Virtual Photography Class: Part 1

Well, last night was our first class. And I learned quite a bit of the basic fundamental terms of photography that I had heard thrown around before but never really understood.

I told you I would share what I learned, but you must promise not to beat me over the head if what I share isn’t 100% true. This is how I understood it to be based on the class and some research I did afterwards to make sure I was understanding everything correctly. But I could be wrong on something. After all, I am the student. Don’t hold it against me. Plus, I still have a long ways to go in my photo-taking ability (as you’ll see through my example shots).

Let’s talk about the shutter. Whether you  have a camera that’s brand spankin’ new or one that is 65 years old, every camera has a shutter. A shutter is like a door. It opens and closes as it takes the picture.

The shutter speed is how long you leave the “door” open. The faster/higher the shutter speed, the more the camera will be able to freeze the action. Slower shutter speeds usually require a tripod because our hands can’t hold still enough to capture the image while the “door” is open (especially anything slower than 1/60th of a second). The longer the “door” is open, the more light that comes in.

For example…

This picture was shot at a shudder speed of 1/125th of a second. Although his back hand is blurry, it looks as if he’s been frozen in midair.

This picture is blurry, indicating that my son is in motion (really, when isn’t he in motion?). It was shot at a shutter speed of 1/80th of a second. And in case you’re wondering whether these pictures were posed…they absolutely were not. These are my children in all their glory. :)


The aperture (F-stop) is like the iris of the eye. It controls how much light comes in. The higher the aperture, the more light that comes in. The lower the aperture, the less light that comes in. These settings are called f-stops. Pictures that have too much light (too high of an aperture) look blown out. Pictures that have too little light (too low of an aperture) are too dark.


The ISO (International Standards Organization…don’t ask me why in the heck it has this name) is your camera’s sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO, the less light your camera will utilize. The higher the ISO, the more light your camera will use. When taking pictures outside in the bright sun, you’ll want to use an ISO of 100. When taking indoors or in darker settings, you’ll want a higher ISO like 800-1600. But in order to have a crisper picture, you’ll want to use the lowest ISO that you can without compromising the light in the photograph.


And in case you’re wondering, I have a Canon Rebel xsi that’s a couple years old. It came with a lens (as a set), but I honestly barely ever use that lens. Instead I use this 50mm and I absolutely LOVE it! It captures the most beautiful lighting and does a much better job of getting the depth of field I like than the kit lens. It doesn’t have a zoom, so it takes some getting used to…but it’s worth it, especially since it is rather reasonable as far as lenses go!


That’s it for today. We’ll get down to the nitty-gritty in coming weeks (I hope). In the meantime, how about you go dust off that camera manual and do a little light reading??? You’ll be glad you did.


*My friend Kristen has a lot more suggestions here. I read her post and thought to myself several times, oh yeah…I forgot about that. Head on over to read more of her suggestions. I’m just trying to dissect this photography stuff into bite size pieces for my own sake. :)


  1. Thanks for sharing what you learned. I’m looking in to a dSLR and photography classes this winter. I too have heard all these terms and it still doesn’t make sense :-)

  2. Looking forward to hearing what else you learn. I’m not sure what my camera shutter speed is but it must be slow because my pictures are always blurry lol. However, it seems like they are more blurry when the flash is off than when I use the flash. I wonder why?

  3. Great post. I love learning along with you. As far as shutter speed, I’ve learned that my camera will go to slow on auto mode. I can generally hold 1/60, 1/50, and sometimes 1/40 steady. However 1/30 is most often blurry, and the auto mode will often use this speed in a normal setting. Also, the blurry 1/30 shots do not look blurry on my camera screen, since it’s small. I’ve learned to look at the setting, and if the shutter was too slow, I change the shutter speed and take it again. I have Canon Digital Rebel T3. It really helps to play with the settings. I took a few hundred practice pics when I first got the camera. I would leave all the settings the same except one and keep varying it taking the same shot to see what happened. It really helped me learn that way, so I could see exactly how changing that thing affected the picture.

  4. I had so much fun last week; I’m so glad we can experience all this together! That was sweet of you to say I had a lot more ‘suggestions’. :) James read my post last night and said “Wow, you sure covered a lot.” (Like, not in a good way). :)
    At least he can’t say I’m not making an effort to learn (and retain!) something!
    Love your post, and I really like your 50mm lens, I love the depth of field it captures.
    Looking forward to next week!

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