Basics Of Photography: The Complete Guide

We spent the last week learning all about the basics of photography, from the way your camera works to composing your photos to editing them in post. Here’s the complete guide, along with a PDF of all the lessons and some additional resources fo learning more.

Note: Click the lesson title to view the lesson — it’s a link!

Part I: Understanding How Your Digital Camera Works
With so many cameras available, figuring out how all the specifications and options translate into your everyday use is complicated. For our first lesson in the Basics of Photography, we learn how cameras work and make sense of what that means in terms of choosing a camera to buy and how that choice affects your photographs.[imgclear]

Part II: Your Camera’s Automatic and Assisted Settings
In this lesson we take a look at your camera’s various assisted and automatic settings.[imgclear]

Part III: Your Camera’s Manual Settings
In this lesson we take away our handicap and jump into the fun stuff: manual mode. We look at the details of shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, as well as how those settings affect your photos.[imgclear]

Part IV: Composition and Technique
A well-composed photograph is really a matter of opinion, but there are a few tricks that tend to result in better pictures. That’s what we take a look at in this lesson.[imgclear]

Part V: Editing Images in Post
For our final photography lesson, we look at the final step: editing your images. We try different kinds of techniques for colour correction, touch ups, and a few other fun effects.[imgclear]

If you’d like all of these lessons in a printable PDF file, click here to download one. (Note: The photos in the composition lesson were cropped because they didn’t fit, so visit the original post to see them in their entirety.)

Additional Resources

If you want to learn more about digital photography, there are plenty of resources to help you out. We’ve broken them up into three sections so you can focus on the resources that are most appropriate for your needs.

Understanding the Way Your Camera Works

  • Curtin’s Guide to Digital Cameras will take you through every little thing your camera can possibly do. If you still don’t have a digital camera yet, this guide also contains a ton of advice on what to buy based on your needs and intended use.
  • The Shortcourses Bookstore has books on tons of popular digital cameras so you can learn more about how they work. You can even get digital copies of the books for your mobile devices.
  • Geoff Lawrence offers up a lot of information, ranging from the basic to more complex. This site will teach you simple things, like holding your camera properly, as well as more complex things, like exposure bracketing.

Composing Better Photographs

  • Samy’s Camera, which is a great camera store (that happens to be down the street from me) also has a bunch of online photo lessons that will teach you a lot about lighting and composing your photos. They even have some lessons in Spanish.
  • Web Photo School has a few free lessons to help you shoot better photos.
  • This short course on Digital Desktop Studio Photography will teach you all about photographing objects in a controlled studio environment. It’s pretty much something anyone can do on their desk (hence the name).
  • Best Photo Lessons contains a bunch of basic lessons on the principles of photography, including a few things we didn’t cover.

Editing Your Photos

  • If you want to learn Photoshop, we’ve got a night school for that, too. It’s not all about Photography, but you’ll learn about how the application works and plenty about colour-correcting and touching up your images.
  • is an online training service that’ll teach you all sorts of things about Photoshop. It costs $US25 per month, but if you’re on a tight budget you can just pay for a single month, learn what you need to learn, and then cancel your membership.
  • The National Association of Photoshop Professionals is the organisation that puts out the great Photoshop magazine Photoshop User. For $US99 a year you get that magazine plus a membership. You probably don’t want to sign up for this if you’re not going to spend a lot of time learning about Photoshop techniques, as it’s pricey, but there’s tons of great info and tutorials. I used to subscribe back when I did more photography and learned a ton of great Photoshop tricks this way. It’s not for everyone, but if you’ve got the time it is a great resource.
  • You Suck At Photoshop is free training and comedy rolled into one. It’s been around for awhile and you’ve probably heard about it, but it’s still awesome. The videos aren’t just funny — they actually teach you Photoshop.

Other Stuff

  • DIY Photography is a great resource for projects for your camera. Photography can be a really expensive hobby, but you can build a lot of the equipment you want/need yourself. DIY Photography has plenty of light rings, diffusers, camera straps, and even cameras you can build yourself.
  • Here’s a lesson on Displaying and Sharing Your Photos — a topic we didn’t have time to cover.
  • We have an Ask Lifehacker focused on how to take better photos in low light. If that’s your primary concern, this should cover all the bases for you.

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