Behind the Lens: Website helps teach photography basics

I’ve been teaching quite a few photography courses over the last couple of years. I have instructed a KU course in photojournalism and I continue to teach a series of photography classes for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at KU. Through all these classes, I’ve learned three things:

1) Few people understand the relationship between the exposure controls of shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

2) Everyone can become a more creative photographer.

3) Nobody reads the manual.

I admit, I don’t read the manual either. It will tell you about your particular camera, but it won’t tell you much else.


This screen shot from the CameraSim website, shows how you can use camera exposure controls to photograph a simulated active scene. The simulator gives you a good understanding of the relationships between shutter speed, aperture and ISO to control your camera exposure.

On the other hand, understanding how all cameras work and exploring the creative process of photography will go along way in determining the success of a photograph or a photographer.

Understanding what to do to make a properly exposed photograph is a technical issue. The creative aspect of photography necessitates visual awareness.

While both of these are challenging, I find that the hardest thing to teach, probably because it is so tedious and technical, is the mechanics of a camera. That’s why I was grateful to Angela Perkins, Lawrence High School’s photography instructor, when she mentioned to me a website called that explores the mechanics and functions of a digital single-lens camera in a unique way.

You are provided a simulated and ‘active’ scene of a young girl holding a spinning pinwheel and swaying back and forth on a playground. You have all the controls of the camera available, including ISO, shutter speed and aperture. The simulator also allows you to change the focal length of your lens and even the distance you wish to place yourself from the subject.

Once you determine an appropriate exposure, you snap a photo and review the result. You quickly begin to understand relationships between ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

If you want to photograph the pinwheel so it freezes the motion, you must set a higher shutter speed. In turn, this means you need to make equal adjustments in either aperture or ISO. Whether you use the automatic shutter priority or aperture priority or the manual control settings, you are always able to watch how exposure is adjusted.

Also, depending on what focal length of lens you use and the distance from the subject you choose to photograph, you discover how these choices affect depth-of-field and the look of the background information. Give it a try and send me any questions you have about exposure controls and operating cameras.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll talk more about getting creative with your compositions.


EDemasio 7 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for this article! I really do enjoy the other ones as well. They help tremendously with my photography. Looking forward to more!

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