A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Photography


By: Shahriar H

Basically something I’d tell someone who asked me about photography at random.

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          Are you looking to get into photography, or are you just looking for the next few steps to take in your stage of amateur photography? Have you just picked up your first DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex), or do you just have one lying around that you don’t know how to use? Either way, this guide will explain what you want,  need to know and more!

Step 1 | Getting Started

If you are just getting into photography, you want to be taking photos with your smartphone or a normal digital camera. You do not need a high end camera. When you realise what your smartphone or digital camera cannot do, move on to buying a DSLR.

Step 2 | Buying a DSLR

You do not need a Professional Level DSLR. An Entry Level DSLR already gives 90% of what you need. Neither do you need to buy a DSLR from bigger companies like Nikon and Canon. Do not get confused by the numbers on the lense; they mean nothing to you at the moment. If you have family member(s) or friend(s) with a DSLR from a certain company, you should get your DSLR from that company and also so you can share equipment. Any Entry Level DSLR should get the job done. However, always do some research on your own before purchasing one. This way you will be familiar with what you’re buying beforehand.

Step 3 | What can the DSLR do that a normal camera cannot?

There are three main creative controls that are available for you to use on a DSLR that a normal camera will not give you. Aperture, Shutter Speed, and the ISO.

Step 3.2 | Explaining the Creative Controls

The Aperture and Shutter Speed control the light that gets into the camera. The ISO is what receives the light, and forms the image.

The Aperture is like a pinhole; making it bigger or smaller allows more or less light to get through. A fundamental creative aspect of the Aperture is that if it’s closed as much as possible, the background of your subject will appear sharp. If it’s as wide as possible, the background will appear blurry.

The Shutter Speed is what ‘cuts’ the light. It shuts over the ISO and measures the amount of light that gets past by it’s speed. Shutter Speed will also determine whether you capture the moment itself, or capture blur. For example, if you set a slow Shutter Speed, 1/30 of a second, you will get a blurry image. On the other hand, a very fast Shutter Speed, 1/100 of a second, will capture whatever you see at the moment. There is no right and wrong; it is a creative control.

The ISO controls how sensitive the camera is to light. For example, if you set it at 100, the lowest value possible, the light will look exactly how it is. If you enter a darker room, you can set it to a higher value, for example 800, and whatever light is in the room will be amplified. Be careful with this setting though; my general rule is that this should be the last setting you touch because the higher you set the value, the grainier the picture will be. Of course, if you have a moving subject in a low light area, you will have to raise the ISO to capture the moment, so don’t be afraid to raise it.

The last main control is exposure. Exposure is a value. The ‘right’ exposure is when you get the correct value of light to your ISO. The ‘wrong’ exposure is when there is too little light (such that your subject isn’t lit up properly) or too much light (such that your subject appears washed out). And again, you can manipulate this to your liking. Technically, there is a right and a wrong with exposure, but if you get the result you want, everything is fine.

Step 4 | Manipulating the controls

You should be familiar with the Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO on your DSLR. Look up videos on how to manipulate these controls on your model if you’re having trouble. Experiment with the controls to see what you like and to get a better hang of them so you can change settings on the fly.  This can be very important at times (especially when taking photos of people because they tend to be restless).

Step 6 | Some tips I learnt personally.

You should get a neck strap for your camera. You can always just put it around your neck, but don’t be afraid to experiment! Find what suits you! I’m very paranoid with my camera, so I’ve turned it into a safety tether using a carabiner which I attach to the strap and then to my belt hoops on my pants. I rarely put it around my neck because I like to have it at hand at all times (as in, I never put it away after taking a picture). To do this, I’ve put a wrist strap on my camera, like the ones you can get on normal digital cameras. Whenever I see something picture-worthy, I have it in my hand, secure and ready to take photos. My last tip is that if you plan on travelling with your camera, you should definitely invest in a bag that you like. I’ve bought a sling bag that can hold a bottle on the side, and has quick access to where the camera is. You should also invest in a tripod. Once again, nothing high end is needed. A tripod is just a basic photographer’s tool to keep the camera level and stop it from moving. You can also use key rings to make another attachment on your neck strap… you can just keep adding more and more equipment!

Step 7 | Have fun!

Go tell people you’ve gotten into photography! Teach them small things you’ve learned, so that you can cement that knowledge into their mind, like I am with this tutorial! Practice; take photos of flowers (I like taking pictures of flowers because they are so much more compliant than people) and show your friends. Get into the hobby, and have fun!

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