So you’re ready to tackle the world of photography! Maybe you just got an awesome new camera, or maybe you’ve had one forever and you’ve finally decided you’re going to learn how to use it. Photography is such a rewarding hobby, and for many, a career. But just as with anything else, it takes work to do it well. Chances are you already know just how much information is out there regarding photography, and you might not even know where to start. But don’t worry. We have some simple tips that will help you understand the very basics of photography to get you off the ground.
Quite possibly the most important thing to understand when you first begin your photography journey is light (and you thought it was going to be learning that fancy camera, didn’t you?!). Light is everything when it comes to creating a good image. Even if you know your camera inside and out, you know all of the right settings and every trick in the book, if you don’t have an understanding and awareness of light and how it impacts your photographs, you will not be able to capture great images.
Light can literally make or break your photos. You will want to look for nice even lighting that is flattering to your subject and doesn’t cause distractions. This isn’t to say that you can’t take good photos in less than ideal lighting situations. In fact, knowing how to use and work with all kinds of light will enable you to take great photos no matter what. Consider the example below. These are both quick snapshots, taken during midday with harsh sunlight. In the first image, you can see the child squinting in the sun and the harsh light across his face. A simple change of angle to the sun changes the image entirely. With the sun to his back, the photo is much more flattering. Being aware of the lighting around your subject will go far in helping you to create great images!
Click here to read more about finding good lighting & working with all kinds of lighting situations!
2. Exposure Triangle
The first thing to begin familiarizing yourself with is what is called “the exposure triangle.” This is just a fancy way of talking about the three basic ways your camera’s sensor receives light. Below is a very basic description of each component of the exposure triangle:
Aperture: Aperture is a term used to describe how open or closed the opening in your lens is. The more open the aperture, the more light is let in. The more closed it is, the less light. You aperture also determines how much of your image is in focus, known as the focal plane in your image. Read more on aperture right here!
ISO: ISO is how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light. Higher ISOs allow you to take photos in darker situations. However, your ISO also affects the level of “noise” or grain in your image. The higher the ISO, the more digital noise. You can read more about ISO here.
Shutter Speed: Shutter speed refers to how long your camera’s shutter is left open. The shutter acts as a curtain of sorts, and opens and closes, letting in light. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the “curtain” is left open and the more light. However, the shutter speed also affects your camera sensor’s ability to freeze motion. Faster shutter speeds are needed to freeze a moving subject, whereas a slower shutter will result in motion blur in your image.
Your aperture, ISO and shutter speed are all components of achieving proper exposure in your images. How you set them, and in what order, will be determined by a variety of factors, such as how deep you need your focal plane to be, the amount of available light, whether or not your subject is moving, and a variety of other factors.
Learning to focus is another critical aspect of good photography. By default, your camera is most likely set up to automatically select the area of focus for your photos, meaning, when you half-press your shutter button, your camera may automatically attempt to detect which part of the frame it thinks the focus should be on. Learning to set your own focus point will be one of the biggest steps to taking your photos to the next level.
Setting your own focus point gives you maximum control over where your camera focuses, ensuring that you are getting what you want in focus, and not what the camera thinks should be in focus. You can manually select your focus point by pressing down the AF (auto-focus) point selection button on your camera (see your camera’s manual if needed), and utilizing your cameras navigation controls to select the focus point you desire to use for that particular shot. This is also referred to as “toggling your focus point.”
Click here to read our tutorial on understanding autofocus modes!
4. Composition & Perspective
Composition in photography refers to how you utilize the frame when you are taking a photo. Considering what you want in the image (and what you don’t), and how you want to arrange what is in the frame are all a part of composition. There are several composition techniques that can help you create powerful images, such as using the Rule of Thirds, framing, leading lines, and negative space. You can also add interest and artistry to your images by using unique perspectives when taking your photos. Thinking beyond the “straight on” snapshot will give your images intrigue and visual appeal.
Click here to read more about our favorite composition techniques!
One of the quickest holes I see new photographers getting dug into is the lie that you have to have the best of the best equipment to take good photos. One of the worst things you can do is to blame your equipment for a lack of good photos. The reality is, if you know how to work your camera, you understand light, and you practice, practice, practice, you can get great images with just about any DSLR camera, even if you’re using a kit lens.
Before you jump in and spend a ton of money on more expensive equipment, learn to work with what you have. Learn to push your camera to it’s limits. Don’t expect a “better camera” or “better lens” to get better photos for you. Push yourself to learn the ins and outs of good photographic technique, and refuse to be limited by equipment. There will always be a bigger and better camera being introduced to the market.
Not sure if it’s time to upgrade your camera? Click here to read our thoughts!
Starting your photography journey is such an exciting time! We hope that these beginner photography tips help clear the path for you and get you well on your way to understanding some of the most important and basic principles to taking great professional quality photos! We’d love to hear how it helped you, so be sure to leave us a comment below!