Get the photography basics you need to start taking better photos now
Photography is an art form that has been around for centuries. The first photos were taken in the 1800s, and people have been capturing memories ever since. Photography doesn’t have to be a difficult art to master. There are many different techniques and skills but they are all learnable. In our ‘short article series’, we cover the basics & funadamentals of photography to get you levelled up like a pro.
Before we get into the specifics of taking great photos, let’s first discuss the basics of cameras. Cameras are devices that capture light and turn it into an image. As you are probably already aware there are many different types of cameras all with different uses, but they all work in a similar way. Light enters the camera through a lens and is then recorded on a sensor or film. The image is then stored on a memory card or in a film canister.
Cameras come in all shapes and sizes, from small point-and-shoot cameras to large DSLR cameras to micro four thirds to mirrorless which is where we are now. The type of camera you use will depend on your needs and preferences. If you want to take high-quality photos, you will need to use a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera. However, if you just want to take simple photos for your personal use, a point-and-shoot camera or even your iPhone will suffice.
Now let’s discuss how to take great photos. There is no shortage of beginner guides online so I’ll keep this short. I have personally studied photography for over 20 years and the most helpful courses have been online via Udemy, Linkedin or Youtube. I put this down to the fact that you’re learning from passionate professionals who love what they do which makes us love it more too.
So many factors go into taking a great photo but it doesn’t have to be over complicated. The first factor is composition and we use the rule of thirds which you can read more about over here. We have this setting turned on in our cameras and even in our iPhones. This refers to the way that you arrange the elements in your photo. A good composition will create a balanced and pleasing or more dynamic image.
A great photograph should have good light. This seems like a no-brainer but you would be surprised how many people take photos in low light or with the sun in their eyes. Some of the best photos will come from shoots during the Golden Hour which is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. The lighting is softer and more flattering during these times.
Autumn in Kourakuen, Japan | Canon 5D Mark III w 24mm
The next factor is focus. You want to make sure that your subject is in focus and the background is blurred. This is called shallow depth of field and it’s a great way to make your subject stand out. You can achieve this by using a larger aperture which is represented by a smaller number such as f/0.
The last factor is shutter speed. This is the amount of time that your camera’s shutter is open and exposed to light. A faster shutter speed will result in a less blurry photo while a slower shutter speed will result in a more blurry photo. You’ll have to experiment with different shutter speeds to see what works best for you.
Flinders Street Station, Melbourne | Canon 5D Mark III w 16-35mm
I know pro photographers who have taken their big DSLR cameras and lenses to a photoshoot and shot setup pics with their iPhones which later became the actual photo used in the project. The quality was that good. Expensive cameras beware.
Kitchen at Azabu Juban Yarraville, Melbourne | Canon 5D Mark III w 16-35mm
Let’s run through these three fundamental Camera settings you should know .
ISO: The ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor to light. It is measured in numbers such as 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, etc. A lower ISO will result in a less sensitive sensor which means that less light will be let in. This is great for well-lit situations or for avoiding noise in the image. A higher ISO will result in a more sensitive sensor which means that more light will be let in. This is great for low-light situations or for capturing fast-moving subjects but it comes at great cost. Noisey images that are very hard to fix.
Autumn in Kourakuen, Japan | Canon 5D Mark III w 24mm
Aperture: The aperture is the opening in the lens that allows light to pass through to the sensor. It is measured in f-stops and measured in fractions. The lower the number, the wider the opening. A wider aperture will result in a shallower depth of field which means that the background will be blurred. This is great for portraits as it helps to focus attention on the subject. A higher f-stop will result in a greater depth of field which means that more of the image will be in focus. This is great for landscape photos.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand | Canon 5D Mark III w 16-35mm
Snow Monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park, Japan | Canon 5D Mark III w 70-200mm
Meercats at Melbourne Zoo | Canon 5D Mark III w 70-200mm
Shutter Speed: The shutter speed is the amount of time that the shutter is open, exposing the sensor to light. It is measured in seconds or fractions of a second. A slower shutter speed will result in a longer exposure which means that more light will be let in. This is great for low-light situations or for capturing movement. A faster shutter speed will result in a shorter exposure which means that less light will be let in. This is great for action shots or for avoiding camera shake.
Raw files are the unprocessed data from the sensor while JPEGs are processed images. Raw is the only way I shoot with my DSLR as the files give you more flexibility when editing as they contain all of the raw data from the sensor.
JPEGs are smaller in file size and have already been processed by the camera and then compressed into a smaller file size. They are great for sharing online or for a quick print job but useless to edit in any detail. Here’s a great video with a more indepth explanation.
White balance is the process of adjusting the colors in an image to make sure that they look natural. Different light sources can give off different colors of light and this can throw off the white balance. You can adjust the white balance in your camera or in post-processing if you shot raw.
Exposure is the amount of light that is let into the sensor. It is controlled by the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. A longer exposure will result in more light being let in while a shorter exposure will result in less light being let in.
A histogram is a graph that shows the distribution of tones in an image. It is a great tool for checking the exposure of an image. The left side of the histogram represents the shadows, the middle represents the midtones, and the right side represents the highlights. You want to make sure that there are no clipped shadows or highlights and that the image is evenly exposed.