Photography 101 - Introduction

In this Photography 101 series, we are going to be looking at the six fundamentals of photography. These are six essential requirements to taking a photographic image. Understanding these six things is going to make photography a lot more simple and easy to understand.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a small compact camera, a high end DLSR or a smart phone. The six fundamentals apply across all forms of photography and all camera formats.

The Six Fundamentals Are:

Aperture |


Aperture is simply a word for the hole in the lens. We use this hole to control the amount of light that enters the camera.

Time |


Time allows us to choose how long we want our medium to record that light for. And it’s the shutter speed that allows us to change that time.

Optics |


Optics are the lenses we put on our cameras. They focus the light to a particular point so we can record the image.

Light |


Light is all around us, it comes in many different forms and without it, we can’t take our image.

Composition |


Composition is how we frame our shot. Where we place elements within our frame. This is also known as Subject.

Medium |


Medium is simply what we record that light on to. Whether it be film or a digital sensor.

In the next six articles I will be explaining each of these fundamentals in detail so you can better understand photography and hopefully become a better photographer because of it. Throughout this series you can post any questions you may have in the comments section below each post, or you can send an email to and I can answer you that way.



Photography 101 - Aperture

Aperture is a hole in your lens made up of little metal plates that work together to open and closed it controls your depth of field. Large Aperture means a large hole and Small Aperture means a small hole. However, don’t get confused with the f Stop number that goes with it. A large aperture (large hole) has a small number (i.e f2.8) and a small aperture (small hole) has a large number (i.e f22).

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Depth of field is the amount of your photo that you have in focus. You control this by changing your aperture. A small aperture (large number f22) will give you greater depth of field. This means that most of your photo will be in focus. A larger aperture (small number f2.8) will give you shallow depth of field. This means that only a very small portion of your photo will be in focus.

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Shallow Depth of Field

Here, you can see that our subject is in focus. But everything behind it is completely out of focus. This is shallow depth of field. Shallow depth of field is perfect for portraits as it allows you to blur the background and put emphasis on your subject.

Large Depth of Field

Here, you can see that the rocks, grass and girl in the foreground are in focus. But the mountains far back in the distance are also in focus.. This is large depth of field. Perfect for landscape photography as you get to capture the entire scene.

Think of Depth of Field as a three-dimensional effect, with an X, Y and Z axis. The focal point is the point that you are focused on. Aperture controls the depth of field (Z) beyond and before that point. This is the Z axis. The focal plane (X and Y axis), is the plane of focus. Anything in line with that plane either side to side or up and down will be in focus.

Aperture and Shutter Speed go hand in hand, and it's the Shutter, that you're going to learn about next.


Photography 101 - Shutter

Shutter speed refers to the speed of the shutter. The shutter speed is the length of time that your medium (Digital sensor, film, glass plate etc.) is exposed to light for. A fast shutter speed would be 1/2000th. This means your medium is exposed for 1/2000th of a second. A slow shutter speed would be 30” (seconds). This means your medium is exposed for 30 seconds.

Most DLSRs will have a shutter speed range of 30” to 1/4000 of a second. The double quotation mark in photography refers to seconds not inches.

The shutter is a curtain inside your camera. That curtain stops light from hitting your recording medium and from exposing a picture. When the shutter is not in use it is obstructed by a mirror. This mirror is on a 45 degree angle and bounces the light from your lens upwards into the viewfinder allowing the photographer to see through the lens.

When you push the shutter button, that mirror closes, the shutter curtain opens and light passes right through and hits your sensor. That classic sound you hear when taking a photo is the sound of the shutter curtain moving.

When the mirror closes, it is covering the path of light that you see through the lens. This is why when you take a picture everything goes black for a brief moment.

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If you want to take a perfectly exposed image you need to change the shutter speed and aperture together. If you have a larger aperture (small number) this will let in a lot of light because the hole is so large. So you will need to increase the speed of the shutter to only expose the recording medium for a short moment. You can use the Tv and Av settings on your camera to automatically change your settings for you.

Fast Shutter Speed

A fast shutter speed will freeze action. In this image you can see a skater captured mid trick in the air.

 Slow Shutter Speed  A slow shutter speed will capture movement. In this image you can see a train running through a station. You can see that the train is moving due to the motion blur..

Slow Shutter Speed

A slow shutter speed will capture movement. In this image you can see a train running through a station. You can see that the train is moving due to the motion blur..

In the next article, I'm going to tell you a bit about Optics.


Photography 101 - Optics

Optics is simple. It is merely the glass that light travels through to take a photo. Be it a professional lens for a Digital SLR or just a fixed lens on a compact camera or smart phone.

There are all types of lenses. They range from:

Extreme Wide Angle

8-10mm (zoom)
16mm (prime)

Wide Angle

17 - 40mm


24 -70mm

Short Telephoto

70 - 200mm

Extreme Telephoto

300mm +

All lenses have a focal distance. This is the distance that the lens can focus up to. The smaller the focal number on the lens (0.4m∞) the shorter the focal distance. The larger the focal number (58m∞) the longer the focal distance.

How do we measure focal distance? Focal distance is measured from the subject or point that you are focused on to the focal plane indicator on your camera.

 The  Focal Plane  is indicated on your camera by this symbol.

The Focal Plane is indicated on your camera by this symbol.

Many people think that this distance is measured from your subject to the end of the lens; and this is simply not true. On your lens there will be a focal number (say 0.4m∞) this would be for a macro lens. This is telling us that you can focus on your subject as close as 0.4 meters (40cm) away before your subject becomes blurry and the camera can no longer focus. This measurement is from the focal plane indicator to the focal plane on your subject.

This symbol is in perfect alignment to the focal plane of the camera. On an SLR it would be inline with the film. On a Digital SLR it is inline with the front of your sensor.

Without light however, optics are useless. And so the next article is all about light.


Photography 101 - Light

Light is all around us, and is what we use to make our pictures. Without light, we cannot take an image. Even at night, there is always light around. There are all different types of light but there are typically four main types of light.

Hard Light  –  Soft Light  –  Transmitted Light  – Reflecting Light

Hard Light - Photography 101 -

Hard Light

Hard light comes from any light source that is appears small. (ie. The sun on a clear day). The sun isn’t really that small but because it is so far away it becomes a very small but very bright light bulb in the sky.

Hard light gives very harsh light and intense shadows. It also adds sharpness and a small sparkle to the light. This is also called high contrast light.

If the light source is at the right angle to a subject, it will bring out the form, texture and enhance your subject.

Soft Light - Photography 101 -

Soft Light

Soft light comes from any light source that is shining through a large surface area. Much like the sun shining through clouds on an overcast day. Though this could be studio lights shining through a scrim or soft box.

Soft light is very low in contrast and gives very soft shadows and sometimes even none at all.

Be careful how you use soft light. If used in the wrong way your image can look very dull.

Transmitted Light - Photography 101 -

Transmitted Light

Transmitted light is very easy. It is as simple as being able to see the light source in the picture you are taking. This could be the sun during a sunrise/sunset or even a desk lamp in an interior shot.

The transmitted light in this image are the lightbulbs running along the wall, lighting the left side of the model's face.


Reflecting Light

Reflecting light is light that is reflecting off any surface that can be seen in the image. The sun shinning off wet sand at a beach, or the sun reflecting in the windows of a skyscraper in the city.

Reflecting light is typically a combination of hard light and transmitted light.

Along with the different type of light, there a various ways you can shape and utilise this light to create an interesting image. Lighting styles like split lighting and butterfly lighting can be used to create dramatic portraits. We'll looking at light styles in a future article. 

Next up, we're talking about the composition.


Photography 101 - Composition

The rule of thirds teaches you to split your image into thirds vertically and horizontally. Where those imaginary lines intersect is usually the best place to have your subject.

Using the rule of thirds will usually give you the most pleasing layout, but rules are made to be broken.

Unless you know how to break these rules however, I suggest keeping to them until you understand when and why a rule should be broken.

Rule of Thirds - Photography 101 -

Composition Lines

Intersection Points - Photography 101 -

Intersection Points

Leading Lines - Photography 101 -

Leading Lines

Framing your subject on or within the compositional lines is very important. The reason being is that our brain interprets images to be more pleasing to the eye when following the rule of thirds. 

You can place an element in the center of frame, but can be difficult to get right. You can see here that the model is centered, but still utilises the Rule of Thirds as the middle third is filled and the bottom of her head is on the top third line. 

Often composition is a complicated process made to look simple. People viewing the final image don’t necessarily know why they like it, it just has a feeling about it that captures their imagination. More complex composition is something that takes time to learn. But the more you practice the easier it gets. Often it’s a case of going with your instincts on what feels right and whilst some photographers have a more natural ability to identifying composition it is still something you can learn.

Our final article in this series is about the Medium. What we record our images on to.


Photography 101 - Medium

Medium can be broken down into 4 sub-categories.

Medium   -   ISO   -   Format   -   Resolution

The medium is what we record our images on. Traditionally it was film, but in today’s digital cameras it’s either a CCD or CMOS microchip known as a sensor. The photograph used to burn into film, but with digital it’s a little bit different. The sensor captures and records the light, it then converts that light into digital RGB values which make up the coloured pixels. Those pixels are then saved as a digital file. Either JPG or RAW.

The format is simply the size of the medium. Large format film, medium format digital etc.

The resolution is how much data we can fit in the image. This is basically how many pixels your image contains. 24 megapixels = 24 million pixels. Typically, the more megapixels, the larger you can print an image.


ISO is the sensitivity to light of our recording medium. It allows us to boost our level of light beyond what the standard settings can produce. The higher the ISO the brighter but more noisy your image will be (noise is grain). The lower the ISO the darker but more clearer your image will be. If you want a brighter image play with the aperture and shutter speed. The lower your ISO the larger you can print your images with minimal noise.

ISO allows us to shoot in different lighting conditions. If we were shooting with a standard ISO, say 100; and the light was very low, we’d be shooting with a slow shutter speed and our aperture might be at it's largest (maximum aperture). In this case we might find that we still can’t take the picture because the light is so low, so we would increase the ISO to gain more light.

Going from ISO 100 – 200 is doubling the exposure by 1 stop. You could say you’re digitally opening the aperture further by 1 f stop. 

That's it for this mini series of the Six Fundamentals of Photography. Any questions you have just leave them in the comments below each post and I will promptly reply to them. If you liked any post please be sure to hit the love heart button to show your support.