Getting serious about bettering your photography skills is exciting but can be overwhelming. You don’t understand the settings on your camera, and frequently used photography terms such as “histogram” and “RAW” are completely foreign to you. Getting a few of the most commonly asked questions for beginners answered will help you on your journey to becoming a great photographer.
What is The Depth of Field?
Depth of field is the zone of sharpness within a photo that appears in focus. The depth of field can vary significantly. When there is a very narrow zone of sharpness with a large blurred background, the photo has a narrow depth of field. When the majority of the photo is in focus, the photo has a wide depth of field. Selecting a wide aperture (i.e., f/2.0) will produce a narrow depth of field. Selecting a narrow aperture (i.e., f/16) will produce a wide depth of field.
How to Get a Blurry Background?
Once you understand depth of field, you’ll have a much easier time creating a blurred background in your images. Blurred backgrounds with beautiful bokeh is one of the reasons people invest in mirrorless and DSLR cameras. You can create a blurred background with a smartphone. But you’ll create richer bokeh with a mirrorless or DSLR camera and prime lens. For beginner photographers, a 50mm lens, such as the Canon 50mm f/1.8, is a great prime lens choice. You’ll be able to create gorgeous blurred backgrounds without breaking the bank.
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What is RAW?
A RAW file is the image that the camera’s sensor sees. When you shoot a JPEG, the camera does all of the image processing. You don’t have to make a lot of editing decisions. However, you also don’t have a lot of control over the final image. Once a camera has processed a JPEG, you’re unable to recover lost detail. For example, if the sky is blown out, you lose those details forever with a JPEG. When you shoot RAW, you can recover some of the details in the sky. The same principle holds true for underexposed photos. For example, if the subject is largely hidden in shadow, you’ll be able to bring out a lot of this lost detail. Finally, shooting RAW provides complete control over white balance. When you shoot JPEG, you have to select white balance in camera. When you shoot RAW, you can shoot with any white balance setting and then adjust the final setting during post-processing.
All mirrorless and DSLR cameras have RAW shooting capacity. Most modern smartphones have the capacity to shoot RAW as well. If you don’t own a mirrorless or DSLR camera and want to experiment with RAW, find out if your camera has RAW capacity. You can edit RAW photos for free with GIMP or with any basic photo editing software, including Photoshop Elements.
What is a Histogram?
A histogram is a graphical representation of an image’s tonal values. This means that it displays the amount of tones of brightness for a given image, ranging from black (0% brightness) to white (100% brightness). “Clipping” refers to a loss of detail, which appears in the histogram when a portion of it “touches” either edge. Highlight clipping (white areas, absent of detail) occurs on the right side of the histogram. Shadow clipping (black areas, absent of detail) occurs on the left side of the histogram. A “good” histogram has the majority of its tones in the middle. Understanding a histogram is important for exposing images correctly with minimal clipping.
Do I Need to Buy Expensive Gear to Achieve Great Photos?
You don’t need to buy expensive gear to produce great photos. While high-quality gear can improve your photography, it doesn’t make you a great photographer.
Starting with the camera gear you already own or investing in an entry-level mirrorless or DSLR system will help you get your feet wet. With patience and practice and a little technical knowledge, you can produce fantastic images with virtually any camera. In time, you’ll be able to decide which mid-level or high-end gear will be most beneficial for your photography.
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What Camera and Lens Should I Buy if I’m New to Photography?
My top recommendation for new photographers looking for an affordable, lightweight camera with RAW capacity and full manual control is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85. For the price point, you’ll be hard pressed to find a camera in this budget range that produces better images. It comes with two zoom lens, the 12-32mm and 45-150mm, allowing to experiment with a wide range of focal lengths. If you want to invest in a prime lens, the Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 is a great choice.
I am also a huge advocate for the Canon Rebel series, as it’s how I got my start in DSLR photography. Currently, the t7 is the newest Canon Rebel model. Canon Rebels are well built with intuitive menus and highly responsive touchscreens. Canon offers a fantastic lens selection, one of the best on the market. There are also a number of reputable third party lens manufacturers, such as Sigma and Tokina, that offers Canon-compatible lens, further expanding your offerings.
Can I still make money online selling photos?
It is still possible to make money selling photos online. While the market is highly competitive, there is more demand for photos than ever, particularly digital photos. Many photographers opt to sell photos through their own websites, as it provides the most control. Depending on your goals and preferences, you may or may not decide that this is your best route. If you are primarily interested in stock photography and don’t have a strong web presence, submitting to major stock photography sites, such as Adobe Stock and Shutterstock, is the way to go. Be highly selective about the images you submit, and don’t be afraid of rejection.
Do I need a tripod? Why?
A tripod is essential for any type of photography that requires a long exposure, such as long exposure water photography and astro photography. It simply isn’t possible to hand hold a camera for long exposures without significant blurring. There are also shooting situations, such as night photography, where shooting with a shutter speed lower than handheld capacity will allow you to decrease your ISO, producing brighter, cleaner images. Pick up a budget tripod to experiment with tripod photography. From there, you’ll be able to determine if it’s worth investing in a more expensive tripod.
Mastering photography is an ongoing process. From beginner hobbyist photographers to seasoned professional photographers, it’s important to keep learning new techniques and working to improve your craft. When you have a question, get it answered. The more you can learn about photography, the more you’ll be able to keep honing your skills.
Rose Clearfield is a freelance writer and hobbyist photographer. She lives in southeast WI with her husband, son, and three cats. She bought her first DSLR in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since. With an education background and a passion for writing, she loves helping people learn how to take better pictures.