Photography: Back To Basics

As I type this post I am not so patiently awaiting the arrival of my shiny new Canon EOS 7D.

Yes; I have finally gotten around to replacing that poor old Xti. It served me well for 5 years but now just has too many issues to deal with. It was a hard-working camera and deserves a rest.

I thought I’d pass some of the wait time by going back and reviewing the basics. Whether you are new to photography, or have been around the block a time or two, it’s always good to make sure you have a grasp on the basics.

Let’s see what I can pull out of those old dusty files in the corners of my mind. Don’t worry I’ll stick with the files marked “photography”. I’m sure you don’t want to get into the old “learning to ride a bike” file and hear how I tipped over into a thorny rose bush now do you?

Photography Basics:

  • ISO measures sensitivity to light. Use lower numbers for bright outdoor shots and higher numbers for darker indoor shots.
  • At higher ISO settings you may get noise in your image. Lower ISO numbers allow for more color saturation but will require more light.
  • Lower ISO settings take slower shutter speeds. Higher ISO settings take faster shutter speeds.
  • The aperture controls the amount of light let into the camera. A small aperture [bigger numbers] lets in less light. A wide open aperture [smaller numbers] lets in more light.
  • Aperture is measured in f stops and affects the depth of field.
  • Use a higher aperture number to get everything in sharper focus; to blur your background and keep your subject in sharp focus use a lower number.
  • The shutter speed controls how long the shutter is open. Settings of 1/4000 – 1/100 are considered fast, 1/80 – 1/4 medium, 0.3″ – 0.8″ slow, 1 – 1.3 – 3.2 – 4 – 30 very slow.
  • Slow shutter speeds let in more light, the lower the light in the room the slower the shutter speed should be. Slow speeds blur motion.
  • Faster shutter speeds let in less light. Faster speeds stop motion.
  • Use a tripod to help keep your image in sharp focus; especially with slower shutter speeds.


  • Use your right hand to grip the camera, and cup the lens with your left hand. This will help prevent camera shake from a heavy lens.
  • If standing while shooting keep your elbows as close to your body as possible to aid stability and aim for a nice wide stance with your feet.
  • Move around and look at your subject from different angles; shoot from higher up, lower down, closer, further away, or through the trees. Change your perspective for more interesting images.
  • Avoid changing lenses where there is wind, water, or dust blowing around such as outdoors. Turn camera off before changing lenses and point it face down.
  • Use a strap to protect your camera from drops and falls.
  • Take a quick look around the background of your image; watch for things like poles that may “grow” from your subject’s head.
  • Watch your horizontal and vertical lines; try to keep your camera straight!
  • Look for “leading lines” or “frames” to add interest to your image.

And one last thought…

Shoot something everyday and don’t be afraid to experiment with your camera’s settings.


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