Learning Photography for Beginners

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One mistake that many novice photographers make is beginning by obsessing over camera equipment and settings. While these things play a role in creating a great photo, there are other things to think about too.

One of the big motivations behind a photographer’s passion is the ability to express themself through the art form. You can photograph anything, and find subjects you can easily connect with. This is important, as it will help you in maintaining your intent in photography over time, even when you’re struggling with figuring out the settings.

In fact, there’s no limit to what you can achieve in photography. While it’s always easy to employ the services of professionals, such as those at Weldon Brewster Photography, here are a few basics if you want to try photography yourself and are just starting out.

Composition isn’t as Difficult as You Might Think

Photography is a visual language. How you frame a shot is a way of communicating. The interesting thing is that here’s another area where novice photographers get hung up.

One possible reason for people getting worked up over this is that they compare themselves to the greats. In the age of social media, they’re constantly exposed to great work and can become jealous of other work that they see. When it comes to composition, however, there are only a small number of rules you should be aware of.

The Rule of Thirds

This is one of the very first things new photographers should learn about. Here, you picture your scene as a nine-block grid. The rule states that your image will be more impactful when there are interesting things in the frame where the lines intersect.

Leading Lines

You’ll find lines that naturally occur in the environment, “leading” your eye through the photograph. This is key in photography, as a picture is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional space.

When you’re viewing an image in the real world, you don’t want to stop to think about how the scene is leading your eyes- it happens naturally. In a photograph with a good composition, it’s the composition that enables this to seamlessly occur for the viewer. 

Leading lines should generally take you somewhere interesting. Let’s use the photograph of an ocean with a shoreline as an example. The ocean waves may break on the shore, forming a C-curve, which leads your eye from the foreground and into the background. There may also be a rock formation in the ocean that acts as a point of interest. 

Negative Space and Filling the Frame

Some photos should give you breathing space, while others should make you feel claustrophobic. Let’s take a photo of a couple as an example. In a wide shot, a photo with a couple surrounded by negative space gives them some breathing room. In a close-up, however, it’s easier for us to connect with them and their emotions. There’s no right or wrong here. It’s really more about personal preference and your photographic style.

The Exposure Triangle

Trying to understand this can be tedious for a beginner. While the quality of your photos are largely determined by your choice of subject and use of composition, the setting selections on your camera will dictate whether or not your photo looks good objectively.

Exposure is a measurement that tells you the amount of light that’s reaching your camera’s sensor. Here’s where your camera settings really come into their own. Often, the goal is to achieve a balanced exposure, which means the image accurately reflects your subject and its surrounding environment. Sometimes, however, photographers may choose to over-expose or under-expose images for effect. The first thing to do is to know about each elect of the elements of the exposure triangle.

You’ll need to find the right balance of these three elements, which can be a challenge, as a change in one setting results in the need for changes to the others.

Aperture

This setting determines both your image’s depth of field and the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor. The setting is measured in f/stops. A wide aperture (a low f/stop like 2.8) will let in a lot of light, as well as separate the subject and the background, which places your subject in focus and blurs out the background. Portrait photographers often prefer this.

A more narrow aperture (a high f/stop like f/16), however, will let in less light. This ensures more of the scene is sharp and in focus. Landscape photographers usually prefer this one.

Shutter Speed

This setting is used to either darken or illuminate the exposure, as well as to freeze motion or blur movement. Blurring movement, however, is only used in rare cases.

Typically, moderate shutter speeds of 300-600 are appropriate for still and barely moving subjects that you want to freeze in your photo. A higher shutter speed like 3600 helps you capture the motion of fast-moving objects like cars racing around a track. Extra-long shutter speeds allow you to create long exposure images that intentionally blur out anything in the scene that’s in motion.

The longer the speed, the more time it will take for the shutter to close. This enables more light to reach the sensor in longer exposures.

ISO

The ISO has a base setting of 100, which is ideal. You only need to increase it when an image needs brightening up. Increasing it also increases the noise, or the appearance of grain on your photograph.

As you start your journey in photography, take a moment to appreciate its origins by reading about What Are the Oldest Surviving Photographs? This will give you a unique perspective on how photography techniques have evolved from their inception to the present day.

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