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Camera Tutorial For Beginners: Things You Need to Know

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Camera Tutorial For Beginners

Hello Explorers! Today we are going to be looking at the main things you need to know when getting started in the world of photography. Today, we have a nice camera tutorial for beginners!

For ease of comprehension, this tutorial is about camera specifications that you should know (literally is a camera tutorial for beginners and not a how to use a camera). If you want to know the mechanics of a camera (shutter speed, aperture, ISO), then, I recommend you to read this blog.

As the name suggests, we will be learning about the camera itself. As this is a beginner-friendly camera tutorial, we will keep things simple (because we could quickly get into a geeky talk)

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Camera Tutorial for Beginners: Types of Cameras

DSLR Camera

Also known as Digital Single-Lense Reflex Camera has an internal mirror that reflects the light to the live view. When you take a picture, this mirror lifts, allowing light to reach the sensor. 

DSLR changed photography forever, but nowadays, the camera world has switched to mirrorless cameras. To put it in simple, a DSLR has more mechanical parts than a Mirrorless, which means it is slowers and bulkier.

Mirrorless Camera:

Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera. Sensor is exposed

As the name suggests, they don’t have a mirror. When exchanging a lens, you will see the camera sensor right away. 

The fact they don’t have a mirror has also allowed camera manufacturers to improve software specifications. As a result, cameras nowadays have faster Auto Focus, more focus point and higher frames per second.

Camera Tutorial for Beginners: Sensors

Full Frame and Cropped Sensor 

The main difference between a full-frame and a cropped sensor is the size of it. 

If we have a 24mpx (megapixels) APS-C camera and a 24mpx Full Frame camera, the Full Frame should produce better quality. Each pixel is more significant, allowing more and better information.

That’s why a Full-frame sensor will allow you to get better images as it will produce better contrast, depth of field and low light performance.

APS-C generally are smaller cameras, which can be useful if you plan using it for holidays or hiking as it will reduce some weight.

Note: Film cameras used a 35mm format, the equivalent to a full-frame sensor. When we use a camera with an APS-C sensor, the cropped factor is the multiplier you use to make equivalent to 35mm. Practical use of this in Focal Lenght.

Full Frame Sensor
APS-C Sensor. Can you notice the size difference?

Camera Tutorial for Beginners: Common Terminology

Focus: 

Is what you do to get a sharp image. There is Manual Focus -where you use your lens to focus a specific part of an image- and Auto Focus – where your camera does the focusing for you.

Focusing is highly related with aperture (more on this later), generally, a wider aperture allows you to have a small portion of the frame in focus. However, this “in focus area” will be sharper than if you use a small aperture.

Suggested Read: What Camera Should I Buy?

Depth of Field:

This could be explained as how much of the frame is in focus.

  • A narrow depth of field will means only a portion of the image is in focus. 
  • A wider depth of field means more of the image is in focus.
Broad depth of field to get as much in focus as posible
Narrow Depth of Field to put emphasis in the pen

Focal Length 

(Straightforward explanation) is how close or how far your lens “can see”. In here, we have three main categories:

  • Wide Angle: 20-35mm
  • Mid Range Zoom: 24-70mm
  • Telephoto: 70-300mm
Different focal lengths

Below 20mm is considered ultra-wide and over 300mm is regarded as super-telephoto.

Back to Full Fram vs APS-C: remembered the talk about the multiplier to make it equivalent?

  • If you have a 30mm lens in a full-frame camera, then you are using a 30mm lens.
  • If you have a 30 mm in a cropped sensor camera, then it is a full-frame equivalent of 45mm. You would need to multiply the focal length by 1.5x (in Canon x1.6)

The mentioned above is the reason why if you want to take landscape or interior photography, it is better if you go with full-frame as you will get more of the scenery in the frame. 

MegaPixels:

They play one of the biggest lies in the world of cameras:

“More megapixels, the better.”

From my perspective, it is way more important to have an excellent camera sensor and low light performance. 

Having more megapixels will give your camera more resolution, which is excellent for printing. Still, it will also give your camera a considerable drawback: every single frame you take will have lots of information.

Having more information per image will mean that your camera won’t be able to process as fast and you will have to edit larger files. 

One of the reasons why sports-focused cameras use a max of 24mpx is because it allows them to process more information per second. That is why they are able to shoot 20 frames per second.

So if you want to shoot landscape photography, it is never a bad thing to have more megapixels, but having more megapixels won’t always be a good thing.

Dynamic Range

Being able to capture and recover high dynamic range areas is my main reason to use full frame cameras

Now, this is an essential feature of cameras which is one of the main reasons why I don’t use a smartphone. Dynamic range is basically how good your camera is when capturing information from the darkest to the brightest tones of your scene.

Have you ever noticed that when you are looking at the sunset, your eyes can see the bright and dark areas, but when you try to use your phone, you either see the brights or the darks?

That happens because your eyes have an estimated dynamic range of 20 stops while best professional cameras are just close to 15. 

Digital cameras capture lots of information that you can recover in post-process, and that’s how you create amazing looking photography.

JPEG vs RAW files:

JPEG has 7,9 MB compared to 47,7MB of the RAW file of the same image

JPEG file is a compressed image that has the colour profiles of your camera manufacturer. A RAW file is an uncompressed image that contains lots of information. This is great if you want to later edit it. 

I think this is a good analogy: A JPG file is like using a PowerPoint template where everything is set. A RAW image would be a PowerPoint blank canvas where you can format colours, fonts and pictures wherever you want. 

If you want to go professional, then you need to be shooting in RAW.

Bracketing:

is a software feature that allows you to take three or more different images with different exposures one after the other. 

It is beneficial when you want to blend exposures and create vibrant images.

Let’s say… you are looking at a sunset, and you use bracketing. You will likely end up with:

  1. Dark Exposure (that will contain the details of the highlights)
  2. Middle Exposure (that will hold the details of middle tones)
  3. Bright Exposure (that will include the details of the darkest areas)

You blend these three, and you will get a better image than just using 1 out of the three.

To take a photo, you have three main elements: Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO. We will take a quick look at them, but if you want further information, look at “Camera Tutorial: The Mechanics Behind an Image.”

White Balance

Slight reduction in WB to give a “colder” feel.

Every light is different, they have different tints. The White Balance is how you compensate that tint.

It is measured in Kelvins (temperature) and represents how warm or cold an image is. If you take an image in the snow with a warm with Balance, then the snow will have orange tones. Clearly, you don’t want that in your photography, and that’s why you need to choose a cold white balance to create a realistic look of the snow.

Cameras have an auto white balance that generally works really nice. But, if it misses, then you can edit it in Lightroom. This is another reason to shoot in RAW. 

Auto white balance can be more of a pain when shooting video. As just a few cameras shoot raw footage, changing the tint in post is something harsh, and generally, you won’t get good results.

Camera Tutorial for Beginners: Mechanics

This is a very summarized explanation, read more here

Aperture: 

Imagine your lense is like a dam where you are the operator. As the operator, you can control the amount of light (instead of water) passing by the lens, and you choose if either you want a small or big amount passing by the glass with the f-stops.

Memorize the following: 

You use the f-stop to control the aperture, and this affects your depth of field.

Many people get confused because there is an inverse relationship between f-stop and aperture:

  • A small f-stop means a wider aperture (more light inside your camera) and this will create a narrow depth of field.
  • A big f-stop means a smaller aperture (less light inside your camera) and this will create a wide depth of field.

If it is still hard:

  • Use small f-stops when you want a subject in focus and the rest out of focus. Like a portrait
  • Use a big f-stop when you want as much as possible in focus, like in landscape photography.

Shutter Speed: 

Long Exposure images are common in Landscape Photography. You can do them by using a slow shutter speed (e.g. 10 seconds exposure)

Do you remember the dam example? The shutter speed is the equivalent of the gate that allows water to pass by.

With photography, if you allow too much light to go inside, you will create an overexposed image. On the other hand, if you allow too little, you will have an underexposed image.

This way:

  • If you are using a small f-stop, you will have a wide aperture which will mean you will need a fast shutter speed to avoid too much light going into the sensor. (otherwise, it will be overexposed)
  • If you are using a big f-stop, you need a slow shutter speed to allow more light to reach the sensor (otherwise it will be underexposed)

Finally, remember that shutter speed is a measure relative to a second:

  • 1/400 is a fast shutter speed as the images are taken in 1 second divided 400 (in 0,0025 seconds). This is used in common in light situations.
  • 1/5 is a slow aperture as the image is taken in 1 second divided 5 (0,2 seconds). This is common in low light situations where you need more light reaching the sensor.

ISO: 

Let’s keep this one very simple. It basically is how sensitive you want your sensor to the light. The more sensitive your sensor is, the less light you need to reach your sensor.

Basically, it is a way to take fast images in low light situations (remember to read my blog “the mechanics behind an image” to know more)

ISO always introduces noise to your images, that’s why you should always try to keep it as low as possible. If you are doing landscape photography, then you should always try to keep it an ISO of a 100 and increase the shutter speed to allow more light.

However, if you are shooting sports or wildlife, ISO will be your best friend to keep a fast shutter speed.

Camera Tutorial for Beginners: Others

Flash: 

Almost every camera has an incorporated flash. Personally, I never use it as it creates some really harsh lights. 

If needing more light, then I’d shoot with a small f-stop. If requiring more light, then I’d increase the shutter speed and finally the ISO. If I can’t take the image with that, then I’d just find another composition.

Image Stabilization

is a spec that allows your camera to compensate movement. It is fantastic for video and for shooting in low light situations.

And that’s it, my dear Explorers!! This is a basic camera tutorial for beginners that includes the most relevant things you need to know when starting. Clearly, there are other buttons and settings, but honestly, I don’t use them as often.

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