Hey there, you made it! Glad to see you found your way to our Basics of Photography series. We have taught the basics of photography to photographers around the world through Art of Visuals, so we know just exactly how difficult it can be to learn the basics principles of photography. My goal is to make this Basics of Photography series the absolute simplest way to learn the basics of photography in the fastest amount of time possible. I hope you’ll love this series because of what you learn here, and I hope you’ll join the Art of Visuals Academy after you get your feet wet with the Basics of Photography. Let’s get going.
BASIC EQUIPMENT YOU’LL NEED
You can do photography with even the simplest of cameras, but the principles that I’d like to teach are for people who want to learn to use a DSLR camera, a micro four-thirds camera, or at least a camera that allows the photographer to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. For a full list of gear that we recommend, check out our selections on Adorama. Now that you have your camera, let’s jump into learning exposure.
When we talk about “exposure,” we simply mean the brightness or darkness of a photo. It seems simple enough to take a photo that is correctly exposed (has the proper brightness or darkness), but in reality, it can be quite tricky. Exposure uses Aperture, Shutter speed, and ISO in conjunction to create a properly exposed image. View, share, and download the infographic below to help better understand exposure below.
Art of Visuals Exposure Cheat Sheet
WHAT IS APERTURE?
Simply put, Aperture is the hole within your lens, through which light travels into the camera body.
The image above on the left is shot at an aperture of 1.4 making it a wide aperture while the image on the right is taken at 5.6 making it a more narrow aperture, therefore more of the shot is in focus.
WHAT IS ISO?
In very basic terms, ISO is the level of sensitivity of your camera to available light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive it is to the light, while a higher ISO number increases the sensitivity of your camera.
Low Iso Image
High Iso Image
WHAT IS SHUTTER SPEED?
Shutter speed, also known as “exposure time”, stands for the length of time a camera shutter is open to expose light into the camera sensor. If the shutter speed is fast, it can help to freeze action completely, as seen in the below photos. If the shutter speed is slow, it can create an effect called “motion blur”, where moving objects appear blurred along the direction of the motion which you can also see in the below photo.
Example of a high shutter speed image.
Example of a slow shutter speed.
WHAT IS WHITE BALANCE?
As the name suggests, white balance balances the color temperature in your image. How does it do this? It adds the opposite color to the image in an attempt to bring the color temperature back to neutral. Instead of whites appearing red or yellow, they should appear white after correctly white balancing an image.
Art of Visuals White Balance Cheat Sheet
AUTO FOCUS MODES AND HOW THEY WORK
DSLR’s come with a range of autofocus modes. For simplicity, will focus on AF-C and AF-S.
One Shot / S-AF / Single Servo / AF-S / S, etc., is the simplest form of autofocus. In general, you press the shutter-release button halfway, or your camera may have a separate AF-ON button, and the camera will lock focus on a subject on which you have placed the active autofocus sensor. Press the shutter button the rest of the way to take the image. The advantage? Simplicity. You aim, the camera focuses, and you shoot. The disadvantage? Did your subject move? Did you move? If the distance between camera and subject changed, that initial focus solution is no longer valid. You will have to go through the process again. If your camera has an “autofocus assist” light on the front, it is likely that you need to be in this mode to get the lamp to illuminate the scene so the camera can focus.
Continuous AF / C-AF / AI Servo / AF-C, etc. is where the camera’s electronic brains start to do some pretty cool things to help you keep your subject in focus. In general, the camera locks onto a designated subject, chosen by you using the autofocus point(s), and then tracks that object as it moves in the frame. If the locked subject moves closer or farther, or if you move, the camera will adjust focus accordingly. The advantage? Taming dynamic situations with sports action, moving kids or roaming wildlife. The disadvantage? If you must recompose your image after the focus is locked, your camera may get confused into locking onto another part of your frame.
So, “composition” describes placement of relative objects and elements in an image. Consequently, composition is a key aspect of great photography. There is hardly a way to overemphasize the importance of composition. Any aspiring artist ought to give composition of his work a lot of attention.
WHAT IS AN IMAGE SENSOR
The camera sensor size affects many factors in your images and the functions of your camera body. It has a major impact on the quality of your image, how your lens functions, and how it performs in low light conditions. There are three basic size categories for sensors: Four Thirds, APS, and Full Film Format(full frame). Smaller sensors are used in point and shoot cameras while the larger ones are found in DSLR cameras.
METERING AND HOW IT WORKS
Metering is how your camera determines what the correct shutter speed and aperture should be, depending on the amount of light that goes into the camera and the sensitivity of the sensor.
This is what your camera uses to store images and video files from the camera. The faster the memory cards the better the performance for photo and video. We personally shoot with Lexar Memory cards because they are fast and dependable but there are also other great companies out there.
PHOTOGRAPHY LENSES FOR BEGINNERS
In this video below we make recommendations for the best lenses for beginners. You can also visit our gear page on Adorama for our favorite selection of camera lenses and photography gear.