Basics of Photography

We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us.
— Ralph Hattersley

I think the biggest advice I have for you on learning how to take better photos is mastering the best lens you have on you, which is your eye. We can go on and on about the basics of photography which I will get into a little bit within this blog post, but the most important thing is understanding the visual story that you’re trying to tell. 

Before you begin to check out Amazon and purchase the latest and greatest cameras out there one of my favorite photographers of all time, Chase Jarvis said this, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” I have seen some of the most visually captivating photos taken with a mobile device and some of the most amazing ones taken with the world’s most expensive cameras. Neither one is better than the other because the image captured is not dictated based on all the bells and whistles and how its taken. An image moves you because of the visual story its telling your heart. 

I studied photography in high school and co-own a wedding/lifestyle photography business with my husband. On top of the creative environment we have in my personal life, I work for a company called VSCO, who’s mission is to empower people to create, discover, and connect. Basically I’m surrounded by photography left and right. But most importantly, photography for allows me to create and I do believe that as humans creativity is built in our DNA. It’s something we thrive on.

Now that I’ve rambled a little a little bit about my own personal philosophies on photography here’s some of the basics that I lean on with every photo I take. 


Some would argue that lighting may come last as the thing you have to learn or get a grasp of, but for me lighting is the king to all photography. After all, photography in Greek means writing with light. Begin by starting to train your eye with lighting that bests suits your visual storytelling. As you walk around a room or down the street look at different objects to see what the light source is doing to it. Ask yourself what is the light doing to the space around me, around a particular object? Begin to notice whether or not certain lighting is giving an object more dimension or is it looking flat. Light can make the most mundane looking objects come to life and its important to start to pay attention to the different lighting scenarios around you. 


Composition in its truest form of thinking is simply framing. How are you framing a particular subject or object in your photo? I’m sort of a purist which means I like to follow the rule of thirds when it comes to art. Then I start to break the boundaries and think outside the box. Framing is all about how your eye travels through a photograph. For me as a general rule of thumb I want to make sure that the eye travels through about 2/3rds of any photograph I take. Sometimes this drives my husband nuts when it comes to looking through the shots I get at a wedding because I love to give more space around my subjects and he likes to come in close filling the frame. It’s a perfect example of why we work so well together. His artistic vision on how he captures subjects is completely different to my own, but we’re both storytellers in our approach.

Creative Vision

“Don’t look. See” is this quote splattered on the top of a page in one of my favorite easy to read photography books called “Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs.” by Henry Carroll. BUY IT NOW! Everyone’s artistic vision is very different, it’s personal, it’s the magic sauce that makes us as artists unique. It’s how we want to tell the story of what we see, not what we’re looking at. Two very different things and two things that are hard to explain. I guess you can argue that it's like hearing and listening. When someone hears you it’s the mere act of hearing sounds, when someone is listening they are engaged, understanding, and taking in every bit of what you say. You can say that this is true with photography. 

If you begin to see how lighting can play and dance with mundane or inanimate objects around you, you will begin to frame the the story of a beautiful photograph.
— Joanne Encarnacion

An incredible photographer and great friend of mine Tanja Lippert once told me,”start to see your photographs as frames in a movie.” When she said that during one of her photography workshops I took, it clicked. I began to see things one frame and one moment at a time rather than the whole picture. 

That moment when Jonathan jumped into a pool to capture this shot of the bride and groom jumping into the pool on their wedding day! #doitforthephoto

That moment when Jonathan jumped into a pool to capture this shot of the bride and groom jumping into the pool on their wedding day! #doitforthephoto

My Personal Camera Gear

Here are some books that I love and get inspired by:

Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs by Henry Carroll

The Best Camera is the One That’s With You by Chase Jarvis

Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer author John Maloof

The Photographers Playbook: 307 Assignments and Ideas by Jason Fulford


Photo Editing Apps

  • VSCO for iOS
    • My favorite preset happens to be A6, 04, A8, and M5. Depending on the image, I do make adjustments to exposure, temperature, tint, sharpen, and contrast. 
  • VSCO Film for Lightroom
    • My ultimate favorite VSCO FIlm packs are VSCO Film 05 & 06, however depending on the lighting of the image I may go back to the good old classics of VSCO FIlm 01. Start with the Essentials Pack, it has the best of all 7 packs.
  • Lightroom
    • use Lightroom for most of my DSLR photo edits, this way I have full control of all the RAW capabilities when editing with my RAW DSLR Files


Other Recommendations on Camera Gear

I hope that this helps to inspire you a little bit more to gain a better understanding of the basics of photography. If this is something you’d love to see more of comment below and let me know what you’d like for me to dive into.