February 16, 2016


Photography doesn’t have to be all huge lenses and tripods and cameras that easily cost more than your car—you can get started with an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera for under $100. Most cameras in this price range have the same resolution and features that much larger and more pricey models had just a few years ago. Understanding the fundamentals of photography can do wonders for your career in the design industry. Find out more with our beginner’s guide!

There is a saying that “a jack of all trades is a master of none,” and this definitely applies to graphic design. From assembling the print layout for a major magazine to designing the UI for the next must-have app, there are endless possibilities for graphic designers to choose from over the course of their careers. The trick is to find your niche and learn the ins and outs of your chosen specialty.

Some graphic designers will find that they save time, money, and frustration by managing and/or producing the photos they need. Exploring photography or incorporating it into your designer’s toolbox can be majorly beneficial, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to take up photography to be an effective designer. If you need pro-quality pics and your client can’t provide them, microstock sites like Shutterstock or iStockPhoto are the way to go. It’s all about what best suits your style and your workflow!


One of the first topics you’ll explore when you dive into your first photography course is a basic introduction to the fundamentals of photography. If you glance over the links above, you’ll quickly see that there are several things in common between graphic design & photography, such as:

  • Line
  • Shape
  • Form
  • Texture
  • Pattern
  • Color

When each of these is considered, a photo that might otherwise have been ordinary can become a piece of art in its own right. Successful photos usually show that the photographer was keeping simplicity in mind and focusing on capturing a scene with an emphasis on line, texture, and color.


Otherwise known as “How to explore and manipulate your camera’s manual settings.”

Especially when it comes to cameras that are not full-on DSLR (but still possess many of the same features), some designers are confused when they search for guides to their camera’s different functions because there are so many options to choose from.

In the interest of saving you quite a bit of reading time (and giving you a reason to bookmark this page) we’ve put together a short list of places you can visit for tips straight from seasoned photographers and designers:

Photography Kick-Start Guide: Adjusting Your Camera’s Settings for the Photo You Want — by Jeffrey Kontur

Video Introduction to Digital Photography by Simon Plant


You’ve undoubtedly heard that “A picture is worth 1,000 words,” and that’s very true. Every picture tells a story.

Think of light as the ink and paper that come together to make a book. Several different elements/aspects of light play a role in creating each photo you capture.

  • EXPOSURE – Exposure is the amount of light present when you take a picture and how that light affects how light or dark your picture is overall. Higher exposure values mean there is more light, and this creates a lighter photo, while lower exposure values mean that a photo is darker overall.
  • SHUTTER SPEED – When you take a picture under normal circumstances, the shutter will open and close fairly rapidly, capturing a still image of your subject, obviously frozen in time. The larger the value you select for your shutter speed, the more light is allowed into the lens, and the more blurred your image will become.
  • APERTURE – Not to be confused with exposure, aperture refers to the size of the hole of the lens that allows light to pass through. The wider the aperture, the more light is allowed through the lens— the aperture can have a marked effect on the depth of field in a photo because of this.
  • ISO – ISO refers to the light sensitivity of a camera, which of course, translates directly to the photos that the camera produces. Lower ISO values (100 – 800 or so) produce darker photos, while higher ISO values (3200 & up) can greatly increase an image’s brightness. Caution: The higher the ISO value, the greater the amount of “noise” or graininess in a photo.

From this point on, most guides and discussions about light and its role in photography are going to involve increasingly more detailed manipulations of manual settings (which means the use of a DSLR camera is pretty much a given) and the use of additional accessories like add-on flashes.


Graphic design schools

If you’re interested in testing the waters on your own before enrolling in a course at your local college or university offering a graphic design degree program, you can get started for a few hundred dollars at most—how much you spend depends on the type of camera you decide to buy, and what editing software you’re going to be using. If you have a subscription to Adobe CC, depending on your package, you may have both Photoshop and Lightroom (Adobe’s photography companion of choice) at your disposal.


F.I.R.S.T. Institute’s Graphic Design and Web Development Program will give you the tools to become a graphic designer in just 11 months and skills that stretch far beyond those covered in this Illustrator quick start guide. From a faculty made up of experienced design industry professionals to a broad spectrum of courses and a dedicated Career Development department, we give students access to everything they need to succeed in the design industry, both in class and on the job.

If you’d like to know more about our Graphic Design and Web Development school, please give us a call or send us an email! Our admissions team is standing by to answer any questions you might have.

Fundamentals of photography.