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Basics of Photography : A beginner’s guide

Basics of Photography : A beginner’s guide

Photography is one of the most popular and attractive forms of art. It lets us capture and share our experiences and memories. It also helps to educate people about the cultural and scenic beauty of the world. The growing influence of social media has led to a rise in the popularity of photography. Significant advancements in technology over the last decade have also made photography more accessible to the masses. Therefore, photography has become one of the most popular hobbies in the world.

Beginners need to learn the basics of photography. Perfecting your basics and having a strong foundation is key for any activity. This guide will help casual photographers looking to learn photography and those who want to improve and make a career out of it. To know more about photography as a career, click here.

Some Terms Associated with the Basics of Photography


In simple terms, the aperture is the size of the opening in the lens. The size of the aperture determines how much light we let into the image for brighter or darker pictures. It also helps us manipulate the sharpness of the image. A wide aperture leads to an unfocused background. A narrow aperture gives sharper images.

Shutter Speed

The shutter is the part of the camera that opens and closes when the photo is taken. The speed of the shutter determines the amount of light that enters. Any object that moves while the shutter is open becomes blurry in the image. Also, if the camera moves while the shutter is open, the entire image is blurry.


ISO is the parameter that indicates how sensitive the camera is to light. A lower ISO means that the camera isn’t susceptible to light and is suitable for daylight photography. A higher ISO means that the camera is much more sensitive to light. Such cameras are ideal for low-light photography, but the images can be grainy. Managing the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed is an essential step in learning the basics of photography.

Any object that lies at the focus of the camera is portrayed sharply in the image. However, things out of ‘focus’ appear blurry. Beginners trying to learn photography need to learn how to manipulate the camera’s focus for the best results.


RAW refers to a type of file. It is a standard file format for uncompressed files. These are preferred by photographers as RAW files allow the user more control over the editing process. Also, this type of file doesn’t suffer from any loss in quality. RAW files are generally large and require dedicated software to open them.

Tips for learning the Basics of Photography

Handling the Camera

Basics of Photography- Handling

This is a rather obvious but overlooked facet the basics of photography. As mentioned earlier, if the camera moves while the shutter is active, the photo is blurry, Therefore, you have to be careful while handling the camera. A lot of professionals develop their own way of handling it. The basic grip is with the right hand on the right side of the camera and the left hand below the lens.  The left hand is used to support the weight of the device.  It is also wise to invest in a tripod. To check out tripods, click here.

ISO settings

Basics of Photography- ISO

Understanding ISO is critical if you want to learn photography. ISO, shutter speed and aperture control are vital aspects of the basics of photography. Make it a habit to check the ISO settings before every shoot. Accidentally having high ISO on a bright sunny day will ruin your shots. Also, don’t hesitate to experiment with ISO settings. Images can become grainy and low quality at a higher ISO.
However, when you can’t lower the shutter speed, and a tripod is not available to provide stability for the camera, you have to improvise. Modifying the ISO settings on the go according to the lighting is a valuable skill to have.

Learning to use the Camera’s various Shooting modes

Shooting modes DSLR

Most DSLR cameras have a dial to toggle the various shooting modes. These include ‘auto, Av, Tv, P, M’. The symbols or abbreviations for each mode may vary as well. For example, the aperture mode may have ‘Av’ or simply ‘A’. Here is a short walkthrough of what all the different modes offer.

Auto: In auto mode the camera handles all the settings to determine the exposure. This includes aperture and shutter speed.

Aperture priority mode (Av or A): This is kind of a semi automatic shooting mode. The mode allows you to control the depth of field of your shot by controlling the aperture manually. The camera adjusts the other settings itself.

Shutter priority mode (Tv or S): This is another semi automatic mode. The camera handles the aperture while you handle the shutter speed. Slower shutter speed is ideal for blurring moving objects. Faster shutter speeds are ideal for capturing fast moving objects in sharper detail.

Program mode (P): This mode is halfway between the semi automatic modes and fully manual. It allows the user to control exposure by either setting the shutter speed or the aperture. The camera adjusts the other one accordingly.

Manual (M): As the name suggests, this mode gives the user full control. You can set the exposure settings yourself with the help of the metering provided by the camera. Users should proceed to this mode once they are comfortable with the basics of photography.

Adjusting the White balance

Basics of Photography- White Balance

Our eyes can automatically adjust to different light sources. However, a camera can not. We need to change the white balance settings of our camera according to the lighting we are shooting in. If we don’t do this, photos can appear with a hue of blue or yellow. Cameras offer several settings for White balance. These include Auto, Daylight, Flash, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent and Shade. The auto mode is accurate most of the time. However, on other occasions it is best to go manual. If you want to learn photography you should know which setting to use in different lighting conditions. 

Learn about Metering


In any shooting mode, the camera always tries to calculate the average exposure. It does so by assessing the entire scene. It ensures that all the elements have tones which average to 18% grey, which is known as ‘middle grey’. This is the reason that extremely bright areas appear darker in pictures and vice versa. You can control the metering settings of your camera by choosing which areas the camera assesses. There are 3 metering modes:

Average: The camera assesses the entire image and sets the tone to 18% grey.
Centre-weighted: The camera assesses around 80% of the image, focusing on the centre of the viewfinder while ignoring the corners.
Spot metering: In this mode, we can set the camera to assess a tiny portion of the image and set the tones to an 18% grey average.

However, you can use exposure compensation if you want to adjust the camera for over or underexposure. This setting allows you to change the default meter reading from middle grey to account for the brightness levels.

Learn about Focusing

Basics of Photography: Focus

You can choose to either manually focus your camera or use Autofocus settings. DSLR cameras come with preset modes for Autofocus. To learn photography, you should be comfortable with the usage of these modes.
These include the following:
Autofocus-single(AF-S): This mode is ideal for taking pictures with stationary objects at the focus. The focus is acquired when you half-press the shutter. It is locked till you release the button.
Autofocus-continuous(AF-C): This mode is ideal for taking pictures of fast-moving objects. When you half-press the shutter, the focus locks onto the object. If the object moves, the focus moves and recalibrates with it.

Invest in good Editing software

Photo Editor RAW
Credits: ON1 on YouTube

As mentioned earlier, RAW files are perfect for editing. They provide a significant degree of control and high quality. This is because they suffer from little to no loss in quality. However, to process these images, you need dedicated software. Most professional photographers use programs like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. Editing is a necessary process when it comes to the basics of photography. Therefore, it is wise to invest in sound editing software. It will make your pictures look more professional.

Learn from the Process

Learning From Experience

This is an essential tip for a beginner in any field. No one is perfect from day one. The most seasoned professionals reach their level of success by learning from their mistakes. Experiment with various settings and subjects. Every time you get a lousy photo, don’t be discouraged.

Instead, study your errors and adapt accordingly for next time. Focus on what settings or manual errors made the shoot go wrong. It can be a problem with the exposure, poor lighting, or issues with the equipment. This will prove to be a valuable asset when it comes to mastering the basics of photography.

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