Photography concepts you should master

Now this article comes to mind about what basic photography concepts must be mastered perfectly because we will need them continuously. Knowing how to handle this list will allow you to be prepared for most situations that may arise and will also help you get an idea of ​​where you should go further.

We already have many articles on the blog dedicated to improving your photos and learning from scratch . If you have read them all and put them into practice (it is the really important thing), surely you already know how to handle your camera in manual mode, if not, I invite you to start reading the posts on that list one by one.

With these techniques, you will be able to carry out those ideas that you have in your head and capture them as you imagine, there is nothing more frustrating than wanting to photograph the light passing through the trees and not knowing how to do it, right?

SLR Photography Basics

Shutter speed

As you know, the shutter speed is nothing more than the time that the camera lets light pass to the sensor. It allows and cuts its passage by opening or closing the shutter curtains .

This setting has great creative possibilities as we saw in the article on ” Ideas to use the shutter speed “, with it you can freeze a movement that lasts thousandths of seconds to another that lasts several minutes, even hours.

It is important that you know the BULB mode , to select it you will have to reach the limit of seconds that allows you to select your camera and you will see the BULB option or a B. With the BULB mode the shutter will be open as long as you keep the shutter button pressed.

It is highly recommended to use a cable  so that you do not spend 30 minutes pressing the button or you run the risk of moving the camera while the photo is being taken.

If the shutter speed is how long the camera allows light to pass through, the aperture controls the amount of light that enters during that time.

Let me explain myself with this example of walking around the house 🙂

Imagine that I have to fill a bucket with water and I have two hoses to do it. A small hose with a diameter of 2cm, the typical garden hose, and a fire hose.

I have two possibilities, fill the bucket in 1 minute with the garden hose or fill the bucket in 5 seconds with the fire hose. The diaphragm aperture lets you choose this, the light would be the water and the hose the diaphragm. You control how much light will reach the sensor in the time that you have set with the shutter speed.

diaphragm aperture of f / 2.8 would be equivalent to a fire hose and a closed diaphragm such as an f / 22 would be a garden hose. In your hand is to open or close the diaphragm more to reach the result you are looking for.

On a sunny day you will need to close the diaphragm to avoid that too much light enters and the photo is overexposed, although you could also set a very fast shutter speed so that even if you configure a very open diaphragm (fire hose) not as much light reaches the sensor.

ISO sensitivity

The last of the 3 factors that directly influence the final exposure of a photograph.

The ISO sensitivity indicates how much light the camera will need for each scene in this article do not intend to dwell and speak of “silver halide” and electric currents, and there will be another to talk about it.

Now I just want you to be aware of the basics of digital photography and to practice the ones you have less assimilated.

By increasing the ISO sensitivity (100, 200, 400, etc.) you make the camera more sensitive to light, so you can set a faster or slower shutter speed or open and close the aperture, depending on how you modify the ISO. The more you increase the ISO, the faster the shutter speed can be or the more you can close the aperture.

If, for example, you want to shoot at f / 22 (very closed diaphragm) you have two possibilities to make more light enter the camera:

  • Increase the exposure time , that is, set a slow shutter speed, so that the shutter is open longer and enough light enters.
  • Increase the ISO sensitivity , doing this will make the sensor more sensitive to light and take much less time to capture the scene correctly.

Now, it is in your hands to combine these factors so as not to increase the ISO too much since noise could appear in the photograph and not reduce the exposure time much because the photo could be shaky.

Semi-automatic priority modes

Even if you are an advocate of manual mode like me, there are times that either for convenience, lack of time or because the situation requires it, you may need to use a semi-automatic mode.

It is important that you know how each of them works to know how these priority modes can help you .

Aperture priority mode AV or A

If you shoot in aperture priority mode (Av on Canon or A on Nikon), you will only have to set the aperture of the diaphragm , the camera will take care of setting the “correct” shutter speed for that aperture.

I write “correct” in quotation marks because like all automatisms, the camera can make a mistake, make a wrong or very different interpretation of the scene and show a result that is not close to what you expect.

The Av or A mode is great if you need to adjust to a concrete opening and do not want to worry about shutter speed.

You could also set the ISO sensitivity to automatic and only worry about the aperture. The problem is that in poorly lit places, the camera may set a very high sensitivity and noise may appear in your photos .


Shutter speed priority mode

In this case, the S mode in Nikon or Tv in Canon will give priority to the shutter speed or exposure time , varying the aperture of the diaphragm to achieve a correct exposure with the shutter speed you have set.

It is interesting for times when you need a fast shutter speed such as in action sports, in which there is a lot of movement and we run the risk of obtaining blurred photos. The problem is that varying the aperture will also vary the depth of field and it may not be the result we are looking for. One more excuse to control the camera manually 🙂

Shoot on Raw

Yes, I know, you have already heard this a thousand times, so if you want and only if you want, I leave you the link to a more extensive article on the advantages of shooting in Raw and the possibility of shooting in RAW + JPG .

Light steps

The light steps, briefly explained, are the light jumps that we take for example when changing diaphragm. From f / 5.6 to f / 8 there is a light step (f-stop in English), as from f / 16 to f / 22, etc.

Shutter speeds 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, etc or ISO 100, 200, 400 are also light steps.


Intermediate photography concepts

Reciprocity law in photography

Now that you know what steps of light are, let’s look at another very important and practical photographic concept, the law of reciprocity .

Imagine that to get a correct exposure you need a setting of ISO 100 , speed of 1/60 and f / 4, but either to get more depth of field, to use a slower shutter speed or to lower the ISO sensitivity, you need to reduce the shutter speed to 1/30 without the exposure being affected.

In that case we close the diaphragm one step, from f / 4 to f / 5.6 and we reduce the speed to 1/30, keeping the ISO at 100. With this configuration we will achieve the same exposure even having closed the diaphragm.

I explain it graphically:

For a setting of 1/125, f / 8 and ISO 100 , I need to close the aperture down to f / 16, keeping the same exposure.

1/125 -> 1 / 60-> 1/30

f / 8 -> f / 11-> f / 16

ISO100-> ISO100-> ISO100

If you look closely, we are balancing the extra light steps of the shutter speed, closing the diaphragm another step, so we get the exposure to remain the same, CAUTION , the same exposure, the depth of field and the speed we have modified.

You can also use ISO sensitivity to add or subtract steps: ISO100, 200, 400, 800, etc.
This technique is very useful especially in night photography.

Depth of field

The depth of field is only the image area that appears in focus or blurred.

You will have seen portraits in which only the face appears in focus and the background is out of focus, in those cases the depth of field would cover the area of ​​the face that is sharp.

There may be a greater or lesser depth of field , depending on the aperture that we have configured or the hyperfocal.

The distance that appears in focus will be what the depth of field measures.

With this illustration you will surely understand it better.


Although it is usually a subject that resists and not only for beginning photographers, it is very easy to really understand.

Hyperfocal is the minimum distance at which you would have to focus, using a specific focal length (mm) and aperture so that everything comes out in focus from a certain distance to infinity.

In other words, at what distance do I have to focus so that everything is in focus using, for example, a 14mm f / 8? The answer is hyperfocal, and by focusing on that point we will get the foreground in focus to infinity.

I recommend you go deeper in this article I wrote about depth of field and hyperfocal .

Record video with your reflex camera

Today the possibility of recording video with a digital SLR camera is something that we should not miss.

The quality offered by these cameras is incredible, it seems incredible that we can record video so professionally with a camera of less than a thousand euros. Most of the videos that you will find on my YouTube channel are recorded with a Canon 600D.

You will need to make some adjustments in the menu to record correctly, since as we do not have a RAW file as in photography, we will have to leave the video as flat as possible to be able to edit later with the greatest possible freedom.

If you want to learn how to configure your SLR for video, visit the article ” Record video with a SLR camera “.


Rule of thirds

The composition is a fundamental part of photography from my point of view. A beautiful photograph says little if a message is missing and for that message to gain even more force and be understood, you need to compose.

I recommend you take a look at the article What is the rule of thirds ? and delve into composition with a more technical photography book .

It is important that you value where to place the elements of the scene so that your photos have meaning, strength or are pleasant to the human eye.

Types of planes in photography

If you stop to analyze most of the photos you see on Instagram or 500px , you will see that most are taken standing with the camera at eye level. Few of them bend down, drop to the ground, climb on a chair or on the roof of the car to get a different photograph or to give strength to the message I was talking about earlier.

Being aware of the types of shots that exist will help you give personality to a photograph. We do not feel the same when we see the bad guy in a movie from a low- angle shot than from a top .

Color temperature

The color temperature and white balance are essential for a photograph to give off the same feeling that you had when you took it.

There are photos with a cold color temperature that you really feel the need to wrap up when you look at it, hasn’t it happened to you?

Like a warm color temperature  in a fall scene, it will help you get that warmth from the fall environment. In this article on color temperature I show you how to achieve this using Adobe Lightroom .