beginner guide to photography

Photography: Getting Started

Today most everyone has a camera with them at all times. You can say that nowadays everyone is a photographer. However, that really isn’t true. While it is true that most everyone has a cellphone camera with them at all times. They aren’t really photographers.

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Sure you can say that someone who takes photos is a photographer but most people don’t understand what it really means to take a photo. Just whipping out your phone and taking a snapshot of a landmark or a selfie with a group of friends doesn’t make you a photographer. It just makes you a person with a camera.

Today I want to help you go from just a person with a camera to someone who really understands how to use that camera. These tips, terms, and tricks I will give you today can be used for both the phone users as well as the DSLR and mirrorless users among us. 

When you really start to understand the basics of photography. You can really knock up the quality and interest in your photos. While a “pro” camera is always the way to go. Your cellphone can also take some pretty amazing photos as well. 

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What is Photography?

As with anything you have to start at the beginning. You have to learn and understand what different things mean. Let’s start with the simplest question. What is Photography?

Photography is the art of capturing light to create an image. Today most of us use a digital sensor to accomplish this. For years we used film to get this done. Whichever way you choose has its pros and cons. However, 99% of us will be using some sort of digital sensor in the form of our cellphones, mirrorless, or DSLR cameras. But hey, it works great.

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Photography comes in many different styles. From landscape to portrait to everything in between. You have food photography, Street photography, boudoir photography, event photography, Sport photography, and the list just keeps going on and on. 

However, when you break it down to the simplest explanation. Photography is all about capturing light to create an image. 


Right here, right now we are going to go over some of the different terms used in photography. When you are reading articles, listening to podcast, reading books. You want to understand and know what they are talking about. Words like ISO, composition, bokeh. You want to be able to understand what it means when they say if you change your aperture it can affect the bokeh in the photograph.  

Aperture– the opening in the lens. It affects how much light hits the senor. Aperture is part of the exposure triangle along with ISO and Shutter Speed. 

Aperture priority– Camera mode where you only set the Aperture. 

Bokeh– out of focus background. 

Depth of Field– how much of the image that is in focus. Can be shallow or large

  • Shallow- usually found in portraits. Just the main subject is in focus while the rest of the image has a soft, unfocused background.
  • Large- usually found in Landscapes. Most of the image is in focus and sharp.

Exposure– How light or dark and image is

Exposure Triangle– how ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture work together to form the perfect exposed image.

Focal Length– the distance between the sensors and lens. 

Focus– something in focus is sharp. Something out of focus isn’t sharp, a little blurry. 

Hot Shoe– area on the top of your camera that is used to attach accessories. Things like flashes, lights, or microphones can use the hot shoe.

ISO– how sensitive your camera is to light. ISO along with shutter speed and aperture is part of the exposure triangle.   

JPEG– Image file type. Gives you little control when editing your photos in a software program. 

Long Exposure– a technique used in low light situations. 

Manual mode– Setting where you choose the settings not the camera. You choose the shutter speed, ISO, aperture. 

Noise/Grain– Usually found when you use a higher ISO. Most cameras can handle up to ISO 1600 with little to no noise being seen. 

RAW– is a file type that gives you more control when editing your photos in a software program.

Shutter Speed– is how long you expose your image to light. Shutter Speed along with ISO and Aperture are part of the exposure triangle.

Time Lapse– a video of a single subject/ place taken over and over again at different time intervals. 

White Balance– camera setting that helps the color white actually appear white in your photos. Can use auto-white balance or pick one from the given selection.

Exposure Triangle

Aperture is how much light you are letting into the camera. The lower the f-number (f/4) the MORE light that is getting in. The higher the f-number (f/22) the LESS light that is getting in. 

Apeture, low, high, f/1.8, f/22

Aperture can be really confusing for beginners. When you look at the F-numbers you would think that f/1.8 would be smaller than f/22. However, when it comes to aperture in photography that is not the case. F/1.8 has a larger opening than f/22. 

Another thing to remember with the aperture is how much of the background will be in focus. The lower the number the less in focus. The higher the number the more in focus. 

Landscape photographers generally use a higher f-stop. This is because they want to get as much of the image in focus and looking sharp. Both the foreground and background should be in focus with a higher f-stop.

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 Portrait Photographers generally use a lower f-stop. They want a blurry background with only the main subject in focus. You can see with the image below the girl is sharp and in focus while the background is soft and out of focus.

Portrait photography, blurry background, soft background
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Because you can adjust the aperture, your camera will always be better than your phone.

Canon EOS M100 Mirrorless Camera w/ 15-45mm Lens – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC enabled (Black)

Shutter Speed is how long you are letting the light into your camera’s sensor.  So if your shutter speed is set to 30 seconds. The shutter will remain open for 30 seconds. Two seconds to 30 seconds is great for night photography and trying to get some light trails. You will need a tripod for shutter speeds that low. Low shutter speeds are good for showing motion.

milky way galaxy, astro photography, night time photography

With a low shutter speed you can Capture stars or the Milky Way Galaxy in the night sky. Make water nice and smooth. You could even show the movement of a passing car.

Fast shutter speeds help “freeze” the action. You can freeze the movement of water. Like raining dripping on an umbrella. Stop the action in the middle of a play in sports. Like just when the ball cracks off the bat. Or stop a race car in the middle of a race. Without a fast/ high shutter speed none of that would be possible.  

baseball batter, swing, shutter speed, freeze the action
Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

While I guess you could pose like the image above. It would be really difficult to do. However if you use a high shutter speed and a low aperture, you can “freeze” the action.

If you have it set for 1/500 for example. You will be letting light in for 500th of a second. Anywhere from 1/80 to your camera’s max shutter speed would be used during the day. About 1/80 is the slowest most people can handhold their cameras without any shake. Higher shutter speeds are good for “freezing” the action.

ISO is how sensitive your camera is to light. Generally, you want to live this at the lowest setting either 100 or 50 depending on your camera. The only time you would increase this is if you are indoors or trying to take photos at night without a tripod. 

The higher your ISO is. The more grain will show up in your images. Just remember low good, high bad. Most of the newer cameras, however, can still give you good images with an ISO setting of up to 1600.

ISO, grain, grainy, low quality,

The photo above shows what a high ISO can do to your photos. This was taken in a dark room with little light (small night light). The ISO was set at 3200 with a shutter speed of .03 (cellphone) and aperture of f/1.4. You can just see how grainy the photo is.

But why are these three things important. Why do you need to understand how each one affects the other? Does it really matter? 

It does matter. The perfect photo has the right aperture, shutter speed and ISO. While auto mode does a pretty decent job. You can do it so much better while on manual mode. 

There are many things to learn and understand when it comes to photography. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Understanding the basic will help you in getting started on your photography journey. 

You need to understand the basic terms and “rules”. By just understanding how ISO, shutter speed, and Aperture affects your photos. Will help you greatly improve your photography. 

This is just the beginning. Hopefully, you will continue to follow us to learn more about photography. You can use those new skills to explore and photograph the many amazing places you will visit. Be sure to check out our travel guides and resources. 

KozmoPhotos has started a new Facebook group called US Travel Bloggers. Join if you would like to post your travel blogs, photography tips or are looking for different and unique content. We will post our latest articles and fun tips, hints, and tricks. It’s new and we are just now starting to try and build it. We hope to see you there.

As always, please remember to follow us on our different social media accounts. It helps you so you know when our next post goes live. You never know what the next guide might be about. Don’t forget to follow our travel board on Pinterest for all your travel needs.

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