If you have ever wondered how to learn photography on your own online, this will your perfect companion.
It does not matter what kind of photography you want to shoot, Family, Seniors, Landscapes, Nature, Weddings, this will be the guide for you. As a professional wedding photographer and host of the Beginner Photography Podcast I get to talk with the world's best photographers in their field, weekly and can tell you first hand you need to have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of how a camera works and sees light regardless of what you want to shoot. This is exactly why I created this guide.
I can tell you that no matter the reason why you want to learn photography, once you do you will be able to take the kind of photos you see online and in magazines that your friends, family, and social media will love. So let's get started.
Disclaimer: This article has affiliate links for online courses that I wholeheartedly believe in and may receive a commission if you decide to purchase a course that is right for you. I have the utmost faith that all the courses below will be great companions if you need a little extra help.
Why Learn Photography?
On top of being able to capture some of life’s most important memories to relive and share decades later, because of the internet and social media we have an increasing need for photo content. The world wants to see more photos, the world wants to see your photos.
Can you learn photography on your own?
Absolutely! The internet has brought the world's best photographers and best minds together in one place. No matter what question you have you can find the answer online. Want to know about the inverse square law and why it’s so important to mastering flash photography? You can find the answer online. Want to know what settings to use when photographing a newborn? You can find the answer online. Anyone can learn photography! This article is geared towards those who want to learn photography with a DSLR. If you want to learn photography with an iPhone and without a camera check out this speciality course.
You can Learn Photography for Free by joining creative live the worlds #1 resource for live online photography training, Creative Live!
Where to start with photography:
Simply put, with Light. Photography in its simplest form is just a record of light. You camera is set up to do 1 thing. Control the light that enters the lens to create an exposure.
How much light is exposed to the cameras sensor. Expose too much light and the photo will be too bright. Expose to little light and the photo will be too dark.
How to control Exposure:
Every photo ever taken (even in the 1840s) used the same 3 settings to control exposure that we use today and they make up the Exposure Triangle.
Aperture the first of the 3 settings in the Exposure Triangle and is a in your camera’s lens. Aperture controls the amount of light allowed to pass through the lens. On top of controlling light, Aperture also dictates your depth of field, or how much is in focus.
Shutter speed is the second piece of the Exposure Triangle and controls how long the light coming in the lens will expose the sensor. The longer the light is exposed to the sensor the brighter the photo will be, but if the shutter speed is open too long you will get motion blur on your photo. This is best fixed with the next piece of the Exposure Triangle.
ISO is the last aspect of the Exposure Triangle and controls your camera's sensitivity to the amount of light the comes through the lens. In bright sunny conditions you can use a low ISO since there is plenty of available light and you wont need to artificially boost your camera sensor sensitivity. In low light use a higher ISO like 1600 to amplify the light.
What is a good exposure:
Good news, a good exposure is subjective and up to you! Remember photography is an art and you are the artist. If you are happy with how bright or dark your photo is, the exposure is good. Technically speaking though a good exposure will not have elements that are so bright they just appear white in the photo, or have elements so dark they have no information in the file.
Once you understand how these three settings affect an image, you will be prepared to shoot manual! Thats right, shooting manual is just being in control of your Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. If your photo isn’t turning out how you would like, changing one of these 3 settings will let you achieve the look you want! Here is my simple 3 step process to start shooting in manual mode.
Depth of Field: The Magic Maker
Depth of field refers to how much of your photo is in focus. This is what is responsible for when your subject is in focus but the background is out of focus. Depth of field is not a setting or a button it is a byproduct of having a large aperture. Typically an aperture of f2 or f2.8 will be large enough to create a shallow depth of field. If you want a deep depth of field where everything is in focus like most landscape photography then you will want a smaller aperture like f11 or f16. My best advice to buy yourself a Nifty Fifty 50mm 1.8 lens. They are cheap and have a large f1.8 aperture to get beautiful out of focus backgrounds.
Our eyes are really good at knowing what is white. Cameras on the other hand, not so much so we have to tell them. White can either have a blue or orange tint to it. Adjusting our white balance tells the camera exactly what white is resulting in all other colors being accurately portrayed. Your camera has preset white balance settings.
Camera lenses come in different focal lengths. The focal length is the magnification power of the lens. A 200mm focal length is considered a telephoto lens because it can see far away. A 24mm focal length is a wide angle lens used for when you want to capture a lot in the frame.
A prime lens has just 1 focal length. Meaning it does not zoom. Prime lenses typically have sharper image quality and have a larger aperture allowing more light to enter the lens and giving you a shallow depth of field. The Nifty Fifty shown above is a prime lens.
A zoom lens is what most people are use to. Having the ability to zoom in makes them more versatile than a prime lens and a good option for event photography like weddings.
Here is my favorite all around zoom lens for Canon Crop Sensor Cameras: See Below
Here is my favorite all around zoom lens for Nikon Crop Sensor Cameras: See Below
There are 2 prominent sensor sizes. Full frame and crop sensor. A full frame sensor is the same size as a 35mm piece of film which was the gold standard before digital. A crop sensor is about half the size of a full frame sensor. This makes them cheaper to produce. So unless you spend about $1500 on your camera body there is a great chance your camera has a crop sensor inside.
Using a lens designed for a full frame sensor on a crop sensor creates something called “crop factor”. Since a crop sensor is smaller than a full frame sensor it will produce an image that looks zoomed in or cropped compared to a photo with the same lens taken on a full frame sensor.
So a Nifty Fifty 50mm lens will have the same field of view is a 75mm lens on a crop sensor.
RAW is an image file type. You may have heard of JPG’s before (pronounced J-Peg). A JPG is also an image file type. The main difference between a RAW and a JPG is that a RAW file contains all the raw image data from the sensor and a JPG is a compressed image file with no additional info that can be extracted in editing.
I highly recommend everyone with a DSLR start shooting in RAW so they can have access to the additional file information which will be extremely beneficial when it comes time to edit your photos.
Now that you know some your camera's settings, I’m sure you are ready to go out and shoot! But knowing how to control light is only half of what makes a great photo. The other half is composition. Composition is how you compose your photograph. Where and how you frame your subject.
That is the Fundamentals of photography cliff notes. But you’re not done, this is just the start of your journey!
If you are like me, you are more of a visual learner and love to see how things are done for yourself. One of my favorite ways to learn is through a video. Youtube can be great to learn photography but if you are looking to learn photography step by step fast then youtube is not the answer. My favorite video for beginners who want to know how to learn photography is Fundamentals of Photography hosted by John Greengo on Creative live. The Fundamentals of Photography course has more than 100 lessons that cover everything from the different types of cameras, more in-depth explanations and visual examples of how camera settings work and affect your images, the best ways to use focus and get sharp photos every time, and even the basics of post processing and organizing your digital collection of images.
Buy the class now and you will have a solid understanding of how your camera works so you can take beautiful images that will make your family and friends jealous!