In case you didn’t know, outside of Mile in My Glasses, I’m a photographer / videographer. I don’t talk about photography a lot on the blog, but I’m so blessed to be working full time in something that I not only love. But, also that I trained and have spent as long as I can remember doing. Because of this, I thought it would only be natural to share a post detailing the easiest methods to getting into taking photos. A beginners guide to photography. With the ways that I remember best for getting your head around the tricks of using a camera.
The craft of photography is a really great one to learn. Photos are some of the most sentimental things we can own. So mastering how you like to capture your memories is one of those things that stays with you forever. Today, I’m going to be sharing the basics to photography. From the different cameras, to their functions and lenses. I’m also sharing a few tips that I always incorporate when I’m shooting on a day to day basis.
Please note: there is a lot of information here, so if you want to dip in and out, feel free to. This is meant to be a resource to help those looking to embark on their photography journey.
Different Types of Cameras
Before we get started, it’s worth noting that there are a lot of different cameras out there. And each of them has a different form-factor. The most popular types are point and shoots, bridge cameras and DSLRs. From a size persepective, a point and shoot is the smallest – coming with quite limited features. Whereas your bridge camera would be the middle ground, and the DSLR the largest.
The Point and Shoot
A great example of a point and shoot is the Canon G7X. You might have seen these used a lot by YouTubers, because they’re very easy to pick up and shoot with, especially for vlogging. And you don’t have to fiddle with a lot of settings.
Canon G7X Mark II
Panasonic Lumix ZS50
Following onto a bridge camera, you might find that it has a fixed lens (like a point and shoot), but the camera is more aesthetically alike to a DSLR. You’ll have a lot more control over your images. However, you probably won’t get the same quality images as you would from a DSLR. A great example of a bridge camera is the Lumix G range.
The DSLR (Digital Single-lens Reflex Camera)
And finally, you have your DSLR range of cameras. These come at the highest price point, but also deliver the best quality. They come in a range of sensor sizes – with the most popular, and best for great imagery being full frame. With the other options available being APS-C and micro four thirds.
Canon 5D Mark IV
Please note: this is the camera that we use for all photography on Mile in My Glasses. We upgraded to this two months ago and have never looked back.
Canon 1DX Mark II
Sony a7s Mark II
The Importance of Sensor Size
For those unaware, each camera has a sensor inside of it. This sensor helps translate the light coming into your camera. And turn it into the images that you’re taking. Because these sensors are dealing with light, they can have a huge effect on the quality of images that you’re getting from your camera. For example, a full frame sensor is the largest, aka “full frame”, and therefore is the best at delivering great size and quality images. Whilst APS-C, which is a cropped sensor, is smaller and therefore delivers images of a lesser size and quality. Likewise, micro four-thirds sensors, which is almost half the size of a full frame sensor, will deliver images of a lesser size and quality once again.
That’s quite a simplified explanation of sensor sizes and what you can expect from them – but for any beginner into the world of photography, I think that’s the most important information for you to know in regards. Typically, sensor size will reflect the quality you can expect from your kit. That’s why full frame has such a cult following, because it’s known to deliver unequivocle results as opposed to its APS-C and micro four-thirds counterparts.
ISO, Aperature and Shutter Speed
The Holy Trinity of Photography
Before we get to taking great images, there’s one more thing to run over quickly. Every camera has different settings, from auto all the way down to manual. A great way to learn any camera is to challenge yourself to shoot only in manual, but there’s a few things to note before you do. You might have heard the terms ISO, shutter speed and aperature (or f. stop). Or these three terms might be completely new to you. If they are, these are the three elements you’re going to be balancing whenever shooting with a camera.
I say balancing because each of them have positives and negatives to using them at their extremes. So it really is a balance. Every image is made up of the ISO, shutter speed and aperature being compromised in particular ways.
ISO: Sensitivity to Light
First up – ISO. This is the sensitivity of light to your sensor. A low ISO is what most photographers aim for. This is because if you’re shooting with a high ISO, you’re most likely going to be getting quite a lot of grain on your images.
Grain and noise are visual artifacts that will disrupt the quality of your images, and they only appear when you’re shooting with an ISO that’s high (usually past 1,000 ISO). This is because your ISO is trying to brighten the image as much as possible. As a rule of thumb, I try not to shoot higher than 1,000 ISO. Though, if you’re shooting in darker environments without lights that can sometimes be unavoidable.
Next up – shutter speed. Shutter speed is what you want to focus on if you’re looking for pin-sharp images. Since it controls the speed of the shutter – and how fast your image is being taken. The lower the shutter speed the better. As another rule of thumb, I try not to shoot hand-held at shutter speeds over 1/200th of a second. This is because depending on the model you’re using, you’re at risk of introducing natural shake into the image. Shutter speed is really beneficial for shooting a lot of different photography styles. If you’re looking for “light leaks” or blurred motion images, you want to bring the shutter speed up to 1/30 of a second or higher. And if you’re looking for sharper images or hand-held ones, you’ll want to go 1/200 or lower.
Finally – aperature (or f. stop). My favourite of the three. Aperature works to “open up” the sensor to light. Opposite to ISO, the smaller the aperature the brighter the image. This is because the smaller the number, the more open the sensor is to light. For example, if you’re shooting on a lens that has f/1.8, the image will be a lot brighter than if you were shooting at f/22.
Visually, the biggest difference in using different aperatures is the blurriness of the background. The more open the aperature – the lower the number – the blurrier the background. It creates a beautiful effect called bokeh, where shapes in the background will become circular, making the foreground stand out. It’s very aesthetically pleasing and is an effect that a lot of photographers strive for.
On the opposite end, the more closed the aperature – the higher the number – the sharper the background. If you’re shooting at f/22, the entire image will be in focus. Higher aperatures are what you’re used to seeing for landscape photography, since a lot of photographers want as much in focus as they can get.
The two photos above were taken with an open aperature – f/2.2 to be exact. Whilst, the one below was taken with a closed aperature – f/18. As you can see, the background in the two above is blurry, with a lot of bokeh. While the image below has a sharp background – which is more beneficial for travel photos, or images where the background is part of your subject.
As you can see – each of these come with stylistic decisions you’ll have to make. If you want a blurry background – aim for an open aperature. For a motion-blurred image, aim for a higher shutter speed. And for a filmic, grainy look, raise the ISO (though I’d always recommend to add grain in editing as opposed to in camera, since it’s a lot easier to add in later than to take out if you don’t like the effect!).
Your Camera’s Best Friend: Lenses
Lenses are arguably the biggest part of working with cameras. Lenses come in two types: prime and zoom. Prime lenses are fixed focal lengths. This means that they can’t zoom in and out, they’re just one static viewpoint. Prime lenses usually have more open aperatures, and deliver a cleaner image – because they’re crafted specially for that one particulal focal length. For example – a 50mm, also dubbed “the nifty fifty”, is an extremely popular lens with amateurs and professionals alike because it delivers an exceedingly open aperature (f/1.8) while also being a very pleasing focal length (and usually at an affordable pricepoint, too!).
On the other end, zoom lenses are useful if you want to cover a range of focal lengths with one lens. Zoom lenses are known for being less flexible with their aperature, traditionally opening up to f/2.8 at their highest price point. Because they can zoom however, they’re still very popular because a lot of photographers enjoy that flexibility with their images.
Why Lenses are Important
Lenses come in a variety of focal lengths, and each one changes the perception of your image. For example, wide angle lenses – those with a focal length from 16mm – 35mm will visually give you a lot more in the frame. This is because that focal distance is wider – meaning that the lens can see a lot more. Lenses from 35mm – 85mm are known for their like-ness to the human eye. Traditionally, this focal range produces the most aesthetically pleasing images because of this. This focal range is traditionally used for portraiture photography.
Whatever lens you’re using, I’d always recommend that you find your own preference between zoom and primes. Both are useful in their own ways, and most photographers have kit that mix the two.
A “nifty fifty” 50mm lens is a great starter for any photographer – since every camera brand offers a version with a low pricepoint. You can get incredible images from the 50mm right off the bat, and it’s a great lens for learning how to compose and work with light when you can’t simply zoom in and out.
In fact, I’d always recommend a 50mm being one of the first lenses you buy. It’s a great way to learn how to compose beautiful images without being able to edit and adjust framing with zoom.
Canon 50mm 1.8
Sony 50mm 1.8
Panasonic 25mm 1.7
Please note: Panasonic manufacturers all of their cameras with a micro four thirds sensor, meaning that the equivalent to the 50mm on the Panasonic is a 25mm.
Nikon 50mm 1.8
Working With Light
If I haven’t lost you already – I want to share one great trick with you. A surefire way to deliver fantastic images is to shoot in consistent lighting. What do I mean by that? Well, in case you didn’t know, all light has a colour temperature to it. If you look at daylight, it’s quite a clear white light. Whilst if you look at a lot of indoor bulbs, they’re quite yellow-y – which is also referred to as tungsten.
If you wanted to get really technical, the colour of light is measured on a scale called kelvins. On the kelvin scale, daylight sits at 5600K while tungsten is 3200K. A great rule of thumb for consistent and great images is to try not to mix the two. If you’re shooting with daylight – try and keep all light sources in your image at the same colour temperature – by using daylight bulbs or just relying on what natural light you have available to you.
This is something we use a lot in videography, that way you’re not introducing unnatural or harsher colours into your images, because the lighting is consistent across your work.
Things to Remember
When shooting, if you really want to play with your images and see what you can do with them in terms of editing – shoot RAW. This will be something you can choose in the camera settings. Shooting RAW means that you’ll be outputting large file sizes, but it’s definitely worth it for the quality and amount of editing you’ll be able to do with your images.
Also, when you’re shooting – ALWAYS over shoot, rather than under. You’ll never regret the photos you did take, only the ones that you didn’t. It’s better to take a hundred photos and have an extra 90, than take 10 photos and not be pleased with any of them.
And finally, remember that it takes time. Like any hobby, photography is not something you can immediately pick up. It takes time to learn the ropes – and figure out not only how your camera works, but how you both work together. Most cameras are customisable these days – meaning that you can alter buttons and settings to work best for you. Take your time with learning how everything works and don’t pressure yourself to be a certain standard immediately.
Photography is all about how you perceive the world, so have fun and be artistic with it!
Want to Read More?
For another great introductory article to photography, I loved Thomas’ guide from Gal Meets Glam. Really interesting and useful if you’re looking for more information.
Make sure to check out my photography archives, too. As all posts I’ve written on Mile in My Glasses that are to do with photography can be found there.
Where are you on your photography journey?
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