Welcome to AG VISUAL's first primer to starting out in photography!
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If this alpha phase is successful, I will create PDF guides and eventually a waitlist for a course hosted through a proper platform. At this time the doors will close to free members who will retain free access to the Photography basics tier and any further tiers can be purchased at a discount.
THE MAGIC OF RAW
Always shoot RAW if you can. I never used to understand the power of it and would hear people utter misconceptions like 'I like to get it right in camera'. RAW is by nature, a versatile digital image file that gives you more headroom in the edit than a JPEG would. Shooting RAW allows you to edit general exposure, shadows, highlights, colours and white balance independently of each other and to make things even better, it does so in a non destructive way.
Drag the slider at the image above, it shows an example of when RAW is especially beneficial, at a wedding venue the lighting is often dim and it's only possible to expose properly for the interior or the exterior. By taking a RAW through photo editing software such as Lightroom, it's possible to balance out the exposure and recover some of those blown out window highlights. This might not be the best photo in the world but it serves as an example of RAWs power.
The meta data that comes with RAW is also useful, it means that Lightroom knows exactly which camera took the shot, which lens and even what settings were used at the time it was taken. This information make's it easier for Lightroom's lens correction feature and allows for improvement as you can look back at your shots and see how you used to shoot, compared to now.
Shooting RAW is game changing but it isn't a magic bullet. It can only recover highlights and shadows within reason, so it's best not used as a crutch but as a creative tool and a failsafe. What I mean by this is expose properly, shoot the best shot you can without underexposing or overexposing the shot. If you decide later that you want to desaturate just the green colours as part of your signature look, you can do it. If you got the perfect shot but the sun went in and it's a bit underexposed, you can fix it. If you're white balance was messed up on your walk by a tungsten street lamp you can fix it.
RAW is a generic term and most low end prosumer cameras will have this feature. The 550D (my first camera) can be picked up for a few hundred pounds and has this.
RAW file extensions vary from brand to brand.
Keeping RAWs from your best shots is a great idea as you can always go back and re-edit them at a later stage, if you're signature style changes. Weddings are a prime example of this if you shoot these one day.
The down side of RAWs is ... they're huge! Compared to JPEGS anyway, it's worth investing in some higher capacity memory cards, I've included affiliate links below (this means I get a tiny fraction of any purchases but I wouldn't link them if I didn't use them on the daily).
Integral- cheaper than Sandisk, I've never had any issues with them
Sandisk - Comes at a premium but my memory cards of choice
There are higher tier SD cards but that's another story.
If you have the option, pick compressed RAW as opposed to uncompressed. Try both if you need to but I've never been able to spot a difference, so to me a marginal quality increase isn't worth the higher memory cost.
Always shoot RAW if you can
Always keep RAWs from important projects or shots you think you might want to go back to one day
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THE FUNDAMENTALS OF EXPOSURE
The exposure triangle is the cornerstone of photography, knowing how the 3 elements work and affect the overall image, allows you to learn how to balance them effectively to get the results you need.
Shutter Speed dictates motion blur, a low shutter speed lets in more light but also exaggerates any motion in the image.
F Stop dictates depth of field, to what distance away from the camera is blurred, The lower this is, the brighter the image.
ISO dictates the how much light the camera's sensor lets in. Too low and the image is too dark and detail is lost in the shadows, too high and it introduces a lot of noise into the image.
Typically 1/250 and higher is good to stick to; for shutter speed to keep sharp images, it's generally better to be on the high side as unlike video it's not essential to have any level of motion blur at all. Examples of when you might want to go lower are for if you want slight movements blurred, if you want to shoot long exposures (light trails) or for artistic shots. This is the setting I change the most.
Depth of field with F-stops takes a while to get used to, practice with still objects and moving subjects to see how background separation affects your image and be careful shooting 1.4 and 1.8 if your lens shoots that shallow, as you can miss focus. If for instance someone is turned at an angle to you, one of their eyes may not be in focus, where as if they were facing straight on both eyes would be. This is how focus works, imagine invisible planes or layers going from you and the camera, back to the horizon.
Lower ISOs are best on a sunny day, higher ISOs on dark day. Think do you need to take your ISO higher? or can you darken your image using the F-stops or shutter speed? maybe even a neutral density filter. Check your camera manual and online to see what your native ISOs are. These native ISOs are paradoxical to the advice above, a camera might get noise at ISO 30000 but if it's native ISO is 32000, you may be better off bumping it up again rather than lowering it.
It will take some time and practice, but eventually balancing these and knowing when to change which setting will become second nature.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF COMPOSITION
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Composition is key, you can expose properly but no one will care if the image isn't compelling. A badly composed image is messy, there's no direction for the eye to go. Sometimes photographers will start taking interesting images but the composition will be off and this compromises the photo and instantly stamps it as the work of an amateur. There's nothing wrong with amateur photography but knowing the composition basics lets you level up. These 'rules' can be broken and frequently are by pros but the difference is knowing when to break them and you can only know that if you practice shooting with them first..
Rule of Thirds
Make sure there's something of interest in the left, middle and right third of the screen. Some cameras have overlays to help with this.
Best described through the photo below, a more complex composition
Leading lines + A different perspective
These are everywhere! Even seemingly mundane things from parking lines to walls and the trees reaching toward the sky. Look up, look down, get low, get high, floor level even if possible. You'll see how the composition changes and different elements take up a different amount of space in the photo or suddenly become leading lines, taking the viewers eye towards the subject of the photo.
Creating depth + Framing
You might do all of the above only to find your amazing images still look a little flat. There's no punch to them. What happened!
This is the part that separates your shots from a tourists, so listen up!
When people see photos it's sometimes tricky for the human eye to gauge the true depth of the scene. Partially obscuring a small corner of the photo with a flower, the left third with a tree, these things can increase depth. The more going on in the scene, the easier this is too do, some scenes naturally have a lot of depth.
Framing is a fun way of shooting and is very trial and error at first. Shoot through fences, gates, windows, doors, look everywhere for things that could frame your shot.
CHOOSING YOUR FIRST CAMERA
WHY YOU SHOULD SHOOT MANUAL
DOS AND DONT'S
Shoot manual as soon as possible. You will make more mistakes but eventually the muscle memory will replace the confusion and fustration and it will be worth it in the long term. Full auto is a crutch and a bad habit if you want to shoto compelling images. There are some middle grounds such as AV mode and others that gusitamte some of the settings while leaving others to you, if you're having difficulty with going fully manual, it can be handy to use these but worth not getting in the habit if you can avoid it. Your camera dosen't know what you want!
ASSIGNMENT - STREET PHOTOS
ASSIGNMENT - MUSIC PHOTOS
ASSIGNMENT - PORTRA PHOTOS
EDITING YOUR SHOTS
BACK BUTTON FOCUS VS MANUAL VS FULL AUTO FOCUS
There's a lot of mistakes made and common misconceptions on copyright, from both beginners, bad actors and people outside of the photography industry that are unaware of how things work, so I'll break it down here...
Copyright exists from the moment you press the shutter button and take the shot
EXIF data is vital to proving ownership if you need to challenge a stolen photo. EXIF data is part of the metadata captured but is only recorded when shooting RAW. (double check JPEGS don't have EXIF)
Contracts are key
Learn from other's nightmare stories
I've compiled a list of clauses and nightmare stories that prompted them here