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1st January 2017
Photography for Beginners – A Complete Guide
If you're just starting out in photography, looking to improve your skills and master your camera, our Photography for Beginners tutorials for novice to intermediate skills are the best way to learn photography. Master your camera with our free online photography course and start taking your best photos.
Every day we are exposed to photography and visual imagery, whether it's an advertising campaign or simply looking at pictures of friends and family on a social networking site.
During this digital photography for beginners course, you will learn about composition, exposure, camera settings, useful photography equipment, beginner photography tips and much more.
Your best photos await you.
Let's start by taking a look at what photography is, and the types of photography styles for beginners. We'll then look at the different types of camera format you can choose from if you don't already own one.
What is Photography?
Photography is an art form which allows us to convey a message, tell a story, sell a product, or to simply illustrate how beautiful a certain place you visited is.
To some, it is a hobby, a passion, something to be enjoyed both in the taking of the photo and also sharing the results with others. To others photography is a job, a means to make money. To a select few they make their living doing what they are passionate about.
The first permanent photograph was captured in 1826 (some sources say 1827) by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in France. It shows the roof of a building lit by the sun. The photo was taken using a camera obscura and photographic plate. 20 First Photos from the History of Photography
All cameras work in the same basic way. Light from a scene is focussed via the lens onto a photographic medium - light sensitive paper, film or a CCD in the case of digital cameras. The photographic principals are the same regardless of if you are working with a digital compact, SLR or film.
Different Photography Styles
There are many different styles, each having its own preferred equipment toolkit and techniques. The way we shoot and what we capture determines what the photograph communicates. Understanding the different styles will help identify subjects you like to shoot and enhance your own style.
Here is a quick rundown on the most popular styles. This is not an exhaustive list, there are many more styles, and most styles cross over and blend into others.
Landscape photography is one of the most popular styles and captures spaces within the world, sometimes vast and unending, but other times microscopic. Landscape Photographs typically capture the presence of nature but can also focus on man-made features or disturbances of landscapes.
Architectural photography is the photography of buildings and structures that are both aesthetically pleasing and accurate representations of their subjects. Architectural photography places an emphasis on creating accurate representations, and geometric symmetry in the photo. While architectural photography may seem simple there are lots of things to watch out for, and sometimes special equipment may be required. Most lenses will "fish eye" when capturing a whole building, and the walls will be distorted and appear to bow outwards. Special perspective control equipment is used to correct this and produce photographs of buildings with straight walls.
Portrait photography or portraiture is the photography of a person or group of people that displays the expression, personality, and mood of the subject. The focus of the photograph is usually the person's face, although the entire body and the background or context may be included.
Fashion photography is similar to portrait photography, except that rather than focusing on the face, the emphasis is on the lifestyle. It also aims to capture the details of the clothing and other fashion items. Fashion photography is most often conducted for advertisements or fashion magazines
Macro Photography is extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life-size. Macro photography is great for really bringing out the detail of your subject, but can be tricky especially for insects and animals as you need to get close to the subject.
Black and White Photography
Black and white, often abbreviated B/W or B&W, is more accurately monochrome since it captures shades of grey. The focus isn't on the colours but instead shapes, tones and textures. Shadows and highlights become much more important.
Documentary photography is used mainly for reporting and journalism and can also be used for events and significant historical or political reporting. The aim is very much to capture the feelings and emotions of the time, often in groups, but sometimes the individual.
Urban Landscape photography is a little tricky to define as it sits between a number of other genres. It is similar to architectural photography, but there is far less emphasis on the symmetry and while architectural photographers may target modern designs and glass fronts, urban photographers mainly focus on older building, textures and decay.
Time-lapse Photography uses very long exposure and is used to illustrate something happening over time. A popular example is a street at night with car lights blurred into long lines.
Photography took from a different perspective, usually landscapes, from above. Examples would include photos taken from aeroplanes or balloons, drones or from a height.
Astrophotography is a specialised type of photography for recording images of astronomical objects and large areas of the night sky. This typically uses specialised equipment and very long shutter speeds to capture everything from stars and constellations to planets and even distant galaxies.
Types of Camera
As with the photography styles, there are a number of different camera types available on the market to choose from. This short guide will help you with purchasing a camera best tailored for your needs, making shooting in various conditions and situations easier and more enjoyable.
As with compact cameras, smartphone photography cameras have come on a long way over the past few years and offer an impressive range of features. Some even have optical image stabilisation, IR laser auto focus, xenon flash and fully manual modes.
Compact cameras are often pocket-size point and shoot cameras, traditionally with little in the way of functionality or zoom, however developments over the past few years have brought the compact camera into the high tech range. While they lack the large sensor size of the larger cameras, the range of features is comparable with low-end bridge and SLR cameras. Some compacts offer an impressive telephoto range, sometimes even up to 10x zoom.
Bridge cameras are a step up from the compact camera but not as high as an SLR camera. They have larger, higher quality lens and offer more in the way of features and settings than a compact, sometimes even comparative with an SLR.
Hybrid cameras are a newish type of camera that offers the function and features of a bridge camera, with interchangeable lenses of an SLR. Like compact cameras, the they do not have optical view finders, nor the features of an SLR, but they do offer a range of interchangeable lenses and a larger format sensor.
Digital Single Lens Reflex (dSLR)
dSLR cameras are pretty much the same as a traditional 35mm SLR cameras, with the exception that a sensor takes the place of the film. The range of features, sensor and lens quality is far superior to that of any other type of camera, however the price reflects this.
How Do Cameras Work?
Regardless of the type of camera, they all have the same basic functionality and features. Light enters the camera through the lens which focusses the projected image on to a sensor. This then records the light as a photograph.
More advanced cameras, such as DSLRs, have a more complicated working in that the light does not directly arrive at the sensor. Instead light from the lens travels along mirrors and prisms to reach the viewfinder. When the shutter button is pressed, a mirror flips out the way so that the light path can now arrive at the sensor.
In this cutaway of a digital SLR camera, light from the lens (1) hits the mirror (2) which directs the light up to the prism (3) and out the viewfinder (4). When the shutter is pressed, the mirror flips up out the way to allow the light to reach the sensor (5).
In each case, the light arrives at the sensor which records the amount of light. Sensors have millions of tiny little "buckets" called pixels. 1 million pixels is called a megapixel. Each time light arrives on an area of the sensor the relevant "bucket" fills up. In a very simple descriptive way, red buckets collect red light, green buckets collect green light and blue buckets collect blue light. The more light collected the brighter the image. When a bucket is full it is pure white. When it is empty it is black. All the combinations in between produce all the different colours we see in a photo.
What is a Megapixel?
A single megapixel amounts to exactly one million pixels in an image. Megapixels relate to the resolution of the photo. If you multiply the width and height width in pexels of an image, you get the number of pixels. For example, a photo with a resolution of 6000x4000 pixels has 24 million pixels, or 24 megapixels.
How Many Megapixels Do I Need?
How many megapixels you need depends on the how you are going to use your images. Here are some common uses:
|Viewing On||Megapixels Needed|
|Computer Monitor / Online||1-3 megapixels|
|6x4 prints||2 megapixels|
|10x8 inch prints||5 megapixels|
|14x11 inch prints||7 megapixels|
|24x16 inch prints||16 megapixels|
|40x30 inch prints or larger||24 megapixels|
If you only enjoy your photos on your computer screen or uploading to a photo website to share with friends, you really only need a 1-megapixel camera. That is because your computer monitor is usually about 2000x1000 pixels = 2 megapixels! 4k monitors still only have 8 megapixels.
More Megapixels does not necessarily mean more quality. Up to a certain point, megapixels do matter, but the way the pixels are recorded and the processing and compression that cameras do automatically also affect the quality. The sensor size is also a factor. An 8-megapixel smartphone camera will not produce as good quality photos as an 8-megapixel camera. This is because those 8 megapixels are squished into a tiny space in the smartphone, whereas in a camera they are more spread out and better positioned to capture good quality images. This is called the pixel density.
What Camera Should I Use?
The choice of camera depends to a certain extent on your preference, budget and what you will be shooting.
Many people believe that a smartphone is good enough for most photography, and they have no need to buy a separate camera. And you know what? They're not wrong. You probably already have a smartphone with a camera. Smartphone cameras are small and light, easy to fit in a pocket. Smartphone cameras are point and shoot which means that you can get started quickly, however they lack features such as zoom and most forms of manual control that enthusiasts sometimes need.
Compact cameras give you a lot of camera for the money and have better quality optics, improved sensors, they have some zoom ability, image stabilisation and a lot more control over the various settings. Good compact cameras can come with impressive zoom lenses and feature almost the same level of control that DSLR's have. They are also compact enough to carry around in a pocket or small bag.
Digital SLR cameras are a lot more advanced and typically seen as professional gear, however, there are a lot of models aimed at the enthusiast which provide all the functionality of the pro models without the high price tag. DSLR cameras provide the highest quality photos since they have large sensitive sensors and interchangeable lenses. They are larger and bulkier, meaning they are less convenient to carry but they do offer complete control over all the settings.
In this series, I use a Canon DSLR, but the techniques can be used for all camera types. At the end of the day, the person behind the camera is more important than the camera itself. Anyone with a good photographic eye can take a good image regardless of the equipment they are using.
The Three Fundamental Camera Settings You Should Know
There are three key camera settings that are essential to taking the perfect photo. These are called shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. All three of them control the brightness of your photo, although they do so in different ways, and each brings its own "side effect" to a photo. It's a bit of an art to knowing exactly how to balance all three for a given photo.
In the next tutorials, we will look at each of these settings in turn and see how they are used.
- Photography for Beginners - A Complete Guide
- Understanding Shutter Speeds
- Understanding Aperture and Depth of Field
- Exposure Triangle: ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed
- How to Understand Focal Length and Lenses
- Composition Rules That Will Improve Your Photos
- Metering Modes and Exposure Settings Demystified
- Understanding Camera Shooting and Exposure Modes
- Complete Guide to Flash Photography
- Why You Need A Tripod for Photography
- White Balance Explained
- Understanding Histograms
- Master These 10 Camera Settings For Your Best Photos
- A Beginners Guide to Start Shooting in RAW
- Introduction to HDR Photography