Photography Tips & Tricks: Camera Basics

Forums Resources Photography Photography Tips & Tricks: Camera Basics

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    Most camera lenses are named after the focal length at which they work best. Different lenses can achieve different looks to your shots. 14mm is close to your average smartphone camera. 50mm is the standard for general shots. 85mm is usually said to be good for portraits. 85mm+ Telephoto lenses are used for far away shots where you want to zoom in really close. Telephoto zoom magnifies shots even more.

    Fisheye lenses have high distotion around the edges like a convex mirror, and are used mainly for experimental effects. Wide angle lenses are generally used for panoramic or landscape shots.

    Phillip McCordal: All about lenses for beginners

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    When to use lens filters

    Filters can be fairly pricey for something you might not use all that frequently, but in certain cases they can really add some nice effects to your shots if you know how to use them properly. The most common types of lens filters are UV, ND, Polarizer, Tilt shift, Hood, and various types of color gels. It’s also possible to create your own homemade filters, but be careful not to touch the camera lens since the sensitive coating scratches easily.


    DSLR Camera

    Every camera has a slightly different layout menu and button placement, so getting used to the control settings takes some practice. In general, it is recommended to adjust camera settings before every shoot. If you change locations, the settings will probably need to be adjusted again.


    The F-Number or F-Stop is calculated by N=f/D, where f= focal length and D= aperture. The simple explanation is that the F-number relates to the focal length, which is the distance away from the camera that a subject will appear in focus.

    Depth of Field

    Depth of field refers to how many areas in a shot will be in focus. This generally consists of the foreground, mid-range, and background. Shallow depth of field will only focus on one subject plane while everything else appears blurry. Deep focus will make a long shot appear in perfect clarity. Adjusting the camera F-stops and iris will change the focal distance.


    Pointing a camera and snapping a picture that looks good isn’t as easy as it sounds. Photographers tend to shoot in lots of different settings, lighting conditions, and times of the day. This creates a lot of variables that the photographer must account for. The most common problem is forgetting to adjust exposure settings on a sunny day, resulting in washed out photos.

    Aperture and white balance can affect the exposure. Level adjustment in post can also sometimes mitigate exposure issues, though it cannot replace lost detail. Underexposed (dark) images are more salvageable than overexposed photos.

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    Shutter Speed

    Shutter speed is another term for exposure, referring specifically to how long the camera aperture is left open to expose the film/camera sensor.


    Noise and grain are the bane of photographers. Noise consists of annoying little pixelation artifacts that speckle the photo. Low lighting is the usual cause of noise. ISO settings need to be adjusted to minimize the amount of noise.

    wikiHow: How to Avoid Noise in Your Digital Photography

    Blurry Footage or low resolution images

    The camera was probably out of focus, or else the video dimensions weren’t set at a high enough resolution. If sharpening the image quality, contrast, and reducing noise in Photoshop doesn’t help, there’s not much that can be done. Unfortunately there isn’t any way to magically make poor resolution appear higher quality.


    The lighting on a camera screen isn’t always exact. Histograms are used to ensure the camera records the level balance you want. The graph reads from left to right and is split into shadows, mid-tones, and highlights. The photographer can estimate at a glance if a photo has the right amount of contrast or not just by looking at the histogram distribution.

    Working in a Darkroom

    Darkrooms are used to develop photographs in film emulsion. It is essential that no unwanted light spill into the room during development. Most darkrooms are equipped with chemical baths, running water, and red or amber colored safelights. An enlarger is a tool used to project film negatives onto different sizes of photographic paper. Photographs are hung up to dry on a clothesline. It generally takes thirty minutes to an hour for the negatives to develop. Printing takes practice with multiple test strips to get the right levels of exposure and contrast.


    If you plan on selling photography professionally, it may be advisable to watermark, sign, or tag your photos. Otherwise, people will find a nice photo online and copy and paste it without a second thought to accrediting the photographer. Most people aren’t trying to steal, but unfortunately there are instances where people will attempt to pass off stolen photos as their own work to sell or enter in competitions. Watermarks ensure you get some recognition for your photography skills, and can direct additional traffic to your website.

    There are some disadvantages to tagging photos, the most obvious being the text may take away from the aesthetics of the photo. Watermarked photos may also be shared less frequently. Less obtrusive watermarks look better, but they can sometimes be easily removed in Photoshop.

    MCP Actions: Should you Watermark Your Photos?

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