The Basics “The camera's only job is to get out of the way of making photographs” –Ken Rockwell The camera you use is irrelevant, great pictures can be taken with everything from a $3 disposable to a $30,000 Hasselblad. Some of the most expensive cameras- the Leica M series, are incredibly simple, and get out of the way of the photographer.
Composition Composition in my opinion is the single most important element in photography. It doesn’t matter how good the exposure is, or how sharp the image is, without good composition, everything else is useless. The following picture is an example of BAD composition.
GOOD Composition The Rule Of Thirds is one of the better known commonly used tools for composition in art. The concept is to segment things into a tic-tac-toe board. Subjects are then placed on the lines, or better yet the intersections. This usually leads to fair, or extraordinary composition. Although, there are times when this technique should be abandoned for superior composition.
The Functions of a Camera The shutter release: Every camera made in the past 30 years (aside from disposable cameras) has a two stage shutter release button. The first stage preps the camera to take the picture, and prefocuses the lens. The second stage actually releases the shutter allowing the medium to capture the image. This is important because pictures should not be taken in one shutter jamming motion, but in two parts; the prep and the capture.
ISO (ASA) ISO is a measure of the sensitivity of the digital sensor in a camera (or film; ASA). Low ISO numbers (~50-500) allow for sharper and less noisy photographs, but the sensor is less sensitive to light, therefore longer shutter speeds or wider apertures are needed for proper exposure. High ISO numbers (~500-102,400) allow for proper exposure in low light conditions, and fast shutter speeds in all conditions, but more noise is created, and the image may be slightly less sharp.
Low VS. High ISO 100% Crop Nikon D5000 18mm 1.3” f/8.0 ISO 100
Low VS. High ISO 100% Crop Nikon D5000 18mm 1/40 f/8.0 ISO 6400
Shutter Speed The Shutter Speed, is a measure of how long the sensor (or Film) is exposed to light. Measured in seconds, usually whole or fractions. Long Shutter Speeds will show motion. Fast Shutter Speeds will freeze motion.
Aperture A lens/camera Aperture is an adjustable diaphragm that controls how much light is let into the sensor. Aperture is usually displayed as f/x with x being the aperture value. This is also known as an f stop. Aperture also controls Depth Of Field (DOF). A Shallow DOF puts the subject in focus, and the background out of focus. A Wide DOF puts everything in focus. Wide aperture (low number) = Shallow DOF Closed aperture (high number) = Wide DOF
Aperture Wider apertures allow for faster shutter speeds, and closed down apertures allow for longer shutter speeds. Some lenses will have wider apertures when zoomed out completely, and more closed down apertures when zoomed in completely.