Photography Basics: ISO, Aperture, Shutter, and More

If you would like to dedicate yourself to photography or it is just your hobby but you want to improve, you need to learn and master the basic concepts of this field. Today we explain everything you need to know to enter the world of photography either with a camera or with your own phone.

How does a camera work?

The first and most important thing is that you understand this question. A camera, be it a telephone, a compact or a mirrorless, is a device designed to capture light and transform it into the image that we then see on our screen. As it does? Let’s go by parts.

Photography Basics: ISO, Aperture, Shutter

To take a photograph, the first thing we need is a light source that can be: the sun itself, a spotlight, a lamp or anything that emits light. That light will hit the person or object that we want to photograph and then reflect a certain amount of light. This reflected light is what we will capture with our camera.

This “bounced” light will first pass through the diaphragm of our camera, then through the shutter to finally reach the sensor. This final element is in charge of transforming that information into a digital signal of 0 and 1, which the processor will then interpret to convert it into the final photograph that we see on our screen.

In summary, this is the process that any of our current cameras follow to take a snapshot. And, for that photograph to look one way or another, we will have to adjust different parameters of our camera.

The three keys to learning photography: ISO, shutter and aperture

To start taking more professional photos, you need to learn the basics of photography. Once you get to know them and master them, you can play around with those settings to make the kind of snapshots you want.

There are many concepts that surround this sector but, without a doubt, there are three of them that are key and for which you should start investigating:

  • ISO sensitivity : this setting directly affects the sensor of our camera. The higher the ISO sensitivity that we use when making a capture, the more light there will be in the photograph. But, increasing this value has a negative point and is that the higher the ISO, the greater the amount of noise that appears in our photo. If you want to test to see how this setting affects, try to go totally dark in a room and raise the ISO value until you see around you on the camera screen, then take a picture. As you will see in the final result, the quality of this is quite low and, in addition, a grain appears in it that is not exactly attractive.

  • Diaphragm opening : the diaphragm is, as we already mentioned a few paragraphs ago, the first “filter” through which the light of the object that we want to photograph passes. They are a series of blades that, depending on the value we set for aperture (represented with values that can go from f / 1.4 to f / 32, in most cases) will enter more or less light into the sensor. The smaller the value of “f” the more open this diaphragm will be and, therefore, the greater amount of light will pass. Also, this parameter directly affects what is known as depth of field , which is nothing more than the percentage of the image that is in focus. The lower the value of “f” the smaller the depth of field and, therefore, the more out of focus the background will be with respect to the element to be photographed.

  • Shutter speed : this parameter represents the time the shutter remains open from when we press the button to take the photo until it is taken. The shutter speed is represented in seconds and, normally, we will see it in fractions of a second, leaving values such as 1/50, for example. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light the sensor will capture, and therefore the brighter the picture will be. What is the problem of increasing this value too much? Well, the higher it is, the easier it will be for our photography to appear blurred.

The sum of these three parameters make up what is known as the exposure triangle . This represents how the various image parameters will vary depending on what the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture aperture take. And, therefore, what effects will “configure” your camera in this way.

Other basic photography concepts

In addition to these three key elements for photography, there are many interesting concepts that you should gradually learn to know everything about this field. Next we will tell you about the main concepts with which you should already become familiar.

What are megapixels?

This is one of the most recurring questions. The sensor in our cameras is made up of what is known as megapixels that are equivalent to a million pixels . Pixels are the smallest units our photos are made of and, on the sensor, represent the smallest unit capable of capturing light.

The higher the number of megapixels of a camera, the higher the resolution of the camera and, therefore, the higher its weight. A greater number of these units of measurement can be very useful if we want to print a photograph on a large scale without it looking pixelated.

Color temperature and white balance

In a simple way, we can define the term of the color temperature as a value in Kelvin (K) that expresses how “blue” or “orange” an illumination is within the light spectrum. This is represented with values ranging from 1,000 K to 12,000 K, where the sunlight would be around 6,500 K.

On the other hand, the white balance is a parameter that allows us to correctly adjust the basic colors (red, green and blue) of our camera so that, in this way, the team represents them correctly. If the white balance is adjusted well, we will see the white color correctly and not with bluish or orange tones. If not, it is because the color temperature value is not adequate and, therefore, we must redo the white balance.

What is a RAW file?

When we take a photograph we are capturing the image and storing it in a file that can have different formats. The most common is JPG, which, while sufficient for most situations, is a fairly compressed file to save space at the cost of leaving behind certain capture information.

On the other hand we have the RAW . A format without compression and that, therefore, houses the maximum possible amount that the sensor of our camera can collect from the photography we are taking. Raw files give us the possibility to edit our photos in greater depth and detail but, yes, the weight of these is much higher compared to JPG.

Therefore, if you know that you are going to edit the photos after taking them, we strongly recommend that you capture them in that raw, unprocessed format.

These are some of the basic concepts that you should know about the world of photography. If you have doubts about any of them, do not hesitate to leave us a comment and we will try to resolve it as soon as possible so that you can master these concepts quickly.