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Photographer

Photographer


A photographer is an artist and a part-time mathematician. As an artist, the photographer, who often learns the craft at a two- or four-year college, usually as part of an art program, takes pictures in places as varied as natural settings, wedding reception halls, studios, and industrial environments. As a mathematician, the photographer must understand the mathematics of cameras, lighting and optics, and print processing.

The mathematics of the camera involves shutter speed and f-stops. Shutter speed measures the amount of time the shutter is open, exposing the film to light. The numbers of the shutter speed represent the denominator of the time the shutter is open, so that a shutter speed of "500" means that the shutter is open 1/500th of a second. Such a fast shutter speed helps photographers capture action shots or take photos in bright environments. A low shutter speed, like "60" (or 1/60th of a second), slows the shutter to allow more light to enter the camera.

The f-stop is how wide the lens opens (that is, how much light is allowed to reach the film) when taking a picture. The f-stop measures the size of the lens's opening (also called aperture) relative to the lens's focal length. So, a 50 millimeter lens with a 12.5 millimeter opening has a maximum f-stop of 4 (or f/4). To achieve a certain pictorial effect, the right combination of these settings is needed. Photographers also use mathematical formulas to increase or decrease the amount of light and to determine the focal point of a lens. If the combination is not calculated correctly, photos can be overexposed (too much light is let in and the image is washed out) or underexposed (not enough light was let in and the image is too dark).

To help the photographer make precise determinations, most cameras have built-in light meters. Such devices measure the amount of light and indicate the optimum settings for the camera's f-stop and shutter speed.

Although these features are automatic on many cameras, some photographers prefer to use manual cameras and adjust the settings themselves.

When developing prints, photographers not only must get the chemical composition of the developing fluids correct, they must also measure accurately the temperature of the solutions. Additionally, photographers must use a mathematical scale to determine how long to leave the print in the solution, depending on the type of film.

Michael J. O'Neal

Bibliography

Grimm, Tom. The Basic Book of Photography. New York: Plume, 1997.

London, Barbara, ed. Photography. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1997.

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