Intro to Digital Photography | Skillshare Projects

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Intro to Digital Photography

Digital photography is the norm for both professionals and amateurs alike. Today, it isn’t limited to the high-end fancy cameras either. In fact, almost every single person on Earth has access to quality photography products.

Due to a saturated market and the expansion of new technology, photography products now sell at significantly lower prices than just a few years ago. What once cost a small fortune for an aspiring photographer now comes preloaded on many smartphones. Professional photos once took days to develop. Now, thanks to advancements in photography products, like DSLRs that allow you to adjust virtually any component of the camera, photographers can view their work in an instant.

These lightning-fast advancements coupled with the decline in pricing made digital photography more accessible to the general public. Yet, nothing accelerated the world’s access to quality photos more than mobile technology. Smartphones are essentially compact computers, allowing quality cameras at the hands of billions of people around the world. Now, anyone could take photographs that can grab the world’s attention — or at least sell stock photos in the growing user-generated stock photography sector.

Just think, the capabilities of your phone’s camera surpasses that of top-notch digital cameras just fifteen years ago. While you might not be able to use it for DSLR filmmaking, smartphones can come pretty close. The same can be said for traditional digital cameras. Today, photographers have an array of products to choose from including DSLR, Compact, and Bridge cameras to name a few. Each represents a sophisticated digital camera that offers an immense variety of ways to control everything from aperture settings to sharing photos online the way pictures are captured.

Photography tells us how one depicts the world. Each day billions of photos are taken around the world, each representing a different story. They are stories of love, laughter, loss and much more. To tell your story, you need the skills to understand what it takes to capture an excellent digital photograph and an understanding of the intricacies of today’s digital cameras.

Whether it be digital photography sites, professional courses or even Googling "Photography tips for beginners," each lesson helps you gain more perspective about digital photography. With practice, you will be able to tell the most captivating stories without ever saying a word.

In this article, we will explore what it takes to do just that.

 

Digital Photography is About Perspective

Think about the photography you see in everyday life. From basic photos on Instagram, advertorial shots plastered all over billboards and street art are just some of the different styles we come across every day. If you go on digital photography sites, then this world vastly opens up its viewing options for you. Now, you have access to some of the best nature photography, high fashion, and more niche yet exciting subjects like landscape astrophotography.

The common unifier of these styles is perspective.

Perspective has always been one of photography's essential elements. In digital photography, your perspective and camera angles are what make your photos excel. By examining an image's view, an artist may find that they are able to add depth, meaning, and life to the stories in their photos. The right angles and positions will bring a subject a story to life. Without it, your images will be flat and lack intrigue. If you want to make your photos stand out, you have to implement perspectives into your work.

Through the right angles, a skilled photographer can take a standard two-dimensional photo and give it life, depth, and the story it deserves. Photographers will often use familiar images that allow our minds to associate size and scale easier. Anything from a person to a home to nature helps achieve this effect when used correctly. This also works in abstract or hard to decipher photographs. This technique serves as a mental anchor point for our brains while providing the depth we need to comprehend the image.

In our day-to-day lives, perspective gets washed out by our brains due to a human’s ability to quickly adapt to changes in vision. Our minds subconsciously adjust distortions, so we tend to overlook them throughout the day. However, in digital photography, different lenses, perspectives, and framings of the subject reveal different angles and depths our mind otherwise wouldn't allow. If you find yourself struggling to comprehend this concept, take some eye-level photos using different lenses. Each photography product drastically changes how the face is captured. Comparing the differences will provide you with a better understanding.

But it’s not just about knowing perspective. It’s about making it your own in only a way that practice can come from. Explore the limits of your creativity and tools. Different angles, views, and subjects open a world of possibilities. With each piece of photography products you have, the more options you give yourself. And thanks to the market becoming more accessible, anyone can begin to learn about perspectives, ISO settings, aperture and so much more with much more ease than ever before.

It is vital that you learn proper perspective skills to succeed in digital photography. The mark of a skilled photographer is their ability to bring forth that right perspective in a photo. With this knowledge, you can tell the story of your subject. Only then are you able to capture the full depth of a landscape, tell the emotional journey of your subject or show the overwhelming size of nature.

Some ways photographers demonstrate perspective include:

  • A hunter holding up a catch
  • A person looking into the distance of landscapes
  • Including rulers in photos 

By playing with perspective, you begin to tell the story how you want the subject portrayed. Other adjustments that improve your storytelling include your camera angles. This has been a common practice in visual storytelling for ages. Long before DSLR filmmaking, Orson Welles was digging up floors on the set of Citizen Kane for ideal low-angle images. In your case, you don’t have to dig into the ground for better shots necessarily. Instead, discover new ways to frame subjects and tell stories by adjusting your stance and sight lines. Learn how each of these angles and positions changes your digital photograph’s perspective.

  • Eye-level Angles: Taking a photo at eye-level is the most common angle that’s used for studio work, as it’s a straightforward way of saying “We are equal”. Keeping your photo products at eye-level gives your images a natural and relatable appearance. For this reason, many professional headshots are taken from an eye-level angle to ensure that there is no power structure inherent in the photograph – even if one exists in life.
  • Low Angle: Pointing your camera upwards adds depth to your image while creating a couple interesting effects. With your subject looming over your lens, the focus often becomes more intimidating. Conversely, it also has the ability of giving your image wonder, like that of a child. By placing your perspective under the subject, you help frame a larger than life image that also works in nature by letting 2/3 of the picture be covered by the sky.
  • High Angle: Taking photos from above may add innocence to a story as it can demonstrate the way an adult views a child. Depending the height of your camera's angle, it can change from a parent observing a child to a hawk hunting its prey. Using this angle correctly can completely alter the story in your photo. Like low angles, you can add more depth to the picture by using 2/3 of the picture to highlight the landscape.
  • Eye-level PositionShooting from your eye level provides the viewer a look into your perspective. This produces beautiful photos while serving as just the beginning of your perspective lessons.
  • High Position: Shooting above eye level allows your photos to capture more of the background of your images. For a bolder result, use a high angle as well.
  • Vertical Photos: Using vertical angles can add depth to digital photography. From children’s parties to architectural projects, they can all be affected and boosted from skillful manipulation of vertical angles.
  • Horizontal Photos: Horizontal angles are used to tell detailed stories in photographs. By using the rule of thirds, subtle messages can be incorporated into your images. If you have someone looking to the left in a landscape, place them along the right-hand “third line," and they will be looking at 2/3 of the image, rather than the 1/3. This adds space and can be used to show freedom, or loneliness, depending on what colors and textures you decide to use.

Your perspective also changes when adjusting photography's "three pillars" — ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. In regards to a camera’s aperture, you are changing the camera lens itself. Your aperture settings determine how open the lens is when you take a photograph. The smaller the aperture, the less the light that travels down the lens to the light sensor inside the camera. A wider aperture means more light is allowed in, which is perfect for low-light scenarios. You might be amazed at how much a f/2.8 to f/8.0 change can impact your subject’s focus and story.

To get an action shot in the daytime, a smaller aperture and faster shutter speed may be appropriate. However, if you’re wanting to get a nice evening photo, then a larger aperture and slower shutter speed might work better. Again, this requires a balance as the larger the aperture, the lower depth of field, so you’ll soon be juggling your lighting with your focus. These adjustments will alter your image's story rather drastically.

And that is what digital photography is about: telling the story of a scene. As a creative, it is your job to steer the narrative. Whether it is your telling of what you see or straight from the subject, a photographer is the creative that brings the tale into view. To do so, it takes an understanding of key photography elements like perspective, the rule of three and the three pillars. Each part affects your narrative. They are the plot devices that shape characters and meanings. With a tilt of the lens, you can turn an image into a menacing villain. An adjustment the other way could give your image the childlike wonder it needs to convey. Much like writing a work of fiction, how you frame it makes a world of difference.

In the end, it’s about learning and experimenting. You have to find your voice behind the lens. In doing so, you become capable of telling the stories in front of the lens. This is essential to your growth as a photographer because you are actually growing into a storyteller. Photography just happens to be the medium you chose to convey your stories. Now that you have the proper equipment and the essential beginner photography tips, it’s time to develop your images into stories. It’s time to show the depths of your creative spirit.

How to Tell Your Story

A photo is an image. Your photography tells a story. Understanding the elements to take a picture is only part of the learning process. The real education is learning how to frame the story of the scene. Your photography needs to express something to the world. Otherwise, you just have lovely photos and no substance.  

From photojournalism to casual cell phone digital photography, every shot has the potential to become much more. As the famous saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” It is up to the photographer to bring those words into the image.

To achieve this success, it takes a combination of integral photo elements. You have the best chance of capturing a captivating story when combining action, composition and the emotion together. If you find yourself struggling in this area and have access to your subjects, get close to them. Drop your distance and get up close to the scene while you shoot. Whether covering world events or a wedding, getting close to the subjects and action almost always helps achieve your goals. You do so because humans are the ideal subjects for conveying a scene's emotion. If you can get close to them, your photograph’s story should come through much clearer. Standing back can surely show the story from a factual perspective. However, this approach often impedes the scene's reality from fully coming through.

When shooting any object, shoot the front of the subject unless it completely derails the image. Framing your subject from a forward angle allows for a more emotional image. This works well with animals and inanimate objects. However, humans are the ideal subject in this scenario as everything from facial expressions to posture help shape the image's narrative.

Another vital element is action. Again, you can tell the story from afar, but your photos will lack because of it. Instead, get into the scene to actually bring out its action. Bringing yourself closer reveals more details of the picture. The subject's emotions are much clearer, minute details now come to life. It's your choice where to shoot. What you pick could determine the clarity of your visual tale.

This goes for all photographic mediums as well. Stories can be expressed no matter what type of photography you’re pursuing, whether it’s travel photography or product photography. In fact, if you can convey the feelings and action in challenging types of photography, you could assert yourself as one of the best in that field.

Look at just some of these types of photography and how their reality is shown through digital photography:

 

Travel Photography:

Travel photographers see the world. But imagine how those stories could be told without a photographer. Without them, the project falls apart. In a nutshell, you have to convey the written story in visuals so that the written medium is adequately supported. Being a travel photographer isn’t the easiest job, but without it the tourism industry could come crashing down. It also doesn’t hurt that the job can take you literally anywhere.

The top travel writers all use skillfully taken digital photography to aid in telling their stories, and without the photographs, they would just be sharing a blurb of relatively boring text. That is the purpose of travel photography.

 Some travel photography jobs are easy, some are not. You might be expected to have a walk through the great cities and experiences, such as the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, the Boryeong Mud Festival in South Korea, and shooting stars of the Milky Way from a vast open plain somewhere, and that would be safe enough. But many travel destinations can take you off the beaten track, such as the Masai planes of Africa, the frozen tundra of Siberia, or even the Great Barrier Reef.


Product Photography

At first glance, many photographers overlook the potential of product photography, particularly as a storytelling device. What most don’t realize is that it’s actually quite a tricky genre to master. Becoming a product photographer doesn’t just involve taking a photo of a product and sending it to the salesman. You have to “sell” the product through your image. You have to be able to take the photo in such a way, that the person seeing it can relate to what it would feel like if they had the product themselves. It’s the art of selling a 3D object through a 2D plane.

 This can only be achieved through the right elements of the industry. Perfectly hued backgrounds, the proper lighting and environment all have a hand in crafting the narrative. If shot in the wrong location or with incorrect lighting, a serious photo can become comical. A light-hearted image can turn sinister. And when this happens, products suffer. This costs brands lots of money. However, for the skilled Product Photographer, this is their forte. With the right skills and a qualifiable portfolio, product photography can be one of the more lucrative sectors of photography to tell your stories in.

 What if these areas aren’t in your wheelhouse? That’s not a problem. If you’re in need of additional inspiration, consider these areas of the art form:

 

Stories Through Portraits

The purpose of portrait photography is to share the image of a person for a multitude of reasons and emotions. It could be a couple at prom making a photo to commemorate the event. It could be an author who wants a portrait on her book jacket. The options are essentially limitless.  

Your story varies depending on your work. Each image is shaped by both the subject and photographer. Based on your preferences, you might find yourself opting to tell one story of certain subjects rather than others. The good news is that this field allows for a broad range of stories to tell. 

When taking headshots of an individual, you want their image to look the most professional it possibly could. That means making sure the light, the surrounding and of course the subject themselves look as eye-catching as desired. On the other end of the spectrum, documentary and field photographers want none of that in their work. That's because their profession is centered on authenticity. In their capacity, it is the photographer’s job to remain completely out of the scene. Shoot only what life gives you. This can be extremely challenging when filming scenes of war, famine and humanity's other most trying moments.

 

Stories Through Landscapes

Landscapes offer a compelling array of tales to tell and could be the easiest of the genres to enter. That being said, it may also be one of the most difficult to master.

 Think about shooting a mountain. You might want to share the immense size of the rugged exterior with everyone, or maybe you’re wanting to get the person looking at the photo to feel the crisp chill of the snowy mountaintop.  Being able to share the feeling of the mountain (as an example) is what makes landscape photography so amazing.

Some photographers are drawn to landscapes to show the world of untouched lands. In other cases, it's to profile the impact humanity has had on an area. For some photographers, they choose urban landscapes devoid of people. Depending on the setting and subjects, landscapes could offer you all the time in the world or just a moment. The variety of topics makes mastering landscapes that much more of a challenge. However, when shot well, they produce some of the most stunning images.

 

Stories Through Street Photography

Street photography is one of the more gripping genres of photography. However, it can also be one of the most comical. It’s also one of the most loving. Basically, street photography has the potential to capture any story or emotion in the moment of living. Street photography is about sharing the raw beauty of a city’s occupants.  

 As John Barbiaux said, "But really there are only two main types of street photography, the type that tells a story and – the rest." He added, "Telling a story with your photography, street or otherwise, elicits an emotion in the viewer, is memorable, and can literally change the world we live in."

 In this situation, it isn’t so much about what you shoot, it’s how you shoot it. Everything from a tragic homicide investigation to a feel-good Church yard sale can become your story. Tapping into the people and emotions of the scene creates a compelling story that you as the photographer need to convey with the proper shots.

 

Stories Through Other Sports Photography

Other genres can become just as impactful. Thanks to sports photographers, fans can relive their favorite Olympic and Super Bowl moments in vivid detail. Sports photography can also tell the tragedy that carries well beyond a failed title win. At the 1968 Olympics, John Dominis captured the iconic image of Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos making a silent, powerful civil rights stance during their medal-winning ceremony. The moment almost immediately transcended the sports world and continues to serve as a talking point in civil rights history.

Unfortunately, tragedy extends beyond the stats sheets in some cases. The haunting image of LMU basketball star Hank Gathers collapsed and subsequent passing on a NCAA game in 1990 is still remembered in the basketball community. The picture became one of the strongest pieces of evidence to support an athlete’s health over their desire to play the game they love.

Regardless your direction, each genre presents you with the opportunity to be a storyteller. However, it takes practice to reach this caliber of photography. It requires dedication, learning and a nonstop commitment to create a narrative with professional photography. Whether you want to become the top name in your industry or just take likable pictures of your family, it takes time to hone your skills. Photography is not for the impatient or thin-skinned. You need patience and the ability to take criticism even on your best work.

With time and persistence, you will be able to call yourself an excellent photographer. For starters, it’s all about being consistent. If you don’t have it yet, now is the time to develop your work ethic for success.

 

Learn Photography Online

Keeping it consistent doesn’t so much apply to your work. Rather, it applies to your work ethic. What you put into photography is what you are going to get out. Some believe that it takes 10,000 hours to master a subject. Others disagree and say longer. While no one is certain how long it should take you to learn digital photography, one thing is clear. If you want to succeed in photography, your daily practices need to be productive and consistent. Otherwise, your hard work will deteriorate. It’s up to you to prioritize your new skill.

One way to ensure that you are adding value to your craft is by taking professional photography courses online. Much like mobile technology disrupting traditional photography, online learning makes mastering photography much more convenient. Led by skilled teachers, an online course provides you with a qualified instructor just like a classroom setting would. Additionally, in some larger classes, especially during entry-level courses, students sometimes share a class with hundreds of classmates. Good luck trying to get the hands-on learning you need. In an online setting, you often receive more individual learning than you would by stepping inside a physical classroom. With learning communities and teachers making themselves rather available, the traditional education experience is different while enhancing the core needs of students. The courses are robust and cover what you would in school. A beginner’s guide to photography course explains the essentials like aperture settings, DSLR photography, ISO photography, shutter speeds and all else that you’ll need to blossom into a talented photographer.  

 Online learning provides you loads of benefits, including the ability to cross-reference other digital photography sites for additional tips. Sure, there are benefits to adhering to a course, but what if you want to integrate new outside elements into your work that don’t fit the class? In an online community, you have more freedom to explore and tailor the lessons and its work to your needs.

Have no fear over losing track of the course if you’re stuck behind either. Lessons move at your pace. Want to explore DSLR filmmaking some more before moving onto ISO? Go for it! Sometimes life gets in the way be it work, family or something else. In a classroom setting, you might find yourself needing to retake the course another semester. In some cases, you won’t even receive a refund. With an online education, you determine when you are ready for the next lesson. As long as you commit yourself to each lesson, then the results pay off. If you have the discipline and time management skills, all should pay off. No need to change your life to continue learning. 

What is likely the best part of an online education has to be that you get a top-notch education for a cut-rate price. With so many graduates frustrated with high student loan debts and low-paying jobs, online learning eases the fears of crippling debt. Imagine wanting to make a career change to digital photography, but only could pursue it through high-priced universities. It might sway you from your dreams. E-learning allows you to actually explore a passion and decide if you want to learn more without breaking the bank.

Regardless what direction you choose, it is vital that you learn your basics. These are the elements you will be practicing even when you fail to realize it. These are the building blocks to your skillset. Without a proper understanding, your work will suffer greatly. In digital photography, you have to know all the basics. Just some of those basics include:

 

  • Composition
  • Rule of Thirds
  • Exposure
  • Positions
  • Angles
  • Eyelines
  • Balance

Remember, these are the tools you need to tell your story. Like a writer or designer, without the proper tools at your disposal, a project can never come to life. The best way to hone your skills is to dive into the work. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If it doesn’t come to you right away, don’t worry. It’s all part of the learning process. Digital photography won’t come to you in a day. It will take time. Months, years for sure. And even when you are certain you know how to use a DSLR, new tips and techniques are sure to open new avenues for you to explore.

Treat each time you shoot as an opportunity to find your voice. Play with styles, images and camera settings to begin your exploration. Finding a creative voice is a long process. Some get frustrated if it doesn’t come to them right away. Instead, focus on the journey. Remember the process you are undertaking. Becoming a digital photographer doesn’t follow a set path. Create your own by taking classes, studying the fundamentals and exploring the depths of your creativity. Only then can you really learn who you are as a creative.

 

Expressing Your Perspective

We suggest consistent work not so you acquire the fundamental skills needed to be a photographer. We suggest doing so because it enhances your ability to express yourself through your photography. All of the skills mentioned above are essential to telling your story. With access to digital photography products at an all-time high, you can capture a wonderful moment and turn it into the tale it has the potential of being. It can happen at any time. However, without the skills, you can’t convey the intended sentiment.

For all the incredible advancements mobile has ushered in, we don’t want to disregard traditional digital photography. For those novices worried that DSLR, ISO, or Bridge photography won’t be around for long, we have good news. Today, mobile and traditional forms of photography offer you other incredible avenues to explore. Despite some famed photographers like Annie Leibovitz incorporating iPhones into their work, they still embrace their previous tools as well.

A few years back, the world went into a minor news frenzy when Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt, U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron took a selfie together at Nelson Mandela's memorial service. Was this the new wave of Presidential photography? Well, no, and yes. While selfies are now part of the artform, former Chief Official White House Photographer for Presidents Reagan and Obama, Pete Souza still uses his trusty camera. So, have no fear over which type of camera you prefer to learn. Make your pick and start learning. Even with the rapid advancements in tech, none of this photography skills will be obsolete in the years to come.

 In fact, learning more than one type of camera is beneficial. Once you have the hang of one camera, consider expanding your skill set to include another. You never know what possibilities this might lead to in your career. By adding mobile to your work, you allow yourself the opportunity to take many more photos than a traditional camera allows. In doing so, you can explore subjects more, shoot from different perspectives and truly determine the right look for your latest shoot. Conversely, adding DSLR to your repertoire could open up into filmmaking opportunities. As long as you keep your mind open and continue to learn you can always find a way to work.

Yet, the main purpose of photography is to express yourself. Like any art form, money may come, but expression must arrive first. It’s up to you to decide where your career goes. Start out by practicing your fundamentals day in, day out. Work on your composition, explore aperture settings, play with balances. Eventually these practices won’t focus on the fundamentals. Rather, they will fade into the objective of your shoots. Instead of actively focusing on these elements, they will serve as the foundation for the more complex and artistic endeavors you take on.

At this stage, you might already have a grip on your voice. Continue exploring what makes you inspired. Discover what you aspire to create. Focus on critical factors that shape your brand voice. Apply your fundamentals, partner them with your interests and begin to explore your style. The photography scene is meant to be different and unique. Push yourself to try different techniques, perspectives and moods. All will influence your style while you develop your visual signature. If you feel the urge to study something new, explore it! That doesn’t mean to go from one subject to another without completing the last. But it does follow your heart it. Embrace your desires to explore ISO photography this season instead of travel. Dictate your direction, and the style will emerge from the experiences.

Push yourself to create. When you're feeling lethargic and uninspired, go outside. Take a walk. Even if you don't go outside, explore indoor subjects. Make that moment your first foray into exploring deep focus. Or maybe that day is about long exposure. Whatever it is, it's up to you to create. From there you can learn. Once done enough, it becomes a habit which leads to the discovery of your personal style and voice. Don’t worry if this takes time. For some, it comes instantly. For others, it can take years. Like we mentioned before, trust your process, continue to learn and continue to create. Only then can you find your voice.

 

Get Started

Make today the day you begin your digital photography journey. Grab your favorite camera and pick a class you want to start. Learn the ropes and get shooting. You don’t know where this journey will take you. Make today your first step on the road to becoming a digital photographer.

 

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