Photography 101: What Do You Need To Know To Become A Better Photographer?

Maybe you just got your first DSLR and you aren’t happy with the images, or maybe you want to learn how to take better pictures of your kids. Whatever the reason, you want to take better pictures. But photography is more complex than simply pressing a button. With all the information out there, where should you start?

If you want to learn how to take better pictures, there’s a number of different concepts to discover and a number of different ways to explore them. Our Photography 101 guide explores the different topics you should know, as well as the best ways to learn.

Photography 101: What should you know?


Exposure is how light or dark an image is. If an image is too bright, it’s overexposed. If an image is too dark, then it’s underexposed. The term comes from the basic idea of how a camera works by exposing a digital sensor or film to light. The exposure of a photograph is based on three main settings, all of which you can use by learning manual mode: aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

Understanding exposure through manual modes takes some time and practice, but start with the basics. Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens, a wide opening will let in more light for a brighter image. Shutter speed is how long the camera sensor is exposed to light—use a slow shutter speed and you can have a bright image even if it’s taken at twilight. ISO is how sensitive the camera sensor is to light. You can turn it up if the shutter speed and aperture settings are still resulting in a photo that’s too dark.

Motion, Depth and Noise

Motion, Depth and NoiseFirst, master how to get a properly exposed image by setting your own aperture, shutter speed and ISO. But the next step is learning how those elements affect the rest of the image. Shutter speed, for example, affects motion. Anything that moves while the shutter is open will become a blur, so slow shutter speeds create blur while faster shutter speeds freeze the motion.

Aperture also affects how much of the image is in focus. You’ve probably seen portraits with dreamy, out-of-focus backgrounds, and landscape images where nearly every detail is sharp. That’s all controlled through aperture. ISO affects more than just exposure as well. High ISOs create noise, or a graininess to an image, so higher ISOs don’t get you the good image quality that a lower ISO does.

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Once you’ve mastered exposure, and how aperture, shutter speed and ISO affect the other elements of your image, what are you going to photograph? That’s a matter of composition. Changing what you see through the viewfinder by zooming, moving to a different angle, kneeling down or climbing on a ladder is all a matter of composition.

Composition is what someone is referring to when they say someone has “an eye for photography.” But, there are elements of composition that can be taught. The rule of thirds for example helps you decide where to place the subject in the frame.


To keep the subject of a photo sharp, you’ll need to learn a few different focusing techniques. There are different autofocus modes that help you get your shots sharp. Single point autofocus allows you to choose what portion of the image to focus on, for example, instead of having the camera choose a point for you. You can also set your camera to focus once, or to keep focusing, like for photographing sports.


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