Basics of (Digital), Photography 101

 by: Vafa Adib, edit: Ryan Adib

(Click here to Download the PDF file)

What is Photography?

  • Photography is the Art of Painting with Light

What do we need for Photography?

Just a camera and a scene you want to capture

– Camera parts

  • Camera Body is the blood and guts of your camera. It holds all the electronic components required for your camera to operate and produce a photograph including the image sensor, memory card, and battery, as well as acting as a base for lenses to be attached

  • Lens is responsible for focusing light onto the image sensor producing the image. Like the one in your eyes

  • Aperture controls the amount of light (and the depth of field and focus of an image)

  • Shutter controls the length of time the image sensor is open to light and able to expose the image

  • Sensor is the film to a digital camera. Sensors are made of millions of tiny light sensitive cells called pixels

  • Viewfinder allows the photographer to view the composition as it will be exposed onto the sensor

  • Light Meter allows the photographer to take readings of the various light and dark values within the photographic composition to determine correct exposure

  • Memory Card allows digital images to be stored, saved, and reviewed

  • Built in Flash comes in handy for low light situations where proper exposure can’t otherwise be achieved and the subjects are within close proximity of the photographer

  • Exposure is the total amount of light allowed to fall on the photographic medium (photography film or image sensor) during the process of taking a photograph

  • Each photo can be:

    • Correctly Exposed

      • Proper amount of light

    • Underexposed

      • Not enough light, too dark

    • Overexposed

      • Too much light, too bright

  • Exposure triangle

Exposure Modes

  • Programmed (AUTO) – allows the camera programs to automatically select both aperture and shutter speed settings

  • Shutter Priority – allows the photographer to select the desired shutter speed that remains constant, allowing the camera to automatically select the proper aperture

  • Aperture Priority – allows the photographer to select the desired aperture that remains constant, allowing the camera to automatically select the proper shutter speed

  • Manual – allows the photographer to select both the aperture and shutter speed settings

  • Dial

How to select Exposure mode:

  • Auto: When you want to make it EASY and FAST, but of course you will NEVER get the best photograph out of your camera on auto

  • Aperture Priority(A, Av): When you want to manually set the Depth of Field

    • The bigger the  aperture number, the bigger depth of field/the smaller the apertures hole

    • The smaller the aperture number, the smaller depth of field/the bigger the aperture hole

  • Shutter Speed Priority (S, Tv or T): When you want to freeze movements, or make a blurry picture out of a moving object

    • The higher the shutter speed, the sharper the photo


in camera is in charge of the amount of light passing through the lens. This also has a big impact on the Depth of Field (I will talk about it more). Aperture is a hole that can be adjusted to let less or more light hit the sensor. Aperture values (numbers) are the inverse of amount of opening of the hole and the light. The lower the aperture of a lens the more expensive it will be. Also lenses with lower apertures are called “fast lenses”.

  • Aperture
  • ApertureShutterSpeed

Combination of Aperture and Shutter Speed

  • When you open a faucet all the way, water gushes out so you fill a bucket in a very short time. This is the same as pairing a large aperture and fast shutter speed to let in bright light for a short time

  • When you open a faucet just a little, water trickles out and so it takes a much longer time to fill a bucket. This is the same as pairing a small aperture and slow shutter speed to let in dim light for a longer time

  • No matter which combination you choose, the bucket is filled the same amount. Likewise, an image in a camera can be exposed the same amount by various aperture and shutter speed combinations while also controlling motion and depth of field

Depth of Field

The Aperture Controls the Light and Depth Of Field

  • The aperture adjusts the size of the opening through which light passes to the image sensor. The aperture can be opened up to let in more light or closed (stopped down) to let in less. In respect to exposure, smaller apertures let less light strike the image sensor so the image is darker. Larger apertures let in more so it’s lighter and brighter. As with the shutter speed, the aperture also affects the sharpness of your picture, but in a different way.

  • Changing the aperture changes the depth of field, the depth in a scene from foreground to background that will be sharp in a photograph.

  • Smaller aperture (a bigger number) increases the depth of field while larger one (a smaller number) decreases it. For some pictures—for example, a landscape—you may want a smaller aperture for maximum depth of field so that everything from near foreground to distant background is sharp. However in a portrait you would want a larger aperture to decrease the depth of field so that your subject is sharp but the background is soft and out of focus.

Shallow Depth of Field

  • Small Aperture number (a wide open Aperture hole) causes a Shallow Depth of Field

  • Only one lock is in focus, the rest show up out of focus and  blurry

  • 1/3 of front and 2/3 of the back of the focus point are in focus

  • Shallow DOF
  • Shallow DOF 01
  • Shallow DOF 02
  • Shallow DOF 03

Shallow Depth of Field:

Big Aperture (low number), decreases the Depth of Field, background is blurry, good for PORTRAITS.

Blurry background adds value to foreground which in this case is the portrait.

Deep Depth of Field:

Small Aperture (big number), increases the Depth of Field, background is sharp, good for Landscape.

These photo have Deep Dept of Field, in the other word their background are as important as foreground.

  • Deep DOF 01

Panorama, Deep Depth of Field, so that whole valley shows up in focus

Panorama DOF

Composition – Framing

What is the purpose of composition?

  • The purpose of composition is to selectively include or exclude subjects from the photographic frame, with the intent of establishing an appealing visual interaction between the main point(s) of interest and the rest of the image. Defining a single subject, group of subjects, or plane of interest is key to creating photographs that attract the viewer. Too many competing points of interest can be distracting and confusing, causing the eye to aimlessly wander the frame, failing to pull the viewer into the image for closer inspection. It is very important to remember that composition is not just concerned with the visual elements that are included/excluded from the frame, but also has a great deal to do with depth of field and focus. Ensuring your subject is in focus and given depth in relation to other elements of the photograph will have a dramatic impact on the success of any composition.


  • Remove your subject from centre

  • Center-stage is a great place for a performer to be. However, the middle of your picture is not the best place for your subject. Bring your picture to life by simply moving your subject away from the middle of your picture. Start by playing tick-tack-toe with subject position. Imagine a tick-tack-toe grid in your viewfinder. Now place your important subject at one of the intersections of lines.

The Rule of Third

  • Suggests that if the image frame is separated into 3 even sections both vertically and horizontally (9 total segments), that an effective composition will be achieved if the primary element(s) of the photograph is located at the intersections of these segments.

Rule of third
  • Bad Frame

Bad Framing, Bad Composition

This photo has the divider of ocean and sky right in the middle. This is not a best practice.

Better Framing, better Composition

This photo has the divider of ocean and sky right around the 1/3  – 2/3 . This is following the best practice.

  • Good frame
  • Bad Framing

Bad Framing, bad Composition

In this photo eyes of the subject are too high, close to 1/5 top of the frame.

Better Framing, better Composition

In this photo eyes of the subject are lower, close to 1/3 top of the frame.  Another example of following the rule of third.

  • Good Framing
  • Good Composition

Centre-Lens distance is different from subject-Lens distance. Subject out of focus! now what?

  1. Look through the viewfinder and position its focus point on the most important part of the scene — your main subject.

In effect, you centre that subject.

  1. Press the shutter button halfway down, until the green focus-OK light in the viewfinder or LCD glows steadily.

  2. Holding the shutter button halfway down, reorient the camera so that your desired composition appears in the viewfinder / screen.

  3. Press the shutter button all the way down to take the picture!

Direction Of The Light

Front Light (typical)

  • Light comes from directly behind the camera falling squarely on the subject. Front light removes most surface shadows giving even lighting to the subject and enhancing colors. Front light can flatten the image as highlights and shadows are significantly reduced.

  • Front light
  • Back lit

Back Light

  • Light comes from behind the subject and produces a silhouette effect. Sometimes to properly expose the background and subject, use a ‘fill flash’ to light up dark shadowed areas against the background.

Back Light photos, with and without Fill Flash

Use the slider to see the difference 

Back lit no flashBack lit with flash

Back Light

  • This is a sample of Back Light photo WITH FILL FLASH

  • Back lit with flash
  • Side light

Side Light (Very Interesting! (my favourite!))

  • Comes from beside the subject, illumination one side very well, while the other side falls into shadow. When there is a strong difference between the light area and dark shadows it can produce a very dramatic image with a great deal of depth.

9 Tips to Remember:

    • Use High Resolution
    • Use Low ISO
    • Do not afraid of getting closer to your subject, avoid digital ZOOM as much as possible
    • When doing Kids Photography, use simple and plain back grounds, do not use Flash and stay at kids eye level
    • Avoid AUTO Mode
    • Always back up your pictures, Keep Two Copies
    • Once in a while create a folder call it “SELECTION” or …, copy your favorite pictures into it, and print them
    • Use Aperture mode/low number for Portraits (A or Av, or Portrait)
    • Use Shutter Speed mode/high number for sports (S, Tv)