Learn Photography

Learn Photography

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Written By Nate Torres

Hey there!

This is the definitive guide to learning photography online for free in 2024.

I’m writing this guide now as a professional photographer and covering everything I wish I knew as a beginner.

You see:

The thing with photography is that there is a lot to learn and a lot of technical jargon that photographers like to use.

Because of this, I believe it can be a little intimidating as a beginner to dive into photography.

Especially after you hear terms such as f-stops, bokeh, lighting ratios, etc.

Whenever I learn something, I find it’s easiest to look at the whole topic itself from a bird’s eye point of view and see how everything connects.

But the thing is:

As a beginner, you can’t look at it from a bird’s eye view yet, because you don’t even know certain photography terms and techniques exist yet!

With that being said, I’ve looked at my own learning journey as a photographer and broken it down A through Z.

I’ve created what I believe is the best path one should follow if they want to learn photography with zero experience.

*This guide is a work in progress and I will continue to add new links to guides once they are finished!*

So let’s dive in.

Photography Gear

The first area of photography I believe beginners should start with is learning about their gear.

I know, I know.

You just want to go out and start photographing, but hear me out.

Similar to if you were going to build a house, you’d want to know all the tools available to you.

Sure you could use your hammer to hammer in a screw, but a screwdriver would get the job done easier and a lot more efficiently.

I believe the same goes for learning any new skill.

So while you don’t need to learn about every single piece of equipment we use as photographers, it’s good to know the basics before diving in.

The main pieces of gear and equipment we use as photographers include cameras, lenses, tripods, and certain accessories.

Let’s look at each of those individually.


As photographers, the camera is our baby.

Well, okay, maybe not that dramatic…

But some photographers get very serious when it comes time to discuss cameras.

Just like anything, from sports, to technology, people tend to pick sides when it comes to teams and sides they support.

The same is true when it comes to picking certain camera brands and types.

It’s also important to note that the gear doesn’t make the photographer.

This has become evident with modern smartphones.

Phone photography has now even become a popular niche due to the power of our smartphones.

But as a photographer, it’s important you know the different brands and types:

Camera Brands

  • Canon Cameras
  • Nikon Cameras
  • Sony Cameras
  • Fujifilm Cameras
  • Olympus Cameras
  • Panasonic Cameras
  • Leica Cameras
  • Hasselblad Cameras
  • Pentax Cameras
  • Sigma Cameras
  • GoPro Cameras
  • DJI Cameras
  • RED Cameras
  • Phase One Cameras
  • Blackmagic Design Cameras

Camera Types

Camera Parts

  • Camera Body
  • Camera Lens
  • Camera Image Sensor
  • Camera Viewfinder
  • Camera Mirror
  • Camera Pentaprism
  • Camera LCD Screen
  • Camera Mode Dial
  • Camera Tripod Mount
  • Camera Hot Shoe
  • Camera Focus Ring
  • Camera Zoom Ring

Once you are familiar with the different brands and types, it’s good to know the common accessories used with cameras:

Camera Accessories

  • Camera Batteries and Chargers
  • Camera Memory Cards and Storage
  • Camera Straps
  • Camera Remote Shutter Releases
  • Camera Battery Grips
  • Camera Cases and Bags
  • Camera Eyepiece Extenders
  • Camera Viewfinder Magnifiers
  • Camera LCD Screen Protectors
  • Camera Flash
  • Camera Cleaner
  • Camera Stabilizer
  • Camera GPS Units

Camera Lenses

After learning about cameras, the next step is to learn about the different types of lenses you can attach to your camera.

Similar to cameras, there are many different brands of camera lenses you can use.

Usually, the brand of camera you choose is the brand of lens you have to use as well.

There are only a few brands that offer third-party lenses such as Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Samyang/Rokinon, Zeiss, Venus Optics, and Voigtlander.

Camera Lens Brands

  • Canon Camera Lenses
  • Nikon Camera Lenses
  • Sony Camera Lenses
  • Fujifilm Camera Lenses
  • Olympus Camera Lenses
  • Panasonic Camera Lenses
  • Sigma Camera Lenses
  • Tamron Camera Lenses
  • Zeiss Camera Lenses
  • Samyang/Rokinon Camera Lenses
  • Tokina Camera Lenses
  • Zeiss Camera Lenses
  • Venus Optics Camera Lenses
  • Voigtlander Camera Lenses
  • Lensbaby Camera Lenses

Now, each lens serves a specific purpose and there are different types of lenses with different focal lengths.

Some lenses are meant for shooting far distances, some mid distances, some for closeups, and some for very closeup.

Camera Lens Types

Camera Lens Effects

Once you are familiar with the different brands and types, it’s good to know the common accessories used with lenses:

Camera Lens Accessories

Once you are familiar with the workings of your camera and lens, it’s important you know the most common and basic settings you will be tweaking on your camera:

Camera Settings

The common settings you will be adjusting as a beginner on your camera include your shooting modes and metering modes:

Camera Shooting Modes

Camera Metering Modes

Camera Color Settings

There are other modes and dials you will be tweaking on your camera such as exposure and focus but I’ll be covering those after this gear section.

Now that you know more about your camera and lens, it’s time to move on to your tripod options.


As photographers, our choice of tripod is also important especially if you can’t risk having any blur in your shots.

There are some popular tripod brands that you should be aware of:

Tripod Brands

  • Manfrotto Tripods
  • Gitzo Tripods
  • Benro Tripods
  • Induro Tripods
  • Vanguard Tripods

Once you are familiar with the brands, there are some different types of tripods you should know.

Similar to the types of lenses, each tripod serves a different purpose.

Some are better for landscape photography while others are better for food or product photography:

Tripod Types

  • Photography Standard Tripods
  • Photography Tabletop Tripods
  • Photography Travel Tripods
  • Photography Monopods
  • Photography Gimbal Tripods
  • Photography Heavy-Duty Tripods
  • Photography Low-Level Tripods

After learning more about your photography gear, it’s time to move on to understanding exposure.


As photographers who take photos of subjects, using a backdrop is important for clean, professional-looking images.


Now let’s look at one of the most fundamental concepts in photography, exposure.

Exposure is the amount of light that reaches your camera’s sensor.

In short, the exposure of light to your camera’s sensor determines how light or dark your image will turn out.

Exposure is controlled by three settings: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

These three settings make up what is called the Exposure Triangle


Aperture is the opening in your lens through which light passes.

Aperture is measured in f-stops.

A larger aperture (smaller f-stop number) lets more light in, resulting in a brighter image, and a more shallow depth of field (blurred background).

A smaller aperture (larger f-stop number) lets less light in, resulting in a darker image, and a more narrow depth of field (more scene in focus).

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is the length of time in which your camera’s shutter is open allowing light to hit the sensor.

A slower shutter speed (ex. 1/15s) lets more light in, resulting in a brighter image and a potentially more blurry image without proper stabilization.

A faster shutter speed (ex. 1/1000s) lets less light in, resulting in a darker image and a more “freeze-frame” image.


ISO is the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light.

A higher ISO number (ex. ISO 1600) makes the sensor more sensitive to light, resulting in a brighter image and potentially “noisier” image depending on your camera.

A lower ISO number (ex. ISO 100) makes your sensor less sensitive to light, resulting in a darker image and minimizing any chance of visible noise in the image.

Exposure Triangle

Photographers balance all three of these elements for proper exposure in their images.

That’s why these three elements create what is called the Exposure Triangle.

Because if you adjust one element, then you have to consider how it will affect the other two.

For example, if you are taking a landscape photograph and want the whole scene in focus you’ll need to use a smaller aperture.

This could potentially make your image darker so you would need to use a slower shutter speed (hopefully with a tripod) and then adjust your ISO to your desired level while watching for visible noise in the image.

Once you have a good understanding of exposure, it’s time to dive into focusing.


Focusing in photography is about knowing which techniques you should use to ensure sharpness and clarity in your image.

Here are some of the key concepts every photographer should know when it comes to focusing in photography:

Focus Modes

The different focus modes on your camera control how your camera’s auto and manual focus work.

Auto Focus (AF) Mode

Auto Focus (AF) mode is when you allow your camera to automatically focus on your subject.

This is a quick and easy way to ensure sharpness and clarity in your images:

Single-Shot AF (AF-S) Mode

Single-Shot AF is used when you want to focus on a single subject and then stop.

This is ideal for stationary, single subjects.

Continuous AF (AF-C) Mode

Continuous AF is used when you want to continually adjust focus to track a moving subject.

This is great for action, sports, and wildlife photography.

This mode is also the same as AI Servo.

Continuous AF (AF-C) is the name given on Nikon and Sony cameras and AI Servo is the name given on Canon Cameras.

AI Servo Mode

AI Servo is used when you want to continually adjust focus to track a moving subject.

This is great for action, sports, and wildlife photography.

This mode is also the same as Continuous AF (AF-C).

Continuous AF (AF-C) is the name given on Nikon and Sony cameras and AI Servo is the name given on Canon Cameras.

Automatic AF (AF-A) Mode

Automatic AF (AF-A) mode automatically switches between single-shot and continuous AF modes based on your subject’s movement.

This mode is great when you need to photograph a stationary and moving subject one after another such as in sports or wildlife.

Manual Focus (MF) Mode

Manual Focus (MF) mode is when you choose to manually adjust the focus by using the focus ring on your lens.

Manual Focus offers more precise control over Auto Focus and is useful when you’re in challenging lighting conditions or you’re dealing with situations where your Auto Focus is having trouble focusing on your subject.

Focus Points

When you want to focus in photography, you need to tell your camera which focus point to focus on.

Modern cameras offer multiple focus points that are spread across your frame.

You can choose a specific focus point or a group of points to give you complete control over what you want to be in focus.

Focus Area Modes

The focus area modes on your camera help with the autofocus (AF) mode that you choose.

Single-Point AF

Single-Point AF lets you select one focus point.

This is used for very precise control over your focusing.

This is often used for stationary subjects and when you need sharp focus such as in the eyes for portrait and headshot photography.

Dynamic/Area AF

Dynamic/Area AF is used when you want to use multiple points to maintain focus on a moving subject.

It works by moving to neighboring focus points if your subject moves.

Zone AF

Zone AF is used when you want to select a zone within the frame.

Your camera will then focus on your subject within that zone.

If your subject moves, the image may not be in focus.

Auto Area AF

Auto Area AF is when you want your camera to select the focus point(s) based on your scene.

For example, if you want the camera to detect and determine subjects like eyes, faces, or vehicles moving.

Focusing Techniques

Once you know the basics of focus modes and points, you can use different focusing techniques to have advanced control over how you capture your images.

Back-Button Focus

Back-Button Focus is a technique when you switch autofocus activation from the shutter release button to a button on the back of your camera.

This allows you to separate focusing from shooting and is useful when you need to quickly recompose your shots.

Hyperfocal Distance

Hyperfocal distance is the distance at which you focus so you can achieve a maximum depth of field to keep everything in your scene sharp.

It’s about focusing on a point between the foreground and background and is dependent on certain characteristics of your lens.

Focus Bracketing

Focus Bracketing involves you taking multiple images of your scene at different focus distances so you can “stack” them to create a single image.

This is often done in landscape photography when you want the whole scene to be in sharp focus.

Focus Stacking

Focus Stacking is the process of combining all the bracketed images and creating a single image.

Focus Tracking

Focus Tracking is the term given to the Auto Focus modes that allow your camera to automatically adjust and focus on a moving subject.

Live View Focusing

Live View Focusing is a technique of using your camera’s LCD screen to focus on the image opposed to using the viewfinder.

After learning how to properly focus your camera for sharp images, the next area of photography I recommend learning is about composition.


Composition in photography is all about the arrangement of elements within your frame to create an aesthetically pleasing image.

There are many different compositional techniques:

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is about dividing your frame into nine equal parts with two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines and placing your point of emphasis on one of the intersections.


Framing is about using natural or artificial borders to “frame” and enclose your subject to focus attention.

Frame Within a Frame

Frame within a frame is about using elements within your scene to create a more deliberate and literal frame around your subject.

Such as using a window or a doorway to act as another frame within your frame.


Symmetry is about composing your image in a way that mirrors either your subject or patterns in the scene on either side of a central line.

Leading Lines

Leading lines is about composing an image that utilizes natural or architectural lines in your image to lead your viewer’s eye to a point of focus.


Using patterns is about capturing repeating elements or shapes in your scene to create a visually appealing and structured image.


Using texture in your images is about highlighting particular surface details to emphasize the texture and depth creating visual interest in the image.

Rule of Odds

The rule of odds is about arranging your subjects in odd numbers to create more visually interesting compositions.


Simplicity is about focusing on a single subject or element and minimizing background clutter and distractions.

Fill the Frame

Filling the frame is about zooming in or moving closer to your subject so they fill the entire frame, helping minimize distractions.

Negative Space

Negative space is about incorporating a large amount of empty space around your subject in your image to create a sense of openness.

Diagonal Lines

Diagonal lines is about using diagonal lines in your scene to introduce some dynamic tension and movement into your image.


Foreground is about placing interesting elements in your foreground to add depth and context to your scene.


Using reflections is about leveraging the reflections in water, mirrors, or glass to create symmetry and add visual interest.

Rule of Space

The rule of space is about allowing extra space in the direction your subject is facing to create a sense of motion and direction.


Using juxtaposition is about placing contrasting elements together in a scene to highlight differences and create a sense of story.

Golden Ratio

The golden ratio is about arranging your photo so your subject is positioned along a spiral curve, leading the viewer’s eyes through the composition in a natural way.

Golden Triangle

The golden triangle is about dividing your frame into four triangles of varying sizes to create a balanced and dynamic composition.


Using layers is about capturing multiple layers within your scene (foreground, middle ground, and background) in order to add depth to your image.

Decisive Moment

The Decisive Moment was popularized by Henri Cartier-Bresson and is about capturing a fleeting moment by waiting at a particular scene and then capturing a moment within that scene.

Curved Lines

Using curved lines is about finding curved lines in your image such as winding roads or rivers and using them to guide the viewer’s eyes throughout the image in a natural, flowing manner.

Parallel Lines

Using parallel lines is about finding parallel lines in your image to create a sense of order, direction, and harmony in your image.

Vanishing Point

The vanishing point is about using converging lines that meet at a distant point to focus and draw your viewer’s eyes deep into the image.


Using a viewpoint is about changing your shooting angle or position to offer a new and unique perspective. Such as shooting from a low or high angle.


Using three images to create one cohesive looking image.

After learning about the different compositional techniques you can use as a photographer, I believe the next area you should dive into is learning all about lighting.


Lighting is a critical aspect in photography that can dramatically alter the mood, story, and quality of our photographs.

It can be broken down into several categories such as the source, quality, direction, color, and equipment.

Light Source

The light source is what the light is coming from, the source.

Light Quality

LIght quality has to do with the shadows that are being cast from the light.

Light Direction

The light direction is the direction from where the light is coming from.

Light Color

Light color has to do with the spectrum of color that the light is using.

  • Warm Light
  • Cool Light

Light Intensity

Light intensity has to do with how intense the light is being used.

  • High Intensity
  • Low Intensity

Light Pattern

The light pattern is how the light is being spread.

Light Type

The light type is the type of lighting being used.

Light Styles

The light style is how the light is positioned to create a certain look or style that is most commonly used.

Lighting Ratio

Lighting ratio has to do with the intensity of lights in relation to other lights in the scene.

Lighting Equipment

There are lots of different lighting equipment you can use to get the job done.

Let’s take a look at the different types.

Continuous Lighting

  • LED Panels
  • Tungsten Lights
  • Fluorescent Lights

Flash/Strobe Lighting

Light Modifiers

Background Lights

Light Stands

  • Light Stands
  • Boom Arms
  • Clamps

Wireless Triggers and Receivers

  • Wireless Trigger Systems

After learning all about lighting and the previous sections we covered, then you have the foundation set when you’re out on a photoshoot.

Now it’s time to look at the post-processing side of things.


I believe learning to edit and retouch your photos is just as important as knowing how to capture a well-composed, in-focus photo.

If you know how to take a photo, but can’t edit it properly, then you are missing out on a big part of your photography game.

I break the concept down of photography editing into terms and techniques, softwares and apps, color theory, file types, image sizing, and printing.

Editing Terms

The first pillar of editing you should become familiar with are the common terms and techniques using in editing:

Editing Software and Apps

As a photographer, there are many different types of software and apps available to us.

Some softwares overlap with each other in terms of functionality and features, but some offer distinct advantages over another.

For example, one software might be geared towards portrait photography while another might be geared towards general photography.

Knowing the different kinds and what’s available to you is important:

Color Theory

Color and the art of color theory play a vital role in the mood and story of your final image.

Knowing how to balance color in your images and the role color harmony plays in your images is important for any photographer:

File Types

Understanding the different file types that are available to you when it comes time to import or export your photos is important to know.

Each camera has its own file type and each software and app has different file types you can export from:

Image Sizing

Depending on where your photos will be displayed, will affect the sizing you will want to export your photo.

Mediums such as print, social media, websites, etc., all require different sizing requirements:


If you choose to print your photos, there are certain techniques and terms you need to know in order to print out a high-quality image free of any defects:

Once you’ve learned about editing and everything it encompasses as a photographer, and you have covered every section before this one, then you should have the fundamentals down as a photographer.

Next up, we’ll be looking at genre-specific tips and techniques as well as some more advanced techniques and topics that will help you gain a better understanding of the art behind photography.


In photography, there are many photography genres/niches.

Each genre has their own specific techniques and tips that build upon the foundations we have covered in the previous sections.

Special Techniques

There are different types of special techniques photographers can use when they need to capture a certain creative look or result:

Photo Analysis

Once you know the fundamentals of photography, you may find yourself wanting to constantly improve your photographic “eye.”

With that being said, the next step is to analyze classic, popular photos as well as scenes from movies, as they can reveal a lot into the choice of lighting, composition, and color that was used and why.

Oftentimes, you’ll find the “why” behind photography is just as, if not more important than the “what.”


Knowing the history behind photography should be the next step in your journey.

While some may argue that this should be one of the first things you do in photography, I believe it should come somewhat towards the end of your learning journey.

I believe as photographers, we just want to go out and photograph.

As you start photographing, you’ll gain a further appreciation for the art and then want to learn more about the history of photography:


Many photographers fall in love with the art of photography, and start to think to themselves, “what if I could make some money doing this?”

If you decide to start turning your photography skills into a side-hustle or a full-time business, you’ll need to know the business side of photography.

Being a professional portrait and headshot photographer myself, I’ve found that you can divide the concept of photography business into client management, website creation, marketing, operations, and sales.

Client Management

If you are in a photography niche that deals with people as your clients such as portrait photography, then you’ll need to learn how to correctly communicate and management relationships with them:

Photography Website

I believe one of the first things you should do as a photographer if you are serious about turning your skills into a business is to create a website that houses your portfolio.

Sure you can use social media as your portfolio but it will never be as professional and customizable as having an actual website.

Plus, you will need a website to run effective marketing campaigns:

Photography Marketing

Knowing how to bring your photography services to market is crucial to getting new clients.

Marketing can be broken down into branding, advertising, content marketing, SEO, and social media.

Photography Branding

Building our photography brand as photographers is a crucial step that I believe should be done before engaging in any marketing efforts.

Branding consists of our company image and how we position ourselves in the market:

Photography Advertising

In order to obtain more clients, paid advertising is one of the quickest ways to show your services and offerings in front of your target clients:

Photography Content Marketing

Content marketing is about using content to drive more business:

Photography SEO

SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization and is about using search engines to drive more traffic to our website and photography brand through organic traffic:

Photography Social Media

Social media plays a major role in our lives these days. If you want to turn your photography into a business, you’ll need to know how to leverage social media to get more clients and awareness to your business:

Photography Operations

In terms of photography operations, I am referring to the tasks such as accounting, finance, planning, and staffing.

While marketing could fall under operations management, I wanted to separate it out and create a separate section as can be seen earlier.

Photography Accounting

Knowing how to record and analyze your photography business’s financial transactions is important to ensure and maintain a healthy business.

Photography Finance

Financing is photography is a bit similar to accounting, except finance is more forward-thinking in terms of what financial decisions should be made in the future.

Photography Planning

Planning in photography has to do with objective setting, resource allocation, scheduling, and shot planning, risk management, and location scouting and permits:

Essentially, everything that goes into ensuring a photography session is efficient and effective, completed within budget, and on time:

Photography Staffing

Staffing in photography has to do with hiring additional people in order to help you reach your goals.

This could include freelancers, part-time workers, or full-time workers!

Photography Sales

Sales is all about exchanging goods or services for money. In this case, your photography services for money.

This is all about learning how to persuade a person or company in order to use your photography services and some of the best practices:

Once you learn about the business side of photography, then you have covered all the educational aspects of photography.

Now, you are at a stage of maintenance, update, and growth with your photography.

In other words, staying up to date with the latest in photography so you can keep your photography skills and knowledge sharp.


As a photographer, you may want to look into getting new gear or software to make your life easier as a photographer.

If so, then you’ll want to review that piece of gear or software before buying it!

Each of these products are hand-tested by me and I give my honest opinions on them:

Photography Gear Reviews

Check out my latest photography reviews:

Photography Software Reviews

Check out my latest photography software reviews: