Introduction to Photography: Basic Concepts for Beginners

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What is Photography?

Most of us know Photography as ‘taking a nice picture with a Camera’, but technically, it is capturing light in any given moment and saving it back on film (link: what is photo film) or digital record. And guess what, most of us can pick up this skill, some of us are more technical and others more creative. But at the end of the day, every photographer loves his photography.

Join us on this journey to explore Photography.

Brief history of Photography

Let’s look at some history first. The first permanent photograph was captured in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in France. He took a photo from outside his window.

Joseph Nicéphore Niépce 1826

But the camera itself was invented a lot earlier. The ancient Greeks thought our eyes emitted rays, like a laser, which enabled us to see but in the 10th Century, a Muslim astronomer named Ibn al-Haitham discovered how light actually works and can be used to reflect an image. He invented the first pin-hole camera called the Camera Obscura.

This mechanism further developed and is now used in telescopes, TV’s and Cameras. It was only in 1826, Niépce, discovered how to print them!

The next breakthrough was the introduction of colour photographs. The colour film was first developed in 1935 by Kodak Films but there alternative methods where used before this. Have a look at some of these very early colour photographs before the film. You can read more on the history here.

Over the next number of decades, each component from the lens to the shutter to the camera body has been developed and now integrated into a number of products too! More recently, Most top-end Mobile Phones now have cutting edge lenses and pro features, making them some of the best cameras.

Today Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Olympus are the market leaders for commercial cameras as well as Sony and Red Digital Cinema for Video.

Types of Photography Cameras

As the use for Photography varies from professional use to everyday use and photography for enthusiasts, many types and levels of the camera have been developed. So we’ve written the following article Types of Cameras to cover the multiple types (Point and shoot, combined, DSLR, mirrorless), have a read and then return here. (add link).

As a general point, you want to buy a DSLR, this is the icon photographers camera that allows you to add, upgrade, change lenses and so many more modifications for so many scenarios.

Canon 550D DSLR Camera
Typical Camera Accessories

In a nutshell, a DSLR is a single-lens reflex camera, this is where light travels through the lens and then to a mirror that alternates to send the image to either the viewfinder or the digital image sensor. The viewfinder is the hole you look through (see pic below). This happens either using a prism or a series of extra mirrors. When the shutter is pressed, i.e. when you press the ‘click’ button, the mirror flips up out of the way, the shutter slides open, and light coming from the lens takes a straight shot to the imaging sensor where a photograph is made.

The viewfinder

Have a read of our beginners post here on the cameras we recommend you buy.


One key attribute of the DSLR is the ability to change the lense. The lens essentially allows you to focus on objects very close (an Inch away) or very far (hundreds of Yards), then lenses vary from sharpness, angle and aperture. You can read our guide to the various lenses here (add link).

Each DSLR brand (add link to popular ones) has its own set of lenses but brands like Sigma focus on developing affordable lenses for various brands. In our experience Sigma offer brilliant cost-effective lenses.

Three Fundamentals

In terms of capturing the image on a DSLR, essentially it is about controlling the light. There are three key fundamentals, 1) Shutter Speed, 2) Aperture, and 3) ISO. A Photographer must use all three in perfect balance to capture the best photo and every scenario like outdoor v indoor, tripod v no tripod, flash v no flash v natural light affects each on. We are going to explore each one in-depth, as well as considering Exposure, White balance and HDR.

  1. Shutter speed: The amount of time the shutter is left open to capture light – Shutter Speed
  2. Aperture: Think of it as – Aperture
  3. ISO: This is the sensitivity of the film or image sensor – ISO

General Tools of a Photographer

So now you should have a DSLR camera and a lens. This is all you really need but lets look at some other general tools.

  1. Camera – This should be a DSLR, one at the beginner or entry-level (Link).
  2. Lenses – If you buy a new camera, try to find one with a bundle of lenses, a macro, telephoto and maybe a few others. Most cameras will come with a standard lens 18-55mm. So you want something that for long-range photography as well as close photography and a prime lens at 50mm (link).
  3. Photo software – You need a programme like Adobe Lightroom to manage and edit your photos. Lightroom is popular amongst most photographers, but have a look at some other options (add link).
  4. A tripod – So you can buy a monopod or a tripod, but go for a tripod. You need to practice using a tripod as well as practising getting stable shots. See our comprehensive tripod article. (add link).
  5. Memory cards – Your DSLR won’t have built-in memory so you will need an SD card or whatever memory card the camera requires. Ideally, this should be a reputable brand, class 10 and the size for it should be between 32GB and 128GB.(add link).
  6. Flash – Your camera will have a flash, but no photographer every uses it, and there is a reason. Buy a proper speed flash. Have a read here (add link).

So now you should understand the camera better.

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