Beginners Guide to Photography: Camera Essentials, Tips and Tricks!

Photography is the art of recording light. It is a very complex process that involves many techniques and tools. The world of photography can be difficult to crack for those who are just starting out, but with the right information and techniques, it’s something that anyone can learn. There are many types of photography from landscape to wildlife, portrait to photojournalism. However if you are new to this field and want to dip your toe in first, let us introduce you to the world of compact digital cameras and their various uses. Why Compact Digital Camera? Because it’s much easier than lugging around a DSLR all day long!

Why use a DSLR?

dslr camera in hand over blurred forest background
dslr camera in hand over blurred forest background

DSLRs are complex and expensive cameras that are used by professional photographers. These cameras are larger and bulkier than compact digital cameras. They can get pricey so it isn’t always recommended for a beginner although there are some older or budget models available. There are a few reasons why DSLRs are more popular than compact cameras.


DSLRs are capable of producing high-quality images, which can be edited and cropped as you like. They can also be used for shooting videos too! Compact cameras are usually limited to taking still photographs only.

Manual Settings

DSLRs often come with a host of manual settings that you can use to manipulate the image, such as aperture and shutter speed. This allows you to take control of the exposure and make the image look how you want it to. Compact cameras usually do not have these settings, so you have less control over the image.


DSLRs usually let you insert your SD cards so the world is your oyster with how many photos you want to be able to hold. This is much more than a compact digital camera, which usually has a small storage capacity.

Tips for Beginners

Read up on the Basics

One of the most important aspects of photography is learning the basics. Without understanding shutter speed and aperture or how to use the exposure correctly, it is unlikely that your photographs will come out the way you want them to. Spend some time reading up on the basics such as how a camera works, the types of cameras, and different photography techniques. Here’s a high level for some of the camera settings.


This is the setting that controls how much light enters the camera. The aperture can be adjusted to make the image brighter or darker. The aperture is measured in f-stops, where f/2 is a wide aperture, f/16 is a small aperture, and f/11 is halfway between the two.

Shutter Speed

This setting controls how long the shutter is open. The longer the shutter is open, the more light is allowed into the camera. A shutter speed of 1/1000 sec will freeze most subjects, whereas a shutter speed of 1/2 sec will blur the image slightly.

Shutter speed and aperture are linked in such a way that you can obtain the same amount of light by adjusting either of them at equivalent amounts. For example, 1/30 at F5.6 is equivalent to 1/8 at F11.

Using a fast shutter speed with a wide aperture can provide as much light to the image sensor as using a slow shutter speed with a narrow aperture.


A camera’s ISO setting determines how sensitive it is to light. A low ISO setting makes the camera less sensitive to light, while a high ISO setting makes it more sensitive. When taking pictures outside in the daylight, an ISO setting of 100 to 200 is typically ideal, but when photographing in low-light situations such as indoors or at night, an ISO of 400 to 800 or higher might be necessary.

It’s Okay to Shoot in Automatic Mode

Die-hard photographers might hate me for this but I see nothing wrong with letting technology do the work for me. Cameras have advanced so much that they can sometimes have a better eye than the person holding the camera. When you take a photo or are taking a photo, pay attention to what the camera is changing the ISO, Aperture, and shutter speed to. This will help you start to understand how the settings all relate to each other and the picture being taken.

The only downside is that the automatic mode may not take the picture in the way you wanted. For example, it may narrow the aperture too much to where the entire image is crisp when you wanted that blurred, bouquet effect around the subject. For this reason, I will usually shoot in Aperture focus mode so I can set the f-stop manually and let the shutter speed and ISO work their magic around it.

Use Aperture or Shutter Priority Mode

When you start to feel a bit more confident with taking photos, I would recommend testing out Aperture Priority Mode (A or AV) and Shutter Priority Mode (S or Tv).

Aperture priority mode lets you set the aperture or f-stop you wish to use and then the camera will adjust the rest of the settings to best expose the photo. This is helpful if you if you’re shooting a portrait and want that nice blurred background effect where a wider aperture is needed or maybe a landscape where you want everything to be crisp so a narrower one is needed.

Shutter priority mode lets you set how fast or slow the shutter closes when you take a picture. For example, if you’re taking pictures of kids running around then you will want a fast shutter speed but if it’s a night shot or maybe you’re wanting that silk-moving water effect, a slower shutter speed will do the trick.

Understand the Rule of Thirds

A photo’s composition doesn’t have to be completely symmetrical. Most of the time, photos are framed with central vertical and horizontal lines. If you’re not sure what those lines are, you might want to try this experiment: Make a copy of your photo in a new browser tab, then trace the image with your finger. The lines you traced will be central vertical and horizontal lines, and you can use them to decide what parts of your shot you want to include in the image. If you include more of your subject than the lines suggest is natural, or if you include less than what the lines suggest is natural, the photo will probably look weird. If you go too far in one direction, the photo will be awkward; if you go too far in the other direction, the photo will be boring.

Experiment With Different Settings

Once you’ve got the basics under your belt, you can try experimenting with different settings and see what they do to the image. This will help you understand how each setting works and how it affects the final image. This can be done by taking pictures of the same subject with different settings to see the difference in quality.

Practice Taking Photos

The best way to get better at photography is by practicing. When out on a shoot, try to get as many different types of shots as possible. This will help you understand the different techniques and how they can be applied to different subjects.

Shoot in RAW format

While most people do not know the difference between JPEG and RAW, it’s always better to shoot in RAW format. The grainy noise commonly associated with high ISO settings is not as present in RAW files. RAW files are not as demanding as JPEG files when it comes to exposure compensation. You may recover shadows and highlights after post-processing without the grainy noise normally present.

Learn how to use Lightroom

Lightroom is a photo editing software created by Adobe for photographers. You can do wonders fixing a photo that was under or over-exposed, adjusting colors, and adding unique looks in Lightroom. If you’ve never touched it before, it’s okay! Lightroom has plenty of tutorials inside the app that will take you step-by-step through editing photos to understand how all the settings work together.

Find a mentor

One of the best ways to improve your photography skills is to find someone that has been doing it for a while and ask to shadow them on one of their shoots. This will let you see how they handle a shoot, what settings they use, how they frame shots and other tribal knowledge you won’t find on a blog.


Getting started in photography is a fun journey and the more you practice and experiment with different settings, the better your images will become. You can always start off with your phone and see where it takes you! Once you’ve got the basics down, you can start thinking about investing in a DSLR camera as you progress with your skills.

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