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Photography Basics - Lessons for Beginners

Updated on November 21, 2012

Photography Basics for Beginners

Sometimes it's good for us as photographers to go back to basics. And, of course, if you are just getting started in the world of photography and want to learn "the ropes", photography basics are the natural place to start.

Anybody can take a picture! I attended a wedding reception once where the wedding party left a disposable digital camera on each table at the reception for guests to snap photos.

Before the evening was over, it was the children who were running around taking pictures of everything from the dirty dishes to their own underwear. This was a great ideas to informally document the event and while those pictures will no doubt get a few chuckles, these are not the kind of professional pictures people want for their long-term memories.

The cornerstone of photography basics is the camera. When you see a camera geek walking around with enough equipment on his neck to launch a space shuttle, you get the impression that cameras are phenomenally complex, more than mere mortals can grasp. Not anymore!

If you watch at professional at work, you'll see them working with portable, relatively easy to operate digital cameras. That is because photography basics come down to two main elements - Aperture and Shutter Speed. Understand and master these, and you've pretty much cracked it!

Now don't get nervous about fancy terms. Aperture is just a term for how wide your camera lens and therefore how much light is let in. Shutter Speed is just how long you let the light come in to affect the picture.

If you are taking a picture of something that is moving fast such as car, you want a wide aperture to let in a lot of light but a short shutter speed so you capture the event quickly so the picture is caught before more light hurts the quality.

Photography is really all about light. You can and will get learn a lot about lenses and flash photography and other ways to turn the control over to you regarding the lighting of a shot.

Another skill you need to add to your list of photography basics is the willingness to never stop learning. The more you understand your camera and it's settings, the better your shots will be, the more you will learn and the more you will want to learn.

Most digital cameras today allow you to switch from fully automatic (where the camera does everything) to one of a nunber of manual modes where you get to control certain aspects of the camera. Now don't worry, with a digital camera it costs nothing to experiment so the more shots you take at different settings, the more you will understand how the camera works.

The automatic settings of any camera are just there for the general public who are not interested in learning the basics. So they give you some basic settings like landscape, portrait and sports settings. By switching to manual, you can learn what settings work best in different situations.

And that takes us to the most important basic about becoming a great photographer and that is practice. Take some time with your equipment and play with it. Take it to situations and take photos with different aperture and shutter speed settings, in outdoor and indoor settings and different orientations to light. Don't get upset when some shots don't work. That's part of the learning curve.

By learning by doing, you will build your confidence in your work and eventually become a great photographer. But don't get cocky, there is always more to learn. And that is one of the fun things about photography.

Understanding Digital Photography Terminology

To become a better photographer, it is essential to know the terminology of digital photography. Below you will find many of the most common terms related to photography and digital cameras defined and explained.

Automatic Mode — A setting that sets the focus, exposure and white-balance automatically.

Burst Mode or Continuous Capture Mode — a series of pictures taken one after another at quickly timed intervals with one press of the shutter button.

Compression — The process of compacting digital data, images and text by deleting selected information.

Digital Zoom — Cropping and magnifying the center part of an image.

JPEG — The predominant format used for image compression in digital cameras

Lag Time — The pause between the time the shutter button is pressed and when the camera actually captures the image

LCD — (Liquid-Crystal Display) is a small screen on a digital camera for viewing images.

Lens — A circular and transparent glass or plastic piece that has the function of collecting light and focusing it on the sensor to capture the image.

Megabyte — (MB) Measures 1024 Kilobytes, and refers to the amount of information in a file, or how much information can be contained on a Memory Card, Hard Drive or Disk.

Pixels — Tiny units of color that make up digital pictures. Pixels also measure digital resolution. One million pixels adds up to one mega-pixel.

RGB — Refers to Red, Green, Blue colors used on computers to create all other colors.

Resolution — Camera resolution describes the number of pixels used to create the image, which determines the amount of detail a camera can capture. The more pixels a camera has, the more detail it can register and the larger the picture can be printed.

Storage Card — The removable storage device which holds images taken with the camera, comparable to film, but much smaller. Also called a digital camera memory card…

Viewfinder — The optical “window” to look through to compose the scene.

White Balance — White balancing adjusts the camera to compensate for the type of light (daylight, fluorescent, incandescent, etc.,) or lighting conditions in the scene so it will look normal to the human eye.

Photography Class Tips: The Basics

In the print media, pictures are used to break the monotony of a news page. Illustrations may be used as page decoration.

If its only purpose is to create a favorable impression for the reader, it's a valid function. After all, according to J.W. Click and Russel N. Baird's book, "Magazine Editing and Production," people hang paintings and photos on their walls for aesthetic reasons only.

Given that concept, one can surmise that photography is, indeed, a work of art captured in technicalities and presented in an exceptional manner. The total impression on the subject will always depend on the way the photographer wants to present his or her subject matter.

For this reason, special classes in photography provided for those who wish to perfect their skills as far as photography is concerned. However, there are some basic tips that every budding photographer must know in order to succeed in this kind of endeavor.

Here is a list of some of the important pointers that every photographer should know:

1. Get ready

The key to good shots is to have all of your necessary materials ready. One of the basic skills needed in photography is the point and shoot. However, you can't do this if you lack the materials that you need such as extra batteries (in case you run out of battery supplies), a tripod (for a steady footing), and other devices like the lenses that would aid your ability to incorporate the point and shoot skill.

Besides, you would not want to be wasting your time rummaging through your bag to find those additional lenses just to get a close up shot of your subject. Aside from time-consuming, your subject might lose interest or if it is a moving object, it might not stay longer than you have expected.

2. Be steady with your camera

One of the main reasons why pictures may come out blurred is the fact that some photographers can't get a steady hand on their cameras. It would be better to avoid shaking your camera. If you really can't avoid these, it would better to use a tripod or inserting your elbows to your sides so that you get a stable grip.

3. Focus on your subject

By attending some photography classes, you should be able to learn how to get the best angles to capture your subject. Just keep in mind to focus on your subject and not on anything else.

These are just some of basic tips that you will learn in a photography class. Just keep them in mind and you are on your way to your best shot.

Check out this excellent book on Photography Basics (5 star)

Digital Photography Basics
Digital Photography Basics

It's easier than ever to join the digital revolution with this perfect jargon-free, pocket-sized introduction to digital compact cameras and how they work. Aimed at traditional camera users and new photographers, and illustrated with 150 specially commissioned digital photos, this resource guide is the answer to those bewildering, overly technical manufacturer's guides.


Digital Photography Basics For Beginners

Planning to get your hands on a digital camera but not sure if you can make the transition from your old camera that uses film to one that utilizes a memory card?

If you are afraid of things that are complicated, then don't worry. Although digital cameras may be advanced, that doesn't necessarily mean that they are not user friendly. Here are some tips that can help you in taking pictures with a digital camera.

Enhance the color tones of your picture

There are times when you think that your shots have a cold or clammy aura. This is because digital cameras have default settings for white balance at auto. This is ok for most shots but if you want to increase the reds and the yellows of your shots, adjust the auto setting to cloudy. This makes your pictures appear warmer as well as richer.

Macro Mode

Activating the close up mode on your camera, usually called the macro mode, will make your shots have sharper details. This is very easy to use in digital cameras unlike in the conventional ones.

To use your camera's macro mode, look for the icon that depicts the macro mode or "close up". Normally, the icon is that of a flower. Go as close to the object as your camera will allow. It is important to remember that you have a rather shallow field depth, thus it is important to focus on the subject's part that you consider to be the most significant.

Invest on file storage

Having a memory card that is capable of storing a large amount of picture files is important. This gives you the freedom to take more pictures.

The higher the resolution of your camera which normally ranges from 2 mega pixels to up to 6 or more mega pixels, the higher the memory size of you card should be. With an ample sized memory card, you don't have to pass the opportunity to take a shot.

No more worries of having a full memory card whenever that perfect shot appears.

Always use high resolution

Your digital camera has many resolution settings. Always take pictures using the highest possible setting. Although higher resolution means more memory used up, it isn't a problem if you have already acquired a good sized memory card. You will never know when the best shot you'll ever take in your whole life may pop up, why take it in poor resolution?

These tips will help you with your new digital camera. Never hesitate to take as many pictures as you can! Remember you have enough memory, why worry?

Recommended Books on Photography Basics

How to Take Good Pictures, Revised Edition
How to Take Good Pictures, Revised Edition

Are your snapshots never quite as good as you'd like them to be? Do you love taking pictures, but want to understand more about photography? Are your pictures always too light or too fuzzy? Then this book is for you!

Cheatsheets 3 - Photography Guide - Take Better Photos for use with Pentax, Olympus & Fuji
Cheatsheets 3 - Photography Guide - Take Better Photos for use with Pentax, Olympus & Fuji

11 Laminated 2.5" x 4" cards on a carabiner keychain. With numerous how-to tips, tricks, techniques, and charts to help create stunning images. The Photo Buddy Quik Cards III are an inexpensive way to get up to speed on techniques that will help you create stunning photos.

The Basic Book of Photography: Fifth Edition
The Basic Book of Photography: Fifth Edition

This substantial book, long a standard guide to photography, is so comprehensive that it serves as an excellent reference for both amateur and professional photographers. Written in a clear, conversational style, this work presents the myriad technical aspects of photographic equipment in an easily understood manner.

Mastering the Basics of Photography
Mastering the Basics of Photography

The perfect camera-bag companion for every serious novice photographer who shoots on location in the field, this clear, nontechnical book shows how to achieve desired effects every time.


Photography Tips that Will Help Anyone Take Pictures Like A Pro

Photography has come along way since the days of the daguerreotypes, which was the early type of device used to take photographs.

Nowadays, with the advent of technology photography has become much easier and extremely accessible. Plus the quality of the pictures that can be produced have also increased significantly.

Practically anyone can purchase a camera and start taking pictures by framing a subject and clicking away at the button; especially with the use of a digital camera which offers an array of functions that allow you to perform various tasks. This includes taking instantaneous pictures.

Digital cameras can also store images which you can later put into your computer, which then you may print, distribute to your friends via email, or upload on your website.

But to those who take photography seriously and view photography as more of an art form; taking photographs is not just a matter of clicking at a button to take pictures. To them this task requires more planning and effort.

Here is a list of tips for taking better pictures

1. When shooting outdoors during bright, sunny, days it would be best to use a flash. This will get rid of the shadows that sometimes appear on the faces of subjects on photographs.

2. Choose a pleasing backdrop, preferably something that suits the atmosphere you want to create. For more serious photographs, a subtle backdrop that is not too distracting is best.

3. When taking outdoor photographs you have to make sure you pay attention to what's happening around you. This way strangers don't mysteriously appear in group shots!

4. Give directions when taking photographs. There is nothing wrong with giving out directions when taking award winning shots! Especially for those group shots for special occasions, such as a wedding pictorial. You want to make sure you have a lasting souvenir of this event that everyone can look back on fondly. Instruct people to smile, ask them to fix their hair if it's unruly, etc.

5. When taking outdoors shots photographers should avoid going head to head with the sun. This makes the people in the picture appear as if they are enshrouded in shadows!

6. Take candid shots! This is a more exciting alternative to dull, boring, posed shots. During parties try to take pictures of friends and family while they are at ease and just having a great time.

Anyone can take great pictures, with just a little bit of patience and a lot of practice. You can make those precious fleeting moments of everyday life lasts a lifetime.

Photography Techniques That Will Help Anyone Take Great Pictures

There's nothing like a beautiful photograph to capture some of life's most beautiful moments. This is why cameras are always at hand during those special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, graduations, etc.

Unfortunately people behind these cameras are not exactly what you might call experts. They are more likely to be your friends, family, and next door neighbor. That is why some of the outcomes of these pictures taken leave something more to be desired. That is precisely why some people hire the services of a professional photographer. Not everyone has enough money to spare on a professional photographer and that is why they do with some not so impressive pictures.

Here are some photography techniques that will make undesirable pictures a thing of the past!

1. For portraits it is important to have a fitting backdrop. Using a tripod helps to keep the shot from being blurred. It also helps to keep the photograph straight.

2. Avoid direct sunlight when shooting outdoors. If using the sun as a source of natural light, make sure it is behind the photographer.

3. Photographers have to develop a good rapport with their subjects. When taking portraits it is best if the subject's face is relaxed, and not fixed into a posed smile. Photographers can help their subjects feel at ease by engaging them in friendly conversation in between shots.

4. When taking group photos make sure that everyone gets included in the picture. Some directing on the photographer's part might be necessary. Position everyone so that they fit into the picture. The tallest persons should be in the back row, so nobody gets accidentally blocked from the shot.

5. Spontaneous shots are wonderful! They are a good break from the stiff, posed, smiles that people brandish at you once you point a camera at them. They are really great during parties, wedding pictorials, etc. This doesn't mean that you should take one of those horrible candid celebrity shots that end up in tabloid magazines!

Photographers should try to catch their subjects when they are at their best and when they are at ease, being natural, and just plain having a good time. This way their personality, and true essence will be captured in the photographs.

Taking great photographs can be achieved by using some of these techniques. Remember that practice makes perfect. That is why individuals should take plenty of pictures until they become comfortable with being behind the camera. It won't take long until they start taking those award winning shots, and pretty soon develop some techniques of their own.

Reader Feedback

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    • Rockerfella profile image


      6 years ago

      Great stuff. Check out the photo contest at

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens. I always took photos while on vacation. Always great to learn how to take better pictures. I am not a professional but love taking photos that I can share with family and friends. Learn by reading lenses like this.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow....great lens on photography. I'm a newbie photographer and really enjoyed it. I agree that light is very important as well as having the right equipment.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is a great lens. Very nice photos. If anyone is in the myrtle beach area, come check me out at Myrtle Beach Photography


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