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You and Your Camera

Trevor August 18, 2020

“ If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.”

– Jim Richardson


”The difference between knowing and doing”

No matter how much you learn here in this course. You will learn even more by going out and using your camera. This is educational learning, where you learn by reading and retaining information. For photography, going out and taking action to use your camera is crucial to really understand how your camera works. This is also known as experiential learning and is an integral part of this course for you. 

An Image

Traditional photography says that every image you take should have a theme and a subject. I don’t always follow this rule, but I do acknowledge that it is important to think about if you want to take an image that has real meaning behind it.

Theme – An idea or a universal message that you want to convey to the viewer.

Subject – A main focal point or subject matter that you are focusing on.

” Photography is a subjective art. Whats right or good to one person is wrong or bad to somebody else. Photography is about training your eye to find what you like and expressing yourself in your images. Never let anybody tell you that your images are right or wrong, because if its right to you then that is all that matters.”

How should you think of your camera?

Photography is derived from the greek words photos- “light” and graphein- “to draw” So photography literally means to draw with light.

”Your camera is just a box that captures light”

Your camera works in a very similar way to your eye. Light rays falls on an object you are about to photograph. That light then bounces off the object and those light rays travel down the lens of both your eye and camera. It then strikes the sensor/film in your camera or the retina in your eye. Our brain processes what we are seeing with our eyes and the camera processes the image depending on the settings you have given it at that time.


Many people believe that purchasing a more expensive camera will automatically mean that your pictures will be better. This is not always the case unfortunatley. The quality of the image you take, is completely dependent on the settings you give your camera at that moment. Even the best and most expensive cameras on the market will not match the same capabilities of what our brain and eyes can see.

Click Hereto read an awesome article that compares a camera and the human eye by Cambridge In Colour at www.cambridgeincolour.com.

”Your camera is a save button for your eyes. You are the cameras brain, to tell it what it is seeing”


This is a regular DSLR Camera. All cameras on the market will have the majority of these elements built in. 

  1. Aperture – A feature in your lens, which adjusts by opening and closing to leave more or less light through the lens.
  2. Lens Elements – Glass elements which move to get your image to achieve focus or ”Sharpness”.
  3. Electronic Sensor – Where the image is recorded digitally. A sensor is a modern electric version of film.
  4. Shutter Release Button – This is a button you press, which signals your shutter curtain to open.
  5. Shutter Curtain – Your shutter curtain works just like a regular curtain and is located right in front of the cameras sensor. It opens to leave light hit the sensor.
  6. Data Display – Electronic display to view your camera settings & other information.
  7. Viewfinder – What you look through, to view exactly what your camera’s field of view is pointing at.

All cameras will have these 3 main elements

  1. A Camera Sensor, which controls ISO ”Image Quality” and the recording of the image.
  2. A Shutter Curtain, which controls Shutter Speed
  3. An Aperture Ring, which controls Aperture or f/stop 

These are the three main elements which work together to take an image.

1/ Electronic Sensor

Any digital image that you take, is made up of pixels. Each pixel is its own individual colour. So your image is actually made up of millions of tiny dots of individual colours. 

Have you ever heard of a camera having a specific number of megapixels? 

”The camera I use has 30.1 Megapixels”

Well, all this means is that my camera has this amount of pixels in an image it takes. A megapixel is 1,000,000 ”One Million” pixels. 

”So a 30.1 Megapixel Camera, has 30,100,000 ”Thirty Million and One Hundred Thousand” pixels”

The amount of pixels that your camera has, doesn’t have anything to do with learning how to take pictures.


Pixel Video – Watch this video to get a better view of pixels

2/Shutter Curtain

Your camera’s shutter works just like a regular curtain. The first curtain moves and starts to expose the sensor. Depending on the shutter speed you have chosen, the second curtain will then follow along the same path until the sensor is no longer exposed. The camera shutter controls how long the sensor is open to receive the light.


2/Aperture Ring

Your aperture ring is located in the camera’s lens. It consists of a variety of blades which adjust to open and close. The aperture or f/stop controls the amount of light that is left into the camera through your lens by opening and closing these blades. 


What camera do you own, or what one should you buy?

Pro’s & Cons


”The Pentaprism is the reason why DSLR’s are so big in size”


Smartphone App

Check out apps similar to CAMERA+ 2 to take some manual control of photography on your smartphone. It doesn’t have all the settings for fully manual just yet, but it has a lot of them.


Holding Your Camera

”Safety First Always”

  1. Always have the strap around your neck or wrist to avoid dropping.
  2. Keep your elbows tucked by your side for stability.
  3. Hold the weight of the camera in your left hand. Usually under the lens so you can adjust focus and zoom on your lens with your left hand.
  4. Hold the grip in your right hand with your finger just above the shutter release button.
  5. If kneeling on one knee, then place your elbow on your elevated knee for stability



”The focus point are the locations your camera signals your lens to focus on” 

  • The amount of focus points vary from camera to camera.
  • Press the shutter release button half way down to achieve focus. ”Usually you may hear a small beep or see a red dot in your viewfinder.”
  • Press the rest of the way down to take your picture or to ”expose your image”.

On some cameras you may see a bunch of red dots at the same time. This simply means that all of the areas which are lit in the viewfinder or screen are in focus.

Focal Length

Focal length, is the angle of view that your camera can see through the lens.

  • Wide angle lenses have wide angles of view, so they take in a lot more of the scene.
  • Telephoto lenses have a narrower angle of view and take in less of the scene because they are zoomed lenses. ”Usually 60mm and longer”

”Each image above is taken while I was standing in the one location. I achieved this by changing the focal length of my lens”

The Focal Length of your lens is usually located on the top, side or front of the lens and is a number with ”mm” next to it. This is the focal length that your lens uses. Different lenses have different focal lengths.

  • Prime Lenses remain at the same focal length and do not have a zoom feature. Examples include and are not limited to 20mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm,100mm, 200mm etc.
  • Zoom Lenses have a zoom feature which allows you to change their focal length, by twisting a ring on the lens or by using the zoom feature of your camera, if it has one. Examples include and are not limited to  24-70mm,18-200mm,24-200mm,18-135mm etc.

Camera Modes


Some cameras will have preset modes. These are designed to change to cameras settings automatically to match the preset that you choose to use.

The above graphic is a quick insight to what your camera dial may look like and what the different symbols are used for. We will be expanding on the modes below in more detail, later in this course.

 M – Manual Mode

S/Tv – Shutter Priority Mode

A/Av – Aperture Priority Mode

P – Program Mode


For week one, we would like you to get familiarised with your camera. Learning about the settings is one part of the process. Learning how to use and change the settings on your camera is a complete other.

  1. Read the camera manual. ”Yes read the manual. This is essential”
  2. Familiarise yourself with the cameras elements we have listed above.
  3. Learn how to change the settings ”Especially the shutter speed, aperture-f/stop and the ISO.
  4. Play with the zoom of your lens.
  5. Get to know your camera. Learn how to focus and how to take pictures in the automatic modes first.