15 Things Every Photographer Should Know
Anyone can pick up a camera and press the button. They might even have an eye for capturing beautiful shots.
But to take it to the next level – to master the art of nailing it every time – there are certain things every photographer really should learn.
What are those things?
Good question – and this post on Photzy.com answers it. So rather than reinvent the wheel, we’re going to share their post here (with permission) so you can read for yourself about the 15 things every photographer should know.
It’s definitely worth a read, and might help you to single out which areas of your photography you need to work on and learn more about.
Here’s Ritesh Saini from Photzy:
15 Things You Should Know Before Pressing the Shutter Button to Take a Photograph
This post attempts to take a look at fifteen points that every photographer can benefit from, especially those starting out in photography.
A practical understanding of them will enable you to be better prepared when you’re out photographing and be more confident in your photography. We are sure there could be other additions to the list but this should serve as a good place to start.
Most of these tips are going to be useful if you have a camera that allows manual control over the picture-taking process.
If you’d like to learn and master photography on the go, take a look at Photzy’s unique and bestselling photographic training method called Snap Cards – 44 printable photography lessons that you can take with you anywhere. Check it out here.
1. How to keep the camera steady
Keeping the camera steady is essential to capturing sharp photos. When shooting handheld, it’s important to know how to hold the camera properly to avoid shake: by tucking your elbows in, breathing out when taking a photo, and using a wall or a surface to create support when needed.
As a rule of thumb when photographing handheld, the shutter speed should not be slower than ‘1/Focal Length’ to avoid blur from camera shake (e.g., 1/100s at 100mm focal length). Of course, ‘image stabilization’ in your camera lets you use a shutter speed slower than that.
Use a tripod when the shutter speed is going to be too slow to be shot handheld.
2. The various tools of composition that you can use
There are a lot of composition guidelines that exist to help you compose your photos better. Of course, you can break the ‘rules’ after you’ve learned them, but when starting out, it helps to utilize these tools.
Rule of thirds, leading lines, symmetry, juxtaposition, and negative space are some of the composition tools, to name a few.
3. The exposure triangle
The triad of aperture, shutter speed and ISO are the core settings that determine the image exposure on the camera sensor after you press the shutter release button.
Aperture controls the amount of light passing through the lens, shutter speed is the length of time for which the sensor remains open to light, and ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor. Learn more about it here.
These settings are adjusted according to the lighting situation or image requirements. A step change in each of these settings is measured in stops, with each stop essentially changing the amount of light captured by a factor of two (doubling or halving).
4. Metering modes and exposure compensation
Metering refers to the process of measuring the light from a scene you wish to photograph, using one of the different metering modes on the camera, to get settings of aperture, shutter speed and ISO (exposure triangle from #3 above). You then use these settings suggested by your camera to get the desired exposure in your photograph.
There are various metering modes available – evaluative, center-weighted and spot.
5. Camera settings to capture sharp photos
Unless you want to intentionally capture blur, you are looking to capture the sharpest image possible. Image sharpness is affected by various factors and can be improved by the following: choosing a mid-level aperture (e.g. f/5.8 to f/8 or f/11), minding the ISO along with a fast enough shutter speed when hand-holding the camera, achieving the right focus, and keeping the camera steady when shooting.
(Note: To learn and master photography on the go, take a look at Photzy’s unique and bestselling photographic training method called Snap Cards – 44 printable photography lessons that you can take with you anywhere. Check it out here.)
6. How aperture affects the depth of field (capturing background blur)
The camera aperture setting controls the size of the diaphragm that determines how much light enters the camera when you take a photograph. This also affects the depth of field (DoF) – the region of acceptable focus in an image.
Smaller aperture (higher f-number, e.g. f/11) provides a wider depth of field than a larger aperture (smaller f-number, e.g. f/2.8).
However, there are other factors too that affect the DoF, like the subject to camera distance and the focal length at which you’re photographing.
All these factors come into play when you want to capture background blur, also called bokeh. Shooting close to the subject, using a wide aperture, and photographing at a long focal length can help you capture a good background blur.
7. How shutter speed affects capturing motion
When you use a slow shutter speed, any motion happening in the frame gets captured as blur (or trail) from the moving object.
Likewise, any camera movement also blurs the whole frame. Therefore, it becomes necessary to use a tripod when photographing long exposures.
A fast shutter speed, on the other hand, freezes motion. Check out this post to see some beautiful examples of slow shutter photography.
8. How white balance impacts the colors in your photo
The color of the light impacts the way your photographs look. The White Balance setting can help you adjust for the varying light conditions and take care of color casts, if any.
It can be adjusted in-camera while capturing the shot, or you can change it in post-processing if you photograph in raw.
White balance can also be used creatively. You can add warmth or coolness to your images by using an appropriate color temperature for such an effect. For example, a ‘Cloudy’ or ‘Shade’ white balance setting when shooting in daylight can make your images look warmer.
9. The use of different auto-focus modes on your camera
Auto-focus helps you achieve sharp focus in your photographs. There are two main auto-focus (AF) modes that your camera has – 1. Single-Servo AF, useful when photographing stationary objects, and 2. Continuous-Servo AF, used when photographing fast-moving objects.
A third auto-focus mode called Auto-Servo AF lets the camera decide which of the two AF modes to select.
Auto-focus might struggle to function properly in low light conditions, or when there’s a lack of local contrast at the point where you want to focus.
10. The different shooting modes on your camera
While manual mode allows you maximum control over the photographic process, the other shooting modes can also be quite useful in various situations.
Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority are two automatic modes that allow you the option to control aperture and shutter speed respectively, and the other of the two settings is set automatically based on the scene’s metering and the ISO selected.
Program mode can be useful when you don’t want to spend time tinkering with the settings and quickly want to capture a shot.
11. The benefits of shooting raw
Many advanced cameras provide you the option to capture a photograph in RAW format, an unprocessed image format that has uncompressed data when compared to the JPEG format. RAW files therefore have more colors and dynamic range, which helps during post-processing as you have more data to work with.
Due to the amount of data contained in them, RAW files are larger in size than the corresponding JPEG, which may be a consideration when deciding which format to choose when shooting.
To learn more about the advantages and limitations of shooting RAW, check out this free guide on the topic.
12. Using the histogram to evaluate an exposure
The histogram is a graphical representation of the number of pixels of each shade of gray in a photograph. It is used to check the exposure in a photo and to make necessary adjustments to the camera settings.
A good exposure is one that contains detail in the darkest and the brightest regions of the photo, and is commonly depicted by a bell-shaped histogram.
A histogram lets you see if any highlight or shadow clipping has occurred in the image – i.e. whether there are areas that are completely white or black, thereby lacking any detail.
13. Utilizing fill-in light to illuminate shadows
Fill-in light is used when you want to illuminate the shadows on a subject. It can be used when shooting backlit subjects, or just to reduce the harshness of other light sources.
You can use the pop-up flash on your camera (or a dedicated flash unit) for fill-in flash, or even bounce light off a large reflector to brighten the shadow regions.
14. How to control noise in your images
Noise is the visible, grainy look in your image that can arise out of various factors.
Shooting at a high ISO, long exposures and careless editing can all contribute towards image noise. No matter how much you try to avoid it, noise can still creep into an image.
There are different ways you can reduce noise in post-processing to improve the quality of the photograph.
15. Shooting more than you need
It often happens that you shoot something and later when you review the image, you realize that you missed the moment by a whisker, or maybe the settings weren’t right.
To minimize this risk, shoot in the burst mode to capture more frames so you can select the keepers later.
Shooting in RAW (#11 above) and using exposure bracketing when you are uncertain about the exposure also helps you in accomplishing the shot.
If you would like to take your learning a step further and get better at photography by way of a training method that you can take with you anywhere, take a look at Photzy’s Snap Cards: 44 printable photography lessons that serve as a ‘training boot camp’ in your camera bag.
If you missed out on your set last time, they’re available again, and on sale right now. Plus it includes two bonus video tutorials for free.
Tania Braukamper is an Australian-born writer who also loves to take pictures on her banged-up (yet surprisingly resilient) Canon 5D Mark III. She currently lives in Portugal.