FAQ #1 – Colour, Shutter speed, Aperture

In Tutorials On Monday, January 23, 2012

I get questions from other photographers from time to time asking me anything from what camera to buy to how to take an image. I thought it might be useful to post them up here, or at least I might as well!

I’ve recently got into photography after purchasing my first DSLR which I use primarily for film (I study film and tv) and I’m beginning to get more familiar with photography too. I was just wondering, I always see this pictures which are so crisp with colour and your photos are like that too. How do you achieve such good pictures? I know shutter speed plays an important role in it from what I’ve learnt. Do you leave your shutter for a long time on your photos or do you just take them quickly? Also, do you use a low aperture for landscape photography? Because you’ll want to see everything after you focus to infinity right?

Good lighting, correct exposure, levels adjustment and minor saturation increases are the key to clear vibrant photos. Of these light and exposure are most important. In general you want rich colourful light if you want to end up with a richly colourful photo (although in some cases diffuse light is best)! As far as exposure goes it is generally desirable to have some true whites and some true blacks (but not too much of either!). If this cant be acheived in camera then you can correct the image using the levels or curves tool in Photoshop or by using your RAW converter.

One of my first images showing underexposure of half a stop or so. I have corrected it using levels, added contrast with curves (and warmed the whitebalance), added a bit of saturation and lastly sharpened for web properly!

Long exposures do not increase saturation, clarity or contrast; this is a popular misconception. The only occasion a long exposure can help with colour is when you have reflections on moving water. I nearly always select a shutter speed that gives me the correct exposure. My camera is regularly set at f11 and ISO100, if I am shooting woodland on an overcast day then I will need a longer exposure than shooting into the setting sun, pretty simple!


This image shows how reflections can spread across the surface of moving water during a long exposure. This apparent increase in saturation is the exception not the rule!

As far as aperture goes most lenses are sharpest around f8, however they are still extremely sharp at f11 to f13. The smaller the aperture the greater the depth of field. Nearly all my images are at f11 or f13 unless I need more light to enter the lens (in astrophotography for example). If you shoot at apertures smaller than f13 you are likely to see the image start to soften due to diffraction. By F22 this effect is obvious at the pixel level.

If you are shooting an astrophoto then you need as much light as possible and a wide aperture of f4 or more may be desirable. Otherwise you are best off around f11!


  1. Thanks for the help! Really informative and beneficial 🙂

  2. Arthur 5th May 2012

    Thanks for passing along your knowlegde. You are truly gifted and I enjoy your images very much.

  3. Hey

    You should do a blogpost about focusing, where to focus in a landscape photo.

    Best regards Adam

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