4 Photography Basics Explained For Beginners

They say ‘everyone is a photographer these days’ almost as a nostalgic cry for a time when snapping a perfect picture was an art form cherished by the select few who knew how to manually manipulate light and produce jaw-dropping results. The reason is the relative low cost of technology so advanced it makes your average Instagramming newbie produce images that at first glance appear to rival greats such as Ansel Adams.

However, I’ve been snapping away with my digital camera for a few years and consistently fail to deliver shots that would justify calling myself a ‘photographer’. The reason? Simply owning the tech does not mean I know what aperture is, or depth of field, or exposure, or even ISO. So let’s answer these questions here, and finally begin our collective journey to becoming photographers.

What Is Aperture?

Put simply, aperture measures how open your camera shutter is. If it’s open wide, plenty of light is let in. If it’s only open a touch, hardly any light is let in. Sounds simple enough, the tricky bit is understanding how that affects what you’re photographing.

Aperture is measured using what’s called an f-stop scale, which on your camera is displayed as ‘f/’ followed by a number. The scale looks like this: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22.

But what, I hear you ask, do those number correspond to? This is where many beginners fall foul of camera logic:
- Smaller Aperture Number (1.4) = Wider Aperture = More Light
- Larger Aperture Number (22) = Narrower Aperture = Less Light

The best thing to do is to test this next time you have your camera to hand, and read more here.

Aperture Explained

Read more: What are the different types of photography?

What Is Depth Of Field?

Depth of field is the distance between the closest and furthest objects in a photograph that appear sharp. A narrow depth of field focuses on a single point, with the foreground and background being blurry. A wide depth of field focuses on much more of the scene you’re shooting.

What affects depth of field? Helpfully: many complicated variables. The main thing is your aperture. The larger your aperture, the larger your depth of field. Whereas the smaller your aperture the narrower your depth of field.

For a more comprehensive guide, check out photographylife.com.

Depth of Field explained

What Is Exposure?

Exposure is the amount of light that reaches your camera sensor. Two things affect this: your aperture and shutter speed. Shutter speed is the amount of time your camera spends taking a picture and is measured from 1/100 of a second right up to 30 seconds. The longer your lens is open, the more light will be let in.

If you test this in the middle of the day when sunlight is abundant, you’ll notice that a longer shutter speed results in a white photograph, this is called overexposure. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a very short shutter speed results in a dark photograph, this is called underexposure.

Why would you want to have the option to take in too much light? Well, once you’ve gotten used to using shutter speed you’ll be able to control motion blur. This is the effect used when you see a picture of a waterfall where the water looks like a smooth white mass.

Reading about exposure only goes so far, the best thing to do is to go exploring with your camera and play with the setting.

Long Exposure Explained

What Is ISO?

ISO is a camera setting that increases or lowers the amount of light in a photograph. It’s always best to take advantage of all the natural light you can get your lens on, but sometimes darker conditions call for a higher ISO.

In ideal conditions, set your base ISO (either 100 or 200), this will result in higher detail and quality. In the dark however, it’ll be necessary to use a higher ISO, with the highest typically being 6400 – be warned, this will increase the amount of grain, or noise, in the photograph.

ISO Explained

image courtesy of photographylife.com/

The best thing to do is to test all of these settings using your camera. And as always, if you’re buying kit or growing your hobby into a business, check out our photography insurance.

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