In whatever we do, fundamentals are the basic skills we must acquire to do it well.

Good ways to attain relevant knowledge is to read widely, attend courses and seminars, practice, etc.

In this section, I am going to share with you some of the basic fundamentals in photography essential for taking a good photographs.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I could.





There are a few types of camera available in the market.

The more common ones are Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, prosumer, compact camera or sometimes referred as point and shoot camera, range finder, large and medium format camera, etc.

There are a few important terms you need to know:

a) Aperture

b) Shutter Speed

c) ISO

The above 3 are the key elements to determine the exposure of a photograph.



The aperture is the “circular” opening inside the camera lens which controls the amount of light hitting the sensor. On your camera, you will see f/2.8, f/3.5…….f/22.

All these f-numbers determine the size of the “circular” opening.

f/2.8 will have the biggest opening, thus allowing more light to enter and f/22 will have the smallest opening and allowing less light to hit the sensor.

Do note that the bigger the f number, the smaller the opening, which means less light can hit the sensor.

In general, under low light condition, it is recommended to use a wider aperture and under strong light, a smaller aperture should be used to avoid over-expose.



This determines how long you want the light to hit the sensor. You will see eg. 1/15, 1/60, or 1/1000 on your camera.

These are your shutter speed settings. 1/15 means the shutter is open for 1/15 of a second and 1/1000 means the shutter is open for 1/1000 of a second.

In most camera, you will see 1″, which means the shutter is open for 1 seconds. In general, if you want to freeze a moment, shutter speed of 1/250 is recommended.

*Hint: It is recommended that for the shutter speed used, the denominator value should be bigger then your focal length (mm) to avoid camera shake.



This determines how sensitive to light the camera sensor is.

The sensor is more sensitive to light at ISO 800 as compared to ISO100.

Generally, under low light condition, you may want to use higher ISO setting and under strong light, lower ISO setting is recommended.

Do note that higher ISO value (typically ISO 1000 and above) will produce noise to your picture which will cause the picture to be grainy.

Well, this could be the effect you wanted especially for portrait shots.


Relationship Between ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed

Have you ever wonder what is the relationship between ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed?

There is a strong correlationship between them to gain a desire or correct exposure for a photograph.

Whenever possible, I will recommend using a low ISO because this will produce the best quality image as compared to using a high ISO say at ISO 1000.

Nevertheless with today’s technology, many cameras are capable of reducing the noise generated by using high ISO and thus producing relatively good images.

But whatever the case, a low ISO is still desirable unless you wanted a grainy image to create a “mood” especially so for portrait pictures.

For example under strong light conditions and you want to achieve shallow depth of field, a low ISO is recommended so as to avoid over-exposure with a relatively fast shutter speed to freeze the image.

If a high ISO is selected together with a large aperture, there might be a chance your photograph may turn out to be over-exposed.

Same principle applies when under low light condition. Say if you want to set your aperture to f/11 and you want to freeze the image, ISO needs to be high in order to achieve what you desire.

Else with a low ISO of say 100, the shutter speed may be too slow for aperture of f/11 and thus blurring your photograph due to camera shake.

For night photography where a tripod will be used, I will strongly recommend using ISO 100 to produce the best quality image without blurring due to camera shake.

For me, my ISO setting will typically range from ISO 100 to ISO 800 maximum. I will use ISO 1000 and above if I deliberately wanted a grainy image.

Hope this short article helps in your understanding in relationship between ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed.



So the art of getting the correct expose very much depends on how you balance aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

Nowadays, cameras have a built in light-sensitive meter.

Using this meter, you can determine the balance between the 3 elements mentioned earlier.

Do note that getting the right exposure also largely depends on where you meter.

Although this meter is not 100% accurate, but it does provides a good reference for you.

There are 3 common types of metering system used, namely spot metering, center weighted metering and matrixmetering/evaluative metering.

Different metering system used will produce different results on your pictures.

What is the difference?

Well, I will like to urge you to surf the web to get the answer!

This is part and parcel of learning right?

For me, I use center weighted 80% of the time and will recommend you to do so too for a start.



There are normally a few modes which most DSLR provides, namely Manual, Aperture Priority/Av, Shutter Priority/Tv, Program and Auto mode.

For a start, you may use Program mode for shooting.

This this mode, camera will determine the aperture and shutter settings while you determine the ISO setting.

So you can enjoy the fun of photo shooting, but you are not able to exercise much control on the camera and thus unable to take more “creative” pictures.

I will not recommend Auto mode for shooting.

If you want to use Auto mode, I will suggest you save this money to get a higher end point and shoot camera as the difference will be minimal, other then better resolution from DSLR.

For Aperture Priority/Av mode, you control the aperture and ISO while the camera will determine the shutter speed to gain the correct exposure.

For Shutter Priority/Tv mode, you control the shutter speed and ISO while camera will determine the aperture to gain the correct exposure.

For Manual mode, you have control on aperture, shutter speed and ISO. You will have maximum control of the camera when using manual mode, which is a mode preferred by many professionals.



There are many different kind of lens for different photography purposes, up to your creativity.

For SLR cameras, the lens are interchangeable.

Do note that 2 important terms, namely Angle of View and Focal Length. Always remember the relation between them is, the wider the angle of view, the shorter then focal length.

You always see 20mm, 50mm or 135mm on your lens?

That determines your focal length. To put it in simple terms, the larger the focal length, the more “zoom” you will observe.

And because of that, your angle of view is narrower.

I shall introduce some common ones which you always hear your friends saying.

With these rough idea in mind, and you wish to find out more, I will encourage you to do some of your own research to understand more!

Prime Lens: Prime lens refers to lens with a fixed focal length, say 50mm or 70mm.

Normally such lens have rather wide aperture and it could deliver better quality pictures.

Zoom Lens: Zoom lens means that the lens offer a range of focal length, say from 18mm to 135mm.

Although its convenient to have a zoom lens, such that you don’t have to keep changing lens, it gives problems like chromatic aberration and picture distortions.

Wide Angle and Ultra Wide Angle Lens: Such lens provides a wide angle of view with short focal length in a range typically from 18mm to 35mm.

At short focal length, slight distortion could be observed at the edge of the picture.

Telephoto and Ultra Telephoto Lens: Such lens allows you to bring distance objects appear nearer in the picture.

It offers long focal length and thus have a narrow angle of view.
The focal length generally ranges from 70mm up to 1000mm, and lens with long focal length normally fetch a very high price.

Fisheye Lens: Fisheye lens offers a high degree of distortion, which is good for some creativity shooting.

A picture tells a thousand words and the picture below illustrate the effect of a fisheye lens.

Macro Lens: Such lens is used for shooting an object with a close focusing distance at magnifications usually up to 1:1 ratio or 100% life size.

Macro Lens is highly prefer for close-up photography example taking pictures of insects, flowers, etc.


Which one to choose, Prime lens or Zoom lens?

Believe this is a common question among many photographers.

1) Prime lens has only one focal length and thus its construction is simpler as compared to zoom lens.

As such, prime lens is generally lighter and cheaper, providing superior imagine quality.

Prime lens is generally faster as they offer wider aperture and this is useful when shooting in low light conditions.

2) Zoom lens offer a range of focal length and therefor has a more complex construction.

Image quality may not be as good as prime lens but zoom lens brings a lot of convenience and flexibility.

You can concentrate on shooting rather than having to keep switching between lenses.

Which is better in my opinion depends on your needs and what you frequently shoot.

If you are on an assignment like weddings and events, you may want to use a zoom lens.

This will save you the trouble of switching between lens and allows you to concentrate on looking out for “targets”.

If time is not the factor and you enjoy shooting landscape (for example) with no compromise on image quality, prime lens may be the answer.


RAW and JPEG Format

JPEG: Many compact cameras and DSLR offers JPEG format which is easy to use with relatively small file size.

JPEG is created by the camera’s built in image processor to produce satisfactory results for your photograhs.

This goes to mean that the adjustments are performed by the image processors with the files compressed, to reduce the file size which will degrade the quality of the photographs.

RAW: Most DSLR cameras allows you to shoot in RAW format.

RAW is somehow like the negative of a film camera. RAW format provides images in its purest form without any image processing done by the camera.
Althought this will take up more storage space, it allows photographers to make dynamic adjustments (using post-processing software) without affecting the integrity of the photographs.

Learn more on Advantages Of Shooting In Raw Format.


Must I Use Manual Mode To Be Deem As A Professional?

Before touching on this topic, lets recap that there are a few different modes we can use and in a DSLR camera.

They are namely Manual, Aperture Priority (AP), Shutter Priority, Program and Auto mode.

Different conditions will require different mode of operations.

For me, I will most of the time use AP mode for my shots.

If I am taking landscape, I will use a small aperture and a wide aperture if I am taking portraits, or when I need shallow depth of field.

Setting on AP mode allows me to have speed, which is essential when capturing candids or moving subjects.

Remember moving subjects will not wait for you to adjust your settings!

I will use Manual Mode when taking night shots or studio, where more controls are required.

Shutter Priority will be used when I am doing Panning shots, where shutter speed setting is more critical.

In my opinion, it does not mean that you must use Manual mode in order to be preceived as good photographer.

It is the result you produce that counts. There are very well-known photographers using Program mode to produce award winning photographs!


Remember, it is the photos and memories you captured,
not the camera mode you are using.

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