The Photography Starter Kit for Beginners


Lesson Info


All right. So we were just talking about the sensor. Now let's talk about how that is implicated in our settings of the camera, and that is the ISO of the camera. So the sensor's sensitivity is what we are talking about when we're talking about ISO. And so this basically comes from a standards organization, so that when two different people with two different cameras are setting up the same shutter speeds, apertures, and sensitivity settings on their sensors, it's all equal across the board. And so I'm not gonna get into why, but for most cameras 100 is what is known as the base or native sensitivity. It is how that sensor is designed to perform at its optimum level. There's this kind of just the right amount of light that it receives the right amount of light in there, so it gets the right amount of signal, so it can produce the highest quality image with the best color, the best dynamic range, and that for most cameras is ISO 100. I've seen some cameras where it's 64. I've seen some ...

that are at 200, but generally, they're at 100. When we go up to 200, we are bumping our ISO up, and this can be said to be twice as sensitive as ISO 100. And I put that in quotations there because it's not really twice as sensitive. It takes the same signal and then it just boost that signal so it's brighter. So it isn't of the same brightness. And so we can use these higher ISO's when we're working under lower lights or we are needing faster shutter speeds, so that we can have the correct amount of light being gathered and created by our sensor. And so what is most important is what is that base number in your camera? And it is the lowest number in your camera that doesn't have anything unusual going on with it. And so most cameras will be at 100. Some cameras can go below that under special circumstances, which I'll talk about here. So the numbers that you're likely to see in the world of photography are 50 to 100,000. There are a couple of cameras that will go up into the millions. We're not going to worry about that right now. But 100,000 is sufficiently high for most people. Now, you're gonna wanna choose the lowest solid number in your camera for best image quality, and if you need high sensitivity, you'll bump the ISO up according to your needs. When you go from 400 to 800, you have doubled the sensitivity of the sensor by a full stop. When you double the numbers, you double the sensitivity. And so it's a linear scale just like that for shutter speeds. And when you go down to 200, you're moving it down. You're making it half as sensitive, and it's a full stop less light. So it's going to be twice as dark, or twice as bright as you go from four to or 400 to 800. Now many, but not all cameras will have third stops in between, so that you can be very precise about these adjustments. Some of the entry level cameras don't have this. They pull those features out, so they force you into buying a higher end camera. It's not a big deal. There's many people who only use these whole numbers, but they are there. Now, many cameras have an expanded range, and just as a note to anyone that hasn't really investigated their menu system in their camera. Many cameras you have to go into your menu system and you have to kind of unlock the key to get access to the low or the high settings. And this allows you to go just a little bit further with the ISO. Now they could have just put this number Low one at 'cause when they say Low one, what they mean is it's lower by one stop of light. What is one stop of light? It's half the number. So you go from 100 down to 50. What does High one mean? Double 6400, so it's 12, and then 25,600. And so some cameras will have H one, H two, or High one, High two. And it's kinda dumb. They should just put a number there, but it's kinda letting you know that you're going outside of the recommended range, all right? And so let's take a look. I think, uh, we got this on the next slide. Oh, one more item here. Your cameras will also have Auto ISO. Now, Auto ISO is where the camera will go in and set the ISO for you. Now how in the world does the camera know what ISO you should be shooting at? You know, these cameras have a ton of technology in them, but they are complete idiots when it comes to photography. They do not know half as much as you will understand in one second of looking at a scene. And in the case of Auto ISO, it is setting the ISO based on one simple factor. What is your shutter speed. And you should never have a shutter speed below about a 60th of a second. It assumes that you are hand holding the camera, and you want a 60th of a second or faster. And it will do anything in changing the ISO to give that to you. Now, if you're just out having fun taking photos, you're not in your serious photography mode, which is totally fine. You're just taking snaps of your friends and scenery, and you're not into the whole photography thing right now. Auto ISO is fine 'cause it's gonna kinda watch your back and it's gonna make sure that you get a decent exposure. It may not be the exact numbers that you want, but you'll get a decent exposure. And so this is very much like automatic drive in a car. It's very, very convenient. Now, when it's time to go to the race track, I don't want automatic drive in my car. And I want to take specific control because I know what I'm doing, so when you get in your serious photography mode, you wanna get out of Auto ISO. It's fine for birthday parties and just, you know, simple photos, but when you want to take control of things, you need to get it out of the Auto ISO. And this is where your cam usually comes programmed when you get it out of the box. So that's one of the first things I turn off. I'm not saying don't use it. I'm just saying be careful about where you use it because it doesn't know as much as you do about where you want your other settings. So what's the deal with making all these other settings. Well, you can't just set it up to ISO 6400 and expect it to be as good as ISO 100, so I took one of the latest cameras and ran it through an ISO test, and let's just look at the worst results, and that's up here at 100,000. This is noise. It looks kinda like grain from film. And this is where pixels are not receiving enough information and they don't know what to do 'cause we're amplifying the signal from the sensor, and it's getting all sorts of bad data 'cause we're not getting the camera enough light to work with. And at 51,000 it still looks pretty horrible in my opinion. And each of the cameras and each of your own opinions is gonna be slightly different, so I can't tell you don't use this ISO and higher 'cause it's not gonna look good. You need to run a test with your own camera at all the different ISO's and see what you think. And generally, it's gonna be that ISO that's going to look best, and that's a key number to remember. The next ISO number that you're gonna wanna remember is where do things start notably falling off the edge. And on this camera, I would say 12,800. That for me, has kind of started to cross the line, and I would know I really don't wanna be at 12, if I can avoid it in any other means. And we'll talk about what those means are. But if I have to, you know, if I have to use a 100, to get a good photograph of Big Foot, I will use it, all right? It's there in case you need it for emergency purposes. The idea here is you wanna keep it as low as possible. And a special note. Most cameras go down to 100. Some cameras have a low setting where they'll go down to 50. The problem here is not more noise than at 100, but less dynamic range, and so you don't get quite the range from black black to white white. It's a little bit of a clipped range that you're gonna get, which can be fine for some scenes, and there might be emergency reasons why you would need a 50. But for the most part, it's 100 on most cameras. So let's take a look at how I would set my camera up for different types of scenarios. So when I do landscape photography, it almost always, without a doubt, as ISO 100 'cause I want the best image quality possible. I'm usually working on a tripod, and my subjects usually aren't moving too quickly. Mountains don't move around that much, and in this case here, I don't care what the shutter speed is. We'll talk about aperture in a little bit, but I want the best quality possible on this. When I go up to 200, well now, when I raise the ISO, there's really one thing I'm thinking about in my head. And that is I need a little bit of a faster shutter speed because I have some motion going on in here. I got some human and some automobile motion in here. And so I need a little bit faster shutter speed, and in order to accommodate that faster shutter speed, I need a little bit higher ISO. And so that's gonna be kinda the common theme with all of these higher ISO shots. It's lower light levels and a little bit of motion, okay? So here's a human moving casually. I need a 60th of a second. Ah, light levels are kinda low. What do I need in ISO wise. It bumps me up to 400 in this particular case. Now in this case, there's really no movement at all. These people are very, very still, but I'm concerned about me. And me moving the camera 'cause I couldn't have a tripod in this location, so what shutter speed can I use for hand holding the camera? And I figured that out, and I had to use ISO 800 to get a proper exposure. 1600. Lots of movement, and I'm even using a slower shutter speed to blur their movement, but in here, this is a really dark area. I mean, this may not look like it's really dark, but this is dismally dark for photographers where there's just a few lights in a small dark environment like that. I'm thinking about shutter speeds. In this case, I need a very fast shutter speed 'cause they're moving very quickly and it's very, very dark. That's when you're gonna end up with these higher ISO's. And in this case, there may not be anything moving. I'm once again concerned about myself in hand holding the camera. I'm concerned about where my shutter speed is in a place that's lit by just a couple of small light bulbs. So the ISO's that you're really going to be working with is going to be 100 to 6400 for most things. And why do you choose a specific ISO? Well, first off, technically, you want to keep it as low as possible. If you need more sensitivity, you'll bump it up according to your needs. And the guideline is really simple. You keep that ISO as low as you can, and the reason that you adjust it, the reason you're gonna raise it, is if you need faster shutter speeds. That's the only reason. If you need more depth of field, and we're gonna get into the depth of field topic coming up here, but if you need more depth of field, you could just use a slower shutter speed. Slower shutter speed, are you hand holding the camera? Okay, well now maybe you need the higher ISO, but that's the reason and so you can take a, one of my favorite things is I am a little bit of a tech junkie, and I love being able to shoot photos, not take notes. I used to have to take notes on a little pad. What did I shoot? What was my shutter speed? What was my aperture? What was my ISO? On all of these, the metadata in every picture you take comes along with it afterwards, and if you know where to look, depending upon what program you have, right over on the side it will tell you shutter speeds, apertures, and ISO's. And your goal as a photographer is to try to get the best, perfect mix for each photograph, 'cause that's gonna give you the most capability and the highest quality image. So the ISO. What sorta questions might you have on setting the ISO, noise, things like that? Question from John Cordero. Some cameras like my Canon 6D bring the option to shoot as ISO 50. Do you recommend using ISO 50 for portraits, or can you just talk to that? No. So you wanna be at the lowest solid number, not the low number. And so maybe I'll bring up why I would use 50. And so I leave my camera at 100. That's where all my cameras are right now. And I'll adjust 'em if need be. The reason I would go down to 50 is if I was shooting a picture of a waterfall, and I got down to a half second as my proper exposure, and I said, "Wow. I really wanna get down "to one full second. "Is there anything else I can do?" And I've already maxed out what I can do with the lens. And I'm at a half second. Well, if I go down to ISO 50, then I can go down to one second on the shutter speed. That's the equivalent drop. And then I would use 50. But I wouldn't wanna do that in a bright and sunny environment because we don't have quite as much dynamic range at 50. And so generally avoid 50 if you can. It still looks pretty good, but less dynamic range. We have one from Linda Wolfe, who says, "How does, and I would say does, "ISO, sensor, and shutter speed impact the depth of field? "Old School says film has a better depth of field. "Can you comment on that?" Well, I guess I would have to throw the question first at what do you mean by better depth of field? 'Cause we have more depth of field and less depth of field and I could see people arguing on either side of what's better about having more of less depth of field. And we do have the whole aperture and depth of field section coming up, so I think I better hold off trying to go into that answer any further. That's great. Okay. Question from Katie Testone. How do I get a sharp photo in low light conditions? Anytime I bump up the ISO and the shutter speed, the picture is grainy. Right, right. And so shooting under low light conditions. First comes off of very carefully trying to figure out what is the slowest shutter speed that you can use, and so you can look into that and let's say you were photographing dance, a ballet. All right, you're in charge of shooting the ballet. And you see these people moving around the stage pretty quickly. You could say, "Well, I need 500th of a second." and then it's a matter of just trying to find the fastest lens that you can that lets through the most amount of light, so that you can use that 500th of a second. But you can also be very creative about things. Maybe rather than photographing the ballet as they running across, maybe you photograph them when they come and they hold a pose. And you know, right there, you could use a 60th of a second. And so it's that careful timing of when you're shooting your photograph that you can help. Maybe I don't need 500th of a second. Maybe I can shoot this at a 60th and take my ISO from 25,000 super high down to something reasonable like 1600. And so there's a lot of techniques. It really depends on what you're shooting. You know, if you're shooting an indoor football or basketball game, you're pretty much gonna need that 500th of a second the whole time. You know, unless you're gonna photograph the players as they're sittin' on the bench or they're in the huddle or something like that. And so there's always creative solutions to different sorts of problems. And raising the ISO is the cheap, simple solution, but it can really bite you in the back end if you don't do it right. And so it's kind of a last ditch effort after you've tried all your other things that you've done.

Class Description

“This is a great starter class. I thought I understood how shutter speed and aperture worked together, but this class made it come together in a matter of minutes. I'm already taking better pictures and this is just the beginning!” -Jennifer Manley, CreativeLive Student

Learn how to take the kind of photograph you’ll want to print and pass on to the next generation. John Greengo is back to teach this updated photography for beginners class. You’ll learn the principles of good beginner and intermediate photography and get the skills necessary to create amazing photos. 

Advanced cameras are available at modest price points, but learning how to use them takes an investment.

  • Learn the the most essential functions of your camera 
  • Gain confidence in putting new functions into action 
  • Get the swing of basic photographic terminology 
  • Feel prepared to move on to more advanced classes 
  • Gain a solid understanding of must-know lighting and composition techniques 
  • Lean to position yourself and your subject to capture the best photo possible with the camera you have – no additional gear needed 
If you want to take more memorable and inspiring photographs of your travels, your friends and family, or the great outdoors then this photography for beginners class is for you. Learn how to make average pictures amazing photographs and gain the ground necessary to continue your photography education.  

“This is a super introduction to photography for anyone who really wants to learn how to understand and begin to use the camera to its full extent. John is an excellent teacher, very easy to follow, with great graphics and examples.”  -Sarah, CreativeLive Student  


Kanoelani Patenaude

I am a pro photographer in my dreams, where I know the in's and out's of my camera; however, reality proved differently, as real life would tell you, I was a deer caught in headlights just looking at my new 7D Mark II. I am a photographer enthusiast without the skills, but a lot of love for the moments one, or the profession/hobby of it can capture. I mostly shoot my husband, friends, and community surfers in the lineup, and of course, my children, who rarely sit still. Thus, I switched from Nikon to Canon, venturing on the 7D Mark II for the grand reviews of how stellar of camera it is for action shots (surfing, and kids, this was a no brainer). That said, and overwhelmed with the way beyond my skill set, but noted desire and aspiration to grow, I made the purchase, and sought help rather quickly as I wanted to feel confident with what I was utilizing to capture the best memories possible. I came into this John's courses knowing the "on/off" button, and "auto" shoot mode. I came out of the course feeling like the pro in my dreams, and ready to shoot manual. John's teaching style is on point, and his detailed visuals are a huge plus. My first shots post this photography kit course, I thought were great for my first educated shoot, and shockingly, I even received and email from one of the sponsors of the surfers I captured, asking if they could use my image for their sites and publications. Not bad for a newbie. Though, my intent was never a business purpose, I did not know if I should charge a small fee, or give it for free. I don't mind free as it's not my business, yet I don't want to ruin it for any professional photographers in town doing the same thing that are charging. Perhaps another course to help me with that. I highly recommend courses by John Greengo! Thank you so much, John!

Megan Wagner

John is extremely articulate and is a great teacher with lots of visual aids and metaphors to help understand photography. I have been doing photography for a few years now and this class was a tremendous help in boosting my knowledge and refreshing my memory in multiple aspects of photography. The graphics that John uses are helpful and he even goes through images and asks which settings would be best to use and will go through the why. He makes things easy to understand and is very clear about the information he provides. I am so glad I took this course and I would highly recommend it even to an experienced photographer. Thank you John Greengo!