The dPS Ultimate Guide to Photography for Beginners

Photography can be a fun and rewarding thing to learn, but where do you start. How should you set up your camera, what skills should you work on first, how should you be processing your photographs. This in-depth guide for photography beginners aims to answer those questions and help you create a foundation for success as you pick up this exciting new hobby of photography.

Setting up Your First Camera

When you unpack your first camera you may be intimidated with the various menus, settings, and options for customization. The camera user manual, while it does contain valuable information, is often dry and technical which only compounds the issues of learning this new technology.

While you could embrace the good old “play with it” method of learning it can lead to frustration if your early results don’t live up to expectations. This method can also lead to learning less than optimal ways of using your camera making it more difficult to fix bad habits later on.

Each camera manufacturer has its own design, terminology, and specifications. So, it’s difficult to provide you with an exact guide for setting up your specific camera. As a result, for detailed instructions about your camera, I suggest searching YouTube or specific guides found on the internet. Just the brand and model of your camera to find more specific help.

Regardless of manufacturer, there are a few important steps you should take to make sure your camera is set up to your liking. Let’s go through those individually.

Image Quality

Determining what image quality to capture your photographs in can be a confusing task when you’re first starting out. 

The simplest route to take is to save your photographs in the highest quality JPEG option your camera offers. This will allow you to focus on learning how to take photographs while allowing the camera to handle the bulk of the image processing. You’ll still have the ability to add some minor touch ups if you want to later, but you won’t have to process your images on your computer.

As you progress and become more comfortable with your camera and the techniques you’ll learn in the rest of this article, you may want to switch this setting to capture your images in a RAW format. The advantage of RAW format is that your images are left unprocessed by the camera, allowing you to choose the processing that reflects the image you saw when you captured it, not the preset processing that your camera performs when saving a JPEG (sharpening, contrast and saturation levels).

Due to this unprocessed nature of a RAW file, it turns out to be a much larger file. Depending on the size of your camera’s sensor this could be more than 10 times larger than your JPEG images. This means you’ll notice that the number of images you can capture on your SD card will drop substantially, so you may need to purchase additional or larger memory cards.

File Naming

Determining a file naming system for images is something that most people gloss over, but choosing this early on will help you start an organizational system that works for you.

This setting is primarily going to rest on your personal taste. You could save the image file with the date the image was captured. Or you could save images with a sequential numbering system. There’s no wrong way to set this up, it depends on whether you prefer to keep track of the dates of your shoots or the number of photographs you’ve taken.