Photography Guide A1: Introduction

When I was in 11th grade, I was determined to buy a fancy-schmancy camera, but my parents weren’t going to pay the big bucks for it.

I tried convincing my parents: I want to become a photographer. Unless I buy this type of camera, I can’t.

I accumulated enough money through my $10/hr camp summer job and bought that fancy camera. A $750 Sony A57-SLT. It was Sony’s starter version of the DSLR. I was already spending more money for a specific brand. I could have afforded a cheaper but equivalent starter “fancy camera” for half that price.

My first fancy camera: a Sony A57-SLT.

For three years I used that camera occasionally. I didn’t bother to learn any technical skills that came from using a DSLR digital camera. I just used the Auto-Intelligence” mode.

What a waste! It was like buying an $1000 snowboard having no prior experience and using it to embarrass yourself by tumbling down the bunny slope.

Tip #A1.1: Buying an expensive camera does NOT produce better photographs.

A former Sunday School student of mine sums it up beautifully:

The camera is only a good as the person behind it. That can’t be more true. Looking back, I can shamefully admit that deep down, I did get a kick out of being a kid with a fancy camera. I felt cool.

I made an effort to look like this:

Picture taken by my buddy Yoyo

…while my photos came out like this:

Mike on that hike! (-) overexposed, (-) out of focus, (+) surprisingly, following the rule of thirds

I was using this expensive piece of hardware no different than I would use my iPhone before. Snap Snap Snap. I don’t want to miss anything.  I took lots of photos, but I had little to no understanding of the role of balancing light and exposure in a photograph.

It wasn’t until sophomore year of college (fall of 2014) that I really delved into learning more about photography and the technical skills. During a hiking trip, I was unable to capture certain scenes where the sun was very bright and affected my camera’s automatic sensors Stupid “Auto-Intelligence” mode. My friend Ariel then gave me a quick tip and showed me how to change my shutter speed. I was able to capture the scene more in a more desirable way and there was a sense of victory that came with it.

After that, I became fascinated with how a camera could capture certain images. I would see a beautiful photograph-like a starry sky or a silky waterfall-and wonder: how in the world do they do that?

Tip #A1.2: Knowing what you want to photograph before whipping out your camera goes a long way.

I would see something beautiful and embrace the challenge of capturing it. The process of completing the challenge required learning the technical skill behind using a digital camera and practicing it with lots of trials and errors.

A few months later in the summer of 2015, I was able to capture the starry sky, as well as the silky waterfall. It just took time.

…my Instagram game was weak back then.

Even after these two small victories, I still had much to learn to reach the point I am now. My interest in photography has led me to some great photographic experiences while at home and on vacation. I’ve been able to take pictures for a family-friend’s sweet 16 and be an assistant for a friend’s wedding. Now at school, I’ve had a chance to be a photographer for the career services department at my school. Without challenging myself to learn more, I would certainly not have had these opportunities. And I’m definitely still learning! With that in mind, I’ve decided to write a few blog posts with my photography journey filled with the tips and lessons that I learned along the way.

Challenge: Next time you see a beautiful image, challenge yourself to capture a photograph in a similar way.

Thanks for reading! Please comment with any questions and suggestions.

Always remember your Right to Bear Arts!

by the Creative Coalition



1#: DSLR
– stands for digital single-lens reflex camera. It means one of those fancy larger cameras toted by photographers.
-The term DSLR is sometimes used to mean a camera that has specific manual settings (for aperture, shutter speed, and ISO). A camera with manual settings doesn’t have any official nomenclature- it’s simply “a camera with manual settings. There are smartphones and point and shoot cameras that have the capability of having manual settings.
-The term DSLR is also sometimes used to mean a camera that can use different lenses. That is also incorrect- the correct term for that would be “interchangeable lens camera.” 

#2: Exposure – the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor.

#3. Shutter Speed – the amount of time a camera opens it’s shutter to expose the camera’s sensor to light.
-The longer the shutter speed, the brighter the exposure.
-Shutter speed is usually measured by seconds and second-fractions (e.g. 1/100 s, 1/30 s, 10 s).
-A fast shutter speed would be required to freeze a moving object.