Are you a beginner looking for a Photography Ultimate Guide? In this photography for beginners guide, you will find all the relevant information on photography basics in one convenient place. Some topics covered in this photography guide include different techniques, camera settings, photography types, trends, skills, and much more. Let’s get started!
What is Photography?
Photography is the process of creating durable images by capturing light. It is an art that uses analog and digital cameras to capture images. For example, analog photography captures images chemically on a light-sensitive photographic film. On the other hand, modern photography captures images electronically via the camera’s image sensor.
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History of Photography
After their invention, cameras, and photographs took a long time to develop into what we see today. It needed revolutionary ideas and exciting reinventions, which we now look back on as milestones in the history of photography.
The world’s oldest surviving photograph is the “View from the Window at Le Gras” from 1827. Its creator is Frenchman Nicéphore Niépce, credited with inventing photography in 1816. Niépce developed a photographic technique called heliography.
However, the history of photography dates back much long ago, to the camera obscura theories dating back to ancient history.
Camera Obscura Technique (4th Century BC)
The camera obscura, also known as a pinhole image is a natural phenomenon.
How does the camera obscura work?
The camera obscura is a darkened room (or box) with a small hole or lens on one side. When light enters the small hole, it projects a picture on the opposite side of the wall.
The camera obscura was mainly for studying optics and astronomy until the 16th century. For instance, early astronomers could safely watch solar eclipses using the camera obscura.
The camera obscura was a natural phenomenon. However, photography’s real history started in the 1820s with Niépce.
Photography’s Early Days (c.1840 – c.1900)
After Niépce’s first photographs, other determined individuals began work on improving the art of photography.
Timeline of Photography’s Early Evolution – c.1840 – c.1900:
- 1839 – Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre popularizes the daguerreotype due to an exposure time of a few seconds.
- 1840 – William Henry Fox Talbot popularized the calotype process as photographers could create a negative that allowed multiple prints.
- 1851 – Frederick Scott Archer invented the wet collodion process, which produces negative images on a transparent glass plate.
- 1878 – The dry plate is introduced as a better alternative to the wet plates from earlier.
- 1888 – The Kodak camera is introduced, leading to the growth of amateur photography.
Perfecting the Art of Photography (c. 1900 – c. 1945)
The Kodak camera led to the growing popularity of photography.
Timeline of Photography from 1900 – 1945:
- 1925 – Leica releases the first small-format camera with 35mm film.
- 1936 – The color film is Invented by Kodak (Kodachrome) and Agfa (Agfacolor).
Modern Photography (c.1945 – 21st Century)
By the 1950s, cameras became comfortable, easy-to-use devices similar to what we use today.
Modern Photography Timeline – c.1945 – 21st Century:
- 1948 – The first Polaroid camera outputs instant images using a quick development process.
- 1956 – Agfa releases the first aperture priority camera, the Agfa Automatic 66.
- 1963 – Canon offers the first camera with autofocus.
- 1974 – Rollei produces the first fully-automatic camera.
- 1975 – The Eastman Kodak camera is introduced, considered the first digital camera.
- End of the 1900s – The transition starts from analog to digital photography.
Types of Photography
With the advent of digital photography, taking photographs has become easier than ever. These days, there are many categories and sub-categories of photography, which are listed in this photography ultimate guide:
- Boudoir Photography
- Food Photography
- Macro Photography
- Nature Photography
- Studio Photography
- Wedding Photography
- Newborn Photography
- Product Photography
- Portrait Photography
- Fine Art Photography
- Landscape Photography
- Still Life Photography
- Real Estate Photography
- Black And White Photography
- Hdr Photography
- Art Photography
- Pet Photography
- Toy Photography
- Eye Photography
- Aura Photography
- Moon Photography
- Bird Photography
- Film Photography
- Rose Photography
- Fall Photography
- Night Photography
- Beach Photography
- Urban Photography
- Event Photography
- Micro Photography
- Horse Photography
- Color Photography
- Ocean Photography
- Stock Photography
- Aerial Photography
- Flower Photography
- Travel Photography
- iPhone Photography
- Family Photography
- Sunset Photography
- Sports Photography
- Shadow Photography
- Forest Photography
- Winter Photography
- Action Photography
- Spirit Photography
- Desert Photography
- Senior Photography
- Street Photography
- Jewelry Photography
- Fashion Photography
- Digital Photography
- Vintage Photography
- Panning Photography
- Glamour Photography
- Outdoor Photography
- Pinhole Photography
- Concert Photography
- Wildlife Photography
- Abstract Photography
- Creative Photography
- Infrared Photography
- Interior Photography
- Artistic Photography
- Darkroom Photography
- Mountain Photography
- Editorial Photography
- Lifestyle Photography
- Maternity Photography
- Cinematic Photography
- Corporate Photography
- Wet Plate Photography
- Blue Hour Photography
- Night Sky Photography
- Butterfly Photography
- Composite Photography
- Commercial Photography
- Silhouette Photography
- Reflection Photography
- Surrealism Photography
- Engagement Photography
- Graduation Photography
- Time Lapse Photography
- Motion Blur Photography
- Architecture Photography
- Self Portrait Photography
- Golden Hour Photography
- Sky Photography
- Dark Photography
- Bridal Photography
- Shoe Photography
- Snow Photography
- Focus Photography
- Runway Photography
- Indoor Photography
- Lensball Photography
- Clothing Photography
- Ecommerce Photography
- Miniature Photography
- Adventure Photography
- Levitation Photography
- Industrial Photography
- Advertising Photography
- Northern Lights Photography
- Ghost Mannequin Photography
Each photography type requires slightly different equipment, skills, and talent. However, this photography ultimate guide focuses on photography in general rather than any specific type.
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Why is Photography Important?
Are you interested in knowing why photography is important? As an individual, you probably take pictures of your friends and family. At a basic level, photography is important because it preserves memories. However, there are more reasons, which are described in this photography ultimate guide.
Photography is Important Due to Several Reasons:
- Photography is a Language.
- It Enables Self Expression.
- Photography is an Art Form.
- Photography Evokes Emotions.
- You Can Tell Stories Through Photos.
- People Can Make Money from Photography.
- Photos Represent the Important Moments in Life
- Photography Helps Record History Through Images.
- Businesses Can Use Photography to Reach New Audiences.
Benefits of Photography
Photography is a creative art that benefits people regardless of their photography type. So whether you are a professional photographer, an amateur, or a hobbyist, you will benefit from taking photographs.
Photography Benefits Many People, Including:
Benefits of Photography for Businesses
Promotional photography helps businesses market their products, websites, and company on social media, publications, billboards, and other channels.
Photography Benefits Businesses:
- Make the Best First Impression.
- Photography is a Cost-Effective Marketing Tool.
- Encourages Sharing of Business Photos By Followers.
- Tell Their Business Story In a Way That Engages Audiences.
Benefits of Photography for Individuals
Individuals looking to release some stress and express themselves will benefit from photography. In addition, photography has health benefits for individuals.
Health Benefits of Photography for Individuals:
- Taking Photos Enhances General Well-Being.
- Keeps the Brain Busy, Improving Mind Health.
- Photography Gets People Outside and Moving, Which Is Exercise.
- Individuals Interact With Others During Photography, Giving a Sense of Belonging.
- Photography Teaches Individuals to Be More Mindful and Focused, Which Releases Stress.
Benefits of Photography for Students
The classroom should allow students to express themselves and explore new things.
Photography Benefits Students in the Classroom:
- Develops Technical Skills in the Student.
- Encourages Physical Activity and Exercise.
- Improves Mindfulness and Mental Health in Students.
- Gives Students a Platform for Creativity and Self-Expression.
Photography Tools and Equipment
What tools or equipment do you need for photography? Well, all you need is a camera to get started! The camera can be a smartphone, in which case you don’t need anything else. However, if you get a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, then you also need a lens with the camera.
Many pieces of photography equipment help a photographer get the most out of their photo shoot. Read the complete list of photography equipment in this photography ultimate guide.
- Remote Trigger
- Memory Cards
- Light Meter
- Light Stands
- Polarizing and ND Filters
- Extra Batteries
- Color Correction Card
- Air Blaster
- Cleaning Kit
- Photo Editing Software
- Camera Bag for Holding Equipment
A photographer does not need every piece of the equipment described above. Only a camera and lens will do the job for photography basics.
Fundamental Camera Settings
Photography for beginners does not have to be complicated. A modern digital camera has various knobs, dials, and settings – however, you will never use most. So, in this ultimate photography guide, I will cover the basic camera settings related to exposure.
Any photography basics article will tell you to master exposure, with good reason. Exposure is the amount of light entering your camera. You can control exposure with three crucial settings: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.
- Aperture – the hole in the lens through which light enters. Measured in the f-stop scale from f/1.4 to f/22.
- Shutter Speed – once light passes through the aperture, it reaches the shutter. The shutter speed controls how much light enters the camera, measured in seconds. Slow speed allows more light to enter.
- ISO – Higher ISO increases the brightness but reduces image quality by adding grain.
Understanding Your Camera
Once you have mastered the fundamental camera settings of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, you can move on to the more advanced camera settings. These are not required for photography basics but help improve the image quality for professionals.
Understanding Advanced Camera Settings:
- Crop Factor
- Focal Length
- Depth of Field
- White Balance
- Metering Modes
- Shooting Modes
- Polarizing Filters
This photography guide lets us explore each of these advanced camera settings in more detail.
The next advanced camera setting to understand in this photography ultimate guide is histograms.
What exactly are histograms? Sounds familiar to something you heard in math class, right?
A histogram in photography is a mathematical exposure overview of the photograph.
Photography for beginners doesn’t cover histograms because they might be challenging to read.
Why are histograms important? A histogram tells you how evenly exposed your photo is.
For example, the LCD screen on your camera isn’t very good at showing the image accurately due to brightness and ambient lighting conditions.
So, histograms help you judge your photo’s exposure, which is very important in photography.
The crop factor is a complex term to grasp for beginners. You may not realize it, but you probably have a crop sensor unless you use a high-end camera (>$2000).
So what does crop factor mean?
The crop factor describes the difference between a camera’s sensor size and a traditional 35mm film frame. Why 35mm? Before digital photography, all SLR cameras used a 35mm frame.
Digital cameras use cropped sensors to accommodate the smaller bodies in budget DSLR models. So, for example, a camera sensor with a crop factor of 2 means that the 35mm film is twice as large as the camera sensor.
Choosing the right focal length for your camera lens is essential to getting the right shot. So, this photography ultimate guide teaches you about focal length.
The focal length is a term that often appears when discussing camera lenses. But have you ever thought about what the “mm” on your camera lens means? Like “35mm” or “22 mm”? That’s the focal length of your lens!
Focal length is the distance between your camera sensor and the lens’s point of focus (when the image appears sharp).
Depth of Field
The Depth of Field (DoF) is an essential concept in photography. So, this photography ultimate guide will help you understand what DoF is.
Depth of field (DoF) is the distance between the closest and farthest objects in an image that looks acceptably sharp.
So, your depth of field setting determines how much of the image is in focus. For example, you widen the aperture during low-light photography to capture more light. However, this causes a shallower depth of field.
Some articles on photography basics cover the white balance due to its importance.
What does white balance mean?
Adjusting the white balance (WB) removes unrealistic color casts. How does that affect your photo? An object that is actually white will appear white in your image with the correct white balance setting.
The human eye is excellent at judging the color of objects under different lighting conditions. But, digital cameras find it challenging to differentiate between colors under the auto white balance (AWB) setting.
So, the white balance setting helps account for different color temperatures from light sources and prevents ugly color casts like blue, orange, or green colors.
What are metering modes? It is a setting that tells your camera how you want it to capture a scene.
There are four metering modes in digital cameras:
- Matrix (evaluative)
Metering affects how your camera processes the scene, adjusting the exposure in your camera.
Photography basics require only one shooting mode, automatic (auto). However, with advanced shooting modes, professional photographers get more control over their shooting.
Photography Shooting Modes in Modern Digital Cameras:
- Aperture Priority
- Shutter Speed Priority
A polarizing filter allows light to enter from a specific direction.
Placing a polarizing filter in front of the camera lens helps darken skies, suppress glare, and manage reflections by filtering the light.
It isn’t easy to replicate the effects of polarizing filters in post-production. That is why this photography for beginners guide describes the workings of polarizing filters.
Photography skills are the expertise any photographer will benefit from having. Some of the skills are basic, like understanding how to use a camera. Other skills that help advanced users include how to read a histogram.
What skills should every photographer develop?
Some basic skills every photographer should have are:
- Photography Hardware
- Photo Editing Software
- Good Attention to Detail
- The Business Aspect of Photography
In addition to these skills, a good photographer must understand how to shoot in manual mode, read a histogram, and capture light.
How to improve your photography skills?
If you don’t have the photography skills described above, there’s no need to worry! This photography for beginners guide is meant to help you become better!
You can improve your photography skills by reading your camera’s manual and photography blogs, attending workshops, and finding a mentor to guide you.
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Understanding Composition in Photography
The fundamental photography skills include understanding exposure settings. Next, any photography basics guide will tell you to master composition.
Because if you fail to master basic composition, you will struggle to take great photographs.
There are a few topics to understand to grasp composition:
- Rule of Thirds
- Visual Weight
- Eye Lines
So, let’s dive into what composition is in this photography ultimate guide!
Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a photography composition guideline. You place your subject in the left or right third of the image, leaving the remaining two-thirds open.
There are many compositional rules, but the rule of thirds is a must-know for photography beginners.
Another way to improve your composition is to follow the visual weight technique. Any photography basics article will tell you to improve your visual weight. So what is it?
Visual weight, also known as balance, is the visual impact of the elements in your photo. A strong visual weight draws the viewer’s eye more.
A simple way to create visual weight is to work with light and dark areas that make a balance. Furthermore, you can draw your viewers’ eye to where you want to.
What is the triangle composition in photography? This photography for beginners article will explain how to use triangles to improve your composition.
Triangles help group three points of a photograph and organize them to portray a certain feeling like stability, aggression, instability, and more.
There are many types of triangles in photography, including:
- Implied Triangles
- Converging Triangles
- Unstable Triangles
- Three Figure Shots
One of the most potent composition techniques is eyeline photography.
When we say lines, it refers to implied lines following a person’s line of sight.
For example, a person staring directly at the camera gives a powerful impression, whether it be angst, happiness, or sadness.
On the other hand, a person’s eye pointing to a focused element can convey strong emotions, too, like disapproval or love.
The last composition technique I want to cover in this photography ultimate guide is balance.
Balance is a compositional technique that arranges the elements of an image in a way that gives equal emphasis (visual weight) across the image.
Simply put, a well-balanced composition draws the eye equally across the image.
How To Take Sharp Photographs?
You now know the photography equipment, settings, and rules well. So, the next topic of this photography guide is how to take sharp photographs like a pro.
Take Sharp Photographs By Following These Steps:
- Enable Auto ISO
- Use a Faster Lens
- Set the Correct ISO
- Pick a Sharp Aperture
- Shoot a Burst of Photos
- Use a Tripod in Low Light
- Use the Hand-Holding Rule
- Turn On Vibration Reduction
- Use Depth of Field Strategically
- Focus Carefully on Your Subject
- Pick a Fast Enough Shutter Speed
- Reduce Motion Blur in Your Subject
- Clean Your Lenses Before the Shoot
- Use High ISO for Dark Environments
- Choose the Appropriate Camera Mode
- Hold Your Camera Steady (Or Use a Tripod)
Well, you now know how to take sharp photos. So let’s explore some photography tips that will help you ensure a successful photoshoot.
Essential Photography Tips for Good Photos:
- Get In a Tripod
- Start Shooting In Raw
- Play With Perspective
- Learn From Your Mistakes
- Always Focus On The Eyes
- Raise the ISO When Needed
- Learn To Read The Histogram
- Understand The Rule Of Thirds
- Be Selective of What You Shoot
- Pay Attention To The Background
- Understand The Exposure Triangle
- Learn To Adjust The White Balance
- Be Careful With Your On-Camera Flash
- Invest In A Good Photo Editing Software
- Shoot In The Early Morning And Evening (Golden Hour)
Photography for beginners can be easy. Just follow what your gut tells you. Then, if you are stuck, follow these photography tips.
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After learning all the photography basics, you start shooting photos. Is that the end? Well, not really. After photography, there is one final step before completion.
Image post-production takes your RAW photos and makes them better. For example, you can create shadows, retouch imperfections, perform color correction, remove backgrounds, and much more.
You can perform photo editing using photo editing software, mobile apps, and online photo editors. Remember that these image editing tools have different capabilities, the most powerful being desktop software.
Knowing the popular photography trends is helpful to any photographer. You can stay ahead of your competitors by learning trending photography styles. So, this photography for beginners guide explores the top trends in the photography industry.
Popular Photography Trends:
- Live Photos
- Social Activism
- 360 Photography
- Celebrating Diversity
- Technology In Photos
- Clever Use Of Motion
- Still Life Photography
- Silhouette Photography
- Female Empowerment
- Rise of AI In Photography
- Experimental Photography
- High Contrast Photography
- Increased Family Portraits
- Emphasis On Self Portraits
- Casual Wedding Photography
- Better Smartphone Photography
- Authentic Unedited Raw Beauty
- Drones And Aerial Photography
- Using A Shallow Depth Of Field
- Post-Production Design Elements
- Subtle Filters And Muted Colors
- Analogue Photography And Nostalgia
- Cyberpunk Settings And Neon Lights
- Outdoor And Environmental Photography
- Embrace Vertical Images (for Social Media)
Want to pursue photography as a career? You probably have a lot of questions! This photography ultimate guide will help answer some of these questions.
Steps to Becoming a Photographer:
- Find Your Passion for Photography
- Get Academic Training or Learn from Photography Tutorials
- Work an Internship or a Freelance Job to Get Real-World Experience
- Choose a Photography Career Path in Your Preferred Industry
What career paths can you pursue as a photographer?
Potential Career Paths for Photographers:
- Fine Artist
- Art Director
- Graphic Artist
- Desktop Publisher
There will always be room for creative photographers to pursue their careers. However, you can expect a decline in salaried photographers as more businesses hire photographers on freelance.
A photographer working for a business or company will receive a salary or monthly wage. However, it is common for photographers to work as freelancers or manage their own businesses. In that case, how do you price your photography?
Photography rates depend on many factors like location, experience, and operating costs. So, this photography guide will only help you get started with your pricing.
For example, in the United States (US), a photographer can charge based on their experience.
|Photographer Level||Hourly Rate (USD)||Per Image Rate (USD)|
|Leading Professional Photographer||200-500+||400-1,000+|
Furthermore, your photography pricing also depends on the type of service you offer. For example, a product photographer charges differently from a commercial photographer.
Average Photography Rates Per Hour By Category in the US:
- Event Photography – Between $150-$500 per hour.
- Product Photography – Between $35-$175 per image.
- Food Photography – Between $50-$500 per project.
- Real Estate Photography – Between $150-$500 per hour.
- Portrait Photography – Between $150-$350 per hour. Packages cost between $250-$1,500.
- Commercial Photography – Between $800-$5,000. Also, licensing fees cost between $250-$10,000.
- Wedding Photography – Between $50-$250 per hour. You can also charge by packages between $2,000-$5,000.
Do note that this photography pricing is just guidelines meant to help you get started. The best way to find pricing is to search in your area. For example, you can search “photographer near me” or, more specifically, “local wedding photographer” and other similar searches.
Future of Photography
Photography has a long, storied history, as described in this photography basics guide. But where is photography headed? What is the future of the art of taking pictures? The photography ultimate guide explores some of the future possibilities in this industry.
The Future of Photography May Include:
- Rise of Vintage, Film Photography
- Immersive Photography With 3D and 360° Photos
- Constant Connectivity for Fast, Wireless Transfers
- Reduced Demand for Professional Photographers
- Use of AI to Capture Even Better Photos Automatically
- Smartphones Will Replace the Compact Cameras
- Mirrorless Cameras Will Replace DSLR Cameras
Before we end this photography for beginners guide, I’d like to cover one final topic – photography apps.
I have listed the top photography apps for those users who want to get the most out of their photography session.
Best Photography Apps Used by Professionals:
- Hyperfocal Pro (Android) – Calculates the Hyperfocal Distance, Depth of Field, and More.
- PhotoPills (Android & iOS) – Planning Tool for Sun, Moon, Stars, and Milky Way Location.
- Exposure Calculator (Android) – Helps Calculate the Correct Exposure Values.
- The Photographer’s Companion (Android) – Performs in-Field Calculations.
- myLightMeter Pro (iOS) / Light Meter (Android) – Turns Your Smartphone into a Pocket Light Meter.
- Lightroom Photo & Video Editor (Android & iOS) – Best Mobile Photo Editing App for Professionals.
- VIMORY: Slideshow Video Maker & Photo Editor (Android & iOS) – Quickly add filters, frames, text, effects, and resize images.
So there you have it! I hope this photography ultimate guide has helped you understand the photography basics. Now, it is your turn! Go out and start taking some awesome photos! Do let me know your photography experience in the comments below.
This photography ultimate guide has covered many topics on photography. Our readers may have a lot of questions. Read the following frequently asked questions to get answers to some of your queries.
Photography is important because it lets us document something and keep it forever. Also, it is a way to express ideas for others to see. The purpose of photography varies depending on what the photographer is trying to achieve. For example, documentary and news photographers capture photographs to provide detailed accounts of real events, while hobbyist photographers capture life moments with their friends and families.
Get started in photography by following these simple steps:
Learn to hold your camera well.
Practice shooting in RAW.
Understand the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed, ISO).
Use a wide aperture for portraits.
Use a narrow aperture for landscape photography.
Learn to use Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority modes.
Raise the ISO to improve brightness.
Check the ISO before you start shooting.
Photography skills are what you need to capture and output high-quality photographs. Your photography skills include the creative skills to capture unique pictures and the technical skills to operate camera gear and edit photos after you’ve taken them.
A photography “genre” is a photography type or category, like wedding photography, landscape photography, portrait photography, product photography, etc.
There are various types of photography, like landscape, wedding, macro, wildlife, portrait, real estate, documentary, fashion, newborn, travel, and event photography. You can get a complete list of photography types in this article’s “Types of Photography” section.
There are three main elements of a good photo:
You must ensure appropriate lighting to achieve the effects you want.
Your subject must be good enough to captivate viewers.
A great photo must have good composition, which is the arrangement of the items in your image.
The four Cs of photography are Clarity, Color, Contrast, and Consistency. These are critical components of a strong photo.
All you need is a camera to start taking photographs. The camera can be a basic smartphone all the way to an advanced DSLR or mirrorless camera. However, you will benefit from having photography equipment suited to your photography type. But, the essential factor is to understand the elements of a good photograph – lighting, subject, composition, and emotion.
One of the most common photography types is portrait photography, also known as portraiture. Other popular photography types are outdoor photography and rustic background photography.
Beginner photographers can start with a camera they are comfortable with. Other photography gear and equipment are optional and depend on their needs. For example, a landscape photographer will benefit from having a wide-angle lens to capture a larger area and a tripod to keep the camera steady. On the other hand, a beginner portrait photographer will need a good prime lens and some lighting equipment.
The oldest photograph in existence is the Niépce Heliograph from 1827. It was captured by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce and is called “View from the Window at Le Gras”.
The first selfie is credited to Robert Cornelius. Robert was an amateur chemist and photography enthusiast from Philadelphia. Cornelius captured a self-portrait in 1839 using a makeshift camera.
Various photography books, courses, videos, and articles are available online and offline. So, you can learn photography by playing with a camera, watching online tutorials, and practicing your skills.
The three basic camera settings for photography basics are aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. This photography article describes them in detail in the “Fundamental Camera Settings” chapter.
The Greek mathematician Euclid recorded the golden ratio in the 3rd Century BC. The golden ratio helps guide the photographer to place the subject in a position that is most pleasing to the eye. That golden ratio is 1.618:1.