What is Photography?
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read

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By definition, photography is the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface (such as film or an optical sensor). This used to refer exclusively to the chemical process of strategically exposing light to film to produce a physically imprinted image. Today, it also includes (and, in fact, more often refers to) digital images. Photography can be as simple as “point-and-click” when you are using automatic settings on a digital camera, or even your phone.

Have you ever wondered what all the different settings on a DSLR can do? Are you interested in different styles and types of photography (https://www.daisie.com/community/photography)? If you want to really get to know the art and practice of taking high-quality photos, we are here to break it down for you. From ISO to Aperture we have broken down the main camera settings on your DSLR, which can seem so daunting at first, into easily digestible sections.

What is ISO in Photography?

ISO in Photography

ISO is a number that reflects a camera’s sensitivity to light, as it will register and be reflected on either film or a digital sensor. ISO originally referred to the light sensitivity of the film itself, but now generally refers to how light-sensitive you want your digital camera to be in different settings. In short, a lower ISO value means less sensitivity to light, while a higher ISO means more sensitivity.

For example, if you are shooting in a low-light setting, such as inside or at nighttime, you will want a higher ISO. If you are shooting in full sunlight, a lower ISO is ideal.

What is Shutter Speed in Photography?

Shutter Speed in Photography

Shutter speed is exactly what the term says. The shutter speed is the speed at which the shutter of the camera opens and closes. This means the amount of time the shutter is open to allow light in. A fast shutter speed means a shorter exposure (exposure is explained below), and a slow shutter speed provides a longer exposure, meaning more light is allowed in.

In this way, remember that generally speaking, a longer shutter speed (and therefore exposure time) is needed for low-light situations, and a faster shutter speed is needed in full-light situations. In this way, faster shutter speeds are also necessary for situations in which your subject is fast-moving. For example, sports photographers will use a faster shutter speed to be able to capture athletes in motion. Trying to shoot fast-moving subjects at a lower shutter speed would simply result in a blurry photo.

What is Aperture in Photography?

Aperture in Photography

Aperture refers to the opening of the diaphragm through which light passes through the camera lens. It is measured in what are called f/stops. These f/stops are the numbers usually between 1 and 16. Lower f/stops give more exposure because they represent the larger apertures, while the higher f/stops give less exposure because they represent smaller apertures. This may seem a little contradictory at first but will become clearer as you take pictures at varying f/stops.

Almost all DSLR cameras have a setting called Aperture Priority. Setting your camera to Aperture Priority and experimenting with the different f/stops is a great way to learn and understand what this setting controls. This setting is also useful in determining how to create the desired depth of field.

What is Depth of Field in Photography?

Depth of Field in Photography

This is essentially how much of your image is in focus. Depth of field is the distance between the closest objects and the farthest objects in a photo that looks sharp. To increase your depth of field, you can narrow the aperture on your camera by increasing the f/stop. You can also experiment with moving further away from your subject, or by adjusting and shortening the focal length of your lens.

What is Exposure?

You have probably noticed a trend by now, reading about all of the different camera settings that control how a photo turns out. Photography is all about light and controlling light. This is what exposure is. Exposure is the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor or film. It refers to how light or dark your pictures appear.

The two camera settings that control the actual exposure to light and that is the shutter speed and aperture. The ISO, as we learned, affects the brightness of your photos.

You can also brighten or darken a photo by editing it in post-processing software like Photoshop and Lightroom on your computer. Photoshop is an extremely helpful tool for editing, especially if you have accidentally under or over-exposed your shots. Taking an online class to learn how to utilize photoshop can be the game-changer you need to elevate your photography to the next level.

What is Contrast in Photography?

Contrast refers to the degree of difference between the lightest lights and darkest darks in an image. High-contrast photography is typically sharp and contrasts very dark or black aspects of an image with very light or white aspects in the same image. Low-contrast photos are softer, and there is less of a difference between the darks and lights in the photo.

Contrast is generally a stylistic choice, so play around with your camera settings and find what levels of contrast you prefer for your photos.

Different Styles of Photographing Subjects

There are many styles to choose from when photographing your given subject. Here, we will focus on two popular digital photography styles, macro photography and portrait photography. Portrait photography is a specific type of photography that refers to trying to capture the personality, identity and attitude of the subject.

Portrait photography, like most styles of photography, is all about finding balance. You need to strike a balance between posing the subject of the photo, manipulating the lighting and the camera settings, and allowing the subjects’ personality and personal traits to come through.

Macro photography refers to a style of very close-up photography. The idea of macro photography is to take a very small subject, such as a very small plant or insect, and capture all of the details vividly. This allows very tiny subjects to be viewed as if they were much larger.

Gear Needed for Photography

Gear Needed for Photography

The type of gear needed to be a photographer, whether as a hobbyist or a professional, will depend on what type of photos you want to take. For example, if you wish to learn macro photography, you will need a macro lens to zoom in on your tiny subjects. If you want to set up a portrait studio, you will need to invest in quality lighting so that you can control the light exactly in your portraits.

Generally speaking, though, you really only need a camera and a lens. If you have a digital camera (DSLR), you will also need a memory card to store your photos on. If you have a film camera, of course, don't forget film rolls. Otherwise, you are ready to start taking pictures.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the settings on your camera, the next step is to learn style and technique. You may find it useful to take a class or workshop in photography to hone in on your new skill.