As digital SLRs are popularizing, many people are getting into photography that normally wouldn't have. Not only is this because of the ease of using a digital camera, but also because of the enormous cost savings compared to film cameras. DSLRs do not require expensive film to be bought and developed, which allows you to take more pictures, and learn to shoot better, faster.
In this instructable, I will teach the basics of photography, which include:
-Rule of Thirds
-Manual vs Auto Exposure
Step 1: Camera Basics
In this instructable I will be referring to DSLRs only. This is because the quality achieved on a DSLR, and the control gained from it is huge versus a normal point and shoot. And while spectacular photographs can be taken from a standard point and shoot camera, most interested in photography use a DSLR.
First and foremost, the basics. We'll start off by exploring what a DSLR actually is. DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. Basically, what this means is that what you see through the viewfinder, is almost exactly what the lens sees, and what will end up in the picture. One of the reasons that the quality is so much better on a DSLR than a PandS (Point and shoot) is that the sensor size is so much larger. The sensor is what records the light coming into the camera. The larger the sensor, the more light it can record. This makes the quality very good in low light situations. Another reason that the quality is higher is because of the lenses, also referred to as glass. When you are trying to essentially record light, one of the main goals is not to distort it. This is achieved by using better designed, better manufactured lenses. Think of it this way, if you have light going through a dirty window, you are not going to be able to see very well through the other side. However if the window is clean and built right, then you will be able to see perfectly.
Now lets cover the basic settings, starting with shutter speed. Shutter speed is the speed at which the shutter moves. The shutter is what stops light from hitting the sensor. The slower the shutter speed, the longer the shutter is open. On the other hand, the faster the shutter speed, the less time the shutter is open. Using this basic concept is what allows photographers to not only properly expose, but also freeze, or blur, their pictures. But we'll get to that later. The main thing that shutter speed controls is how much light gets into the camera. If your picture is too dark, slow down the shutter speed. If it is too light, speed up the shutter speed. Next, ISO.
The ISO is the speed at which light enters the sensor. This means that a low ISO, will record light more slowly than a fast ISO. Then wouldn't it make sense to use the highest ISO possible? No. This is because the higher the ISO, the more "Noise" or "Grain" your photograph will get. Although grain is sometimes desired by a photographer, for the most part it lowers the overall quality of the picture. A good ISO to stay at is around 200.
Finally, we get to aperture. The aperture, is the size of the hole in the lens. The bigger the hole, the larger the aperture, and the more light that gets in. The smaller the hole, the smaller the aperture, and less light gets in. This is recorded with f-stop. This is the confusing part however, because, the smaller the f-stop number (such as 1.8) the WIDER the hole/aperture. The higher the f-stop number (such as f22) the smaller the hole/aperture. This means that f1.8 will let in more light than f22. So why not just open the aperture all the way? Well again, just like ISO, there is a catch. The wider the aperture, the less depth of field you get. Depth of field, is basically the amount of the picture that is in focus. Therefore, a picture taken at f1.8 will have barely anything in focus, while a picture taken at f22 will have most of the picture in focus.
Now that we have covered exposure settings, I think it's time we quickly skimmed over white balance. White balance can be pretty simple, all you need to do is to look around you. See what type of lights are lighting the area you are in. They might be incandescent light bulbs, fluorescent lights, the sun, or you might even be in the shade. Read your manual, and find out which symbols symbolize which type of lighting. Once you have figured out what type of lighting you have, set the white balance to that type of lighting (incandescent bulbs are often called Tungsten). So if it is sunny out, set it to (most likely) the small picture of the sun. Or if it is cloudy, set it to the picture of a cloud. You need to do this because different light will have different "temperatures" which are measured in Kelvin. You want to adjust so that you are set to pure white light. This means that if you held up a piece of paper that was absolutely purely white, that your camera would record it as such. You can get something called white cards, and set your camera using that (which will give you much more accurate white balance) but for the sake of this instructable, using the presets is much easier.
These settings can be confusing at first, but mastering them is key to obtaining good photos. Play around with them to learn the kind of picture that can be gained from a certain combination of settings.