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Introduction to Photography

red, cymbidium orchids Photography involves creating pictures by recording light onto a light-sensitive medium.  Modern day photography has come a long way since the first permanent photograph was produced by French inventor Joseph Nicephore Niepce in 1826, and cameras of today render photographs onto photographic film or, more commonly, electronic image sensors.  Photography is used for many purposes including scientific study, recording and preserving memories, and creating artistic images for personal enjoyment.  Some of the most popular photographic subjects include aerial scenes, architecture, flowers, landscapes, and people.

Digital Cameras

Digital cameras come in a wide range of resolutions, from 1.2 mega pixels to 80 mega pixels, and have many settings that can aid the photographer in achieving the best possible shot.  The scene mode can be customized for landscapes, portraits, sports, and macro-photography.  The ISO speed of the camera determines how light-sensitive it is.  Raising the ISO number will allow for greater sensitivity and faster shutter speeds, creating a sharper image in dim lighting.  The series exposure mode allows the camera to rapidly take consecutive shots and is helpful for photographing moving subjects such as people or animals.  The AV or aperture value priority setting allows for adjustment of the depth of the photograph.  A high AV setting will create a large depth of field, while a low AV setting will create a narrow depth of field.  The TV or time value priority setting can be adjusted to allow for short shutter times for action shots, or longer shutter times for a blurred effect.

Framing and Focus

observation deck on Catalina Island Learning how to correctly frame a photograph can mean the difference between taking pictures that are average at best and those that are creative and interesting.  Most people think of aiming the camera so that the subject is directly centered, but a more artistic strategy often involves placing the subject roughly a third of the way into the image.  Changing positions often gives your photographs more variety and a different perspective as well.  Elements such as doorways and arbors provide natural framing and appeal.  Landscapes are often framed effectively when out-of-focus elements are included in the foreground to provide a sense of space and scale.

The focus of the camera is also important for adding interest and depth to your photographs.  You must always decide which element should be sharp and make that the focus of the composition.  Many digital cameras have an auto-focus that can be set to servo or continuous mode when the object of focus is moving irregularly or continuously, like a child in motion or a bird in flight.  Setting the auto-focus to single-shot ensures a sharp focus that works well for inanimate objects like buildings and other architecture.  Cameras with manual controls are excellent for macro-photography, as these controls allow you to adjust the focus more precisely.  Zoom lenses also help insure proper focus by allowing you to vary the focal length.

Light and Exposure

Oceanside pier at sunset The use of light is an important factor in creating high-quality images.  The times just after sunrise and just before sunset give the sunlight a warm hue and are referred to as the "golden" hours for outdoor photography.  High-contrast lighting creates a large disparity between light and dark areas and can really add interest to a photograph.  You can create dramatic silhouettes by facing the sun and placing the subject between you and the sun.  Strong shadows formed by harsh sunlight can create patterns and balance compositions.  Soft directional light, such as the light from a window, is best for portrait photography.

Exposure refers to the amount of light collected by the camera's sensor during a single photograph.  Under-exposure will create an image that is too dark, while over-exposure will wash out the image.  Subjects that are lit from the front are often the least complicated to photograph, but more interesting textures can be created using different forms of light and the right amount of exposure.  You should choose the focal point of the photograph, such as a face or a flower, and expose for that element by controlling the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO speed.  Often with digital cameras it is better to err on the side of slight under-exposure to create richer tones.

Sample Photos

Creative photography can sometime be tricky, but keeping the above tips in mind will help you produce more aesthetically-pleasing photos.  Visit the links below for examples of aerial photography, architecture, flowers, landscapes, nature, people, transportation, and more.

Aerial Photos

Architecture

Coastlines

Deserts

Flowers

Landscapes

Nature

People

Transportation


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