The Top 3 Tips You Need To Get Started With Photography

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So, after an interesting social media vote on my next writing topic, we’ve got an overall winner in Photography! I have never written technically about my craft before, so be gentle. Haha! I’ve outlined what I personally believe are to be the top 3 tips you need to get started with Photography. Let me know how you get on!

  1. Take Photos… Of everything

    This may sound ridiculous, but ever heard the saying, “practice makes perfect”? Yep. That’s just it. Speaking from experience, my early days with a camera where a melting pot of emotions including frustration, admiration, and often, despair! I used to think but why doesn’t this photo look like it does in real life? Why is the sky white? And why are my photos blurry? You have to keep shooting. Until you start to understand why these things happen, and how to change them! Think of it as a kind of motto to life and learn from your mistakes. It will make you a better photographer, I promise. This leads me to my next point…

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2. Learn That Damn Exposure Triangle

You may have a friend who takes photographs, or perhaps a family member who loves photography, and at some point, my guess is you’ll have heard about the Exposure Triangle. I recently took it upon myself to teach a very close friend of mine about it (to which she requested “in simpleton terms please!), so I tried my best. The Exposure Triangle is made up of (you guessed it!) three elements, and all together, they create what is needed to expose a good photograph. And to expose a good photograph means to have your lighting correct for the image. There are many artists who will experiment with different exposures (research high and low key photography for a stronger understanding of this), but the Exposure Triangle is where you need to start. Once you know how to expose correctly, you can get creative!

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In nutshell, we have aperture, shutter speed, and ISO (formerly known as ASA). In easy terms, I explained it to my friend as follows:

  1. APERTURE

    …means hole. Okay, a little more than that but that is the easiest start! It’s basically the amount of light you let into your lens. What gets confusing is the SIZE of the aperture versus the aperture NUMBER - the F Stop.

    For example, a wide aperture = F1.4, which means your lens (hole) is wide open, therefore letting maximum light in. A small aperture = F16, which means your lens (hole) is small, and letting minimum light in. Don’t ask me how this ever made sense in the 19th century, but somehow it does! Also, learn about depth of field (D.O.F) and how the it is affected by the size of your lens’ aperture.

  2. Shutter Speed:

    …a little easier to comprehend, shutter speed means how fast or slow your shutter is releasing. The shutter responds to the button you press when you want to take a picture. For example, a fast shutter speed (eg. 1/250) would typically be used in Sports Photography, where you need to “freeze the frame” in action. Photographing sports would be very difficult if we couldn’t have fast shutters, as everything would look pretty blurry! When would I use a slow shutter speed I hear you ask? Well, have you ever those beautiful seascapes where the ocean looks flowy and soft? That’s a slow shutter speed (eg. 1/8). In order to capture movement as it happens in this setting, you are able to create this illusion, and it really helps a photograph go from good to great!

  3. ISO:

    …in my opinion, the weirdest element of the 3… ISO refers to “film speed” from back in the film/analog days (although I am happy to announce it has made a recent comeback!), and is used to brighten or darken your image, based on the amount of light you are currently faced with. For example, say you’re photographing at night, you’ll want an ISO of 1600 or above to allow more brightness into your camera. I personally like to think of it as an aid to Aperture & Shutter Speed! It also refers to film grain, which you may see in certain photos. Some photographers like the effect, whereas others want to remove it completely. Basically, the higher your ISO, the more grain you’ll have, as the camera is working hard to correctly inform the photograph.

Therefore, when combining all three, you have The Exposure Triangle! I understand this is a lot of information to take in, so my advice would be to take each in turn until you understand how they work together. Most modern day DSLR’s/Camera’s will have an “AV” (Aperture Priority) or “TV” (Shutter Speed Priority) setting, so start there and slowly (yes, really!) progress to Manual. I promise it’s not that scary! Each element has it’s own reasons to why it is necessary, and you will find certain situations where one overrides the other two, and adjust accordingly. It is all about trial and error, and thankfully to the digital age, we are able to this freely!

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3. Get To Know Your Composition

The last, but certainly not least, is my beloved composition. For me, this is what makes a photograph stand out. There are many tools at our disposal to help us include this in our photography such as the rule of thirds, or the golden ratio (which you should definitely check out!), but in lighter terms, learning how to compose an image well is super important! Start with the basics, and if you’re photographing people, be super careful not to crop out their hands/feet/heads. Take time to step back and look at the frame. You will start to notice why certain photos look better than others.

Composition is about time, and so is mastering this incredible craft. When photographing landscapes or buildings, be conscious of lines. Try to make them straight (especially horizons!), and let go of the idea that you can “fix it in post!”. Of course you can, but taking a few more seconds in camera, will save you a lot of work, out of it!

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I hope I’ve covered the basics in a way that speaks to you, and if you have any more questions, comment below! I enjoyed writing this far more than I expected and would love to know what else you’d like to read!

Love & light,

The African Rose

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