As advancements in digital camera technology persist, an increasing number of individuals are discovering their love for photography.
Many new photographers learn the art of photography by buying a camera and experimenting with various settings and features. Others prefer to learn the basics in photography classes, in person or online.
No matter how you learn, it’s good to know the basics of photography. You can begin by reading articles and watching videos online to help you.
Where can a newbie start with photography?
If you’re new to photography, you can start learning at home with books and online guides full of tips. Another option is to join a basic photography class or workshop.
Want to join a beginner’s photography course? Look at nearby community and art centers. Even some local libraries might have classes on fun topics like photography.
For now, let’s go over some photography basics to move you from just having fun to being a pro.
Beginner's Guide: Basics of Photography
When you start with photography, you’ll hear some terms that might seem tricky. Don’t worry, we’ll explain them step by step so you can understand your camera better.
The first three things you should know are Shutter Speed, ISO, and aperture. They’re like the building blocks of photography.
Think of ISO as how your camera “sees” light. If you’ve ever used a film camera, you might remember the term ISO because it was sometimes called film speed.
For digital cameras, ISO works like film speed. Basically, a low ISO number (like 100) means you camera or film isn’t very sensitive to light. But a high ISO (like 1,600 or more) means it’s very sensitive.
But be careful! High ISO can make your photos look grainy. This graininess was true for film cameras and is still true for digital ones. To get clear pictures, try to use a low ISO and adjust other things on your camera.
We’ll dive deeper into how ISO connects with other settings when we discuss about exposure below.
Shutter speed is all about how long your camera’s shutter stays open when you’re taking a picture. This can be super quick, like a tiny part of a second, or really long, like 30 seconds or more.
When talking about shutter speed, we often use fractions. So, on your camera, you might see numbers like 1/100 or 1/500. These are fractions of a second. The smaller the bottom number, the quicker the shutter speed. So, 1/60 is slower than 1/250, but 1/60 is quicker than 1/25.
Now, some cameras don’t show the whole fraction. They just show the bottom number. So if you see a number like 250, it’s actually 1/250.
If you see a number with a quotation mark, like 2”, it means full seconds. So, 2” is two whole seconds.
Why does shutter speed matter?
Well, the longer the shutter stays open, the more light gets to the camera sensor or film. If it’s open too long, your photo might be too bright or “overexposed.” if it’s not open long enough, your photo might be too dark or “underexposed.”
The aperture is like the “eye” of your camera’s lens. It’s an opening that can get bigger or smaller. Imagine the lens has several blade-like pieces. These can move closer together to make a small hole or spread out to make a big one.
Why is aperture a big deal?
Well, it does two main things:
Ligh control: The aperture decides how much light gets to the camera sensor. A big opening (or wide aperture) lets in a lot of light. A small opening (or narrow aperture) lets in less light.
Focus Range (Depth of Field): Aperture also affects how much of your photo is sharp and clear. With a wide aperture, only a small part of your photo will be in focus, and the rest will be blurry. This is called a “shallow” depth of field.
So, by playing with the aperture, you can control light and how much of your photo is in focus. Cool, right?
What is Exposure?
Exposure is like how bright or dark your photo is. It’s all about the light that hits your camera’s sensor or film. The right amount of exposure comes from balancing three things: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.
Think of it like this:
ISO: How sensitive your camera is to light.
Shutter Speed: How long your camera lets light in.
Aperture: How big the opening is for light to enter.
If you change one, you might need to adjust the others. Like, if you use a super quick shutter speed (less light), you might need a bigger aperture (more light) to balance it out. Or, if you don’t want to change the aperture because you want a certain focus look, you can adjust the ISO instead.
People often talk about the “exposure triangle” when discussing photography. It’s just a fancy way of saying that ISO, aperture, and shutter speed all connect and depend on each other to get the proper exposure.
It might sound tricky, but don’t worry! With some practice with these settings, you’’ get the hang of it and your photos will look awesome.
What is Aperture (aka F Stop)?
The aperture is sometimes called the F stop. Just like how shutter speed uses fractions and ISO uses whole numbers, the aperture has its own way of being measured.
Here’s how you’ll see the aperture written: f/#. A narrow aperture will have a bigger number, like f/22. A wide aperture will have a small number, like f/2.8.
Keep this in mind
Wide aperture (like f/2.8) = Shallow focus (only a small part of the photo is sharp).
Narrow aperture (like f/22) = Deep focus (most or all of the photo is sharp).
So, if you want just a little part of your photo to be in focus (like a person’s face with a blurry background), you might use f/1.8 or f/4. But if you want everything clear (like a landscape), you’d go for something like f/11 or f/22.
Getting Started with Your Camera
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of photography, let’s dive into how to use your camera and some techniques to take great photos.
Metering: How to Get the Right Light
Wondering how to get the right amount of light in your photo? Most modern cameras, like DSLRs and mirrorless ones, have a cool feature called metering. This helps measure the light in a scene and suggests the best settings for a good photo. Even simpler cameras, like point-and-short ones, can do this.
Whether you’re taking a picture of a person or a beautiful landscape, your camera looks at the scene and figures out the bright and dark areas.
If you’re using an automatic mode, the camera does all the metering work for you. Just aim and click! But if you’re in manual mode, you can adjust some settings yourself, and the camera will handle the rest to make sure the photo looks great.
Camera Shooting Modes
Modern digital cameras, especially for beginners, come packed with various automatic settings. These are great for snapping quick photos without much fuss, but they don’t do much to improve your photography skills. To really learn, you should try out the manual modes.
Aperture Priority Mode (A or Av)
In this mode, you get to set the aperture (the f-stop) yourself. The camera then automatically picks the best ISO and shutter speed to match the light and give you a well-exposed picture.
Shutter Priority Mode (S or Tv)
Here, you control the shutter speed, and the camera figures out the right aperture and ISO. This is perfect when you want to capture motion in a certain way, like freezing a fast-moving object or creating a blur to show speed.
Manual Mode (M)
This is where you take full control. You decide on both the aperture and the shutter speed. The camera won’t make any adjustments for you, so you need to know what you’re doing. It’s great for when you want complete creative control over your photo.
When to Use Each Mode
Shutter Priority: Use this when your main focus is how motion is captured, like wanting a blurry background to show speed or a clear shot of a fast-moving subject.
Aperture Priority: Choose this when the depth of field (how much of your shot is in focus) is what you’re looking to control. It’s great for portraits when you want a blurry background, or landscapes when you want everything sharp.
Manual Mode: Go for this when you’re comfortable with your skills and want to make all the decisions about how your photo will look.
Each mode has its place, and using them can help you understand how different settings affect your photos. It’s all about practice and getting to know your camera.
What is White Balance in Photography?
White balance is about making sure the colors in your photos look real and true to life. Different kinds of light can make colors in a photo look different than they do in real life. For example, light bulbs inside might make things look yellow or blue, while the sun outside gives a neutral or orange light depending on the time of day.
By setting the white balance on your camera to match where you are and what kind of light you’re in, you can make sure the colors in your pictures look just like they would to your eyes. If you get it right, whites will look white, not blue, not yellow, just white, and all the other colors will fall into place too.
More Resources to Learn Photography
If you’re eager to learn photography quickly, consider enrolling in an online photography course or finding a personal photography tutor. A skilled teacher can accelerate your move from beginner to advanced levels swiftly. They can provide direct answers to your questions and tailor their teaching methods to suit how you learn best.
For those who like to learn independently, there is a wealth of information available online. YouTube is a treasure trove of tutorial videos, and there are countless blogs and articles dedicated to photography. These resources can help you learn at your own pace and explore a wide range of photography topics.