Cameras are complex digital systems that take time to comprehend. To help, here’s an overview of photography and camera components. Let’s take a look at this list and learn how a basic understanding of camera settings can elevate your photography practice.
Photography Basics for Beginners
Photography may seem like a complicated beast, a flurry of fractions and thousandths of seconds. But the truth is, it’s actually quite simple once you’ve grasped the basic principles. The exposure triangle for example, consists of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Once you understand how these three elements work together, there are no limits to what you can create.
Below you’ll find a list of resources to make learning photography basics even easier. The best way to learn photography (other than picking up the camera) is to read, research and immerse yourself in it. So have a read, and then read a little deeper before looking through the viewfinder to frame the world around you.
Photography Settings for Beginners
Notice the Av, Tv, P and M symbols on your camera body dials? In abbreviated form, these camera modes may be overwhelming for beginner photographers. But once understood, they can play a critical role in improving your understanding of photography and allowing you creative freedom.
Find out all about how camera modes control exposure settings in Camera Modes Explained: What to Use & When.
Before venturing out with the camera in hand, another factor worth considering is the difference between JPEG and RAW images. There’s a lot to learn about each, but we prefer to, and recommend you shoot in RAW as opposed to JPEG format. RAW images contain a great deal more information than JPEGs, meaning you can recover a lot more detail from underexposed or overexposed images.
Learn the ins and outs of each image file format in JPEG vs RAW: What’s the Difference?
Aperture for Beginners
Aperture is the hole or opening in your lens that allows light to pass through and impress the scene before it onto the camera’s sensor. By opening the aperture, we allow more light to enter the lens. By narrowing the aperture, we reduce the light entering the lens. This is indicated on your camera’s display in f-stops such as f/2.8 or f/11.
Performing aperture adjustments innately affects your depth of field. The smaller the number (f/2.8)… the larger the aperture… the narrower the depth of field… the blurrier the background. The larger the number (f/16), the narrower the aperture, the larger the depth of field… the sharper the image from front to back.
Keep reading more about aperture for beginners in A Complete Guide to Aperture: Examples & Photos.
Shutter Speed for Beginners
Shutter speed is responsible for the amount of time your camera’s sensor is exposed to light. Whether it’s 1/10th a second, 1/1000th of a second, or 10 seconds, these fractions and numbers indicate the length of time your camera shutter is open for.
While being a technical aspect of photography, shutter speed can be utilised creatively to freeze high speed action or for slowing things down in long exposure photography.
Learn more about how to use shutter speed for beginners and how to use it to your advantage in A Complete Guide to Shutter Speed: Examples & Photos.
ISO for Beginners
Standing for International Standard Organization, ISO is the measurement of light sensitivity and has the ability to dramatically increase your ability to photograph in low-light situations without the use of a tripod.
ISO for beginners can seem like a non-consequential element in the overall photograph. But when used correctly, to brighten or darken the image, ISO can be a photographer’s best friend.
Take a deeper look at this corner of the exposure triangle here: How to Master ISO in Your Camera
White Balance for Beginners
White balance is an often overlooked aspect of photography. Most cameras use an in-built meter to guess at the appropriate colour temperature (measured in Kelvins i.e. 5000K). The camera then balances the white, aiming to make the white appear as true as possible.
However, light and other environmental factors like clouds and even pollution can throw any camera’s in-built meter out of whack. For this reason, it’s great to have an understanding of white balance and how to manually adjust it to reduce your reliance on the automatic functions of the camera and to achieve a perfectly colour-cast image.
Link to A Quick Guide to White Balance: Examples & Photos once published.
Depth of Field for Beginners
We touched on depth of field earlier under Aperture for Beginners as the two terms share mutual application. Depth of field is the zone within an image that appears to be in focus. In a portrait you may recognise that the subject’s face is in focus while the background is completely blurry – this is a shallow depth of field (achieved with an aperture of f/5.6 or wider). And you may have seen a landscape image where the cactus in the foreground appears as sharp as the mountain in the background – this is a large depth of field (achieved with an aperture of f/11 or narrower).
Read A Complete Guide to Depth of Field: Examples & Photos to find out more about how depth of field can be used to your creative advantage.
Photography Composition for Beginners
You may have the fanciest camera and all of your camera settings in check but at the end of the day, the way you approach and frame your image is the telltale sign of a good photographer. Learning photography composition for beginners is a necessary undertaking in order to improve and elevate your skillset.
Learn some basic compositional techniques, such as ‘rule of thirds’ and ‘leading lines’, by visiting Photography Composition: Essential Knowledge for Better Photos.
Photography Courses for Beginners
Having now built up your understanding of photography’s basic principles, why not take it one step further and learn photography online. The 11 photography courses for beginners outlined in the below article are suited to photographers of all levels and available for free or for a well-worth-it fee.
Find out which course is right for you: Learn From the Best with These 11 Online Photography Classes.