Photography 101: Learn how to use Your Camera Better

by Darby Fike

Interning at Sundog has allowed me to sharpen many different skills that span marketing and design. One of those skills has been photography. And I love photography.

I received my first camera as a high school graduation present from my grandparents. My Nikon D3200 was by my side for every trip, every event, and every shoot that I went on. It’s been through a few minor falls and dunks in water, but it’s still the camera body I use today.

I’ve learned how to shoot manually to have more control over how each photo looks. I started taking photos for weddings, senior portraits, and landscapes. It took me some time to learn different tips to become a better photographer – actually four years of school and lots of practice.

Now at my internship, I get to use my skills by creating photographs for Sundog’s social media posts. Our goal is that all of our social posts have a visual with it. Also, I’ve been put in charge of taking company headshots for our website. And coming up, I am going to be doing a company photo shoot to help create a database of pictures that can be used for future internal marketing purposes. Photography has become a big part of my internship.

But today, I am here to help you understand photography better. So if you want to start to learning photography, become better at it, or just feel like reading, I want to break it down into Photography 101. This article is complete with terms to help understand your camera functions and guidelines on how to take pictures.

Starting with camera terms. When you’re learning about how your camera works, these terms will come up:

Exposure is the amount of lightness or darkness in a photograph. When a photo becomes too dark, it is overexposed and when a photo is too light it is underexposed. Exposure is controlled by three camera settings: Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed.

Aperture is the size of the opening of the lens. This will change depending on what lens you are using. A wide aperture lets in more light, while a smaller aperture lets in less light. Aperture is measured in F/Stops on a camera. So a number like f/1.8 lets in a lot of light, while a bigger number like f/16 will let in less light.

ISO shows how sensitive the camera is to light. A low ISO, such as 100, is good for shooting in the daylight while a high ISO, such as 1600, is good for shooting in a dark gymnasium.

Shutter Speed is the device that lets light in to take the picture. It is measured in seconds and can be as quick at 1/200 of a second or as slow as 10 seconds. But remember that anything that moves while the shutter is open will become blurred in the photograph.

Focus in an image is similar to how our eyes focus. When you focus on something near to you, the things behind it become blurry. Camera focus is when an object is sharp and details can be seen well, while things out of focus become blurry in the image. There are different areas of focus such as multiple points or one user selected point.

Now we’ve covered some basic camera terms and functions. Understand those can build a strong foundation of an image. But there are other tips and rules that can help when it comes to creating an aesthetic image. These are usually guidelines, because there is always an exception to the rule; however, these are principles taught to help create compelling photos:

  • The composition rule of thirds is the idea that having the subject on one side of the photo will look more visually pleasing. Imagine that there are there are two parallel lines going horizontal and two parallel going vertical that split the image into a nine square grid. By putting the object through one of those lines, it will let the eye view the subject and then the background. While some images look good having the subject in the center, having the the subject off-center will most likely create a more aesthetically composed photograph. Like this:


  • Use simple backgrounds, especially when it comes to portraits. A simple background includes neutral colors, simple patterns, or anything that doesn’t become a distraction. This way the eye won’t be distracted by the background, but drawn to the object of the photo.  


  • Create a sense of depth in photos. By creating a sense of depth, it lets the viewers feel like they’re there. It makes the photo seem more real and captures attention. Use a wide angle to obtain more of a panoramic view which can capture more in the image.


  • Sunny 16 rule is a guideline that helps when taking photos outdoors. Assuming that it is a sunny day, you can set your camera settings at f/16, 1/100th shutter speed, and the ISO at 100. This should give an image that isn’t under or over exposed.


  • Don’t use flash indoors. While it seems like a good idea to add light to a dim area, flash often adds an unnatural light and harsh yellow tone to the photo. Other ways to try and add light to a photo would be to raise the ISO up to 800 or 1600 before taking the photo. Also set the aperture to the widest setting possible so the most possible light can enter the camera, and find an exposure time to match.


My last tip for you is to practice. Experiment with a variety techniques and see what works best with you and your camera. Continue to practice until you don’t have to think about it anymore, and it just becomes a second nature.


Until next time,

     Intern Darby