Get an introduction to the basics of photography and cameras.I stopped believing in Santa Claus when my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph. - Shirley Temple
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Introduction to Photography with Photography Tips

Guide to Photography

Camera: "A device that consists of a lightproof chamber with an aperture fitted with a lens and a shutter through which the image of an object is projected onto a surface for recording (as on film) or for translation into electrical impulses (as for television broadcast)," say the Merriam Webster dictionary. What exactly does all this mean?

Cameras are used everyday all over the world, maybe to relay a message, create a memory, or instantly create a thousand words.

There are many different levels and types of cameras and camera users. Nowadays, some cameras are designed to be used by practically anyone. Automatic modes have been around for a while, but settings on cameras cater to every type of situation, from close up portraits to fireworks to underwater automatic settings.

Brief History

The word photography comes from the Greek language meaning "light" and "writing."

The developing of cameras began in the 10th century, with the discovery of how different chemicals, like silver nitrate, reacted to light. Early on, many prominent names, such as Albertus Magnus, kept playing off each other's research for centuries. Long exposure times (up to 8 hours) eventually led to more practical exposing procedures and film types.

Black and white pictures were of the first to be explored. The first color photography was developed in the mid-late 1800s, with the first color photograph recorded in the 1860s. Early color photographs were created by using up to three cameras, each with different colored filters.

1880s: George Eastman invented the current day concept of film and published the first picture in the New York Graphic. Kodak, became the dominant camera manufacturer, starting production of cameras in 1888.

Photography progressed in the 20th century with the development of multi layer color film, the use of pictures as a way of record keeping, and new photo companies popping up, like Fuji, Japanese Pentax, and Nikon.

How Cameras Work

Guide to Photography

The inside of a camera: what's actually going on inside when the shutter button is released? What do all those settings actually mean? Explanations for the beginning photographer can greatly help with your picture taking abilities. If you have a comprehensive understanding of all of the components of the camera and how to correctly adjusting them, you can be sure you will create the best possible picture.

ISO (film speed)

ISO is the International Standard from the International Organization for Standardization.

Film speed, in genera, is how fast the film reacts to the light. When actually using film, different speeds ranging from ISO 50 to ISO 1600 can be purchased. Digital cameras have this function built in.

The faster the film, the less light it needs to render a picture. Slower film needs more light. However, graininess is increased with faster film. In low light conditions, a faster film is not always the best solution. Unclear results will blur the picture, making a stronger light source the best option. Lower speed films are the best for low contrast, crisp, clear pictures.

ISO 200 or 400 is usually a good standard, all around film speed for indoor and outdoor shots. For the novice photographer taking outside shots only, ISO 50 or 100 would be good. Indoor shots in low lights, such as gyms and auditoriums, 800 speed film might be worth a try.

Shutter Speed


The shutter is what exposes the film to outside light. It moves just like curtains opening and closing at a theater. The shutter speed is the length of time its take for the "curtain" to sweep across the stage. The shorter length the shutter speed, the less light the film is exposed to and more split-second image is captured. Longer shutter speeds are exposed to light for a longer time, therefore needing less light to appropriately expose the film. This also means any subjects moving within the shutter speed time will probably become blurry.

Shutter speed is measured in fractions of a second. 1/60th shutter speed equates to the shutter being open for 1/60th of a second. Shutter speeds range from extremely fast, such as 1/1000th of a second to multiple seconds up to minutes.

Extremely low light conditions, such as a starry sky or moon, are instances when you would want to expose the film as long as possible. Because these objects are not moving faster than the shutter speed, they will not appear blurred.

High light conditions, such as a sunny day outside at a baseball game, would allow an extremely high shutter speed, like 1/1000. This allows the photographer to capture split seconds of action, like a 2nd baseman making a play on a stolen base. The picture also maintains its clarity because there is enough natural light to expose the film.

What would happen if the shutter speed were set to 1/1000 and a picture was taken of the night sky? Well, because 1/1000 of a second is not long enough for the dim light of the stars to expose the film, the picture would be pure black.

One the other hand, if the shutter speed was set to 1 second, and the same picture was taken of the 2nd baseman, the picture would be completely blurred. Because the action of the baseman practically happened within 1 second, it's not possible to see one particular action. The film saw the whole second, each 1/1000th of a second action writing over itself 1000 times, assembling a blurry picture of 2 baseball players mushed together, colors and all.

Shutter speed increments are all factors of each other, about half and double the amounts. They usually are in the sequence 1/125, 1/250/, 1/500, 1/1000, etc. This series directly relates to F stops, which we'll next.



The aperture is the hole that lets the light hit the film. It is denoted by size. The smaller the size hole, the less light can be let through. The larger the hole, the more light can be let through.

Aperture sizes are denoted by F-stops, meaning focal ratio. Technically speaking, this is the ratio of the distance of the focal length to the diameter of the aperture. Because aperture and shutter speed work in sync with each other, be sure to understand how shutter speed works as well.

F-stops usually start at 2.8 and increase in increments to 22. The smaller the F value, the larger the aperture opening. Each F stop increase means a hole double the size of the previous one. And each F stop decrease halfs the diameter of the aperture. For example, stepping down one F stop from F4 to F5.6 means the aperture hole is half as big. Going up one stop means going from an F16 to F11 doubling the amount of light. The terminology is rather confusing as up and down, half and double seems to be backwards.

The other key factor the aperture contributes to is depth of field. The lower F stop gives a smaller depth of field, meaning only a small area of the picture is in focus. The smaller the aperture hole, or larger the F stop number, the greater depth of field. For maximum depth of field, a pinhole is used.

See the next section to understand how to maximum depth of field by changing the shutter speed and ISO.

Shutter Speed, Aperture, and Film Speed (ISO)

Setting these three elements properly is going to create a correct exposure when taking a picture. They all expect each other to be set correctly. For example, let's take the example of the 2nd baseman tagging out the opponent trying to steel 2nd base. In this light instance, 100 speed film is being used, the shutter speed is set to 1/1000. And the correct aperture setting is F4.


If two lines are set up, one with the shutter speed increments and the other below it with the camera's F stop sequence, it's a bit easier to understand the relationship. Imagine these two lines. For each step up or down the line of the shutter speed, the F stop moves respectively the same direction to maintain the same exact exposure. So, one F stop above F4 is F5.6. This is letting in half the amount of light. To compromise the shutter speed, twice the amount of light must let in by doubling the exposure time, which is 1/500. This scenario can progress up or down the two lines to maintain the same exact exposure.

As the shutter speed is compromised for a smaller F stop setting (higher number), blur must be considered. A good photographer can hold a camera steady enough without negotiation of blur to a shutter speed of 1/60. Therefore, let's say the average picture taker will have a blurry picture without a stabilization device like a tripod, if the shutter speed is anywhere below 1/100. According to the correct exposure chart mentioned before for the baseball scenario, the smallest aperture setting without a tripod would only be two more stops - F11. This would take a shutter speed setting of 1/125. One more stop could promote blurriness. Also, since this is an action shot, the baseball player could be moving within 1/125th of a second, therefore showing some blur. However, if the scenario changed to a landscape scene, with the help of a tripod and possibly a timer device, the same exposure can be sustained until the camera runs out of F stops or shutter speeds.

Each of these exposures can be tweaked to produce the results desired for a particular photo. Maybe the subject of the photo should be blurry to show motion. Maybe a certain part of the picture should be out of focus to draw attention to another part of the photo. These affects can all be achieved by changing the aperture, shutter speed, and film speed.

White Balance

Guide to Photography

White balance is what makes the whites in a picture look like white in real life. In any picture, making sure that true white is actually true white is sometimes trickier than you might think.

Because color temperature and light intensity changes so often, proper white balance is one more key element in the accurate portrayal of a photographed scene. Improper white balance can lead to color distorted and sickly looking pictures.

Most cameras nowadays have automatic white balance settings. Unfortunately, the general "auto white balance" function on most cameras can't do the job very well. While the picture may look fine, after holding one up to a properly white balanced picture, one you definitely notice the fault. Most cameras also have a "custom white balance" function, which allow you to set the white balance. If there is truly no white to read in a picture, small white cards can be used to get a true white reading.

Cameras also have preset white balance settings for numerous color temperatures. Light conditions such as sunny, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, and incandescent indoor lighting situations are programmed into the camera. These are generally fairly accurate, but if you are unsure, the custom white balance can always be metered fairly easily.

Sometimes, there is no correct white balance. Perhaps the sky and the subject are two totally different tones. The auto function will take the average of the two. Maybe the white balance should be based on the sky. Or does the subject look too fake then? Experimenting with white balancing and finding the happy medium is a skill that takes practice to master.

Lighting / Flash

Get an introduction to the basics of photography and cameras.

Lighting is a more general term that is really what creating a good photograph is all about. Because natural lighting is not always enough to create the proper exposure or effect desired, a flash can be used to fill the void.

You may think of the flash as a way to take pictures at night. This can be the case, but a flash also has may other uses.

Usually, if using a flash, the subject must be within 10-15 feet of the flash, or else the flash will not actually reach the subject. This depends on the power and location of the flash, but as a general rule with a point and shoot camera, 15 feet is the maximum distance the flash will successfully work.

A fill flash is the term used when a flash is needed in the daylight to avoid "backlighting," or shadows caused on the front of the subject because the light source is behind the subject. This technique helps to ensure that the subject is not darkened and all the attributes are the same color consistency.


Macro is a setting used to photograph subjects at extremely close range. Close ups of insects, algae growing on a rock, or a close-up of someone's hand are all examples of macro photographs.

Usually the printed picture size maintains a picture to real life ratio of 1:1. This is standard for most general user cameras. This ratio means that the magnification ratio of the lens is 1:4 (image on film is ΒΌ the size of the real subject, then magnified 4 times when printed), which is an easy ratio to create by camera makers. Technically, the definition of macro includes ratios from 1:1 to 10:1 (meaning a 10x magnification in macro mode).

When dealing with very small and intricate details, this means the depth of field is shortened greatly. Only a small range can be focused on. This is why the macro mode on a camera usually has an extremely high aperture (smallest opening possible). This causes very little light to hit the lens, therefore compromising sharpness and correct light settings. Tripods are recommended in macro photography for this very reason. If the aperture is the size of a pinhole, you have to be careful about moving the camera while taking the picture. A tripod insures little movement, therefore creating the clearest image possible with slower shutter speeds due to high aperture settings.

Modern Day - Film Out, Digital In

Why? Reasons for the increase of digital camera use

Beginners Photography


There are several arguments for using digital photography technology over traditional film cameras. Probably the most recent reason for the increased use of digital photography is cost. Over the past several years, ever since the first digital cameras were put on the market, they technology has followed the progression of any other new item on the market: the prices continue to drop as time goes on. Some of the first digital cameras were introduced in the early 1990s for prices well over $1000. This was an entirely new concept and the technology was only progressed enough that a 1.3 megapixel resolution was exceptional. Today, 8-10 megapixels is a fairly standard resolution.

Storage space is another reason for the increased use of digital cameras. Unlike film, memory cards hold many more pictures, are reusable, and cost relatively little. For example, a 1 gigabyte memory card can hold up to 300 pictures at full resolution from an 8 megapixel camera. Once this memory card is reused say 100 times, the storage space has now taken 3,000 pictures, whereas standard film would have only taken 24 pictures one time for about the same price as that one memory card.

Memory cards are also progressing so quickly that storage space is not an issue. Several gigabyte cards are standard, and all in the form of flash memory. Flash memory's most important feature is its ability to write, erase, and rewrite. Although an argument in the flash memory vs. hard disk memory space is that flash disks have a limited number of read and write times. Some articles say a flash drive is suppose to last for thousands of cycles, some say over 50 years, but honestly, who would know as the technology has not been around long enough to prove anything.

To sum up, storage space is becoming more and more infinite, and digital storage technology is only going to progress to bigger and faster.


With a memory card, you never have to be concerned about running out of film on vacation when it is not convenient to get to a store to buy some more. Even if your card becomes full, you can always delete some you don't want.


Another reason to use digital photography is how easy it is to alter pictures. Even though a film picture could be altered similarly, there are extra steps required: developing the pictures, then scanning either the negatives or the pictures themselves into your computer, which causes a loss of resolution. Digital photography is so much more convenient.

Introduction to Photography with Photography Tips

There are several photo editing programs on the market, with infinite ways to creatively alter photographs. Digital pictures are so frequently altered that is is hard to find completely natural pictures, without any post picture adjustments. This is the reason why some purists against digital photography.

These programs are also so user friendly, it's ridiculous. For more advanced fine tunings, maybe the unknowledgeable person couldn't perform them, but for basic adjustments, such as red eye, brightness and contrast, anyone knowing how to use a computer with a bit of patience could figure it out.

Keep Only the Good Ones

Deleting pictures is another huge advantage of digital pictures. No longer do you have to worry about taking too many pictures and wasting film. Instead of taking one picture, they might take five or six and pick the best one to use later. As storage becomes more infinite, this will become easier and easier to do. For most, this is a good option to have. Some keep ten versions of the same subject because it's not worth it to delete pictures when space is not an issue, although some would opt to delete the pictures directly from the camera itself.

What to Look for in camera

Depends on what you want, more features for more advanced user vs. simple auto modes.

So it's time to buy a camera. What should you get? There are many factors to consider in your decision. The first decision is digital or film. In many opinions, digital is the only way to go.

Depending on your experience with photography, you may want just a point and shoot camera that fits snugly in your pocket. Or you may want to have more control over your pictures, and get a SRL (Single Lens Reflex) camera with all the manual features you could ever want. The best way to figure out what you actually want is to talk to someone who has experience with cameras.

If you are a beginner, a simple point and shoot camera with many automatic features is the best option. Although most cameras have automatic modes on them, some are more user friendly than others. If possible, play around with different cameras in a store and see what you like the best. Don't settle for something less than what you like and want. Maybe you want a minimum 3" LCD screen on the back of your digital camera. Well, then, make that a priority. Maybe a manual shutter speed control is the only manual function you want. Once again, there's probably a camera out there with just that option. There are thousands of cameras to choose from, so research them extensively and pick out the one that you want!

Read more about cameras.

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