this?