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Basic photography

Where to Start?

Photography can be a fun and rewarding thing to learn, but where do you start? How should you set up your camera, what skills should you work on first, how should you be processing your photographs? This in-depth guide aims to answer those questions and help you create a foundation for success as you pick up this exciting new hobby of photography

Setting Up Your First Camera

If you’re not using any software to process your photography, you can still view your metadata. The process is similar on both Windows and Mac. Find your image file and right click on it. On Mac you’ll want to navigate to “Get Info” and inside the window that pops up will be all the data attached to this image. Windows works in the same manner, but they call it “Properties” instead, and you navigate to the “Details Tab”. As mentioned earlier, for more information on getting your specific camera set up, YouTube is a great place to start. You’ll be able to find walkthroughs of all the various menus, what they mean, and how to customize them. Now that your camera is set up, it’s time to understand a bit about how it actually works. When you take a photograph, what exactly is happening inside the camera that allows the scene to be saved to your SD card?

Understanding How Your Camera Works 

 A camera is a simple device which is really only comprised of a few key parts. For standard DSLRs, there is the camera body with a lens attached. Your camera body contains everything needed to capture and process an image, while the lens is what focuses your image onto the sensor inside the camera. The way these two components (the camera and the lens) work together is as follows. Light comes through the opening in your lens. When you are not shooting there is a mirror inside that reflects that light up through a prism (think periscope) and through the eyepiece, so you can view the image as seen exactly by the lens.


Your First Skills as a Photographer

 Now that you have a basic understanding of how your camera captures a photograph, it’s time to start developing your skills as a photographer. There are three major concepts that you’ll need to develop; technical skills, artistic skills, and personality.

Technical Skills 

The technical skills of a photographer revolve around what settings you choose to take the photo. That includes: just knowing how to use the camera and change settings, getting a good exposure, focusing a sharp image, getting the right color, etc. These are the things you need to learn to understand how to make your photographs sharp and properly exposed.

The Exposure Triangle 

As you may guess by the name, the exposure triangle is made up of three components. These three components are; the aperture, the shutter speed, and the ISO. Learning to control these three settings is vital to achieving a properly exposed photograph.


The aperture is simply the opening in your lens. Just like the pupil of your eye, it opens and closes to adjust the amount of light coming through the lens, and hitting the sensor. If your scene is dark, you can open it to let more light through the lens. When your scene is bright, you might make the aperture smaller to let less light pass through to the sensor. The aperture not only allows you to control the amount of light passing through the lens, but it also affects the depth of field (amount of your image that is in sharp focus). You will learn more about this later just keep it in the back of your mind for now.

Shutter Speed

The amount of time that the shutter is opened allowing the imaging sensor is exposed to light is called your shutter speed. Typically the shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second, for example, 1/200th or 1/8th of a second. However, there are cases where you may even allow your shutter speed to be open for seconds at a time. Extremely low light photography, shooting light trails, or capturing photographs of the stars are examples of where this might be the case. Make note that most cameras display two seconds like this - 


The final leg of the triangle is often the most confusing to new photographers primarily because it’s not as easy to visualize as the other two. With aperture, you can picture the opening in the lens and with shutter speed, you can picture it moving faster or slower. ISO on the other hand - is a measure of sensitivity to light. When you increase the ISO on your camera what essentially happens is that you are telling the image sensor to be more sensitive to light. This means that for the same size opening (aperture), and the same amount of exposure time (shutter speed), you capture more light, and thus achieve a brighter image. The trade-off is that with a higher sensitivity you also get a great chance of generating more noise (unwanted grain or speckles) in your images. Camera manufacturers have come a long way in improving this, though, and many new cameras are capable of shooting at very high ISOs with minimal noise

Nepal Photography Institute