Toms Photo Start Page

Are you just starting out in Photography? Then this page is for you.
(This page is made for both manual and half automatic SLR's)

  1. So you bought a SLR camera?
  2. Aperture and speed
  3. Films
  4. Easy Tips
  5. Lenses
  6. Filters
  7. JargonBuster (explanation of terms used)

So you bought a SLR camera?

What means SLR? Single Reflex Camera, also known as TTL camera (Through The Lens), you see exactly what the lens sees. A "normal" camera with a viewfinder does not look through the lens of the camera so what you see is not allways what you get.
Well... Time to shoot some pics. No really, its the only way to get to know your camera. Another way is to just put the batteries in it, no film and just test out all the features on your camera. Just see what it does. Get out that manual and start reading and trying.
If you have a manual SLR than you don't have all these programs and other stuff. Its time to get to know your lightmeter! Being internal or external, your light meter is probably your most important tool. Study it or just have bad photographs. There is a way around your lightmeter called the F16 rule look below at the Easy Tips section.
Find out what all the buttons and stuff do. A manual SLR can be a lot easier to figure out. No programs. It just has aperture and speed to worry about.

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SLR, Single Reflex Camera, This is a manual model. No presets, no programs.


Half Automatic SLR, This one has programs, Sports, Landscape, portrait, ect.

Aperture and Speed

What does it do? Here are simple rules. Remember it's all about light.

- Small aperture, this means lens wide open (fstop 2 or 2.8)
This has as effect that the background will fade.

- At a bigger aperture, lens almost closed (fstop 16 or 22) you get a sharp background

This is also called Depth of Field.

- The faster you set your camera 1/250th to 1/2000th of a second the more an object wil get "frozen" for example at 1/90th of a second waterdrops will be as stripes and streaks of water. At 1/1000 of a second they will be frozen as seperate drops.

- The slower you set your camera 1/90 and lower to 1 second the sharper still objects will become but moving objects will appear as streaks to you photos.

So if you set your camera to slow and take a big aperture you'll get very sharp shots. But you'll need a tripod to keep the camera steady. If you set your camera slower you get Camera shake. Out of focus pictures are the result.

Funny enough 1/125 with 5.6 (100 iso) is some kind of standard value, most of the cheap throw away cameras work with that or at 1/125 with 8 (200 iso). 
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Fuij, Kodak, Agfa, Illford and all the other brands. You'll go completely nuts with all the different kinds of film. Gold, Ektachrome, Ektapress... Anyone still know what I'm talking about? Well... neither do I. So lets keep this chapter nice and simple. The brands I mentioned are a few of the best ones. Stick to those and start experimenting with film later (once you've done a course in photography or turned pro).
First of all the ISO value.
The ISO rating of a film is the lightsensitivity of the film. This is also known as the speed of the film. ISO is also known as ASA. We also know DIN and I'OCT. DIN uses another scale (don't worry about it, there is usually an ISO/ASA rating next to it on the film). The Higher the ISO the more senitive your film is to light ergo, the faster your film is. This means you can use a smaller aperture (sharper pics) with a higher speed. Offcourse speed comes at a price. The drawback is filmgrain (in dutch known as "filmkorrel"), the faster your film the more grain on your film. Lets stick to the most widely used ISO/ASA's.
  • ISO 100, Most used, fine grain, great for blowups. When using indoors a flash is usually nessecary.
  • ISO 200, Faster and still low grain. Great allround film for any occasion.
  • ISO 400, Excellent for sports and airshows (read flying display). Can have lots of grain when making blowups of shots. Sometimes this is used as a special effect.
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Easy Tips

  1. Keep your camera steady. (otherwise you'll get out of focus pictures)
  2. Check the light (don't take shots with the sun in front of you)
  3. Check your lightmeter
  4. When taking landscape shots put something in the foreground to give a shot depth
  5. When taking a portrait shot keep the background simple or fade it out
  6. If you have to take a shot with the sun in front of you, use your flash (fill in)
  7. Focus on the right spot (this goes for both manual and automatic cameras)

Loose tips and rules.
  • The F16 rule, Say you have a manual SLR and you've forgotten your lightmeter or your batteries have run down or its broken (I've been there with my Zenit). You don't have to gamble your F stops. Use the F16 rule to calculate the right exposure (does not work so well inside).
    Take the ASA/ISO of the film and use that number as your shutter speed.
    For example for ISO 100 is 1/125th, ISO 200 use 1/250 sec or ISO 400 use 1/500 sec (or what comes close) Then set your F stop at f16 on a bright sunny day, cloudy bright f11, overcast f8, heavy overcast f 5.6 Its not a perfect rule, but its right 80 percent of the time. Offcourse after this you'll never forget your lightmeter again.
  • Big aperture, this means lens wide open (fstop 2 or 2.8) This has as effect that the background will fade.
  • Small aperture, lens almost closed (fstop 16 or 22) you get a sharp background
  • The faster you set your camera 1/250th to 1/2000th of a second the more an object wil get "frozen" in action.
  • The slower you set your camera 1/90 and lower to 1 second the sharper still objects will become but moving objects will appear as streaks to you photos.
  • Easy rule to prevent out of focus pictures. The opposite of your focal length is your speedsetting. If you have a 50 mm lens use no speeds lower than 1/50 (or 1/60) to prevent camerashake. If you use a 300 mm lens, set your speed to 1/300 or the nearest setting on your camera (either 1/250 or 1/500).
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You've heard them talking... 50mm, 28mm wide angle, 400mm telephoto, lenses, lenses... They make and brake your camera. So what kind of effect do they have?


These photos say a thousand words. These are balloons hanging at roughly 50 to 70 meters in front of me and my camera. The 50mm sees them almost like I would with my eyes. The 80 mm comes a bit closer. The 200 mm makes the shot clear and the 400 mm just fills the photo. So whats my point? Lenses are all about magnification. The bigger the lens the higher the magnification. It is just that simple. A 400 mm gives you roughly a 10 times magnification. Does that mean that 40 mm is 1 times magnification or rather 1 to 1 ? Yes it does. It is really that simple. That is why there are lenses like 35 mm and 38 mm. Now you know why a big company like Canon built a lens like the 38-76 mm. Shots info, Zenit-E with 50mm lens (fitted with a Polarisationfilter hence the more blue in this shot), a 80-200 zoomlens and a 400mm Telephotolens, 200 iso film.

All very well but what about these things called Zoom lenses and Fixed Focus lenses ?
The difference is quite simple. Fixed Focus is just what it says. Fixed Focal Lenght, if it says 50 mm on the lens than thats it, only 50 mm it will not become any more than 50 mm. The Zoom Lens has something different printed on it. Lets take the 38-76 I mentioned earlier. What does it mean? It means Focal length from 38 to 76 mm. So you have lenses ranging from 38 mm to 76 mm. It's called Zoom because you just zoom in or zoom out on your subject.

What is a Wide Angle lens ?
Wide angle refers to the viewing angle. But as a rule of the thumb the smaller the focal length the more you will see through your camera. Usually wide angle lenses are 15 to 22 mm lenses and are also sold in Zoom lenses 17-35, 19-35 and 20-40 mm lenses are great to work with. To give an example. I used to use a 28 mm or 38 mm wide angle and at airshows I would have to wait for people to move AWAY from an airplane to make a photo of it. Now I have a 19-35 mm wide angle zoom lens and I can get UP CLOSE to make a shot. And as nice side effect irritate all the other photographers by walking in front of the aircraft and getting a better shot.
They did it to me, so now finally I can do it to them, HAH!

What is a Telephoto lens ?
It's a big lens with a very big focal length. We are talking everything from 135 and higher. They come as fixed focus. I've got two 300mm lenses, a 400 and a 135 mm. And they come as zoom lenses. They can be 80-200 mm, 75-300, 100-300 or even 100-400 mm lenses. The biggest lens I've seen was 1000 mm and they come even bigger than that. And they come with a big pricetag. The bigger the focal length the more expensive they become.

Teleconvertor ? Whats that ?
A teleconvertor is in fact an extra lens between the camerabody and your telefotolens. They come in different sizes, 1.4, 1.6 and 2 but they all do the same. They multiply your focal length. So a 300 mm telelens would become (with a 2 times convertor) a 600 mm telelens at a fraction of the cost. Teleconvertors are way cheaper than the big telephotolenses. But they have their drawbacks. You can suffer a small loss of contrast in your photos and you have to double your f-stops on your camera. This means what you used to shoot with F 4.5 now becomes F 8 (you loose two stops of light). With Teleconvertors there is one simple rule. Don't buy the cheap ones but go for quality. It may cost double the price of a "normal" teleconvertor but it is still cheaper than a big Telephoto lens.

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There are loads of filters out there, I'll just cover the best known ones. First the Polarisation filter, also known as pola filter for short. There are two types, the linear and the circular polafilter. The Circular pola filter is the most widely used one. If you have a SLR with autofocus and TTL lightmeter (most of them are nowadays) buy the circular one. The linear polafilter can cause wrong readings in the lightmeter of your SLR. The Linear polafilter is used for all other manual SLR without builtin lightmeters.


These are the effects of the Polarisation filter.
  1. A blue sky becomes more blue.
  2. The shine on nonmetalic surfaces such as leafs, plastic and painted surfaces becomes less. This makes the colors look stronger and clearer.
  3. Reflections in glas, water and other surfaces like this can be removed or made less.

In the three photos above the effects of the polarisation filter can be seen quite clearly. Photo 1 was made without the filter. In Photo 2 the reflection of the water was removed. And in Photo 3 the reflection was made a bit stronger. All shots were made with a Zenit-E manual SLR with 200 iso film first shot at 1/125 with fstop 8 second and third at 1/125 fstop 5.6. Shots were made with the sun to my right at about 11:30 on a februari morning.

The UV filter eliminates the influence of ultraviolet rays. It reduces the risc of a blue haze in your shots in both black and white and especially in colour photography. Besides that it's an excellent lensprotector. If you drop your lens and this will happen, the worst thing that can happen is that the glas gets damaged. It's better that you have a damaged UV filter than a damaged piece of lensglass. And way cheaper too.

Effects of colorfilters on black and white film.

Light yellow filter, improves the colors blue, green and yellow under normal lighting. Usually used in landscapephotography under a clouded blue sky.

Orange filter is used in taking pictures of remote objects when it is necessary to reduce the effect of atmospheric haze. This filter increases contrast. In normal phtotography the sky gets a bit darker and the clouds get more contrast.

Yellowgreen filter, enhances red and green colours. This filter is used in portrait photography in daylight and by artificial light.

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An explanation of terms used in photography.

120 mm system; Known and loved for years, replaced by 35 mm, but still used by many many photographers all over the world.

35 mm system; Known and loved for years by photographers all over the world, Big succes.

Agfa; Makers of film and cameras.

Aim System; Focussystem made by Canon.

Aperture; opening of the lens, also known as diaphragm.

APS; Advanced Photo System, successor of the normal 35 mm film, not a big succes.

Babelens; big telephotolens usually 400 mm or higher, used to observe babes in their natural habitat, usually the beach.

ASA; Filmsensitivity (speed of the film).

Blowup; making a picture bigger, like making posters.

Camera; the thing you use to take photos with... duh..

Camerashake; causes out of focus pictures. Happens usually with big
lenses like 300 or 400 mm, to prevent this set camera to high speed (see rules).

Canon; Camerabrand

Close up; Getting close with camera on the subject.

DIN; Filmsensitivity (speed of the film).

EOS; 35 mm camera system made by Canon.

Inside film; This does not exist.

Iso; Filmsensitivity (speed of the film).

FED; Russian Camerabrand best known for it's rangefinders.

Focal Length; the effective length of your lens.

Fuij; Makers of film and cameras.

Illford; Makers of film.

Kiev; Russian camerabrand best known for it's medium format cameras.

Kodak; Makers of film and cameras.

Lightmeter; Device to measure the amount of light and to translate it into a useable speed and aperture for a camera.

Macro; Close up photo made with special macro rings or macro lens.

Outside film; This does not exist.

Medium Format; Widely used by proffesional and advanced amateurs around the world, also widely used in studios. Gives big negatives in great detail, also known as 6 by 6 or 4.5 by 6.

Mirror lens; Usually big telephoto lens of 300mm and higher, based on the mirror telescope system, a mirror is used as a lens, making the lens shorter. Usually great optical quality with only 2 disadvantages. The "donut" effect and the lenses come as preset.

Nikon; Camerabrand

OCT; Filmsensitivity (speed of the film).

Rangefinder; Old style camera, focussing is done through a mirrorsystem projecting a second image in the finder.

Spotmeter; lightmeter that measures the middle part of your shot.

SLR ; Single Reflex Camera, also known as TTL camera Through The Lens you see exactly what the lens sees.

Telephoto Lens; Lens used to get close to something which is far away, see lenses.

Wide Angle Lens; Lens used to as much in focus as possible, see lenses.

Zenit; Russian Camera system made by KMZ.

Zorki; Russian Camerabrand best known for it's rangefinders based on Leica.

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