In a nutshell, photography is an art. It is the practice of capturing scenes and turning them into tangible images. Photography, as an application, is recording light rays on film or digital media. There are different types of photography, with most involving creativity and some requiring specialist’s knowledge.
Some would say that photography is the same as painting as each turns the artist’s imagination into something palpable that viewers can enjoy. It takes decades or even a lifetime to master the tools and hone the skills needed to render creativity and imagination exactly as the artist intended.
Photography, just like painting, is a complex subject as it deals with capturing a plethora of emotions and ideas in the world that we live in, subjecting the viewers to a multitude of impacts. But what separates a good photograph from an ordinary one?
Photography for beginners is written to help people who want to dip their toes into the world of digital photography. It tackles understanding different types of cameras, photography elements, tips and suggestions, and equipment maintenance.
Types of Cameras
As a beginner, the whole concept of choosing which camera suits your current skills, or lack thereof, and needs can be daunting as there are quite many cameras on the market today. Let’s explore these six types of cameras before narrowing down your choice.
Compact cameras are perfect for the aspiring photographer. This entry-level device is an inexpensive introduction to the magic that is photography. They are lightweight, small, and usually come with automatic settings. All you need to do is point your lens at your subject, shoot, and the camera does all the work, from assessing the scene to determining the correct exposure.
User-friendly compact cameras come with a zoom lens, a built-in flash, and an LCD screen that enables you to view your subject before pressing the click button. If you want to start having more control over your images, then you also have the option to use some limited manual functions.
If you feel like dabbling into photography, then the compact camera is great for you. However, you have to note that compact cameras have small sensors, which limit you from taking super high-resolution images.
Zoom Compact Camera
For better magnification ability, go for zoom compact cameras. They come with manual options, automatic exposure settings, and HD recording. This camera’s zooming capability ranges from 28 to 300mm, and its resolution is at least 12 megapixels, which are excellent features to work with for personal images but not for professional use. You also won’t be able to switch out the lenses due to how its enhanced zoom function works.
Advanced Compact Cameras
For the more experienced hobbyists who want more control over their images, go for the advanced compact cameras. They are easy to carry around and take higher-resolution images compared to regular compact cameras. While they are also as lightweight and user-friendly as the ordinary compact cameras, they exceed them with their manual focusing and manual exposure modes.
For the ultimate adrenaline junkies, action cameras are a great way to document your adventures. They come equipped with shockproof and weatherproof designs that can withstand the most extreme conditions. Don’t think they’re fragile because of their tiny sizes as action cameras are fitted with durable glass. Action cameras don’t come with interchangeable lenses, and they may have small sensors, but they get the job done. This is probably why their popularity has only increased throughout the years.
Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras or DSLR Cameras
If you want to take your photography hobby more seriously, then invest in a DSLR. Their designs and functions were inspired by traditional film cameras, making them heavier and larger than compact cameras. High-end models come with full-frame sensors, while the more affordable ones have cropped sensors. The fun bit when it comes to owning a DSLR is its wide range of lenses to choose from for different types of shots. DSLRs also come with more creative controls, such as aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual mode.
Compact Mirrorless Cameras
Compact mirrorless cameras are smaller, lighter, and more affordable but provide most of the best features of a DSLR camera. As the name suggests, mirrorless cameras forgo the internal mirror that reflects light onto the sensor. This way, light passes through the lens and right onto the image sensor, giving you a preview of the image on your rear screen. Mirrorless cameras are faster and equal DSLRs in taking incredible, high-resolution images and videos.
How Do Cameras Work and How Do I Understand My Camera?
Understanding how your camera works is crucial to take great photos. So, how do you go about it? One thing to keep in mind is that an image is only as good as its exposure. Learning how exposure plays into all of this will help you capture better images by taking control of your camera. Three elements make up exposure: aperture, shutter speed, ISO. Here are the things you need to learn about all of them
Aperture is the hole inside your camera’s lens in which the light enters on its way to the camera’s sensor. Just like the pupil in our eyes, the wider the aperture is, the brighter the image becomes. This is great for low-light settings. However, this will also subject the image to a shallow depth of field, which means a part of the image is blurred. This won’t go down well if you want to capture sharp landscape pictures.
Also, the wider the aperture is, the lower the f/ number becomes. The aperture scale is as follows: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, and f/22. Getting your exposure right will get much easier if you memorize this scale.
After the light has passed through the aperture, it lands on the shutter. The shutter is responsible for how much light you want to allow inside your camera. For natural settings, you’ll want to go for small fractions, such as 1/250, to avoid motion blurs. For fast-paced settings, like in sports photography, go for at least 1/4000.
Setting the ISO comes after the light has passed the aperture, filtered through the shutter speed, and into the sensor. Increasing exposure means also turning up your camera’s ISO number. However, doing so will create a lot of digital noise or grain on your photo. Deciding on which one is more important to you for a given scene is key: grain or exposure?
It’s important to take note that for you to take stunning images, having a great camera isn’t enough. You must also understand all the different elements that make each image unique and memorable. There are a lot of camera settings out there, and they can be overwhelming for a beginner. But, the important bit is not to lose hope immediately. Even the most seasoned photographers don’t always get it right. However, to take the kind of photos that you can be proud of, it is worth learning about camera settings and how to best understand each one.
Your camera’s metering modes are the key to figuring out why your images come out overexposed or underexposed. These modes tell your camera how you want to capture light in certain scenes.
For beginners, the world of digital photography can be confusing. Learning about shutter speed, ISO, and aperture isn’t enough for you to perfect your images’ exposures right away. To grasp this concept fully, you must figure out how your camera views light. Depending on the mode you use, you will end up with different kinds of light exposures.
Your camera’s histogram is a key tool in figuring out how exposed your image is. It provides a graphical representation of certain exposures after you take your photo. Your camera’s LCD screen isn’t very good at showing this information due to how ambient lighting conditions and screen brightness affect the results.
Shooting modes and misconceptions about them come plenty. Should you use shutter speed priority or aperture priority? Full-auto or manual mode? Understanding exactly what each mode does lessens the confusion, and choosing which one will be suitable for your current situation becomes easier.
Depth of Field
One of the most important basic concepts of photography is the depth of field. In low-light settings, you widen your camera’s aperture to allow enough light to pass through the lens. However, this wide aperture opening results in a shallow depth of field, causing some parts of the image to blur out. While this may have creative implications with stunning results, it may present some limitations. One limitation would be shooting landscapes where you’ll need to use wide apertures to get more light in but still would want the whole image to be sharp and in-focus. Learning more about the depth of field will help you ease into becoming the photographer you’ve always hoped to be.
White balance is responsible for changing your entire image’s color cast, determining whether it looks cold and blue or orange and warm. For your images to come out more accurately, learning more about white balance is the way to go because the auto-white balance mode just won’t do.
Not only does focal length influence the zoom of your lens, but it also affects the perspective. Usually represented in millimeters (mm), focal length helps you determine how close you need to be to your subject. The farther your subject is, the longer your focal length should be. Similarly, the shorter focal length is best for subjects near you, like portraits.
The crop factor should be the first thing you note when buying your first camera. Compared to professional DSLRs, cheaper cameras usually have a smaller sensor, which crops your image and influences your future lens purchases.
If you want to get rid of glare and reflections and produce naturally saturated colors, then a polarizing filter is where your attention should be. These filters only let light from one direction in and cut out anomalies from reflective but non-metallic surfaces, such as glass and water. This is an effect that you won’t be able to replicate post-production.
How Do I Take Professional-Looking Photos?
As mentioned in the last chapter, having a deep understanding of the elements that come with photography is key. Now, we move on to some tips on how to take what you’ve learned so far and fortify them even more with these six tips on how to make your photos look like a professional took them.
Get the Nifty Fifty Lens
For the photography novices reading this eBook, the nifty fifty is a term used to describe the 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. This lens is recommended as the first upgrade you should make as a beginner and deemed an essential part of your camera gear. The nifty fifty lens is as close as you get to the human eye in terms of camera equipment because it allows for a similar field of view and low amounts of distortion. The nifty fifty lens are lower-priced, so getting one won’t break the bank.
Even after you’ve nailed the basics and camera settings, you’ll still need one more ingredient to make your images more compelling. You need to learn how to play with light and composition. Photography composition is the way your entire picture is made up and is crucial for its individuality. It is the fun bit as this is where you can really work your creative muscles, and set your work apart from the crowd. There are plenty of compositional tips you can follow, but try to use them as guidelines instead of treating them as gospel.
One of these tips is the rule of thirds, which tells you to divide your camera’s frame into nine equal rectangles like a grid. The focal point of your image should be at the intersection of these gridlines, and any lines in your image should follow the gridlines as well. The rule of thirds shouldn’t be something to abide by all the time, but it’s a great framework to start with.
When it comes to composition, it can be as simple as this: to take stunning images, you need to immerse yourself in whatever you’re doing. Never just go on autopilot. Instead, think on a visceral level. As you embrace the moment and put careful thought into your composition, you make your photos more enticing to the viewer.
As the name suggests, visual weight is all about what draws you in when looking at an image. What every photographer wants is for their viewers’ eyes to flow around the photograph and stay within the frame. Once the eye wanders outside the frame, you have lost their attention. The visual weight tip can be followed by eliminating distractions that lure your viewer’s eye away from your subject.
The versatility and prevalence of triangles in almost anything help in taking more creative photographs and cement their status as one of the best compositional tools in photography. Use them as a line or path towards your focal point or you can even throw them in to make an image stable or unstable; the choice is yours.
One challenge in photography is to portray three-dimensional scenes in two-dimensional sheets of photo paper. When it comes to implementing this tip, it all comes down to your creativity. You can use pretty much anything to cultivate a sense of depth. These can be in the form of fences, walls, shadows, or a pointing hand.
When an image has areas that draw equal attention from its viewers, it has balance. This tip is achieved by shifting focal points and placing elements close to it to create equal visual weight. The two main balance techniques are formal and informal. However, photographers have also been balancing out varying shapes, meanings, and lightness and heaviness by practicing symmetrical, asymmetrical, color, tonal, and conceptual balance techniques.
How Do I Take Care of My Equipment?
Whether you opt for a mirrorless camera or a DSLR, cameras are a pricey investment. For you to get your money’s worth and use your equipment to their full potential, you have to make sure that you’re taking care of them properly. Here are some tips in keeping your camera gear in perfect shape:
Don’t Leave Home Without Your Camera Bag
The simplest way to keep your camera and equipment safe is to place them inside a reliable, cushioned, and compartmentalized camera bag. We know it’s not the best and most lightweight option in the world when you’re out doing shoots, but perseverance is key here, and the returns are worth it.
Use a Camera Strap
While you’re going about your day doing shoots here and there, the last thing you want is to drop your expensive camera or have it stolen. All cameras come with their straps. If you lost yours, then there are plenty of options from third-party vendors to choose from. Drape it over your neck, loop it around your wrist, or sling it over your shoulder to keep it secure.
Keep the Sensor Protected
Sensors are so sensitive to debris and dust that even the tiniest particles produce spots on your photos. If you have a camera that has interchangeable lenses, then chances are you’ll get some of the elements on your sensor even if you have a self-cleaning one. Keep your sensor debris-free by keeping the body cap on at all times. If you don’t have a body cap, then keeping your lens on will do. Whenever you need to change lenses during a shoot, keep your camera’s opening facing downwards to prevent as much of the elements from settling on your sensor. Keeping an air blower around is also a great idea, but avoid compressed air.
Do Not Use Your Shirt as a Cleaning Cloth
Using your shirt to clean your camera is like wiping on all the dirt, dust, and sweat that has accumulated on its fibers throughout the day. While it’s the most convenient option, it’s not always the best as you risk scratching your lens’ glass or damaging its sensitive optical coatings. Apart from shirts, also avoid any paper products, such as paper towels and napkins, as they are too scratchy. The best way to clean your lens is by wiping them down with a microfiber cloth, lens tissue, air blower, or a lens brush.
Keep the Cap on When You’re Not Using Your Camera
This should go without saying, but for everybody’s sake, we’re going to repeat it: keep your camera’s cap on when you’re not using the equipment. Lenses can be quite expensive, and some of them can be rare. Keep them safe from the damaging elements and make them last as long as you can by keeping both the front and back lens caps on.
Be Careful with Your Memory Card
Some photographers have lost their precious shots because they removed their memory cards without turning their cameras off first. Thankfully, you know better now. Your camera will most likely have a blinking status light as the memory card is being accessed. Wait for the light to stop blinking before you remove the card and start doing backup copies.
Another tip is to format your memory card when you’re ready to clear out the images inside. Doing so will help your memory card function better with your camera and lessen compatibility issues.
Make Sure Your Camera is Fully Charged Before Using
Much like your smartphone, your camera also loses juice even when you’re not using it. A drained battery won’t exactly ruin your camera, but it will prevent you from documenting precious moments.
Monitor Your Camera’s Shutter Counts
As with most things in life, cameras and their shutters wear over time. Shutters can usually go for 100,000 to 400,000 exposures before finally calling it quits. These numbers may seem like a lot, but they eventually catch up in time, and this causes your camera not to function as well as it used to. When this happens, the only way is to send it to a servicing company for a much-needed tune-up.
You are now ready to take your first steps on your photography journey!
In photography, both creative and technical aspects need to go together seamlessly. Otherwise, the vision is lost. Photography is all about emotions as well as execution. Some of the most important tools you will need are the right camera settings as well as a good eye. These tools are worth digging into.
To quote landscape photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams,
“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”
If your vision behind a photo is weak, then not even the best camera settings cannot help you make it beautiful.
Every photograph tells the story that the photographer wishes the viewer to see. Take it one day at a time, and you will be on your way to becoming the photographer you’ve always wanted to be.
Featured Photographer in this article: Jonatan Pie