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Photography - An Introduction

Updated on August 30, 2012

Photography - An Introduction

In today’s visual photographical society people love photography. Whether it’s something you do with a fancy SLR camera or your mobile phone it is a great recreational activity. People love to take pictures. It’s a fact. People also love to look at photographs. Looking at a photograph brings memories rushing back to your mind. It puts you in a nostalgic state where you feel a rush of emotions filling you up. A picture really tells a thousand words. In this article I hope to enlighten you with a little history of modern day photography, and give you some key tips about photography that hopefully will make you more comfortable with your equipment and make it easier for you to create something special.

Nicephore Niepce's First Image
Nicephore Niepce's First Image

Then and Now

Since the invention of the modern day cameras the field of photography has only expanded exponentially. The first partially successful image produced through a camera was made in 1886 by Nicephore Niepce. Today this original image still survives. A photograph really is a timeless memory that lasts forever. Through the years photography has become more and more available to the public; and become much easier and cheaper to dabble in.

Fifteen years ago, if you were a serious photographer you would spend around £300 on a camera to get a ‘basic’ SLR and that would only be the start of your expenditure. If you were an amateur you could buy a camera for £40 but of course you would not have the creative control available on the more professional equipment. After that initial purchase you would have the dreaded cost of film and processing. A roll of film would store either 24 images or 36 images and would cost you maybe £5. You would load the roll of film in the back of the camera and snap away. These cameras had no digital control, and you could not see the image you just took on the camera. In fact if you tried to open the camera up to look at the film you would ruin the whole roll of film just by letting light touch it. The images would be lost for good.

When you completed your roll of film you would wind the film closed and take it to a photography shop. They would convert the roll of film into images for you, but this was not free. You could expect to spend another £5 on this task. All in all, each picture you took would set you back around £0.30 (or $0.50).

If this amount doesn’t seem like a lot to you have a look at how many photos are on your facebook, your computer, your mobile phone and your camera. Work out how much this would have cost you if you were using film!

Today photography is easy. You buy a camera for a few hundred pounds from the shop and you shoot away. You can shoot hundreds of shots and save them on a memory card. You can instantly see what you photographed and decide if you want to re shoot it, delete it, change your angle or move twenty foot to the left then try the shot again. If you want to print the photographs out you can do so at home; and if not you can just store them somewhere on your computer. Your memory card can be reused endlessly and you really never need to worry about follow up expenses. An average DSLR camera today would cost you around £500, and an average personal camera would cost you no more than £150.

With technology getting better and better every day you no longer need a “camera” to have a “camera”. On most mobile phones today you will have a camera, which in some cases will have better resolution then the camera you bought five years ago!

Photography taken of a car down my road.
Photography taken of a car down my road.
Photo taken of a fence in my garden
Photo taken of a fence in my garden

Where to take a good photograph

I have been a recreational photographer for several years now and one question always plays on my mind. Where can I take a beautiful photograph that is unique, stunning and exquisite. With today’s technology I am less concerned about carrying my DSLR around with me on a day out photographing, as I know my compact camera can produce results which are just as good. Today photography is truly a level playing field, and anyone can produce something magical.

The question of where always plays on my mind.

Years ago a magical photograph could only be taken if you went somewhere special. You had to travel and find a spectacular landscape or set up something awesome in a studio.

Today this is far from the case. Look around you. You don’t need to travel.

Go to your garden, look at the flowers. Look around your desk. Find some interesting colours and some interesting shapes. In today’s digital age you can take a photograph, and if you don’t like it you just press “delete”.

The above photography shows bad composure and the use of flash where it was not needed. The below photograph was taken from a more desirable angle, and without the aid of flash.
The above photography shows bad composure and the use of flash where it was not needed. The below photograph was taken from a more desirable angle, and without the aid of flash.

Some Photography Tips

There are many little bits and pieces you pick up with more and more practice behind the camera. These are some of the things I have learned that I think will help you become a more confident and successful photographer.

Always have a camera on you. This could mean your mobile phone in your pocket, or a DSLR in your backpack. This means when you see something amazing you don’t regret not being able to photograph it.

Learn how to use your camera quickly and confidently. If something truly amazing passes you buy you don’t want to miss it because you were fumbling with the buttons on your camera.

Carry spare Memory Cards. You don’t want to have to delete some of your work to make space for more.

Just because you can photograph something, doesn’t mean it will come out amazing. Many times I photograph something thinking it will look really good in a picture. When I look at the photograph later it’s just boring. The point is do not over analyse your photos. Some will look good. Some won’t. If it doesn’t match up to your expectations, bin it!

Learn the basics of photography. Photography for many years has been a true form of art. Not just something you point, and click with. There are many different aspects to how a camera works and you should at least have a basic understanding into what they are. You should understand the basics in Shutter speed, aperture, exposure, flash usage, composure etc.

Don’t rely on flash. If you are photographing something and your photograph lacks detail or is too dark: flash is not always the answer. Flash will brighten your image, but it has a limited radius. Don’t assume it can lighten something in the sky a mile away. A rule of thumb would be flash only helps brighten things up to 50m away at a maximum. When you put more light into the picture you actually often get a very “bright” looking image that doesn’t show the detail you want. You can always come back later, or use some of those skills in Shutter Speed you learned about earlier…

Compose your photographs. Think about what is in the background of an image. Don’t only focus on one object. Look at the photograph as a whole. Maybe it would better if you moved one pace to the left? Maybe you should step back a bit?

Don’t Settle. If the image you have just taken doesn’t look quite right try again. Don’t settle. A slight camera angle change can turn an average photo into a great photo. You can always delete from your computer, but you can’t always retake the photo later.

Move around. Weather you crouch on the floor to get a different angle or you walk one hundred metres round the corner to get a totally different perspective don’t be afraid to move.

Take more photos. If you see a nice car you like don’t just take one photograph. Take several. Photographers take many good photos, but very few exceptional photos. The more you shoot, the better the odds of finding something spectacular.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to ask somebody if you can take a photo. Most people are happy to star in photos, and if they say no, it’s better than the regret of not asking. When taking photos of buildings and private property you really should ask permission as well. Not asking, is not knowing.

Lighting matters. If you see something really special but it’s too dark, or too bright to take a photograph come back later. Don’t think ‘because it doesn’t look good now, it won’t later.’

Wait if you anticipate something. If you expect something that will make a great photograph will happen in a few minutes just wait. Don’t settle for what you see now.

Edit. On your computer it is easy to edit photographs with software such as photo shop. With these kind of software you can brighten, sharpen, increase the contrast or do several things that will make your photograph “better”. Don’t throw out photograph before trying to edit them. Most photos you see in magazines are edited.

Thank you for reading my article; and I hope your quest in photography proves fruitful.


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