I started taking photos because it was the only thing, at the time, that made me feel like I could possibly be good at it. Of course, I had no idea what being a good photographer even meant. I had no idea how much work it would take or what kind of person I would need to be to become good at it. As such, the lessons I learned were hard and mainly the result of painfully ruined rolls of film and missed opportunities.
Knowing what I know now, I can’t help but think that those painful lessons could have been somewhat diminished if I had known how to structure my education as a photographer; if I had known some practical, usable tips I could try as a self-taught photographer. Perhaps, if I had started learning to shoot with even just a few fundamentals, I would have at least started with something more solid than just blind luck and “hoping for the best.”
My aim in putting together this round-up of tutorials is to have a collection of the basic and most fundamental aspects of photography that you can practice right away so that you can start taking great photos right away.
1) The Basics of Composition
Composition is the combination of the many elements that make up a photo. It consists of your subject, colors, motion, emotion, proportions, foregrounds, backgrounds, and basically anything that is in the photo. It is the combination and interplay between these various elements that will ultimately determine how your photo is viewed and how pleasing it is to look at. Simply put, composing a shot is what you are doing when you look through your camera’s viewfinder.
I chose this basic introduction to some rules of composition because it covers most of what a beginner would need to know in order to start thinking and seeing the world like a photographer. It’s simple and concise and immediately useful.
However, keep in mind that these “rules” aren’t really rules so much as they are guidelines to get you to start thinking about how to frame your shots for the best results. When you have a good understanding of these basic rules, you’ll know exactly how to bend or break them for creative effect.
Light is what makes photography work. Without light, there is no photo. Therefore, having a good understanding of how light behaves and how to control it is one of the most important pieces of knowledge a photographer can/must have.
Exposure, in its most basic sense, is the combination of 3 variables that control the amount of light that is allowed to pass through your camera’s lens and onto the film or the sensor. These variables are: Aperture size, shutter speed, and film/ISO sensitivity.
I chose this basic introduction to exposure because I believe it provides the most succinct and accurate representation of how to think about exposure. Read it and start playing around with the exposure settings on your camera and soon you’ll start to understand how to properly expose your photographs.
The thing to remember about exposure is that it is the most talked about aspect of photography and yet it is still the hardest lesson to master. Exposure is highly subjective and depends mostly on the judgement of the photographer. Therefore, it is best learned with first-hand experience.
Shooting in a studio means having control of most, if not all, of the variables in creating a photo. You can set up the shot exactly how you want it. You can control all the light sources and you have full control of what you place in front of your camera lens.
However, having control doesn’t mean that shooting in a studio is less challenging. In fact, shooting in a studio is one of the most difficult things to master because of how precise it is. The studio is where the nuances of light have the most impact. How a shadow falls across your subject, the intensity of the light, the importance of a well-balanced composition are all magnified when you’re shooting in the studio.
I chose this particular tutorial about studio lighting because it covers a few basic and easy-to-follow studio lighting set ups that will immediately get you thinking about how light behaves. You’ll get to play around with light and shadow to see first-hand, the effects it has on your photos. Coupled with what you learned about exposure and composition in the previous tutorials, you’ll be well on your way to taking great photos in the studio.
Shooting landscapes or shooting outdoors is very different than shooting studio scenes. Whereas shooting in a studio teaches you how to be precise with your lighting, composition, and exposure, shooting landscapes teaches you to adjust and adapt to the scene in front of you to create a beautiful photo.
The decisions you make and how you adapt to various the conditions while shooting outdoors is what ultimately determines the outcome of your photos. Shooting landscapes is a great way to put together everything you know about light, exposure, and composition. Shooting landscapes also provides you with the opportunity to think creatively and find the best way to capture a scene with the few tools you have at your disposal.
I chose this particular tutorial because it addresses landscape photography from a practical and useful perspective that gets you thinking about how to approach a scene like a photographer. When you combine the fundamentals of the previous tutorials with this landscape tutorials, you’ll no doubt take at least a few great photos on your next adventure.
I started as a street photographer. It was the most accessible and least expensive way for me to find what interested me as a photographer. Shooting on the street allowed me to shoot at my own pace and it help build my confidence as a photographer.
Street photography is a somewhat reflective form of photography. You watch, observe, and document your surroundings as a street photographer and in the process, you’ll discover what kind of photographer you really are. Street photography also teaches you how to shoot many different types of subjects and situations.
I chose to include some tips on street photography because I believe it is one of the best ways to learn to take photos. Street photography teaches you to follow your instincts and challenges you to be mindful of all the photographic opportunities around you.
Of course, the world of photography is infinitely more nuanced than what these 5 tutorials represent. There are hundreds of subcategories and types of photography that all teach you something unique about being a photographer. I chose these 5 tutorials because they are the most accessible and they cover the most fundamentals that can be applied to most types of photography. I also put them in order so that you learn the most basic fundamentals first (i.e. composition, exposure) and then slowly add more complex ideas (i.e. light and shadow, changing lighting conditions, and instinct).
Hopefully, the tutorials in this roundup will help you build a solid foundation for your own photography and you’ll be taking great photos in no time.
Share your favorite photo tutorials with us in the comment’s section below.