Want To Learn About Photography? Start Here // Lighting 101


So you want to take pictures! Not just pictures, but really good pictures.

You’ll need a DSLR and a lens. (Not sure which one to get? My advice is to save money and get an older DSLR and splurge on a really awesome lens or two. I have a Canon T3i. I’ll explain lenses and which ones to use when in another post.)

This last quarter at school I watched myself and my classmates improve tremendously as photographers, just from learning to successfully switch from the Automatic mode to Manual.

The very first thing I want to stress to you is to start thinking of photographs as “light formed images.” Lighting is everything and you, as the photographer, are going to learn how to use it!

There are so many ways to make lighting work for you. Even with good lighting, if you don’t know how to use your camera, it can be a total flop. And with the right knowledge, you can take a great photo with not-so-great lighting!

I remember at one point before learning how to use my camera, I switched around settings and my screen was WHITE for weeks. Seriously!

Let me say it again, lighting is everything.

So there are some numbers involved in here, but don’t let that discourage you.

The exposure of your image is controlled by the aperture and shutter speed and the iso. 

The aperture is a fancy name for the size of the lens opening. We measure this with f-stops. If you want more light in your image, you’ll select a larger f-stop and a smaller f-stop to let less light in. Here’s the confusing part: The numbers seem a little backwards.

An example of this: f22 would be a small opening, where f1.4 would be a large opening.


These apertures (f-stops) also control the depth of field. So the smaller the f-stop (f22) the greater the depth of field (the more in focus). And the larger th f-stop (f1.4) would have less in focus.


Now for shutter speeds! This allows us to control the motion and movement that the camera captures. These are most commonly measured in fractions of seconds

slower  1/2   1/4   1/8   1/15   1/30   1/60   1/125   1/250   1/500   1/1000  faster 

but it’s also possibly to leave the lens open for extended amounts of times (like 30 seconds!) to create scenes like this.

Let’s say you want to capture someone jumping in the air, you’ll need a really quick shutter speed. But this let’s in less light, since the shutter is only open for a tiny fraction of a second. So we have to manipulate the settings on our camera in order to get the image we want.

So if you need to use a faster shutter speed, but still have the same amount of light, you’ll need to use a larger f-stop (Remember: not a larger number, but instead a larger opening). If you need to use a slower shutter speed, you’ll need a smaller f-stop.

There are different ways to manipulate your camera to have the same amount of light called equivalent exposures, but the options you choose will be made depending on what you want in focus and how much movement you would like to show.

Quick Recap: To keep the same exposure, if you change the f-stop to a larger opening, you’ll need a faster shutter speed. If you change the f-stop to a smaller opening, you’ll need a slower shutter speed.

The ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor. The larger the ISO, the “faster” it is. That really just means it’s more sensitive to light. So you’d use a high ISO in low light. And put this same practice in reverse, the “slower” and lower number means it’s less sensitive to light. So, this is what you would use in bright light (like the outdoors). You always want to use the lowest ISO you can get away with, the quality of your photo will come out better. A high ISO is what makes your photo more likely to have “noise” or that fuzzy look when you take photos in low light.

And now you’re one step closer to becoming a photographer! Practice practice practice! I remember learning this and thinking “huh???” But after I starting putting these things into practice, I had an “Aha!” moment and it’s been smooth sailing from there.

You CAN do it!

If you’d like to check out my photography, head on over to maphotographics.myportfolio.com!

Don’t quit your daydream!



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