Photography Basics: The Complete Beginner’s Guide

Photography isn’t the only way to capture the world, but it certainly is one of the most effective. Look no further than the nearest social media feed, news station, magazine article, or book cover to see it – photographs have power. If you want to harness that power and learn how to take the best possible photos, welcome to “Photography Basics: The Beginner’s Guide.” This comprehensive tutorial explains the fundamental concepts you should know about photography from start to finish.

What Is Photography?

Photography is the art of capturing light with a camera, usually via a digital sensor or film, to create an image. With the right camera equipment, you can even photograph wavelengths of light invisible to the human eye, including UV, infrared, and radio.

What Is the Bare Minimum Gear Needed for Photography?

Camera. If you buy a dedicated camera (rather than a phone), pick one with interchangeable lenses so that you can try out different types of photography more easily. Read reviews, but don’t obsess over them, because everything available today is pretty much equally good as its competition. Find a nice deal and move on.

Camera. If you buy a dedicated camera (rather than a phone), pick one with interchangeable lenses so that you can try out different types of photography more easily. Read reviews, but don’t obsess over them, because everything available today is pretty much equally good as its competition. Find a nice deal and move on.

Lenses. This is where it counts. For everyday photography, start with a standard zoom lens like a 24-70mm or 18-55mm. For portrait photography, pick a prime lens (one that doesn’t zoom) at 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm. For sports, go with a telephoto lens. For macro photography, get a dedicated macro lens. And so on. Lenses matter more than any other piece of equipment because they determine what photos you can take in the first place.

The Three Fundamental Camera Settings You Should Know.

Your camera has dozens of buttons and menu options, if not hundreds. How do you make sense of all these options? And how do you do it quickly in the field?

It’s not easy, but it’s also not as bad you might think. In fact, most of the menu options are things you’ll only set one time, then rarely or never touch again. Only a handful of settings need to be changed frequently, and that’s what the rest of this Photography Basics guide covers.

The three most important settings are called shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. All three of them control the brightness of your photo, although they do so in different ways. In other words, each brings its own “side effects” to an image. So, it’s a bit of an art to knowing exactly how to balance all three for a given photo.

  1. Shutter speed: The amount of time your camera sensor is exposed to the outside world while taking a picture. 
  2. Aperture: Represents a “pupil” in your lens that can open and close to let in different amounts of light. 
  3. ISO: Technically a bit more complex behind the scenes, but similar to the sensitivity of film for taking pictures in different lighting conditions. Also similar to brightening or darkening a photo in post-processing.

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