If I told you that learning the basics of photography is not rocket science, you would likely agree with me.
However, mastering photography is not always an easy process because it takes systematic approach and sustained effort.
It’s been over 12 years since I first seriously got involved in photography.
Now, after looking back and analyzing my journey, I see that the first few years of the learning process was far from a straight progression. It looked more like I was blindfolded and navigating an elaborate maze as I received contradicting directions from strangers yelling out “go right,” “go left” or “turn around!”
If someone could have simply pointed me in the right direction, I would have saved two years of wasted time.
What I also realized is that the process of learning photography is not that different from learning graphic design, a new language, computer programming or how to play a musical instrument. It is a multi-step process where each step is not difficult, and if you take the steps in the right order, learning becomes both easy and fun.
The key here is knowing the right order. Looking back, I clearly see that my problem was not taking the steps in the right order but in my own need to run ahead of myself to learn more advanced steps before mastering the basics first.
Another problem was that I tried to learn too much stuff at once, biting off more than I could chew.
The Photography Basics section on PhotoTraces.com is my attempt to create a single resource for learning the basics of photography in the right order, tackling it one step at a time.
Basic Photography Tutorials for Beginners
This is, by far, the most common question I find myself answering again and again when I’m teaching photography.
It sounds straightforward and simple to answer, but that is not the case at all. The question itself is motivated by a few misconceptions that beginners have about equipment and its role in photography. The question cannot be answered without first addressing these misconceptions.
The goal of this article is to help beginners overcome the first stumbling block in the process of learning photography—equipment selection.
Exposure is the most critical concept in basic photography. It is a concept you must understand and master in the first few months of the learning process.
In photography, exposure defines how a photo is recorded by a camera and how much light is captured. If you let the camera capture too much light, the picture will be too bright or overexposed. If the camera sensor doesn’t capture enough light, the photo will be too dark or underexposed.
The photographer’s job is to strike a perfect balance by capturing the right amount of light to produce well-balanced images. To control the exposure in photography, you must understand its three main components—aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Together, these form the Exposure Triangle.
The aperture in photography is an opening in the lens of the camera that controls the amount of light that passes through to the digital sensor. The bigger the opening, the more light reaches the sensor. The smaller the opening, the less light that passes through.
By changing the aperture value with the help of the camera’s controls, we can manage the level of exposure in our photos.
The reason the aperture is considered one of the most important elements of the camera is because it also controls how much of the photographic subject is acceptably sharp and in focus. This acceptably sharp zone of focus is called the Depth of Field (DOF). The wider the aperture, the shallower the focus will be.
Shutter speed is one of the three elements of the Exposure Triangle (aperture, shutter speed and ISO).
The shutter mechanism is a sophisticated door or curtain that resides in front of the camera’s sensor that is opened and closed with mind-blowing precision.
The shutter speed is not a measurement of speed. Instead, it is a measurement of time. It equals the amount of time the shutter stays open to let the light reach the camera’s sensor. It is measured in seconds or fractions of a second.
Photographers often use shutter speed as a creative tool. By using different shutter speed values, we can achieve stunning visual effects in our photos.
ISO is the third and last element of the Exposure Triangle.
As we now know, photography is a process of recording light using the camera’s sensor. Before the recording is completed, the light first travels through the aperture of the lens and then through the camera’s shutter. When it reaches the camera’s sensor, ISO comes into play.
ISO controls how sensitive the sensor is to light. The higher the sensitivity, the faster the sensor can record the light. But, sensitivity and speed both come at a cost. The higher the ISO value (sensor sensitivity), the lower the quality of photos it records.
Learn more about ISO and its relationship to aperture and shutter speed.
I did not plan on writing a dedicated article on RAW vs JPEG. Why? I thought this ship had sailed long ago and the time of heated debates over which format is better was well into the past. But, what I realized in teaching photography is that this topic is still confusing and unclear for every generation of newcomers who decide to join the exciting and wonderful realm of photography.
Here is my attempt to write the only article you will ever need to understand the difference between RAW and JPEG. Hopefully, you will have a profound Zen experience and move forward with your photography never having to think about the issue again!
When we start learning photography and put our newly acquired knowledge into practice, the results are normally not very impressive. The most common problem beginning photographers often face is “soft” or "blurry" photos.
After analyzing thousands of photos taken by beginners, I reached the conclusion that there are 3 common mistakes that cause over 80% of the problems for aspiring photographers.
If you address these three issues, you’ll take perfectly sharp photos on a consistent basis.
One of the most common misconceptions about photography techniques that beginning photographers have is that professional photographers always shoot in Manual Mode.
This is far from the truth.
The most popular exposure mode professional photographers use is Aperture Priority.
In Aperture Priority Mode, the photographer controls the ISO and aperture and lets the camera set the appropriate shutter speed value. This is also known as semi-automatic mode.
Aperture Priority allows photographers to take advantage of the camera’s sophisticated metering system while having full control over the Depth of Field.
In over 90% of cases, I use Aperture Priority mode and am more than thrilled to share with you why and how I use it.
What is bracketing in photography? Why do I need it? How do I bracket photos?
These are the most common questions I answer on a daily basis when teaching photography, which is why I decided to put together a Bracketing Guide.
You will learn:
- What is Bracketing in Photography
- Types of Bracketing
- Reasons for Using Exposure Bracketing
- How to Bracket the Exposure
The skill of producing well-exposed photos is one of the most fundamental skills we must learn as photographers.
In digital photography today, besides having instant feedback through LCD screens or electronic view finders (EVF), all digital cameras have one very distinctive feature that helps us evaluate and adjust the exposure level.
What is it? The histogram.
With every new generation, a camera’s autofocusing system becomes more sophisticated, more precise and more capable. But, even the most advanced autofocusing system can be fooled in difficult shooting conditions.
This is when we usually switch to manual focus, which allows a photographer to take full control over the camera’s focusing system.
Although manual focusing is precise, it is also complicated, inconvenient and time-consuming. The Back Button Focusing technique is a great alternative to manual focus because it allows a photographer to use the camera’s autofocusing system with the precision of manual focusing. It’s the best of both worlds.
I consider composition to be both the most important and the most complex component of photography. Composition is not easy to learn and takes years to master. The complexity comes from its artistic and subjective nature. Composition is difficult to quantify especially because everything is open to interpretation.
This tutorial from my Photography for Beginners series is my attempt to outline the most basic concepts of composition in photography. I also share simple and practical techniques on how to implement those concepts into your own photography.
My favorite technique, when shooting water, is to use long exposure photography. When you keep the shutter open for an extended period of time, it creates the unique effect of smooth and silky looking water.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with a new technique where I can achieve the long exposure effect shooting hand-held, without a tripod. The technique is based on blending multiple images in Photoshop using Smart Objects.