Introduction to Digital Photography by the Galway Camera Shop

Introduction to Photography

We’ve often been asked if we knew of any photography courses available by customers that have invested in a DSLR kit or mirrorless DSLR kit, in response we decided to make this blog.

This is a brief beginners guide to digital photography to try help demystify certain technical terms and help you gain some confidence and have that develop into a lifelong passion for capturing creative images.

The Galway Camera Shop is the only family run specialist photographic store in the west of Ireland. Operating since the late 70’s we are conveniently located on 1 William St, Galway, and have had our new online store recently launched.

We will keep our explanations as concise as possible so as not to create confusion. We have also added some lists with names and links to photography courses around Ireland and a list of camera clubs around the country.

  1. Introduction:

First off photography comes from the Greek word photo meaning “to draw with light”.

You have a range of different digital cameras:

  • Compact cameras:these are point and shoot. Are fully automatic, have a zoom lens and don’t allow for interchangeable lenses.


  • Bridge Cameras: As the name suggests, a bridge camera is the 'bridge' between 2 different types of camera: compact cameras and SLR cameras. A bridge camera is larger than a compact camera and it has more advanced options, like an SLR camera. You can usually recognize a bridge camera by its firm grip and the extra large zoom range. 
  • DSLR Cameras: These are single lens reflex cameras that have a fixed digital sensor. They allow for interchangeable lenses, and a wide range of different control settings.


  • Mirrorless DSLR Cameras: These are also single lens reflex cameras that have a fixed digital sensor. They allow for interchangeable lenses, and a wide range of different control settings.


  • Mirrorless VS Traditinal DSLRs. Mirrorless is newer technology, the camera body is designed without a mirror in it which a traditional DSLR has this allows for a more compact, lightweight camera body. Lenses are also lighter.

Traditional DSLRs also have 2 autofocusing systems depending on if your looking through the viewfinder or using live view. Mirrorless have developed faster autofocusing systems which is an advantage for faster moving objects.

Mirrorless have electronic viewfinders, which means you are looking at a digital image when your taking your photo. While traditional DSLRs have an optical viewfinder. For some people having an optical viewfinder is a preference

Mirrorless are far superior to traditional DSLR cameras when it comes to taking videos. This has made Mirrorless DSLRs very popular for the likes of sports clubs, vloggers, etc.

  1. Sensors:

Any piece of equipment that can take a digital photo has a sensor in the body. Light hits the sensor and it detects and conveys information used to form an image.

Types of Sensors:

  • Full Frame:

A full-frame camera is a camera with a full-frame sensor. This is an image sensor that's the same size as the sensor of an analog camera. The biggest advantage of a full-frame camera is that it has no crop factor. Crop factor means that the image is cut off because the sensor is too small to capture the entire image. These type of DSLRs tend to be used by professionals or very keen camera enthusiasts.


  • APS-C Sensors (Crop Frame):

APS C sensors are cropped sensors that are generally cheaper and easier to travel with than their full frame counterparts.


  • Micro Four Thirds:

Micro Four Thirds - A Micro Four Thirds camera has a 4:3 aspect ratio. Physically, the camera sensors are 17.3mm wide by 13mm high. As a result, they has a crop factor of 2x in comparison to a full frame camera. These tend to have a lower image quality.


Smartphones tend to have smaller sensors as to put a bigger sensor in the body would result in the phone being too bulky. This can result in poorer image quality when viewing photos as a larger print or on a larger screen.


  1. Aspect Ratio:


An aspect ratio describes the width and height of a screen or image. DSLR and Mirrorless DSLR will have a 3:2 aspect ratio. Some compact cameras and smartphones  will use a 4:3 aspect ratio.

3:2 is wider and allows for more room  for cropping in post editing should it be required.


  1. File Formats:


The three most common image file formats in photography are JPEG, TIFF, and different RAW files.

  • JPEG:

The most common file type. This is a universal format and all internet browsers will support this file. The smaller size allows for faster uploading and sending. However there is a loss of quality due to compression. It is best as you get more experienced with editing to take the photo in tiff or raw then edit the image and convert it to a jpeg for the purposes of uploading or sending.

  • Tiff:

This is a larger file that allows for lossless compression and greater editing options. If you plan on doing a lot editing RAW would be a better option


  • RAW:

RAW files contain the most amount of information. This file type will give you the highest quality from an image file. RAW requires good knowledge of photo editing tools such as photoshop.

This file type is commonly used by keen enthusiasts and professionals. As RAW files contain so much information they take far longer to upload and send.


  1. Lenses:

Unlike fixed lenses, which are built into (mostly compact) cameras, interchangeable lenses provide the user with a wider choice of image-capture capabilities. While there are general-purpose lenses that cover the same range as lenses on built-in cameras, the optical quality is generally better.

We’ve put together some terms you will come by when talking about lenses:

  • Angle of view:

This is the amount of a scene that can be recorded by a lens. It is directly related to the lens focal length. The size of the sensor will also affect the angle of view.


  • Aperture:

Aperture refers to the opening of a lens's diaphragm through which light passes. It is calibrated in f/stops and is generally written as numbers such as 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16. Aperture works like the iris of an eye, and controls depth of field. For example an f/stop of 1.4 will have a shallower depth of field creating a blurry background while the subject is in full focus.

  • Elements:

An element is an individual piece of glass in the lens. A lens is made up of multiple elements assembled inside a cylindrical barrel


  • Field of view:

Field-of-View (FOV) and Angle-of-View (AOV) vary slightly because FOV considers entire field including Depth-of-Field (DOF) or minimum distance from camera lens in-focus to farthest distance in-focus where nearer or farther are out-of-focus. AOV is an angle from glass extending outward as an angle in degrees


  • Focal Length:

Focal length determines how much of a scene is captured in an image. Shorter focal length lenses are called wide-angle lenses because they allow you to get a wider field of view in one image (e.g 10-18mm lens). Lenses with long focal lengths are called telephoto lenses, and have a smaller field of view. Ata a given aperture longer focal lengths produce less depth of field (e.g. 55-250mm lens).


  • Focal Plane:

This represents the area in a camera where the light is focused. The sensor is positioned on the focal plane.


  • Focus:

focus is the sharpest area of the image. It is the area where the lens works to highlight an object, a person, or a situation.


  • Lens Mount:

This is the system used to couple a lens with a interchangeable lens camera. Lens mounts are incompatible between camera systems. This means a Nikon lens will not fit on a Canon mount and vice versa. You can buy brands such as Sigma or Tamron that will have mounts compatible with a Canon or Nikon mount system. Make sure to double check if a lens is compatible with your camera before purchasing


  • Minimum Focusing Distance:

This means how close a lens can get to an object while still being able to achieve sharp focus. A macro lens (eg 105mm lens) is a special type of camera lens that has the ability to work with very short focusing distances, taking sharp images of very small subjects.  This type of lens is ideal for botany photography or close up of insects.


  • Prime Lens:

A prime lens is a fixed focal length photographic lens (as opposed to a zoom lens), typically with a maximum aperture from f2. 8 to f1. 2.. A good example of a popular prime lens for beginners in a 50mm f1.8 lens, a very useful lens for portrait photography, often referred to as the “nifty fifty”.


  • Kit Lens:

A kit lens is a "starter" lens which can be sold as part of the package with an interchangeable-lens camera. If you’re a beginner, kit lenses allow you to get shooting straight away. They also let you get to know your camera menu while taking photographs, from getting to know how to use shutter speed in conjunction with different focal lengths, to more general knowledge you need to become familiar with.

Examples of kit lenses are: 18-55mm, 18-150mm


  • Telephoto Lens:

Telephoto photography is a type of photography that brings distant subjects closer with the use of long focal lengths. While shorter focal lengths exaggerate subjects closest to you, telephoto lenses allow you to emphasize and bring faraway subjects closer, from people to wildlife to mountains. Telephoto have a narrower angle of view. 200mm, 300mm, and 400mm are all popular telephoto lenses.

Example of Canon EOS RF 800mm telephoto lens

  • Wide Angle Lens:

A wide-angle lens has a focal length of 35mm or shorter, which gives you a wide field of view. The wider your field of view, the more of the scene you'll be able to see in the frame. These lenses are ideal for many scenarios especially landscape photography.  10-18mm is a good example of a landscape lens with some zoom.

Canon RF 10-20mm lens


  • Zoom Lens:

A zoom lens is a type of camera lens that offers the photographer a useful range of different focal lengths in a single lens. This is in comparison to a prime lens, which only offers a single focal length. A zoom lens allows for quick and easy re-framing of a scene while staying in the same physical position

Canon RF 100-400mm telephoto zoom lens


  1. Perspective:

Perspective refers to the appearance of depth or spatial relationships between objects in an image. This is a powerful compositional and visual tool which will help you create the impression of volume, space, depth, and distance.

5 types of perspective in photography

  • Linear perspective.

As one of the most straightforward types of perspective, it involves converging lines that create an illusion of depth and distance within a frame. ...

  • High-angle perspective.

A high angle shot is a filming technique where the camera looks down at the subject from above. When you see someone or something from a higher perspective, it makes the subject seem smaller

  • Low-angle perspective.

Shooting from a low angle can convey a sense of power.

  • Forced perspective.

This is a technique that employs optical illusion to make an object appear farther away, closer, larger or smaller than it actually is.

  • Fisheye perspective.

Achieved using a fisheye lens (an ultra wide-angle lens). This type of perspective produces strong visual distortion intended to create a wide panoramic or hemispherical image. Fisheye lenses achieve extremely wide angles of view, well beyond any rectilinear lens.


  1. Focusing:

In order to capture sharp images it is important that your lens is precisely focused.

Most cameras and lenses will give you the option of Manual focus or Autofocus mode.

Modern DSLR cameras use the Phase Detect autofocus method to determine the correct point at which to focus the lens. This method is fast and generally accurate and operates by light travelling through the lens.


Modern DSLRs have multipoint autofocusing which will have a number of AF sensors. The photographer can choose between leaving all AF points active or selecting individual points. This will allow sharp focusing even if the subject is off centre.

At the moment with the development of AI technology newer models of casmeras have the ability to be able to focus on particular subjects. This type of auto focusing is extremely useful for subjects moving at speed.

Even though modern AF systems are markedly improved, they will fail at some point when trying to focus in low light conditions. Manual focus, on the other hand, can help you precisely tell the camera where to focus so you can capture crisp images of your subject even in low light conditions.



  1. Image Stabilisation


Without a stable system, images will appear blurry and affect the overall image quality. Methods such as using a tripod with remote switches, an optical stabilizer, or sensor-shift optical image stabilization can help improve image stabilization

IS is a feature also found on lenses and in built into higher end camera bodies. IS can improve the quality of photos and videos, particularly in low-light situations or when using a long zoom lens. It can also help photographers and videographers capture more detailed and sharp images without the need for a tripod or other stabilization equipment.

Tripods are extremely useful tools if you are wanting to take long exposure shots at night time when there is less light. Tripods will come with either a ball joint head or three way head. All tripod models should have a quick release plate. If your intention is to do a lot of videography we would recommend a dedicated video tripod with a fluid head which will give you much smoother panning.

 When the shutter is open longer you need to keep camera shake to a minimum so as to keep your image sharp. Using a remote switch that is compatible with your camera in conjunction with a tripod will give you greater control. Star trail photography is a good example of when these tools are a must.


  1. Filters

In the past there was a much greater selection of filters on offer depending on what style the photographer was trying to achieve. The arrival of photo editing tools such as photoshop or lightroom has made the wide selection less available.

However there are 3 filters that still would be needed to help your photography:

  • UV Filters:

These will reduce haze and sharpen an image. It can also help to boost contrast on overcast days or shooting when shadows are present. But most importantly, a UV filter will protect your lens from damage, making them invaluable even for use on digital equipment. If you scratch a UV filter simply unscrew it from the front of your lens and get a new filter but your lens is ok.


  • Neutral Density Filters:

Neutral density (ND) filters are an essential tool for any photographer, as they allow controlling amount of light that enters the camera. These filters can be used to slow down the movement of water or clouds, create a soft background or avoid an overexposed image.


  • Circular Polarizer Filters:

Polarizing filters reduce most of the reflected light in the photographed scene when rotated to a particular angle. It helps saturating the coolers and increasing the contrast. It also reduces the haze in the atmosphere. This will emphasise the blue in the sky.


  1. Exposure:

Camera exposure is the overall brightness or darkness of a photograph. The sensor on your camera needs a certain amount of light to capture an image. To really gain your competency you need to understand this process

There are a few elements that will determine the exposure of your photo.

  • Shutter Speed:

It's the speed at which the shutter of the camera closes. A fast shutter speed creates a shorter exposure — the amount of light the camera takes in — and a slow shutter speed gives the photographer a longer exposure.


  • Aperture:

Aperture is a hole in the lens that controls how much light gets into your camera. The aperture and depth of field are also connected we will explain that more further down this article.

The aperture settings move in “f stops”. F Stops will go in increments for example f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, and f/22. Each full F stop setting lets in half as much light as its preceding number.


The highest number here (f/22) lets in the least amount of light. In F22 all parts of the photo will be in focus. This is referred to as a wide or high depth of field. Commonly used in landscape photography.


The lowest number listed (F/1.8) lets in the most amount of light. This will give you a narrow or shallow depth of field. For your subject to be in focus you need to be standing from your subject the right distance based on the focal length of the lens your using. When you do this with a F /1.8 the subject will be in focus while the background will be blurred. This is very useful for portrait photography.


There is more to learn about aperture and depth of field but for the purposes of this blog we are trying not to confuse. The best thing you can do is keep learning and practicing. By getting hands on experience some of this terminology will become less daunting and your confidence will rise.


  • ISO:

ISO can be set to determine how sensitive your sensor is to light. Cameras have varying ISO ranges.

For example a beginner DSLR like the Canon EOS 2000D has an ISO range of 100-6400. A lower number like 100 can be used in bright conditions and will be very clean. If you were trying to shoot a moving object handheld in lowlight an ISO of 1600 or higher could be used as these numbers will let more light to the sensor but  will have more digital noise.


In practice there is any amount of different iso, aperture and shutter speed settings you could combine using the light when you are shooting a photo that will give you a properly exposed image. The combination you would use will depend on what it is your trying to achieve with the shot. For example are you shooting a landscape photo and you want a wide depth of field with all the elements in focus. Or do you want to take a photo of somebody  and have a shallow depth of field.


To give you an example In very bright conditions such as a sunny day using an ISO of 100, you could set your shutter speed to 1/100 of a second and your aperture to f/16. This would make a nice landscape shot.

If after you took that shot you were trying to highlight a moving object in the shot you could change your shutter speed to 1/400 of a second and your aperture to f/8. Your shutter speed is now faster so the moving object will be sharp, while the F/8 aperture will help make the moving object stand out as there will be a shallower depth of field.


  1. Metering


Light Meters can measure the amount of light falling on a subject (incident light), or being reflected by a subject (reflective light). By converting these measurements, it defines what would be the most beneficial shutter speed and f/stop to use for that given subject.


Set your camera to Manual mode, then look at the bottom of the screen in your viewfinder. Notice the scale with zero in the middle. That is the light meter at work. Raise the shutter speed, and the little indicator will move to the left; this indicates underexposure.





  1. Shooting Modes:

As well as manual mode where you are making all the decisions there are various other shooting modes aimed at making using a DSLR or mirrorless DSLR less daunting for a beginner photographer.



Exampe of shooting modes on Canon EOS 250D Dslr camera


  • Fully Automatic:

As the name suggests the camera is making the decision for you. This is a nice starting off point while you get used to the feel of the camera. It also lets you just focus on figuring out stuff like the composition of your shots.

It is recommended that you move away from fully automatic mode as soon as you can as it will limit your creativity and stunt your understanding of photography if you become totally reliant on it.


  • Program Mode (P)

This offers a small bit more control than full auto. In Program the cameras meter will determine which shutter speed and aperture will work based off the light available.

This might seem very similar to Fully Automatic but program mode lets you set a range of different camera functions, including ISO value, white balance, colour space, focus mode, metering mode, exposure compensation and flash control.


  • Shutter Priority (S or Tv)

This gives you control over the shutter speed, based of your shutter speed selection and the light available to the cameras light meter the camera will choose the aperture that would suit best. This would be very useful if you were practicing with taking pictures of movement: either a fast shutter speed to freeze movement (for example a rally car) or a slower shutter speed to blur movement (to get a smooth effect on a waterfall)




  • Aperture Priority (A or Av)

This works like shutter priority. However in Aperture priority you pick the aperture based on what you are trying to achieve  and the camera will decide on the shutter speed to suit your aperture choice and the lighting conditions available to it.

You may want to take a photo of a landscape with a wide depth of field so you would choose a higher aperture.

If you choose a lower aperture (eg f/1.8) this will blur the background giving you a shallow depth of field.


  • You will find as you gain more confidence that you will set the camera to manual mode more frequently. Sometimes you might not be quite happy with the exposure a scene mode or automatic mode will give you. By setting the camera in Manual you are free to experiment. For example you may want to darken an image slightly to convey a certain feeling. Going into manual will allow you the freedom to underexpose the image slightly.


  1. Post Editing:

What is post-production? Post-production is everything that we do to an image after it is produced (photography is the production process). It includes adjusting the colors and tones of an image in Adobe Lightroom and correcting blemishes in Adobe Photoshop.

We aren’t going to go into this in much detail as this topic alone is a conversation in itself.

We will recommend some editing apps and list some photoshop courses below.

  • Photoshop Express:

If you are new to editing and the thought of it overwhelms you a bit we would recommend the Photoshop Express App. Its a free app, it comes with lots of useful preset filters as well as some manual controls. This app is very useful if your intention is showcasing your shots on social media.

  • Lightroom:

Photoshop is primarily an editing program. Lightroom is a complete photo management program with many of the editing capabilities of Photoshop. It has more presets than Photoshop Express. There are more manual settings, as well as the opportunity to select elements in a scene to edit. Lightroom will allow you to save edits without compromising your resolution. Useful if you would like to print a larger photo.

Lightroom comprises: Library module - for cataloging, keywording (labeling), sorting, finding photos.


Lightroom isn’t free.

 There are 2 versions of Lightroom: Lightroom Classic is the full-featured desktop version of Adobe’s Lightroom image organization and manipulation software. It’s more robust than its mobile counterpart, Lightroom CC. Lightroom CC is a smart choice for beginners who won’t delve too deeply into Lightroom’s features.


  • Photoshop:

The main difference between Lightroom in comparison to Photoshop is that Lightroom is faster and better suited for a photographer’s workflow when compared to Photoshop which is superior for finer and quicker image editing than Lightroom in 2023. Adobe Lightroom offers RAW file processing and non-destuctive editing for photos while Photoshop offers various layering tools as well as powerful batch editing features.


  1. Other Terms

As this blog is only intended as a very brief guide there are some terms we haven’t touched on but will quickly mention here with a brief description.

  • Histograms:

a histogram is a graph showing the distribution of light in an image. Most cameras are capable of displaying a histogram for each image stored on the camera's memory card. Some cameras even allow you to see a live histogram before you take the shot. It can be used to discover whether you have clipped any highlight or shadow detail at specific exposure settings.


  • Exposure Compensation:

The two common examples of exposure compensation are scenes or subjects that are either dominated by very dark or very light areas. The camera meter will attempt to fit them into its middle gray expectation. A darker value will be overexposed, a lighter value will be underexposed. Exposure Compensation lets you take control of your image's brightness by manually increasing or decreasing exposure.


  • Exposure Bracketing:

If your unsure of the right exposure for a particular scene the camera will take a series of shots of the same scene in multiple exposures. This will help giving you more to work with when you have brought the image to the editing stages.


  • Dynamic Range:

This refers to the spread of tones throughout an image within which detail can be recorded.

A camera can only record a restricted range of brightness levels and is no match for the human eye. The best cameras will only have half as much range as the human eye.

A camera with a high dynamic range typically means that more detail in both highlights and shadows can be captured


  • High Dynamic Range (HDR) Photography:

This is a method of overcoming your cameras dynamic range limitations. HDR photography (high dynamic range) is a technique that involves capturing multiple images of the same scene using different exposure values, and then combining those images into a single image that represents the full range of tonal values within the scene you photographed.


  • The Golden Hour:

During the golden hour, the sun is at a low angle in the sky, creating longer shadows and flattering lighting situations you can use for more creative effects. Its shortly after sunrise or shortly before sunset. There are many other aspects to lighting and photography but in the interests of trying to keep this blog concise and about the mechanisms of the camera and its accessories we won’t get into that now.


  • The Rule of Thirds

Again there is a lot of reading you can do on composition but we will give you one quick general rule. The rule of thirds is a composition guideline that places your subject in the left or right third of an image, leaving the other two thirds more open. While there are other forms of composition, the rule of thirds generally leads to compelling and well-composed shots.


  • Flash Photography:

Most cameras will have a built in flash and a DSLR will have a shoe making it capable of taking an external flash. Flashguns are very useful for portrait photography, and macro photography. We will cover flash photography in detail in another blog.



We hope you find this blog of help, if so we would be very grateful if you could write a review for us on google.


  1. Photography Courses in Ireland:



  1. Camera Clubs in Ireland:
  • Arklow Camera Club, County Wicklow
  • Mayo Photographic Club, County Mayo
  • Drogheda Photographic Club, County Louth
  • Dundalk Photographic Society, County Louth
  • Enniscorthy Camera Club, County Wexford
  • Mid Louth Camera Club, County Louth
  • Mountmellick Camera Club, County Laois
  • New Ross Camera Club, County Wexford
  • Photographic Society of Mullingar, County Westmeath
  • Sligo Camera Club, County Sligo
  • An Oige Photographic Group, County Dublin
  • Ballyshannon Photographic Club, County Donegal
  • Cork Photographic Group, County Cork
  • Dungarvan Camera Club, County Waterford
  • Listowel Camera Club, County Limerick
  • Navan Camera Club, County Meath
  • The Tain Photographic Club, County Louth
  • Shannon Camera Club, County Clare
  • Carlow Photographic Society, County Carlow
  • Cork Camera Group, County Cork
  • Carrigaline Photographic Society, County Cork
  • Clonakilty Camera Club, County Cork
  • East Cork Camera Group, County Cork
  • Mallow Camera Club, County Cork
  • St Brigids Photo Group, County Dublin
  • Clondalkin Camera Club, County Dublin
  • Tallaght Photographic Society, County Dublin
  • Galway Camera Club, County Galway
  • Killarney Camera Club, County Killarney
  • Celbridge Camera Club, County Kildare
  • Kilkenny Photographic Society, County Kilkenny
  • Limerick Camera Club, County Limerick
  • Drogheda Photographic Club, County Louth
  • Swinford Camera Club, County Louth
  • Monaghan Photographic Society, County Monaghan
  • Clonmel Camera Club, County Tipperary
  • Thurles Camera Club, County Tipperary
  • Mullingar Camera Club, County Westmeath
  • Wexford Camera Club, County Wexford
  • Athy Photographic Society, County Kildare
  • Boyle Camera Club, County Roscommon
  • Carrick Camera Club, County Donegal
  • Bray Camera Club, County Wicklow
  • Clones Photographic Society, County Monaghan
  • Dunamaise Photographic Society, County Laois
  • Kenmare Camera Club, County Kerry
  • Limerick & District Photographic Society, County Limerick
  • Midlands Photography Club, County Westmeath
  • OffShoot Photography Society (South Dublin), County Dublin
  • Swords Photo Group, County Dublin
  • Waterford Camera Club, County Waterford
  • Longford Camera Club, County Longford
  • Fermoy Camera Club, County Cork
  • Ardfert Camera Club, County Kerry
  • Ballincollig Camera Club, County Cork
  • Blarney Photography Club, County Cork
  • Beara Camera Club, County Cork
  • Deise Photographic Society, County Waterford
  • Ennis Camera Club, County Clare
  • South Kerry Camera Club, County Kerry
  • University of Limerick Photographic Society, County Limerick
  • Carrick Camera Club, County Tipperary
  • Cobh Camera Club, County Cork
  • Cavan Camera Club, County Cavan
  • Mountrath and District Camera Club, County Laois
  • MidLouth Camera Club, County Louth
  • North Meath Photographic Society, County Meath
  • Slieve Bloom Photography Club, County Offaly
  • Rainbow Camera Club, County Leitrim


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