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Basics of photography: A killer guide to learn Photography Basics for absolute beginners

Shubham Davey 0
Reading Time: 12 minutes

5 years ago, when I began learning photography basics, it was terrifying. I had no senior support that could guide me through this phase. Furthermore, I was poor at communicating that is a must to learn anything. Now that I am quite commendable in this space, I felt a need to help beginners like I was 5 years ago.

Back in those days, I did not have access to resources that are now available at your fingertips. Hence this guide is going to be available to help you understand photography and its basics.

Without taking any further time, let’s begin.

Photography Basics #1: Understanding the DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera

Whether you’ve been a photographer for ages or just bought yourself a DSLR, it’s always good to start simple and from basics. Like all craftsperson and artists, it is a good idea to know your tools well. So here’s what all you need to know about your DSLR.

A DSLR is your tool as a photographer. Let me begin with explaining the body parts of a DSLR. Let’s begin.

Body

The camera body is the hardware that you hold. It is a container for various camera controls that you will be playing with throughout your professional photographer’s life. The lens either comes attached to the body or is detachable, depending upon the type of camera you have. Other stuff the body has is battery, flash and various other control buttons. You can attach any compatible lenses to experiment various image compositions.

Lens

The lens is one of the most important peripherals of your camera. It helps focus on your subject(s). The light enters through the lens and hits the sensor and that’s how an image is captured.

Types of camera

There are two types of cameras, DSLRs and point and shoot cameras. The major difference between the two is P&S doesn’t have pro control, it’s just for taking better pictures without worrying much about the setting. If you are a professional, I’d recommend staying away from P&S, it will limit your creativity and professionalism. Better invest in a better DSLR.

Canon & Nikon have some amazing P&Ss for those whose priority is better photos and not settings for better photos.

Best DSLR for beginners

So you are stubborn to be a pro and not take the easy route of P&S. There are some amazing DSLRs you can begin with. Not only they are pocket-friendly, but they’re easy to get habitual to. Here’s the list of best DSLR for beginners:

Pentax K200D

A 10.2-megapixel resolution to perfectly capture enough details for poster-sized prints. Pentax K200D is your go-to camera is you are little crushed of the budget.

Canon 1300D

An 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor with 9 focus points and ISO range of 100 to 6400, is a perfect treat to your baby steps in this space. Canon 1300 D will not disappoint you in any terms until you have a need to upgrade to the new level of your photographic career. Best part of canon, you can play between any lens on any DSLR (crop sensor based lenses excluded)

Nikon D3400

Bigger and better. Nikon has the best in the business DSLR for the beginners. Nikon D3400 has helped many beginners grow to a pro level. The ease of use and the user experience it gives is beyond awesome. It has a 24.2-megapixel resolution that helps to capture bigger and better images. It has built-in Bluetooth connectivity functionality for happy sharing.

Sony Alpha a330

The Sony Alpha a300 has been winning over photographers who don’t wanna go behind the name based price of Canon and Nikon. However, it is a stitched down version of Pentax variant but still does a better job. A 10.2-megapixel lens with a better image stabilization makes it really a better DSLR, to begin with.

Photography Basics #2: How to hold DSLR for better pictures

Handshakes are good when done to people, but when holding DSLR you better be concrete steady. However, as a beginner it completely fine to have your hands shaking while taking photos. But those shakes can ruin your photos to the core, especially when you are shooting at night. There is image stabilization feature in most of the DSLR lenses, but it can’t help much. Here’s what you can do to avoid blurred image in spite your hands are shaking.

  • Use a fast shutter speed: Using a faster shutter speed will allow less light to pass as the shutter will close faster. It has its own demerits, so find the right shutter speed to avoid blur or shaken images.
  • Use a tripod or monopod: This makes sense when you have a firm and solid floor, where your tripod can stay steady. Use it at the right angle and shoot.
  • Learn how to properly hold your DSLR:
    • While you shoot better use the viewfinder to see the subject and not the screen.
    • Pull your elbows as close as possible to your body.
    • Use left hand to manage the lens and the right one to firmly hold the DSLR.
    • Have your feet about shoulder-width apart and your knees relaxed.

Photography Basics #3: Camera Control

While all the DSLRs today come with an easy set of control giving you less headache of managing the camera controls. But that’s not what a DSLR is made for, it’s like buying an expensive P&S. There are camera controls for every situation you can think of. Combination of these camera controls will result in amazing pictures that you’d be proud of taking. So here’s the list of camera controls that will help you take better support and make the most of your DSLR.

There are three major camera controls that you need to take care of:

  1. Shutter Speed: Time for which the shutter is open or how fast or slow the camera shutter open & closes to take a picture.
  2. Aperture: The size of the shutter opening while you take the photo. It also controls depth-of-field ( degree of how sharp of blur the background of your subject is)
  3. ISO: This controls the light sensitivity. Higher the number more sensitive will the be light in your pictures. Lower ISO, less sensitivity, and less digital noise.

Note: I will cover about these controls in subsequent posts. Make sure you subscribe The Lensed.

Photography Basics #4: Photo Gear/peripherals

Apart from a camera bag, strap, memory cards and batteries, there are gears that help you upgrade your photography to the next level. Let’s explore each of them briefly.

Tripod

You’d not need it always, like a tripod is useless in daylight. But when in the night shoots, a tripod is priceless. Tripods are weight specific, make sure you buy tripod steady enough to withstand the weight of your DSLR along with the heaviest lens in your kit.

Additional Lenses

This is the best part of having a DSLR. You can switch lense as per the conditions and needs. Lenses are interchangeable gears that help you take stunning pictures as per the conditions. All manufacturers like Nikon, Canon, and Sony have their own make of lenses. There are also third-party lenses like Tamron and Sigma.

Lens Filters

Filters are something that you mount on top of your lenses. There are two major types of filters, UV and polarizing filter. A UV filter will protect glass of your lens and a polarizing filter will cut the reflections and make clouds pop out of the sky.

Flash units and reflectors

Photography is all about light, these two helps you master it. Flash unit help you control the flash that your DSLR emits like a pro. Reflectors help you to direct the light that the flash unit emits in your desired direction.

Extra batteries and chargers

It’s always good to carry a charger and extra batteries for your DSLR. You never know when you run out of battery.

Memory Cards

Just like batteries, it is important to have a backup memory cardIf one goes out of control, you can use the backup.

Shutter Release

These come handy when you are shooting in absolute darkness and you cannot afford to shake the camera even for a micro-second. The shutter release is a wired device that acts like a remote to control the shutter button of your DSLR.

Photography Basics #5: Mastering Composition

Learning photography basics is incomplete without talking about composition. This is probably the most versatile and creative part of photography. The basic rules become the foundation upon which your creativity will flourish.

A composition is how you put your picture together in the frame. What is your subject? How have you placed it? What is the background? How much is in focus? How is the light? towards infinity…

Questions go on and on and on. Since it is your creative part, you have to come up with something that will help you implement these photography basics. A great image is not because of the subject, it is because of the composition that it looks beautiful. Following are the rules and photography basics you need to follow to master composition:

Rule of Thirds

This is the most basic and one of the most important rules to follow to master composition. In this rule, you either have to imagine or actually have(just for practice) grid of 9 equal halves, like a tic-tac-toe board.

The idea is having your subject at the intersection of lines on either side of the grid.

The intersection can be at bottom-left, top-left, bottom-right or top-right. You can have subjects at the center but this composition gives a beautiful result.

Depth of Field

A common term used in photography to define the sharpness of an image. There are two ends of DoF,

  • Shallow DoF: Where the subject is in focus and the background is blurred out.
  • Deep DoF: Where the subject and background, both are in equal focus.

DoF is measured by f-stops and is controlled by Aperture. Higher f-stops number sharper the background and the objects are.

Landscape and Portraits

The DSLRs are designed to capture images in just one way – Landscape. This follows the inspiration of cameras – Eyes. Eyes are designed to see the world in the landscape. Wide and distant vision is what eye see. That is how the camera works. Eyes have this to give a wider vision to better understand the surroundings.

However, DSLR eliminates this by restricting the vision by its edges. This helps the photographer focus on what is important. You can turn your DSLR sideways to take portrait photos or crop the landscape photo to make it taller and less wide.

Point of View

This simply means the position of your DSLR sees the scene. A single millimeter here and there can bring a drastic change in the perspective of the photograph. Keep in mind about the Juxtaposition, that will further enhance the beauty of your photographs.

Leading Lines

Anything within the image that can draw the viewer’s attention from point A to point B, or point Z because of patterns in the image are the leading lines. Seashore, bridges, buildings (skyscrapers) are the classic examples of leading lines. These take the viewer’s attention from Point A to Point B in a straight line. Rule of thirds is a thumb rule here to take great pictures.

Natural Frames

Composing a photograph in a natural frame is a great way to add drama to your photos. A dark hallway leading to majestic idol outside is pure magic. The trick here is to find a natural frame (other than your DSLR frame) and have a subject within that frame.

And couple standing in the veranda and the shot taken from inside the room. A still flower framed by the sunset light from the window.

You get the point.

Photography Basics #6: Understanding Photography lighting and exposure

To really master photography, you have to understand the light. It’s the heart of photography. Exposing right amount of light on the DSLR sensor is what you should be looking for.

Remember, the harshest part of the day to shoot is the noon time. A few hours before and after has the worst light to shoot. You cannot have good photographs with natural lights with the usual camera settings. Either you will have to control the exposure button or use external peripherals like reflectors and speed lights to compensate the natural light.

A proper photo exposure is letting just the right amount of light to hit the sensor. Depending on the conditions, you have to make your DSLR let the right amount of light inside in the lens and hit the sensor. Not too high, not too low.

  • If you let too less light to hit the sensor (underexposed), the details of the images will be lost in the shadows.
  • If you let too much of light to hit the sensor (overexposed), the details will be lost in highlights and brights.

When shooting outside, opt morning or evening hours. This is the time when the light is soft, warm and indirect.

Conclusion

Photography is a very very vast subject to master, one is always a learner in this space. Since it’s all about creativity, you have a very large scope to learn. It may years to actually understand everything a DSLR can do. Continues practice is the key to get through this.

In this upcoming posts, I will be sharing more insightful and reliable content that will help you grow as a photographer. Meanwhile, implement these photography basics and let me know about your experience of implementing it the comment section below.

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