Beginners Guide To Photography

Dan Eitreim

December 30, 2014

Beginner’s guide to photography – If you are new to photography, congratulations! You are about to embark on one of the most fulfilling hobbies in existence. But, (there’s always a “but” – right?) learning all the technical aspects can be a bit daunting. Fortunately, once you understand how your camera works, it is pretty easy to get past the science and concentrate on your creative vision.

Here’s a statement you won’t normally find in a typical beginner’s guide to DSLR photography – it is all REALLY easy!

Beginner’s guide to photography – Tip #1: Learn the jargon.

Once you learn about and get comfortable with all the photo jargon, you are half way there. What is meant by SLR? How about DSLR? What is the difference between the two?

Picking up my handy beginner’s guide to SLR photography, I learn that SLR means “single lens reflex”. Basically, all that means is that when you look through the viewfinder, you are seeing through the lens and what you see is what is going to appear in your finished print.

The SLR designation is typically referring to film based cameras. DSLR is the same thing, but referring to a digital camera.

So, doesn’t that mean that all cameras are SLR’s?


Some cameras have more than one lens and even though what you see in the viewfinder is close to what will be in the finished print, it’s not exactly the same. This difference can be a real problem… I mean, how often do we end up accidentally cutting off a person’s head or feet as it is, without the burden of trying to guess what will and won’t appear in the final image?

twin lens reflex

To allow us to see the final image through the (single) lens, there is a mirror that reflects the scene up into a prism where it bounces around a couple times and winds up in the viewfinder. This is an accurate but simplistic explanation, it would be worth your while to look into it further. Get yourself a good beginner’s guide to SLR photography (or a beginner’s guide to DSLR photography) and it will show you in more detail how it all works.

dslr mirror

Then, according to our trusty beginner’s guide to DSLR photography, we learn that once you depress the shutter button, the mirror that was used to reflect the scene up to the prism and into the viewfinder now lifts up and lets the light from the scene hit the digital sensor. In the past, the light struck the film. That’s the clacking sound you here when you shoot a photograph… the mirror being lifted out of the way and then falling back into place. If you really pay attention, you’ll notice that at the instant of shutter release, the viewfinder goes black. That’s because the mirror has been lifted up and is blocking the light from hitting the prism.

Keep in mind that whether you are discussing film or digital, photo techniques are still the same! The only difference is the medium used to record and store the image. It used to be film, now it is a digital sensor.

Even though digital images are promoted as the best thing since sliced bread, if you read a good beginner’s guide to photography book, you will see that behind all the hoopla about digital, it is simply a replacement for film. That’s it. (It takes about a 25 mega pixel sensor to replace the quality of film.)

digital sensor

Admittedly there is a huge savings in that you don’t have to buy or pay to process film, and you get to see the shot right away, but the techniques to get a good photo haven’t changed.

Beginner’s guide to photography – Tip #2: Read a good beginner’s guide to digital photography.

Many of us seem to abhor directions. The tale of a man driving around and around – lost – because he won’t ask for directions is almost a cliché. (Actually, not almost. It IS a cliché!) This attitude is not a good idea when studying beginner’s photography and learning how to work your camera.

The technical aspects of photography can be quite confusing if you don’t have a structured approach to learning about them. READ a beginner’s guide to digital photography!

Oh, by the way, the best beginner’s guide to digital photography to start with is totally FREE! Read the manual that came with your camera!

I can hear you groaning. Yes, it is boring, poorly written gobbledy-gook, but start with camera in hand on page one and keep reading until you understand everything on that page. Then go to page 2 and so on. By the time you are finished, you will have mastered your camera.


Once you understand how your camera works and what all the buttons, switches and dials do… you will be head and shoulders above all the other shooters in the area and ready to dive into the creative side of photography for beginners. Then, you can concentrate on getting your creative vision into the camera – not trying to figure out why the shot didn’t work and spending hour after hour in Photoshop trying to fix it.

To learn more about a great online class, check out – Photography Master Class

For a bit of fun check out – Trick Photography

Want to see the latest and greatest photo equipment and reviews?

New Graphic