How can I learn photography?

Photography is undoubtedly the art form of the modern-day – almost everyone has access to a camera, and simple, high-level editing software has exploded the medium.

Due to all this, a new generation of amateur photographers is upon us, in numbers greater than ever before. But for those who want to exit the rookie realm, do they need photography school? If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

Teaching any kind of creative discipline enters the touchy territory, especially for people’s ideals and bank accounts. But, in a day and age where many career photographers struggle to get paid work – do you need formal training to stay competitive over the millions of images on Instagram and Flickr? First, it’s important to figure out why you want the skills.

Why Learn Photography? 

On top of capturing 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. But not just any photos! It’s essential that through practice, you develop your skills to see a scene with your eyes and. Will it be easy? No, but you are here for me to teach you the basics of photography to improve your camera’s storytelling abilities.

How Do Cameras Work?

As beginner photographers, we tend to be visual learners. And it’s my job to make beginning photography as easy as possible for you.

Exposure

For those beginning photography, exposure is key to capturing a great image.

Learning how exposure works will help you to take control of your camera and take better photos. Shutter speed, aperture and ISO are the elements that combine to create an exposure.

As you’ll soon learn, these elements affect more than the exposure. They also cause alterations in depth of field, motion blur, and digital noise.

Once you understand how each one works, you can start diving into manual mode. This is where you take control back from your camera.

The exposure triangle is a great way to remember the three settings. When combined, they control the amount of light captured from any given scene.

This will help you to understand that changing one setting will need a change in the others. That is, if you are photographing the same scene with the same exact lighting conditions.

How to control exposure:

Every photo was 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. Today cameras have many smart shooting modes and features. The most helpful to new photographers is Automatic mode, where the camera reads the amount of light coming into the camera and then adjusts settings to properly expose the image. However, smart the camera is, it does not know the different situations you may be shooting in.

From a portrait photoshoot to landscapes to sports, each situation has key settings that the camera needs to prioritise. But it’s not until you are in full control of your camera’s settings that you truly unlock the power of your camera.

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Aperture

How can I learn photography?

Exposure happens in three steps. We will start with the aperture. This is the hole inside the lens through which the light passes.

It’s similar to the pupil of your eye. The wider the aperture, the more light is allowed in and vice versa. Simple? Not quite.

As the aperture widens, the f/number gets lower and more light is allowed into the camera. This is great for low light. But be aware that it’s going to make the depth of field very shallow. This is not ideal when taking landscapes photos.

So this is a short summary, but I go into full detail about that in this post. The aperture is the preferred setting to set first, as it directly influences how much of your scene is in focus. But, if you are looking to create motion blur, then it is second to the shutter speed. 

Shutter Speed

Once the light has passed through the aperture of the lens, it reaches the shutter. Now you need to decide how much of that light you’re going to allow into the camera.

Ordinarily, you only want a very small fraction of a second (for example, 1/250) to prevent motion blur. However, different shutter speeds complement different situations.

Anything from really fast (1/4000) for sports photography to really slow (30 seconds) for night photography. It all depends on what you’re shooting and how much light you have available to you.

Knowing how your shutter speed works is a key element in the basics of photography.

ISO

Once the light has passed through the aperture and been filtered by the shutter speed, it reaches the sensor. This is where we decide how to set the ISO.

As you turn the ISO number up, you increase the brightness. But, at the same time, the image quality decreases. There will be more digital noise or “grain”.

So you have to decide upon your priorities in terms of exposure versus the grain.

Exposure Summary

Once you’ve understood aperture, shutter speed and ISO, you need to learn how each of these elements of exposure works together.

For all those basics of photography, exposure is the most important.

If you don’t have this down, composition and framing become a moot point in beginner photography.

In this post, you will learn about the ‘stop’ based system for measuring exposure. And you’ll also learn how to prioritise the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO for the best photo.

What is Depth of Field: The Magic Maker

Depth of field refers to how much of your photo is in focus. This 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.

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 kind of photography or 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 the basics when adjusting your settings 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. 

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Essential Things Every Photographer Needs to Learn

So you want to take great photos? Do you want to up your game as a photographer? This is where to start.

Know Your Camera

Would you believe there are professional photographers out there that don’t fully know how to control their camera? It’s true. How do I know?

Yep, it’s a big ugly confession, but it’s true. We started off shooting in Aperture Priority mode and let the camera do the thinking for us.

We thought it was faster and easier than learning all that scary technical stuff.

And you can fake it here for a while. Cameras are smarter than ever, and they can get pretty close to you. But not knowing this stuff will truly hold you back and keep you firmly in the “fluking it” category.

What I’m talking about here is needing to understand your camera’s essential features and your lens and knowing how that affects your images’ look.

You need to know how changing your aperture changes the look of your photo.

You need to understand how to set your shutter speed to get the results you want.

You need to be able to make decisions with your ISO that fit your situation.

And then, based on what features your camera has, you’ll need to know about drive modes, white balance, focusing, stabilisation modes and so on.

Luckily this stuff isn’t as hard as it sounds. You can learn it all in just a few hours. Once you do, you’ll be ready to move on to the next level.

Understand Exposure

Once you have a solid grasp on aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and how they affect your photos’ look, you need to put them all together and learn how they balance to create a good exposure.

One of the trickiest things is first figuring out just what people mean by a “good exposure”. Some folks make it seem like there’s a right exposure and a wrong exposure, and if you get it wrong, you’re pretty much a doofus.

That’s silly.

And if you go online and try to get a clear definition? Ha, good luck! They are all super confusing and don’t get to the heart of how to create a good exposure.

So we made up our own definition of exposure:

Good exposure is how bright you want the image to be.

If it’s brighter than you want, it’s overexposed. If it’s darker than you want, it’s underexposed.

In the end, it’s your own creative decision. You’re the photographer, after all. But you need to know how to adjust all your settings to get that exposure you’re looking for and how to use your camera to help you figure it out. Looking for a Yarra Valley wedding photographer? Look no further! Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

Master Light 

Let me start off by saying that I don’t think anyone can truly be the master of light (except maybe the Greek God Apollo). We photographers are the glad and willing slaves to light. Without it, we can’t do our work. And it can be a fickle master (especially if you use natural light).

But to learn about light. To understand it’s many facets and subtleties. To know how to work with it in any circumstance. To create it. To seek it. Well, this is really the photographer’s lifelong pursuit. We won’t ever really be the master, but we may come close with a lot of respect and decades of practice.

Where to begin? Simple. Outside. They are endless lighting opportunities waiting for you when you step outdoors. Can you shoot in the harsh midday sun? Golden hour light? After the sun goes down? When the stars come out?

Then hop back inside. Use the light of windows. There is unlimited variety there, and you can really start to get the finer points down in such a simple (but complex) scenario.

Ready to keep learning? Try your hand at creating your own light (like a wizard!). Learn how to use an external flash. Rent, borrow or buy a few studio lights, and start to create your own lighting setups.

Keep seeking light, keep learning about it, and keep pushing yourself into new lighting situations. It will bring you a lifetime of photographic adventures and more than a few great images.

Explore Depth of Field

How can I learn photography?

Now enough romance about light. Let’s get practical.

Depth of field is a huge part of your photography that you probably greatly underestimate.

Depth of field is one thing that seems simple at the outset and gets progressively more complex the more you learn. But learning about it will make a huge transformation in your work, even at the basic level.

For instance, without first learning about the depth of field, you might think that to get some background blur in your image, you just need to decrease your aperture value.

But you didn’t take the focal length, subject to background distance, and camera to subject distance into account. And with a certain combination of factors. Your aperture might actually have very little to no effect on your depth of field. It’s true. Sometimes there’s no discernible depth of field difference between f/1.4 and f/11.

Once you start to understand how all of these interact, you can start to get impressive background blur, even with a point and shoot camera at a high aperture, just by knowing exactly how to control all the variables.

Another misconception about the depth of field is the idea that “shallow is always better”. When you’re just getting started, shallow depth of field is a new and exciting technique. But it can be overused. Ever seen what a headshot was taken at 85mm f/1.2 looks like? It’s easy to get distracted by the beautiful bokeh and forget to notice that not even an entire eyeball is in focus. Um, not quite right.

Don’t be afraid of high apertures. Or low apertures. In fact, don’t be afraid of your aperture at all. Learn how depth of field works, and then use it as a creative decision to make each and every image just right. That’s what a great photographer does. They know their options and use them all.

Get to Know Perspective

This is perhaps one of the most under-appreciated topics in photography. Put very simply, and perspective has to do with the spatial relationships between objects in your frame – their sizes, their placements, and the space between them. All of this positioning works to change the way your viewer interprets the scene. It might make things look more 3D, giving the photo a sense of depth, or it might flatten everything out.

So why is this important topic not widely discussed? Because it’s complicated! Or at least it can be at first glance.

Let’s start. Where you position yourself when you take a photo is a hugely important decision. It is what determines your perspective. And changing your perspective can take your photo from bland to totally engaging.

Getting to know perspective requires a lot of practice and experimentation. And moving those little feet of yours! Crouch, lie down, stand on a ladder, stand on a building, take a step forward, take a step to the left. These things change your perspective and make major impacts on the look and feel of your photos. Experiment. Take shots each time you change your perspective, and then compare them afterwards. How does it change the image?

Now, what about focal length? Does that change perspective? Technically no. That’s changing the angle of view (that is, the angle of the scene that your camera captures). Wide-angle lenses capture a wider amount of the scene. Telephoto lenses capture a narrower amount of scene. Alone changing your lens doesn’t change perspective (though it may appear to).

It’s when you combine a lens change with a position change that your perspective changes. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.

Conquer Composition

Going broader now, we dive into a composition. This is a huge topic that is all about how the various visual bits and pieces in a scene have been organised. It’s broader than perspective and encompasses things like light, lines, shapes, forms, colours, frames, textures, patterns, movement, reflections and more.

You may have heard of the “rules” of composition: The Rule of Thirds, Negative Space, Balance or Visual Paths. Rules sound scary and boring, and the idea that you have to sit down and memorise them before you’re allowed to be a photographer likely prevents many shooters from really diving into the wonderful world of composition.

But I’m here to tell you that the “rules” aren’t actually rules. They’re more like guidelines. These are ways to arrange elements in your frame that help tell a story, convey an emotion, or catch your viewers’ attention. All fun things, and all very essential things if you want to be a great photographer.

For instance, that “Rule of Thirds” you always hear about it. Well, it suggests that by placing your subject along with one of these magical thirds lines, or at an intersection of the lines (what I like to call an Awesome Spot), you will automatically give that element a boost of importance in your frame. And that’s a great thing to know because it can help you direct your viewer to look where you want them!

But, if you’re feeling feisty, you could intentionally break that rule (gasp!) and put your subject absolutely dead centre. Perhaps you want to highlight the symmetry of your subject. Perhaps it’s a very serious looking object, and putting it dead centre enhances that feeling. Or perhaps it’s something totally goofy, and a boring centred composition creates some tension between the two.

It’s up to you, master photographer. When you know about composition, you get to make all sorts of fun choices like this with each and every image you take.

Perfect Your Post-Processing

Let’s send it off on a topic that is a little bit controversial.

There are two camps in the photography world. Some believe that post-processing (using software to edit your images after they’ve been taken) is at best a waste of time, and at worst, a perversion of reality.

The other camp believes that post-processing is a tool that a photographer can use to help their images more closely resemble what their eyes witnessed as they took the photos or go further to enhance the mood or tell a story. It’s a creative technique that has been around for as long as photography itself.

Any guesses which camp we belong to? 😉

Post-processing is an essential skill for a digital photographer. (Gasp! Even film photographers do post-processing!)

It’s a simple fact that your images don’t look anything like the original scene they captured straight out of your digital camera. They’re dull, flat and lifeless.

Post-processing helps bring back that beauty by adjusting things like contrast, brightness, sharpness, and saturation.

Then you can go even further.

With programs like Adobe Lightroom, you can do things like dodging and burning, which means to selectively lighten or darken parts of an image to direct your viewers’ attention where you want it to go.

These aren’t new techniques. Dodging and burning go back to the beginnings of photography, but originally they were done by painstakingly exposing different parts of the print for different amounts of time.

If you have ever wondered how to learn photography on your own online and master your camera, this article is perfect for a beginner’s companion. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

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, talk with the world’s best photographers in their field weekly and can tell you first hand that beginners need to have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of how a camera works and sees the light regardless of what subject you want to shoot.