One thing that has moved my photography onto a whole new level has been understanding the basic settings of ISO, aperture and shutter speed. In my film days I knew how to set my Minolta SRT-102 35mm SLR to give me the best possible picture - mostly this revolved around a little needle and hoop in the view finder. The needle was the light level and the hoop was moved up and down by turning the aperture ring on the lens. Adjusting speed of the shutter was guesswork on mine though as the silk connecting fibres were broken on the speed indicator slider in the viewfinder.
So, frame the image in the view finder, twiddle lens ring to get needle inside the hoop, set the speed to best of guesswork and Roberts your fathers brother, perfect exposure (if the battery in the light meter was up to scratch). Click then wait until you're bonus prints arrived to see how well you'd done.
Surprisingly, this method served me well over many years, but now that I know what benefits and effects there are from aperture and shutter speed I can't help but feel that I missed so many opportunities to get the best possible pictures.
Of these elements, shutter speed was always the easy one, the faster the speed the better able to freeze frame movement. I didn't explore or understand the pictorial benefits of the speed setting changes however, like motion blur to emphasise movement or longer exposures to make water look awesome, not to mention night photography.
Aperture I always knew was the opening in the lens and knew wide meant more light and brighter pictures. I didn't realise the joys of depth of field (dof) allied with this had artistic factors, namely bokeh, nor the effect this dof had on the sharpness of an image. Ker-Clunk, the penny dropped and so many of my pictures have reaped benefit since.
So many of my pictures that I look back across, I can now spot the errors and naiveté that I was blindly plying to my precious Cropped Sensor. No more I said!! I have seen the light (No pun intended).
So head on over to LifeHacker and have a look at this convenient post depicting easily and simply The joys of manual photography settings.
Be brave! embrace the "M" on the dial.