Fundamentals of Photography

I have been taking pictures since I was seven years old. When I first started out, I only had a disposable camera that I would simply point at something and shoot. On my twelfth birthday, I was finally given what I always wanted, a digital camera (DSLR).

Since then photography has become an integral part of my life, and throughout this blog I wanted to share some basics of the art, as well as some interesting projects that I have been working on. Before I cover more advanced photographs I take, it is necessary to be familiar with the fundamentals.

The art of photography truly comes from switching your camera to manual mode and being in complete control of the three different settings that transform boring pictures into breathtaking photographs.

These three settings are international standards organization (ISO), shutter speed, and the aperture of the lens.


ISO is how sensitive the camera is to incoming light. ISO numbers range anywhere from less than 100 all the way to over 10,000. The lower the number, the less sensitive the camera would be to light, making pictures darker. This means that if I was taking a picture outside in the sunlight, I would go with a low ISO number, and oppositely, if I was taking a photo at night I would go with a higher one. The trickiest part to which ISO number to go with is the fact that the higher the ISO number the more noise (fuzziness in the background) a picture will have. For this reason, it is advisable to always try to use the lowest ISO number possible.

Shutter Speed

Just like the name implies, the shutter speed is how fast the camera takes the picture when you click the shutter. This, in truth, is one of the easier settings to master. If it is a fast-moving subject, like a running dog or an athlete you would want a high shutter speed so they do not appear blurry. If the subject isn’t moving, then a slower shutter speed will work just fine.

In addition to making sure the subject is not blurry, the shutter speed also helps to control the amount of light that is allowed into the lens. On fast shutter speeds, since the lens will be open very briefly, not much light will be allowed in, making the photo darker. On the other hand, low shutter speeds allow in much more light and can brighten up pictures without having to change any other settings.

Aperture (f-stop)

Aperture is the last setting that has to be accounted for when taking a picture. All that this setting controls is the focal length of the lens, or in simpler terms how wide the camera lens is opening.

The numbering for this particular setting is a little confusing. It would make sense that lower focal length, the smaller the opening, but it is actually the opposite.

While the aperture may seem like the simplest of the settings, it is the one that by switching it around, creates the most interesting pictures. For example, low f-stop numbers like f-2.8, are what allow for pictures where a subject is in focus but the entire background is blurred out, a common technique used in headshots.

When first starting out, learning how to change all of these in order to capture the photo that is wanted can seem very daunting. No matter how many times I read lists of what these did, when the time came to take a picture, I would always blank and miss the shot. The easier way to learn is by practicing, and soon without even thinking you know how to switch settings to capture the moments that are worth remembering.

3 thoughts on “Fundamentals of Photography

  1. I think the topic you chose for your passion blog is really interesting! I always knew that there were different settings for a camera but I didn’t know what they were exactly or how they affected pictures so it was neat to learn what they were. You did a great job of explaining them while making it simple enough for someone that’s never used a camera to be able to understand and the pictures you used complimented each explanation because I was then able to get an idea of how each setting actually affected the pictures. It was clear throughout that you’re very passionate about photography, so I can’t wait to see all of the great pictures you’ve taken!

  2. Wow, I found your blog post to be so interesting! I’m really glad you’ve been so passionate about photography since a young age, and I hope you can continue to follow your passion throughout your time here at Penn State. Both my grandfather and dad are into photography, but I guess I never realized all the different settings and aspects that go into taking a photo. It was so interesting to hear about all the things to consider and adjust for when taking an image, and it definitely made me appreciate the art of taking beautiful pictures better. In a day where most everyday photos are taken on a phone, I wish that more people started taking photos “the old-fashioned” way.

  3. I really love art, and photography is one of may favorite forms. I developed a love of photography my senior year of high school, and I try to keep up with the hobby whenever I can. It think it’s really cool that you have been passionate about it for such a long time. I look forward to learning more about photography through your blog. Since you have been doing photography for such a long time, I know that you have a lot of experience. I can’t wait to learn more about manual photography and to see more of your work.

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