Photography Basics

A lot of people just aren’t satisfied with a smart phone’s camera’s quality. True, it may be good for that candid shot, but for a more professional outcome, a point and shoot camera or a DSLR is in order. There are many tips and tricks out there that range from the basic to the highly advanced photographer, but for now we’ll just focus on the basics of photography that will get your photography skills up and running until you’re more comfortable with it and you will be able to use a more advanced camera (than the one you’re using anyway).


The basic tool for photography is the camera. Think of this like a tool for craftsmen and artists, it’s a good idea to get to know about it in detail, so that you’ll be able to maximize its features. Even taking care or maintaining it can take special attention and it could mean changing your camera in a few months or a few years. Each camera is different, so taking the time to browse through the manual and fiddling around with the settings, can help you be more acquainted with it in terms of features and results.

Camera Controls

Cameras nowadays have some preset modes that try to make photography easier for the photographer. To get really outstanding images, you need to know how to control your camera and which setting is suitable for which environment. You also need to know which controls affect what aspects of your photographs. We’ll cover some of the basic controls that you can find in a point and shoot camera or a high-end DSLR camera.

  • Shutter speed affects how much lights strikes the film and how that light is recorded. Needless to say, shutter speed is one of the most basic important controls in a camera. Shutter speed controls the amount of time that your film, or digital sensor, is exposed to light. In effect, the shutter determines what image is captured on your film. The shutter is a small plastic sheet that opens and closes to allow light onto the film or prevent light from reaching the film. The shutter is opened when you press the shutter release button on your camera to take a picture. The shutter speed determines how long the shutter remains open.
  • Aperture is one of the most confusing aspects of photography for new users (and some seasoned photographers). Just think of it like this: the aperture is an adjustable opening inside the camera lens that works very similar to the iris in your eye. When the aperture opens wide, more light is allowed through the lens to expose the film. When the aperture is narrow, less light reaches the film. This works in conjunction with shutter speed and film speed to determine the total amount of light that reaches the film. Aperture size also affects depth of field.


As the name suggests, composition means how your image is put together. The greatest subject in the world will not automatically make a great image. You have to know how (and where) to put that image on film. Here are some of the basic composition tips that you can use in terms of subject placement and views.

  • When you create an imaginary 3×3 board across your subject, you’re actually using the rule of thirds. Furthermore, the four intersecting points are considered the main focal points with the lines as the strongest points. Which point or line you place your subject on does matter. Using the lines or points will change the way you emphasize the subject – keep in mind that some focal points are stronger than the others.
  • Centering your subject is taboo in some photographer circles. It is seen by many photographers as an amateur mistake. However, while you should never just automatically center your subject without thinking, there are times and situations where centering your subject makes perfect sense. For instance, centering your subject means that it is in the general center of your frame. It does not mean that the subject is always exactly centered. In fact, some “centered” subjects can still be broken down to the rule of thirds by applying the rule of thirds to pieces of the subjects rather than the whole subject.
  • Point of view in photography simply means that position from which the camera sees the scene. Are you looking down on the subject? Are you looking up at the subject? How close are you to the subject? Is there anything between you and the subject? Every decision you make about point of view will change how your viewer sees the photo.

Lighting and Color

You should keep in mind that photography is the art of capturing light on film (or digital surface). To really master photography, we need to know about lighting and how we can use it to our advantage.

  • Proper light exposure is created by using various combinations of film speed, shutter speed, and aperture. The photographer then checks the light meter on his/her camera to confirm that these combinations will result in the desired light reaching the film or sensor.
  • Reflectors in photography are simply items used to reflect light towards your subject. They can be held upright by your assistant, or you can mount them on a stand in your studio. As a general rule, reflectors are placed in such a way that their angle from the subject and the light source are equal. Reflectors come in different sizes, according to your light needs and the subject’s size. There are reflectors which you can buy ready-made, though many photographers choose to make their own reflectors. This is because reflectors can be made from cheap materials like poster paper.
  • Fill flash involves you using a flash to get rid of that dark areas in a photograph. If used properly or with other appropriate methods, fill flash can improve your photographs immensely. To be used properly, using a fill flash involves detailed care and planning. Most amateurs are confused with fill flash, thinking that it simply involves using a camera flash at all times.

Photo Editing

After you take pictures, one of the last steps is to process the image and retouch some of the parts to make it clearer or emphasize some objects. Learning a simple image editing software can help you get in touch with the basics and you can take it from there as you learn more skills in the future. Keep in mind that the outcome of the editing will also affect the quality of the image; this is the reason why many photographers prefer to shoot images in raw format, so that the quality will not be severely affected by photo editing.

There are a lot of things that you should know about photography, especially basic photography. As mentioned, finding a subject with a dramatic pose doesn’t make it a very ideal subject immediately. You should take into consideration the shooting conditions, your camera options, and other various environmental factors to ensure that you get the right shot you want.