8,216 Word Beginner’s Guide To Photography

With the advancement and affordability of photography equipment, almost anyone can be a photographer. However, not everyone is going to excel at it. This guide is going to help any budding photographers get it right. With the right equipment and skills, you could even have your photos posted in some of the most popular magazines on earth.


Chapter 1: It All Starts with the Exposure 

All photography is exposure. In essence, a photo is an exposure of the film to light. This section is going to give you an in-depth understanding of exposure. It is going to analyze the three basic elements that make up exposure. By doing so, you will be able to understand how to utilize the right exposure settings for each photo.

How to Produce Exposure

The exposure is produced through a combination of these three factors:

  • Aperture
  • Shutter Speed
  • ISO

The aperture controls how much light comes into the camera.

The shutter then opens up to allow the light to reach the light sensor or the film.

Thirdly the ISO is used to determine how long the sensor or film needs to be exposed to light.


The aperture is among the three pillars of exposure. By understanding it, you are able to get a more evenly exposed photo. This section will go into detail about how to make use of aperture to your advantage.

Understanding the Aperture

QA good analogy of aperture is the pupil of the eye. As it gets wider, it is able to allow in more light. When the diameter of the aperture increases or reduces, it allows in more or less light. In short, if you want your sensor or film to receive more light, you will increase the size of the aperture.

Measuring and Tweaking the Aperture

The aperture size is measured using the f-stop scale. On cameras, you will find an ‘f/’ symbol and a number. This number is the width of the aperture. The lower this number is, the wider the aperture is set.

The most important thing about this number is that aperture size reduces by half from one number to the next.

Calculating aperture size is quite easy. For instance, if the lens is rated at 50mm and the aperture is rated f2. The width of the aperture is calculated as 50 divided by 2, which is 25mm.

You then have to take the radius (half the diameter), times it by itself (giving the radius squared) and times that by pi. The whole equation looks something like this: Area = pi * r².

How Aperture Affects Exposure

Aperture is directly proportional to the exposure. If aperture is large, it also means the exposure will be more. You can test this by keeping everything else constant except aperture and taking a series of photos.

The Effect of aperture on Depth of Field

Depth of field is all about the distance at which the subject remains in focus in front and behind the focus point. In short, the wider the aperture, the shallower this depth of field will be and vice versa.

The Use of the Different Apertures

There are no hard rules on how to choose aperture. The main influence should be whether you want an artistic effect or you just wish to reproduce the scene accurately in a photo. However, certain apertures are well suited to certain situations:

  • f/1.4 – it is often used for low light shooting. It is great for a shallow subject and creating a soft focus effect.
  • f/2 – It has the same uses but costs about a third of the price of a f/1.4.
  • f/2.8 – It is great for low light situations where definition for facial features is needed. On a good zoom lens, this will be the widest aperture.
  • f/4 – This is the minimum aperture that you should use when taking a person’s photo in decent lighting. With a wider aperture, there is the risk of the face becoming unfocused.
  • F5.6 – it is best for use when taking photos of two people in good light conditions.
  • f/8 – it is great for large groups as it helps to ensure everyone remains in focus.
  • f/11 – It is great for portraits as it is where the lens is sharpest.
  • f/16 – when shooting in a lot of sunlight, this be the go to aperture.
  • f/22 – it is recommended for situations where detail in the foreground is important.
  • Keep in mind that these are only guidelines. You can experiment with different apertures to create the effect that you desire.

Shutter Speed

The contribution of the shutter speed is the most obvious towards exposure. It will also have the biggest influence on the photos you take. If you do not understand shutter speed, you will always end up with blurred photos. This section will guide you on what speed to use for different situations.

Understanding the Shutter Speed

In summary, it is the amount of time, which a camera allows light to reach the light sensor or film. In most photos, you want exposure time to be reduced to a fraction of a second. Any longer and the images may become blurred.

Shutter Speed – The Use of Motion Blur & Freezing

Motion Blur
Unless you are trying to be creative, you want the fastest shutter speed to prevent motion blur. This effect is also influenced by a lens’ focal length. A wide-angle lens will need slower shutter speed as it has to capture much smaller details. For a telephoto lens, a fast shutter speed is needed as even slight movement is highly magnified by the lens.

For the best effect, the shutter speed should be set as a fraction of the focal length. For instance, if you are using a 50mm lens, then the shutter speed should be 1/50 of a second. However, this rule only applies to full frame cameras.

For crop sensors, you may need to choose a higher speed such as 1/60 of a second. This is because of its magnifying effect. However, there are exceptions such as image stabilization in the lens. This will allow you to use a much slower speed. As you become accustomed to your camera, you will gain skills such as holding the camera that is comfortable for you.

Freezing takes place when a photo is taken at a shutter speed of 1/500 or more. The photo in that moment is taken without any movement. If you are trying to achieve an artistic effect, this might not be the best speed, as images will feel flat.

For instance, when shooting objects in motion, a bit of motion is needed to capture the movement of the object in the shot. Otherwise, it might as well have been still for the photo shoot.

Choosing speeds for Different Situations

Fast Speeds Using a Telephoto Lens
When working with a Telephoto lens, the shutter speed should be set to 1/500. To avoid shake, use a tripod and remote release. This prevents even slight movements when taking the photo.

Fast Moving objects in Low Light

This is especially common during event photography. The people you are shooting are in constant flux; you now have a situation of low light and fast shutter speeds. To counteract these problems, you will need a wider aperture and a high ISO. It is a compromise but it lets you capture imaged with any unwanted blur.

Use Shutter Speeds for Creative Purposes

The Creative Blur
With a tripod for steady images and a remote trigger to avoid movement, you can mess around with the shutter speeds. You can use to come up with interesting images where blur is the main area of focus.
Combining Flush with Creative Blur
Adding flash and blur will result in the subject being frozen in place. You can then shift the camera to capture blur and light for artistic purposes.
Panning is the process of shifting the camera to compliment the movements of the subject. It results in an image with a blurred background and a clear image.
Light painting
Light painting only requires slow shutter speed and a good light source. It is a good way to fill in light to certain areas of the frame. It is a nice way to shoot images at night.
Light Graffiti
With slow shutter speed combined with a moving but constant light source, you can add graffiti to the image.
Low Light Situations and Long Exposure
To achieve this effect, you will need a tripod and a flat surface to lay the camera. It will take some experimenting with the shutter speed to achieve the desired effect.


ISO is among the three pillars that determine photo exposure. To get the most out of a photo, you will need the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed working in harmony. This section provides in-depth knowledge on how to make ISO work for you.

Understanding ISO

ISO is an acronym for International Standards Organization. It determines the sensitivity of the light sensor or film of the camera. This, in turn, affects the photo exposure. The sensitivity is based on a scale that begins at 100 and doubles onwards. Its upper limit is based on the capability of the camera you are using. The International Standards Organization set the scale of this sensitivity.

The Effect of ISO on Exposure

ISO plays a crucial role if the exposure of a photo. The aperture and shutter speed influence the lens and exposure time. The ISO’s effect is on the film or sensor. The ISO scale is quite similar to the one used for shutter speed. That means a sensor with low ISO will also have low exposure, just like with shutter speed. The ideal sensitivity is usually set at ISO 800. There are many consequences to the different ISO settings.

The Effect of ISO on Photo Quality

In general, the lower the ISO, the better quality of a photo you can get. As the ISO doubles, you double the photo’s exposure. This, in turn, doubles the amount of digital noise expected in the photo. Noise reduces detail, which makes a picture look grainy.

You can carry out an experiment and takes photos at different ISO. You will find out that noise on the photo rises as the number rises. However, some of the noise can be corrected using modern airbrushing software. However, such software should be used in moderation.

Cameras with huge sensors are better at coping with noise. However, as technology improves, the effect of sensor size on noise reduction is becoming less apparent. What used to be a major problem is now much less apparent, especially in high-end cameras.

To discover the ISO limit of a camera, try taking photos with it in low light conditions. Trying to enhance exposure postproduction is the same as trying to increase ISO. Ensure you get it right during the photo session to avoid all of these problems.

Different Situations in Which to Use Different ISO

  • ISO 100-200 – This ISO offer the most detail and the highest quality. It is the best for taking photos in daylight, as you do not need to boost ISO. Shooting using ISO 1600 in sunlight would be a major waste, which would lead to unnecessary grain.
  • ISO 200-400 – in darker conditions such as in shaded areas or indoors where there is good lighting.
  • ISO 400-800 – This setting is best for use when using flash indoors. It leads to even exposure and a detailed background.
  • ISO 800-1600 – When doing event photography where there is a lot of motion, this is the best setting. It helps to account for the low light conditions where flash photography is not permitted.
  • ISO 1600-3200 – This setting is also used for live gigs. It is especially so where there are very low light conditions and a tripod is not allowed. Beyond this setting, digital noise can be hard to cope with.
  • ISO 3200+ – This range is useful for low light where an artistic effect is desired. As with most photos at this high ISO, avoiding digital noise is almost impossible.

This is the end of Chapter 1: It’s All About the Exposure. If you would like to leave us a comment or feedback, please Contact Us today! 


Chapter 2: Understanding the Camera

This section will go into all the different settings that you can use on your camera.

Light Metering

The light meter is now of the things that remain constant during photography. You will have to be able to determine the amount of light in your scene to make the necessary adjustments to shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. The tool used to determine the light present is called the light meter.
Understanding the light meter is crucial to helping you advance your skills in photography. This section should help you get a good grasp of how it works.

An Analogy for the Light Meter
The light meter can be analogized to cooking meat on a grill. No matter the kind of meat you use, you already have an idea in your mind of what you want it to look like. For most amateurs, that will mean using a meat thermometer to ensure the food has been well cooked. In this analogy, the camera meter is the meat thermometer. How you place, this thermometer is essential in ensuring that you get accurate readings.

How the Light Meter Functions

When a camera is pointed at a scene, you will need to measure the incoming light to know the quality and how you need to alter your camera’s settings. That way, you will be able to ensure that your photo comes out just the way you wanted.

Most modern cameras use TTL Metering. This simply means through-the-lens metering. The camera examines the light passing through the lens and assesses the brightness at the scene. The camera can then adjust settings to ensure you get the exposure you wanted. You may not even notice the light meter working unless you are shooting in manual mode.

How to See the Light Meter in Manual Mode

When you place your camera in manual mode, check for a series of vertical lines or dots at the bottom of the viewfinder.

Getting the Exposure You Want

With your camera set to manual, check the bottom of the viewfinder. Look at the scale that has zero in the middle. When the scale is at zero, it means the photo is at just the right exposure. However, as you begin to change the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, the scale will begin to shift up or down the line. You can then expect a picture that is too light or too dark.

Where Does the Camera Check to Determine Light Measurements?

You will need to understand how the light meter works to get accurate settings. Does it check all incoming light or just a small section of it? To understand this, you will need to understand something known as the metering modes.

How Cameras Measure the Light

Most cameras use these basic methods to measure incoming light:

Evaluative/Matrix Metering
The camera checks the entire scene and produces an average figure.

Center Weighted Metering
This method also takes an average of all incoming light. However, it lays emphasis on the light coming from the center of a frame.

Partial Metering
It only samples a small portion at the center of the lens.

Spot Metering
Measures light in an extremely small spot around the central autofocus point, which takes about 3% of the entire frame.
There are many other names used to describe these modes. However, they all work in the same way. The way your camera will measure light has a major effect on getting photos that are properly exposed.

Incident versus Incident Metering
This is another aspect of light metering, which you need to understand if you want to get properly exposed photos.

Reflective Metering
This type of metering measures the amount of light coming in through the lens. However, unless, the camera is coming from the source, it is being bounced off the subject first. The colors we see in the world result from all other colors being absorbed. When a camera measures light, it will essentially be looking at the light bouncing off the subject. This can have a major effect on exposure.

For instance, if the subject changes from light clothing to dark clothing, the camera will make a different reading. The camera will think that it requires more exposure to get an accurate reading. The result is that the whole image will be overexposed.

Incident Metering
This can be quite troubling when shooting images at a wedding. Grooms wear dark clothes while brides wear a dazzling white dress. This can throw the TTL metering into disarray. The solution for this problem is to utilize an external light meter. It will help to measure the light that is falling on the subject.

The handheld light meter is especially important when flashes are being used. It allows you to tell how much extra light needs to be accounted for at the scene.

Light Metering in Summary
The goal is to understand how the light meter on your camera works. By doing that, you are able to tell how you need to alter exposure to get the shot you desire. Understanding light metering modes can help you makes the shots that you desire. None of these methods is worse or better. Each has its weaknesses and strengths. It is just a matter of having the right knowledge and making the right adjustments.


Histogram is a crucial but often misunderstood tool of photography. It can be useful in helping you get the right exposure for your photos. This section will cover how to use it to make your photos look better. Getting the best exposure for your shot should be your goal during all photos shoots.

Defining the Histogram
The histogram is a graphical representation of pixels exposed in an image. The left side of this graph will show the shadows and the right side will show the bright areas. The middle section shows the mid-tones. How high each areas peaks shows the pixels in that tone.

What Can a Histogram Teach You?
A histogram can help to tell that the image is well exposed it reaches from edge to edge without any spaces on either side of the graph. In an ideal setting, it should touch the left and right edges and not spill up the sides. It should also have a nice curve at the center.

When to Adjust Exposure
When there are gaps on either side of your histogram, it means you are missing information and exposure can be shifted without loss of detail. When the graph is shifted too much in one direction, it means you can shift exposure safely to cover a wider range of tones.

If the image is over exposed, the graph will show a gap on the left side, which shows there are no dark spots present. It will also mean a lot of detail will be missing in the white areas. In such an instance, you will need to reduce exposure and shoot the scene again.

If the image is under exposed, a gap will appear to the right of the graph, showing there are no white pixels present. You can safely increase exposure for the image until the graph touches the right edge.

How to Interpret the Spikes on either Side

Spikes on the right or left edge are signs of ‘clipping’. It shows that a lot of detail has been lost for that tone. In the highlighted areas, the image cannot be recovered. However, that may be possible in the dark areas.

In some scenes, keeping the graph within an acceptable range can be quite difficult. For instance, when shooting a sunset scene, or inside a building where you need to show the outer walls too. In these cases, clipping will be hard to avoid.

Should You Correct Spikes on the Sides?
Sometimes the graph will have spikes on both ends and almost nothing in the middle. You can correct this by changing the settings. To make things easier, you can correct for both light and dark contrast and try to interpret the scene later.

Highlight Warning
Most SLR cameras have a highlight warning setting. When an image becomes overexposed, the camera will begin to flash. This feature has to be set up by the user. That way, they are always assured of taking well-balanced images that do not have too much exposure.

Histogram in Summary
A simple conclusion is that histogram is not necessarily the best tool for analyzing exposure. Correctness depends on too many factors that would require a lot of time to analyze. In most cases, you will need to account for your vision to adjust the histogram. The scene is also important when thinking about histogram. The histogram is only good for showing you the amount of varying brightness in the image and nothing else. You can use it to discover whether you have clipped any detail with a certain exposure setting. It can be a good guide to avoid losing detail in your photos. As long as you have that in mind, there is no good or bad histogram.


Chapter 3: Modes

Even the most experienced photographers can choose to use a pre-programmed mode in some occasions. It can help the save time especially when the opportunity for a great photo is limited. However, if you are a budding photographer who would love to delve beyond the auto mode, this section will prove quite useful to you.
When setting up a camera, you will be thinking of four basic things:
1. The wide depth of field
2. The shallow depth of field
3. Motion blur
4. Freeze motion

The different modes you use will help you control these four basic areas.


In auto mode, the camera adjusts shutter, aperture, white balance, ISO, and the pop-up flash for you. This is great for beginners who have little understanding of how their camera works.

The down side to this mode is that is some light conditions, the auto setting could produce undesirable images. For instance, a back-lit portrait could produce only a silhouette. In low light, it could lead to blurry images. Additionally, the camera may decide to fire the flash in low light. It can be quite troublesome, as most cameras have no way for you to disable the flash when you want to do it. If you want a point and shot approach to photography, you can always go for this mode.

Program Mode

In this mode, the camera sets the shutter speed and the aperture. However, you will be able to take control of the ISO setting. You will also have the ability to control exposure compensation, flash options, and white balance.
The advantage of this mode is that it can help beginners begin to take more control over their camera. The result is better images when the situation demands it.

However, it does have its downside. As in the auto mode, some lighting conditions can cause unpredictable results. Thus, some of the results will be completely left to chance. It is a good first step towards losing the training wheels of your advanced digital camera

Shutter Priority Mode

The shutter priority mode lets you select the ISO and shutter speed. The camera will then chose the proper aperture to determine the right type of exposure. The benefit of this mode is that you can control freeze action and blur with ease.
Its downside is that with control of the shutter speed, the camera must choose the correct aperture to give you enough exposure. The lens you have will come into play here. Most cameras can shoot at high speeds with adequate apertures. If this is not the case, your images will appear underexposed.
If you want to gain control of image motion, this mode is great. The fast shutter speed will help you achieve freeze motion while slower shutter will help you attain blur motion. The mode is great when you have a large mm lens and you need fast shutter speed to avoid blur.

Aperture Priority Mode

In this mode, you choose the ISO and aperture and the camera will choose the shutter speed. This is done to ensure that images have the proper exposure.
The benefit of this method is that this mode is quite popular even amongst professional photographers. The main reason is that it allows you to control what is in focus in the image. In most cases, what you have in focus is what makes or breaks your image.

The downside to this method is that in low light situations, the camera could choose a low shutter speed that causes blurry images from camera or subject movement.

It is, however, a good mode when you need to control Depth of field for the image. For a camera with a large aperture, it will ensure that more light reaches the sensor, which causes a shallow DOF. ON a camera with a small aperture, less light will reach the camera sensor, which causes a deeper DOF. When using this mode, keep in mind that altering the aperture will also affect the shutter speed. Less light from a small aperture causes slower shutter speed and more light from a large aperture will cause a faster shutter speed.

The Manual Mode

Manual mode allows you to alter aperture and shutter speed setting independent of each other; the camera sets no setting. Using the built in light meter, you will be able to determine the light exposure that you think is correct. Before using this mode, you should have a good understanding of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

The main benefit of this mode is that you have total creative control of the image that you capture.
The downside to this mode is that you have to check exposure for each image. It is especially so when choosing in an environment with fast changing light conditions.

You should only try to use this mode after you have mastered it. Study the effects and results of messing around with the settings, and how they work together to affect the final image.

Scene Mode

This mode is quite similar to auto mode. It allows you to choose the scene for which you are shooting the image. It will then determine which settings are optimal for that mode. Each camera will have its own unique scene option. However, there are those that are quite popular:

Sports – the mode has a high ISO and shutter speed to capture the action.

Landscape – the camera adjusts settings to a small aperture to maximize DOF. Flash may be disabled.

Portrait – The camera will have a large aperture that throws the background out of focus. In some cameras, face recognition will also be enabled.

Macro – In this mode, the camera will use a small an aperture as possible to give the best DOF.

The benefit of this mode is that it can be a great starting point for beginners who wish to quite the auto mode.

The downside to using the mode is that setting will not always produce the images that you desire at all times.

For beginners seeking to step up from the auto mode, this can be a great way to do that. It will help you begin to get a good understanding of how your camera functions.

Modes in Summary

There is no mode, which is better or worse than others are. The choice will depend on your unique situation. However, if you are a beginner trying to advance his or her skills, the program, scene and auto mode are the best. For the professional, aperture priority and manual mode are the most popular. It is important to remember that whatever level you are at, even the professionals were once armatures.


Chapter 4: Depth of Field

You have no doubt come across the term Depth of Field (DOF) if you are into photography. However, you may not have an understanding of how it can affect the quality of your photos. The depth of field is generally the zone within your photo that appears to be in focus. In every image, there is an area just behind and in front of the picture, which is in great focus.

The zone varies from image to image. In some pictures, the zone of focus is quite small, which is called a shallow depth of field. In others, it is quite huge, which is known as a deep depth of field. Three factors affect the depth of field. These are:
1. Aperture
2. Distance of the subject from the camera
3. Focal length of the camera’s lens

The Aperture’s Effect on the Depth of Field
Aperture is simply the access that light has to camera sensor. The size of the aperture controls how much light enters the lens. The aperture is the simplest means by which to control the depth of field for any shot.

Large aperture means a shallow depth of field while a small aperture means a larger depth of field. To simplify things, keep in mind that the lower the f-number, the smaller the depth of field.

The Effect of Distance on the Depth of Field
As the subject gets closer to the camera, the depth of field becomes shallower. Thus, as you move further away from the subject, you are able to increase the depth of field.

The Effect of Focal Length on the Depth of Field
The focal length simply refers to by what margin the lens can magnify an image. In the simplest terms, a longer focal length leads to a shallower depth of field.

What about Point and Shoot Cameras
Even when you are using a point and shoot camera, you can control the depth of field. In the scenes mode, look for the portraits setting. This will provide you with a narrow depth of field. In the same mode, choose landscapes, represented by a mountain. This will give a deep depth of field.

When using a DSLR camera, you can still control the depth of field with automatic shooting mode enabled. You can go for the Aperture Priority mode and set the aperture. That will allow you to control you DOF and the camera will set the shutter speed.

Is Setting the Depth of Field for Each Situation Possible?
This is possible but because when you change the aperture, it will affect the shutter speed and the result may not be what you desire. For instance, by reducing the aperture to increase the depth of field, it could slow down the shutter speed that leads to blurry images. You have to understand how all the setting works to get control over the DOF.

Is the Depth of Field Equally Distributed between the Front and Back of a subject?
In most cameras, the DOF is distributed a third in front of the camera and two-thirds behind the focal point. However, as the focal length increases, the distance between the front and back of the camera becomes equal.

How Understanding the Depth of Field Will Affect Your Photography
Being able to control the depth of field is one of the most essential tools for great photography. The reason for this is that having sharp images is amongst the most important factors for getting a good shot. Knowing how to make the parts of your image that you want to stay sharp to do that and knowing which parts to blur is great for art.

When to Use a shallow Depth of Field
A shallow DOF is a great way to make the subject stand out and is great for taking portrait photos. A shallow DOF can also be great for wildlife photography. It can help you define the animal that you want from the rest of the wildlife. The reason for these is that most opportunities for photographing wildlife are in low light and a bigger aperture size provides you with more light.

Sports photography is another area that could benefit from a shallow DOF. It is especially helpful in helping to separate the athlete from the background to give them more attention. You should combine it with a fast shutter speed so that you are able to freeze the action.

When to Use a Deep Depth of Field
When taking landscape photos, you should strive to get as much of the scene in focus as possible. That will entail making use of a wide-angle lens and a small aperture. That way, you are able to maximize the depth of field and capture as much of it as possible.

How to Determine the Depth of Field
Many charts online can help you calculate the depth of field for your lens and camera. You can use one of the many apps available for smartphone users. Most cameras have DOF preview setting. It gives you what to expect once you check via an eyepiece. It is probably the easiest method to check the DOF. However, the image may appear darker via the eyepiece.

Can You Adjust the DOF to Get Everything in Focus?
This is possible using the hyper-focal distance. With the hyper-focal distance, the depth of field extends from half the distance to the focal point to infinity. If you are lacking a DOF calculator, always focus a third of the way into the scene. With an aperture setting of f/11 and a wide-angle lens, you can maximize the DOF.

The Depth of Field and Macro Photography
Since many macro images are produced in low light and a long focal length, the depth of field is usually quite shallow.

The lens should be adjusted to the smallest aperture that light would allow. You may also need to increase the ISO to allow the image to be properly exposed. In most macro images, the DOF is usually quite tiny. With such a narrow focus, the use of a tripod may be necessary. The reason for this is that the slightest movement will cause the macro subject to go out of focus.

Understanding Bokeh
Bokeh is of Japanese origin and it means blur. An effect occurs because of the out of focus areas beyond the DOF. It is used to refer to the circular shapes that result from the shapes of the aperture. It occurs when the aperture is wide open or when the background is distant enough.

Depth of Field in Summary
In summary, the amount of inches of the DOF is not worth getting hung over. That would completely take away the joy of photography. It is much more crucial to tell when you require a small DOF and how you can create it and vice versa. The beauty of modern cameras is that you can take a photo and then review it on the LCD screen.

This is much easier than using a DOF calculator. If you find that it is not what you desire, you can then make the necessary adjustments. Understand the factors that will affect your DOF are what will give you artistic freedom. The only way to perfect it is to practice often. When it comes time for the photo shoot, you will not need hours to adjust.