• Welcome to the blogsite of award winning photographer, Samantha Alday. Samantha is also a boutique-style photographer commissioning a limited number of wedding and portrait events each year delivering the most in personal customer service, detail and the specific needs of each client. Her work has been featured in ALABAMA WEDDINGS Magazine, The Knot online Real Weddings and has been awarded by the Wedding Photojournalist Association.

Photography 101 | Shutter Speed

Don’t be afraid.  You’re going to suddenly realize why those pictures of the football baseball game are always blurry.  Once you get this your world is going to be happy and all the pieces of the puzzle with come together in one accord.  And it will be beautiful.  🙂

Remember the last couple of weeks how we talked about aperture–the size of the opening—otherwise known as the shutter– within your camera lens that allows light it, right?   Well, listen to this.

How fast that opening (or shutter) opens and closes refers to the Shutter Speed.  Brilliant!

Let that soak in.

So think about that for a sec.  If your shutter is open for a longer period of time, a couple of things are going to happen:

  1. Your subject is going to be blurry, because there will be movement happening while the shutter  is open, and
  2. More light will come into your lens.

Get it?

Re-read that.

Now think about  the opposite:

If the shutter opens and closes really quickly, like faster than you blink, what’s going to happen?


It will ‘freeze’ your subject or stop them in action.  Careful not to get too excited because what else is going to happen?

Less light will enter your frame.  This is where knowing more about aperture is important.  I love it!

Shutter Speed on your camera dial is listed as Tv or Time Value because it simply refers to the timing of your shutter.

Shutter speed is also listed in fractions such as 1/60 (1/60th of a second) -1/2000 and so on.

So a setting of 1/60 or slower (1/30, 1/15, etc) will render more light coming in to your frame but can render blurry images if you don’t use a tripod.  But a higher shutter speed such as 1/500, 1/1000, etc. will freeze your subject but less light will enter your frame.

Now, let’s think about times when each is appropriate.

At the baseball game, you want to freeze that ball and swing.  If you have lots of light such as a bright sun shiny day, then a fast shutter speed is what you want.  But if it’s dark outside or even inside and it may be candlelight, for example, you’re gonna slow that shutter speed down to soak up the light and that glow (but you better have your camera on a table to avoid ‘handshake’).

I’ve also taken great campfire images using a slow shutter speed and propped my camera on the nearest picnic table.

This is one of those times when you can turn your camera’s dial to Tv Mode and shoot in Shutter Priority because you want control of what your camera does…not the opposite.  Just make sure you also have the light source you’re needing as well.

Taking a properly exposed image is about compensation:  using your shutter speed with your aperture together to allow just the perfect amount of light in or out to create your work of art—or your perfectly exposed picture.

That’s it for today…a quickie I know, but I want you to feel comfortable where we are before we move on.  We’ll touch on this subject again later, but I hope that helps for now!

Bekki - June 16, 2010 - 5:21 pm

I just got back from vacation and I need to catch up and practice! I think I need to start back at the beginning! Thanks so much for the lessons.

Alyson - June 14, 2010 - 10:43 am

I am so enjoying this “class”! I love that it is in small enough bites for my feeble mind to take it in. I just wish that the camera I now have would allow these types of customization. Oh well, I don’t guess I should complain about free (it was a gift). I am now just even more motivated to finally try to buy a real camera so I can try all this out. Keep it up! I am looking forward to next week’s lesson.

Alyson O.

Photography 101 | Aperture Part 2

Before moving on to the next lesson, I thought it best to revisit Aperture and talk about it abit more.

First, let’s review:

Aperture = the size of the shutter (the opening that opens and closes to take the picture)  in your lens.

The lower the aperture the wider (or larger) the opening = lets more light in.  The smaller does the opposite = keeps light out (great for bright sun shiny days).

Depth of Field = the amount of your image that’s in focus from the foreground to the background.

A low aperture also creates a Shallow Depth of Field = that fuzziness or out of focus background behind your subject (the opposite is narrow).

Aperture is also referred to as the speed of your lens.  Low aperture lens = a fast lens;  higher aperture = slower lens.

Aperture also referred to as f/ stop.

Set your camera to the Av mode (Aperture Priority) to have control over your aperture setting depending on your picture situation.  Do you need more light? less light? a shallow or narrow depth of field, etc.?

While I’d rather you shoot (for now) in Av mode, here’s a freebie.  Look at your camera’s control dial.  Do you see all of the picture icons that circle the dial?  Look at the ‘head’ icon.  This represents the Portrait Setting on your camera.  It’s a fully automatic setting, but guess what it does?

Think about it.

It opens up your aperture as far as it will go for two reasons.  What are they?

1.  To allow as much light to hit your subject as possible (because as far as your camera knows, you’re taking a portrait of a single person).

2.  To create a Shallow Depth of Field (so the background will be blurred out to make your subject pop).

Get it??

BUT, here’s the caveat.  It’s still fully automatic.  You don’t have control.  Your camera is not as smart as you are and it still has it’s limitations while in the Auto Mode.


There is a great lens you can purchase for around $100 with a fast aperture of 1.8.  Canon and Nikon both make this fixed 50 mm f/1.8 awesome little lens.  (I’ve shot many, many pictures with it before graduating to the 50 mm f/1.4).

If you’re local to the Mobile area, Calagaz is a great camera store to support (and please tell them I sent you).  You can also order from B&H Photo or check out Amazon as well.

Here’s the Canon version at B&H.

Here’s the Nikon version at Amazon.

**Before you decide to purchase this lens, make sure it is compatible with your camera.  Let the sales rep know what camera you have and let them help you determine if this lens will work with it.**

Don’t forget about the Assignment for the week!

Happy Shooting!

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Samantha - July 29, 2010 - 11:29 am

Hey Maria,
Stay tuned because I’ll answer your question soon. Just keep reading and happy shooting! Thanks!

Maria - July 29, 2010 - 9:39 am

I’ve learned so much from your blog! Now, I just need a camera! haha! For someone new to photography, I’m having a difficult time deciding what camera to buy. Do you have any suggestions? Is it possible to buy a good quality camera, something that will take professional looking pictures, for under $1,000?

Photography 101 | Aperture

Whoa!  What?  What the heck is Aperture!?  Stay with me for this lesson ’cause it’s good and it’s important and all kinds of light bulbs will go off in your head when you get this.  😉

When we talk about aperture–listen to this–we will be referring to your LENS, not your camera.  Did you see that?  Read that statement again, I’ll wait for ya.

Got it?


Yes, it’s important to have a ‘good’ SLR camera, but it’s the LENS lets you work magic.

Aperture describes the size of the opening in your lens that allows light in or keeps light out.  Get it?

A larger opening will let more light in and a small opening does what?  The opposite..keeps light out.

Take your lens off your camera and let’s look at it.

If you look at the back of you lens like this, you’ll see the opening I’m referring to.

Next, look at your lens itself.  Your lens length and aperture are written along the edge like this.

The aperture is the F-stop number that’s written such as 1.4, 2.8, 4.5, 5.6, etc.

The lower the number the larger the opening.  The larger the number, the smaller the opening. Yes, it’s opposite, but I don’t know why.

So now.  You tell me why do you think having a lens with a lower aperture is important?

Think about it.

Why?  To let more light to your frame in a low light situation!

Yay!  You got it!

This is a freebie:  you may also hear aperture referred to as the speed of your lens.  A lower aperture is considered a fast lens.  Just a little FYI in case you hear that later and won’t get confused.

This is why in some low light situations and have your ISO turned all the up, but still can’t get a good exposed picture…is because your lens may simply not be capable of doing it.  Why?  Again, most lenses that come with your camera in your camera kit are slow lenses with apertures that start at 4.5-5.6.  These apertures just won’t get the job done for you in low light situations.

Another thing with lower apertures you’re going to get that nice blurred out background otherwise known as a shallow depth of field.  You’ll hear that again, so take note.

This is important.  The lower the number..or smaller the number..the smaller the area of focus.  The higher the number..or larger the number..the larger the area of focus.

So, if you’re taking one person’s picture and even if you’re outdoors, set you aperture to a lower number to get that shallow depth of field or out of focus and fuzzy background that so many of us like.  But if you’re taking a larger group then set your aperture to a larger number so you can get everything in focus.  The aperture you choose is dependent on how much light you require to hit your frame or the depth of field you need (or what you want in or out of focus).

How do you do this?  Simple.  Get your camera off of the fully auto mode and turn your dial to Av or Aperture Value or Aperture Priority.  With this setting, you determine where you want your aperture to be (depending on your situation) and your camera will appropriately set your other settings for you.  Way cool, huh?

Here are a few examples.  These are images I’ve posted before, but let’s review them.

ISO: 1000; Aperture: 1.8

It’s a dark room and I’m not using flash so I need to really open up my aperture to let as much light in as I can so I chose a lower number so more light could reach my frame.  Now, keep in mind that with that lower aperture, my subject is going to be the only thing in focus.  Re-read the above to see why.

ISO: 100; Aperture: 6.7

It’s sunny out so I need to control how much light hits my frame (I don’t need a ton or it would really over-expose my image, as well as, I need everybody in focus so I chose a larger aperture number).

Shooting in Av mode is a great way to learn how to use your camera and learn exposure.  Take your camera outside and set your ISO to 100 and your Av to the lowest it will go.  Choose a still object and increase your aperture with each shot and see what happens. Notice I’m not talking about what your Shutter Speed is doing right now because I just want you to look at your aperture right now.  We’ll talk about Shutter Speed next week.

Here are a few more examples.  Look at each image and think about if the aperture is set lower or higher?

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Samantha - February 27, 2011 - 10:22 am

Hi Monica,
Glad you found me and I hope you continue to enjoy the lessons. 🙂

Monica - February 26, 2011 - 8:09 am

Many thanks for explaining aperture in simple words and for sharing your beautiful pictures! I am inspired! Happy Day!

admin - May 31, 2010 - 1:32 pm

Hey Kim! So glad you enjoyed it! You can also check other lessons you may have missed under the Categories tab. I’m expecting to see pics from the recital! 😉

Kim Diegan - May 31, 2010 - 12:37 pm

Sam, I am sooo excited and impressed! I learned more in 10 minutes on your blog than I did in a class I paid for at South! And just in time. My baby girl’s first recital is Sunday, and I was freaking out because we can’t use a flash! Thanks so much for the much needed information. Must practice this week! I also learned that I spent a bunch of money on a lens with an f-stop that is too high. (BOO!)

Photography 101 | ISO

ISO is a term we’ve heard as long as we’ve held a camera in our hand.  Whether it be when we were buying film or now turning a digital dial to the correct ISO, it’s always been a decision to make.  Many of you probably have never thought given it much thought, but I’m here to tell you:  the ISO setting is your first important decision to make when you pick up your camera to take a picture.  Why??  I’m so glad you asked!

The ISO setting on your camera determines your cameras sensitivity to light? Clear as mud, right…???  No worries, you’ll get it by the end of this post.

Stop.  Get your camera and let’s look at it on your own camera.  If you’re still can’t find it, go get your instruction book and look under the Table of Contents for ISO.

Got it?  On my camera the lowest ISO speed is 100 and the highest number speed is 1600, but it actually goes a step further to “H” which probably represents 3200.  There are many more cameras that reach up to a 6400 ISO speed.

Now listen to this, it’s important.  The lower your ISO speed (i.e. 100-400) the less sensitive to light. I repeat:  the lower your ISO the less sensitive to light…which means it will require more light to hit your frame to expose for a properly lit image.  Why, because it’s not that sensitive to it, so it will need more of it to reach your camera. For example, if I’m taking pictures outdoors on a bright sun shiny day, I’m going to set my ISO to a low setting because I’m not going to require that much light to make a decent picture.  And because it’s sunny outside, that low ISO setting is going to soak up all that light on my frame and therefore, soak up all the great colors, too.

Now, consider the opposite.  The higher your ISO speed (800+), the more sensitive to light. Now, think about this:  if I’m indoors taking a picture and can’t use my flash or I’m outside and the sun is quickly setting, I’m going to turn my ISO up to a higher number.  Why?  Because my camera is going to become more sensitive to the light and it will not require as much light to reach the frame to make a better image. You get it?  Because a high ISO is more sensitive to light, it will require less light to reach it to take a better picture.

Compare this:  If it’s getting darker outside and I have my ISO set to 100, my camera will almost never be able to read for a properly exposed image, because it will therefore require tons of light to hit my frame and there is simply not enough of it to do it.

Let’s review:   ISO-your camera’s sensitivity to light (does it need more or less). Low ISO=less sensitive=needs more light. High ISO=more sensitive=needs less light.

Look at these pictures.  This also gives me another opportunity to show off more DNOW Weekend pictures.  😉

In this picture the kids were in their worship time.  The room was dark except for a few particularly placed spotlights and stage lights.  I didn’t want to use flash because it would take away from the ambiance in the room and you wouldn’t get the mood of the image.  Where do you think I have my ISO set for this image??  Would you think lower or higher?

ISO: 1000

Dark room=need more light=higher ISO more sensitive to light (so any amount of light will reach your frame).

These next two images were during their game-time outdoors.  Shelby gagged all over the place while eating chocolate syrup from a baby diaper.  It was priceless!  Again, where do you think I have my ISO?

If you guessed lower then you would be right!?  Go you!!

ISO: 100

Lots of available light (bright sunshine)=lower ISO (remember a low ISO doesn’t require as much light to properly expose for a good picture).

In this last picture, Joseph attempts to lead his group in singing “Whistle While You Work” with crackers in his mouth.

ISO: 100

Ponder over this all week. Get your instruction book out.  Read.  Play.  Ask questions.  You’ll get it!

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See you next Monday!

Disclaimer:  The ISO setting is not the only requirement in exposing for a dark or well-lit area.  Other major factors play an important role in attaining a proper exposure.  That’s what these mini-lessons are all about: learning the basics for taking a good picture and getting your camera off the P Mode or fully automatic mode.  It’s simply where you want to be in your photography skills and knowledge.

Marinda - June 5, 2012 - 9:50 am

Thank you so much for sharing this information – very helpful and I get it now!

Photography 101 | Exposure

You’ll hear photographers talk a lot about exposure.  What does exposure mean anyway?  Exposure is a simple term to determine how much light (or lack of light) your camera frame needs to take a decent picture.  Exposure is all about light. That’s why when you have your camera on the Fully Automatic setting, it’s going to read the light around you and determine what it thinks is the correct Exposure…or how much light (or lack of light)… is needed to take a good picture.  When your camera reads the light around it and around your subject, it will automatically set itself to the settings it feels necessary to properly expose for your picture.

So, why is this important for you to know?  Because 90% (in my own opinion) of taking a good picture is based on the correct exposure of your image….i.e. is it too dark or too bright?  For most pictures you only have one chance to get it right.  Your child will only walk across that stage once, make that greatest play ever, or blow out their 16 candles once, and you don’t want to stand there waiting to capture that memory as it happens only to find yourself looking at the back of your camera screen to see a way too dark or way too bright picture staring back at you.  That’s called EXPOSURE.  The goal is to get it right the first time.

For the next few Monday’s, I’ll be going over exposure with you.  I know this seems like a boring start to the Series, but this is the foundation of what we’ll be talking about over the next few weeks.  We’ll talk about light and adjusting your camera settings to work together to create that perfectly exposed image you can be proud to show off!  Not to give you too much info right now, but there are times when I intentionally over or underexpose my image because of the look I’m after, but for now our goal is to work on the correct exposure.


Exposure=how your camera (and eventually how you, yes you…’cause eventually we’ll get that camera off of the fully automatic mode) reads the light and therefore creates an image.  Underexposed=too dark (under the appropriate settings for correct exposure, overexposed=too bright (over the appropriate settings for correct exposure).

Just right.My Aunt and Grandmother.  I took this picture after an all day trip to Mobile.Best Friends before their Jr. High Prom.Don’t forget to share some love around!  Let me know what you think…or if you have any questions!

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Samantha - June 5, 2012 - 4:02 pm

Hi Marinda, I’m glad you found me. Thanks for reading and your kind words.

Marinda - June 5, 2012 - 10:16 am

I really just love how you show examples and really just spell it out how I can understand it! So glad I ran across your site!! Thanks so much for the time you put into this!

Bekki - May 17, 2010 - 8:03 pm

A friend told me about your blog class. I am so excited! I really want to learn how to use my camera well. I have a Cannon Rebel XTi.

Photography 101 Series

For those of you just joining us, this Series is a 17 week Photography 101 course that originally began in May 2010.  Because of such great response regarding the lessons, this is a re-posting of those lessons.  You can currently view all of the lessons under the Categories>Photography 101 option on the top menu bar, but if you’re just starting out, I encourage you to not jump ahead, but rather take your time with each lesson as each lesson builds on the previous lesson.

You will also notice a new feature on each lesson:  a Printer Friendly version so you can print and read at your own leisure.

Another new feature is the option of sharing these lessons with your social network.  You’ll notice a variety of social networking icons at the bottom of each post to click and share with your friends.  Feel free to share the lessons with others; that’s what they are here for!

With the fast moving techno age we’re in right now, many professional cameras are available now to you, the non-professional.  But as I too often hear from so many of you, “I have a new camera, but I’m not sure what to do with it.”  so many dials, buttons and settings, but you’re still only using the basic, fully automatic mode because you don’t know what all those buttons are used for.  Sound familiar?  You also probably paid lots of money for your camera so you can get those great shots of the dance recital, the greatest football or baseball catch of all times, those final Senior moments or simply those sweet, every-day memories that you don’t want to forget.  But maybe something is still missing from your pictures; something’s just not quite right and you’re not getting those great shots you were hoping for.  Maybe you’re not using your camera to its fullest potential.  Oh!  And that instruction booklet that came with your camera?  It explains everything just perfectly, right?  Wrong.  If you don’t know what all those settings and buttons mean then how are you going to understand reading it in the instruction manual?  Again, sound familiar?

No worries, starting this Monday and continuing every Monday, I’ll be ripping apart (okay, maybe not ripping) your instruction booklet and going into more detail about how to take great pictures.  In this Photography 101 Series, I’ll explain what those techie parts of your camera, as well as review your instruction booklet with you so that the next time you read it, it will make more sense to you!  You’ll also have the opportunity to post your work online here (more on that later) for personal review.

I’d love to know if you’ll be participating in the Series, so leave me some love (comment) at the bottom of this post.  And don’t be shy, feel free to ask any questions along the way!  I’ll see you Monday!

Samantha - March 13, 2011 - 8:54 pm

Hi Amber,
Yay! I’m so glad you found me. Don’t worry about starting late. Just click on the Photography 101 link under the Categories tab and take your time catching up! 🙂 Hope you enjoy!

Samantha - February 7, 2011 - 7:50 am

Thanks Lynda! Hope you enjoy!

Lynda White - February 5, 2011 - 11:10 pm

I’m really excited about this and looking forward to Monday night! Thanks a bunch!

Maria - July 29, 2010 - 6:18 am

I just came across your website, and I love it! I don’t have a fancy professional camera, as of yet, but I’m dying to get into photography – really get into it. This looks like the perfect place to get started! I’ll be spending the rest of my morning reading through your lessons! Thanks!

leigh - May 16, 2010 - 10:49 pm

oh. em. geeee!!! i am so so so SO excited! i just got a nikon d90 about 3 weeks ago and i’ve been shooting with a rebel xti for about 3 years 🙂 and i must say, you have an AWESOME eye for photography 🙂

you did my cousin’s wedding a couple of years ago, and i am STILL amazed by her pictures! 🙂

admin - May 16, 2010 - 10:22 pm

Yay! I’m so excited to have new students for the class. 😉 Christy, although you don’t have an SLR, I hope to share information that will help you gain a better understanding of how to take better pictures overall. While I will go over your camera’s specifics such as aperture, shutter speed, iso, etc, your point and shoot has similar controls and settings that I hope to give you a better knowledge of. Hope that helps! S

Nissa - May 16, 2010 - 10:04 pm

Hey, Sam…I’d really rather you teach me hands on-this may even be a little over my head! hahaha Love your blog site-very cool! I’ll be checking it out…

Christi - May 16, 2010 - 9:47 pm

Samantha, I don’t have a DSLR, will I be able to use this with my camera? Its a Canon Powershot S5IS


CJC - May 16, 2010 - 8:40 pm

This sounds like a great idea!! I will be participating and look forward to Mondays

Susan Seidel - May 16, 2010 - 8:36 pm

Yay! I just learned about your 365 blog last week through Stacy Richardson’s 365 project. I am new to photography and love to learn. I got my first SLR camera (Cannon XSI) in Nov of 2008. I am so excited for your photography 101 series. I will definitely be checking out your blog. Thanks for helping us understand our cameras better. Blessings!

Rhonda Lorio - May 16, 2010 - 8:35 pm

HI Samantha,

so excited to learn a little…I have a nikon D50. Really just love taking pics of my kids and their sports. Always love looking at your work. It amazes me every time…very powerful and moving.

Can’t wait til tomorrow!


Kate Bentley - May 16, 2010 - 7:56 pm

I am so excited for all of tips!