top of page

Tutorial: Photography 101 by Darin Hall (Part 1)

Hello! If you are a beginner photographer with a camera and lens, but you don't know where to start, here is a good guide! I will occasionally be posting some tips, tricks, and lessons about the things that I have learned from my last four years of photography.

So what are shooting modes? Here is a summary of the basics:

  • Camera shooting modes should differ depending on the different things that you are shooting.

  • The object that you can use to change shooting modes is the circular dial that is placed on the top of the camera.

  • The only three shooting modes that you should ever use if you want to be a pro photographer are Aperture Priority (Av), Manual (M), and Shutter Priority (Tv).

  • If you are wanting to start shooting right now, my best advice would be to change the dial to Aperture Priority (Av) for now until you get used to using the camera more often.

  • In some of the next posts, I will be explaining the importance behind each of those three modes as well as the correlation between one of the three most important things in photography: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

[Next] ... we are going to be talking about shutter speed.

Definition: The amount of time it takes for a camera shutter to open and close, exposing a certain amount of light to the camera's image sensor

That was the basic definition, but if you would like to read into more detail to understand what I am saying, here it is! It is best to read this with your camera in hand to try it out and fully understand. So, if you have your camera in hand, take off the lens and look inside of that space on the camera body. If you see a series of mirrors, that means your camera is a DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex). And if you don't see a series of mirrors, that means your camera is a mirrorless camera (I can explain this in another post if you'd like). The device behind the mirrors (or you may see it right now) is called the image sensor. Think of the image sensor as the brain of the camera, taking in all of the light through the camera lens and processing it into pixels.

The longer the image sensor is exposed, the brighter the image will be. And that is where the shutter speed comes in. In between the mirror and the image sensor is what is called the shutter. The shutter is a series of very small, horizontal, metal blades that expand (close) and contract (open) over the image sensor when you press the button to take a photo (which is also called the shutter button). The shutter speed is exactly what it sounds like, the speed (measured in seconds) that the shutter opens and closes. The faster the shutter speed, the faster the blades move up and down, making the image sensor less exposed, meaning that the image will be darker.

So how do you change the shutter speed in a camera? The shutter speed is changed by the wheel-like mechanism behind your shutter button. If you rotate it clockwise, the shutter speed will increase, and if you turn it counter-clockwise it will increase. In order to tell what your shutter speed is, look for a number displayed in fractions. That number represents the fraction of a second it takes for the shutter to open and close. For example, the best shutter speed for portraits is 1/200, meaning 1/200th of a second. However, once you continue to rotate counter-clockwise, you will start to see " show up next to a number. That indicates the number of seconds the shutter will stay open. So try switching the shutter speed to 3", and see what your camera does! The last setting that you will see in the shutter speed is BULB, and that basically means that the shutter will stay open for as long as you hold down on the button.

What is the importance of shutter speed? This is only one out of the three settings to determine exposure. Exposure basically is how well lit your photo is. Changing the shutter speed can do everything from freeze a very fast-paced action to purposefully adding motion blur for a certain effect.

So I have come up with a quick list of ideal shutter speed examples in every day photography

  • Portrait: 1/200

  • Landscape: 1/10 (you'll need a tripod)

  • Sports: 1/1000

  • Still life: 1/160

  • Night sky: BULB 30"

Now, you may ask, "Why am I doing these shutter speeds but my photo is still too dark/light?" And my answer to that is because if you are in Manual (M) mode, then you have to balance that with the Aperture and ISO as well, and I will be covering those as well later. But for now, if you only understand shutter speed then you can put the camera setting to Shutter Priority (Tv) and the camera will automatically change those other settings to what it thinks is correct.

[Next]... we're going to be talking about aperture!

Quick Definitions:

  • Aperture: The adjustment of how much natural light is let into the camera varying by the size of an opening in a lens (modeled after a pupil)

  • F-Stop: The measuring tool for different apertures; the lower the number, the more light is let in, and the higher the number, the less light is let in (examples: f/1.8, f/4.0, f/10, f/22)

  • Depth of field: The distance between the nearest and farthest objects in an image; the lower the aperture number, the more blurred the background is (less is in focus)

  • Fast: Refers to the aperture capabilities of a lens; fast lens means that it can have a very low aperture, and a slow lens means that its lowest aperture is relatively high (f/4 or higher)

At f/20, ISO 500, 1/60 sec

At f/10, ISO 200, 1/125 sec

At f/5, ISO 100, 1/500 sec

At f/2, ISO 100, 1/2000 sec

Now we can get into the specifics! Every time I try to explain aperture to someone, I try to get them to imagine a pupil. Cameras were built in order to capture light much like we do, so there are many similarities between the ways our eyes work and how cameras work. As I said earlier in the aperture definition, try to imagine it like a pupil. This next part may get confusing so bear with me! When someone steps outside into the light and their eyes adjust, their pupils the pupils get smaller because they don't have to let in as much light. And when they are exposed to darker conditions, they become larger. This is the same concept with aperture. It is controlled inside of each lens, and the size of the opening can be changed depending on what type of photo you want to take. The tricky part to remember is the lower the number (f-stop), the larger the opening is, and the higher the number, the smaller the opening is. So if a camera lens has an aperture at f/1.8, that means that it is a fast lens, shallow depth of field, and a wide opening.

Aperture is important for many different things. One of most common use of a low aperture (large opening) is for low light conditions. That allows the image to be brighter without having to compensate it with the shutter speed (and ISO but I'll explain that later). Another common use of low aperture usually deals with the amount of depth of field that the photographer wants. If I want to take a portrait of someone, the most ideal aperture is around f/2.8, and here's why. The first reason is that it allows lots of light in, meaning I will have to increase the shutter speed to near 1/250 to 1/400 or so, giving me a sharper image. It also introduces a solid amount of bokeh and isolates the subject. Bokeh is also another important term as that is what you use to describe the "background blur". Lastly, f/2.8 is best in order to make sure the entire face of that person's portrait is in focus. As noted earlier, when the aperture reaches a low number, less parts of the image are in focus and sometimes it can be too much. In some cases, higher f-stops like f/10 are also very useful. In times when you need to take photos of many people, higher numbers can be key to make sure everyone's face is in focus. One helpful tip that I learned was that when you are taking a photo of a lot of people, make the f-stop value equivalent to the number of people in the photo (you don't need to go past f/16). Higher f-stops are also helpful for landscape shots to get everything in focus as well. For example, if it is a well lit day, it is best to have an aperture around f/12 to f/16 for a sharp image with little to no out of focus points.

Understanding the basics of aperture can take you very far and I encourage you to try new things with it! If this was confusing in any way, feel free to leave a comment below or email me at or you can dm me on Instagram @darinhallphoto. Thanks!

42 views0 comments


bottom of page