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Virtual Photography Learning Guide

Virtual Photography Learning Guide

With cell phone cameras taking astronomically better pictures than they did just a few years ago, more people than ever have been trying their hand at photography as a hobby. Whether you have a professional-grade camera or just the phone in your pocket, the principles and techniques of photography are largely the same, and by learning a bit about them, even amateur photographers can capture life's moments in a brighter light. Capturing the ideal photos involves more than just pointing and shooting, but with a little effort, you'll soon be able to create shots that are Instagram-worthy.

How Do Cameras Work?

The first step in learning to use a camera well is learning the different parts of a camera and what each of them does.

  • Some of the parts of a camera work to regulate the amount of light that's let in to create the image.
  • Other parts of a camera determine how blurry or sharp your image is or how wide or narrow your point of view will be.


Exposure is the term for how much light gets into the camera when taking a picture. Three elements combine to regulate exposure, which are known as the exposure triangle.

  • The exposure triangle is made up of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.


Like the pupil of an eye, the aperture allows in more or less light depending on how wide it opens.

  • Aperture is indicated by an f-number. The smaller this number is, the more light that comes into the lens.
  • A smaller f-number is good for low-light pictures, but it can drastically reduce the depth of field. This means that it's not a great option if you want to capture a landscape.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed determines how long the aperture is left open to create the photo.

  • If you want to cut down on motion blur while photographing quick movements, such as sports, the shutter speed needs to be set faster.
  • A slower shutter speed is good for taking pictures in low-light situations.


ISO is a setting that influences how sensitive the camera's light sensor is. The higher the ISO is, the higher the sensitivity is.

  • ISO typically ranges from 100 to more than 1600.
  • A higher ISO can help to capture more details in low-light situations, but it can also capture more digital noise, reducing picture quality.

Getting to Know Settings and Terms

  • Depth of Field: Depth of field is the distance between the farthest and closest objects that are in focus.
  • White Balance: White balance determines the warmth or coolness of the color in a photo.
  • Focal Length: Focal length is a lens measurement that affects magnification and the angle of view. A lens with a longer focal length will have a higher magnification and a narrower angle of view, and vice versa.
  • Polarizing Filter: A polarizing filter filters out light from one direction, reducing glare and dimming colors in a scene that would otherwise look washed-out.

Elements of Composition

Composition is how the elements in the scene you're photographing are arranged. There are certain composition rules that can help you to create visually appealing images, but breaking these rules can also help you achieve an interesting effect.

  • Rule of Thirds: The rule of thirds is the most commonly known rule of composition, and it simply states that the objects in photos should be placed on invisible lines that divide a picture into thirds. Imagine that the scene is divided into a three-by-three grid of boxes. The main visual elements should be placed along the lines that run both ways to create this grid.
  • Visual Weight: A part of a photo that the eye is automatically drawn to has more visual weight.
  • Eye Line: Another invisible line that you can use to place parts of your image is the eye line, which follows a person's gaze across the frame.

Further Reading