How to Learn Photography

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Learning photography on your own is not difficult at all. There are hundreds of resources available to budding photographers, many of which are free. When you're first getting started, you should use a mid-line digital camera with a fairly large memory card. With a digital camera, you will not feel as if you are "wasting" film, and you will be more likely to take lots of pictures.

  • Study the manual which came with your camera thoroughly. If you purchased a manual film or digital camera, you will need to know how to adjust the shutter speed and the aperture or f-stop manually. You will also need to be able to select the correct film speed or ISO for the type of pictures you're planning to take. Then take a few pictures to get the hang of the process of using your camera. Make sure you have the technical aspect of operating the camera down before you move on to the more artistic elements of photography.

  • Learn the rule of thirds. This rules states that the basic composition of photography should be divided into nine separate sections, divided by two horizontal and two vertical lines. Visualize these imaginary lines running across your composition whenever you take a photograph. Work them into your composition. For example, if taking a picture of a landscape, place the horizon line either at the bottom or top third of the image. This creates a much stronger and more striking image than placing the horizon right in the middle of the image. Work to place other elements of your composition at the intersection of the imaginary lines.

  • Learn about depth of field. The depth of field of your shot determines how much of the shot is in focus. Manual cameras give you the greatest control over your depth of field but some automatic cameras may allow you some control over this element. Play around with the depth of field of your images to see what you can come up with. The general rule for using shorter depth of field is that your subject should be in focus, and extraneous elements should be out of focus.

  • Learn about three-point lighting. In the three-point lighting system, you place a key light on your subject, then place a dimmer, more diffuse fill light on the opposite side. Then you place a backlight behind your subject to separate it from the background. You may place an optional fourth background light directly on the background. If you are photographing outdoors, try carrying a folding reflector with you to bounce back your key light (the sun) onto the opposite side of your subject. An artificial light can be used as the backlight. Invest in some quality lights for studio photography.

  • Practice, practice, practice. Remember, not every picture you take can be a success. This is why I recommend a digital camera to start with. There are manual digital cameras on the market that have all the features of manual film cameras. When you make a mistake with a digital camera, however, you won't cry over the lost piece of film. This frees you to get out into the field or go into your studio and take as many pictures as possible. It leaves you free to experiment, which is very important for learning photography.

  • Learn to break the rules. Being afraid to venture outside the boundaries of what you've learned can stymie your creative instincts. So allow yourself some creative freedom to create photographs which are fresh and unusual.

Tips & Warnings

  • High shutter speeds and f-stops are excellent for motion photography.
  • Give yourself practice assignments and complete them to learn more about taking photographs.
  • Manual digital cameras still use ISO, which corresponds to film speed.
  • Check your automatic camera to see if it has a manual setting.

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