My first photography lesson

I was lucky enough to meet with a family friend (and professional photographer) , Yad, last week to learn how to take better photos using my Canon 450D camera. I learnt so much and thought I would share the main tips that I learnt.

The first section we spoke about was how to use the camera – focussing on exposure. Previously I would use the automatic setting on the camera, where it changes with the settings automatically to take the photo that it presumes you want. However, using the manual, Av or Tv settings allows you to have more control of the camera and you are able to capture the exact photo you want. Exposure is influenced by 3 settings on the camera that work together and changing these settings can provide completely different photos, depending on whether you want to take a landscape photo (where all of the photo is in focus)…IMG_5373

…or if you want to take a portrait photo (where part of the photo is in focus and the rest is blurred).


These 3 settings work together to ensure there is enough light to take a good photo.

  1. F number (size of the aperture) – If you want to take a portrait photo you need a wide aperture (low F number), the lower the F number the more the background is blurred. If you want to take a landscape photo you need a narrow aperture (high F number). For example, these photos of flowers were taken straight after each other just with a change in the size of the aperture.  The first photo has a narrower aperture than the second photo.
  2. Shutter speed – This is how long the shutter stays open for whilst taking a photo. For a portrait photo, as the aperture is wide, it is letting in plenty of light therefore you can use a fast shutter speed but for a landscape photo, as you are using a narrow aperture,  to ensure enough light is being let in you need to have the shutter open for longer. One issue you may have when using a slower shutter speed is that the slightest wobble of the camera can cause the photo to blur – this is why you often see landscape photographers using tripods – to ensure the camera doesn’t move whilst the shutter is open.
  3. ISO – If you have a really dark photo but you need a fast shutter speed another option is to turn up the ISO. The only issue is that it can cause electric noise on the photo (small speckles of colour on the photo). This sometimes looks effective but may not be the style you are going to. Therefore if you want a brighter photo without changing the F number or the shutter speed you can change the ISO but you may compromise the quality of the photo.

We then took a little break and went to meet my mum for lunch at a little Mexican restaurant called “Bodega” in Birmingham – of course I had to take some photos (but forgot take photos of my quesadillas as I was so hungry!)

The second lesson I learnt was developing my ability to take a good photo. Every photo needs a focus, whether it be a person, a mountain or a flower – there should be nothing in the photo that distracts a person from that focus. Some tips to do this:

  1. Look at what is in the background – Even if you are taking a portrait photo and the background is blurred, a massive crane in the background can really ruin a photo. The person in the photo can’t see the background and therefore it is the photographer’s responsibility to ensure the background doesn’t ruin the photo. I practised this by taking photos of some bike racks. Whilst the first photo is still a good photo the second it a lot better as the bike is more clearly the focus of the photo and the background is less cluttered.IMG_5429IMG_5433 (1)
  2. The rule of thirds – Imagine the camera is split into 3 sections horizontally and 3 sections vertically. You now have 9 sections. Instead of always having the focus in the middle of the camera, which could be quite boring, instead you could have it in between the left middle box and the centre box and have the person looking right to provide a more interesting photo. For example:IMG_5446Obviously where you put the focus depends greatly on what you are taking a photo of or the style you are trying to achieve but having variety is definitely interesting.
  3. Angles – In order to take a more interesting photo you could even change the angles of your camera to gain different perspectives.One of Yad’s tips was: if your focus is a person, make them stay still in a position and you, the photographer, are the one who moves. Also, Yad explained by taking a photo from above it makes the subject appear smaller and less important whereas if you are taking a photo upwards from below you make them appear more important. We visited the Library of Birmingham and these are some examples of using different angles and taking photos from below:IMG_5340IMG_5372

These photos are much more interesting than just taking a normal photo at eye level.

Yad’s key tip: Don’t be afraid to get too close. The worst photo is when you have the focus (for example a person) so far in the distance that you barely realise they are even there, let alone that they are the focus.

My love for photography has grown so much recently and now I am excited to take lots more photos and put everything I have learnt into practice. I am very grateful to Yad for taking the time to teach me and for being my model for the day.


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