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PHOTO 101: Table of contents

Coming in 2017

Photo 101 is being completely revised & updated!

The revised course will include all of the popular fundamental photography lessons that were originally published here (see original Table of Contents below) but will include much, much more and will be hosted at a new location!

And yes, I will answer the question: What kind of camera should I buy?


How sensitive you’re making your camera to light + how much light you’re letting in and for how long. That’s it! That’s your exposure equation. How much light you’re letting in is controlled by aperture. Think of aperture as pouring light onto your sensor through your lens; at f/2.8, you’re just dumping it in wide open but by the time you stop down to f/22


Nikon D700, 28-70mm lens at 56mm, f2.8 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 200


Shutter Speed

Shutter speeds are measured in fractions of seconds. 1/2 is one-half second, which is pretty fast in general terms but actually pretty slow for a shutter speed. 1/8000 of a second is pretty fast in general terms and in photography.

Shutter speeds are important when you’re trying to show action, either by using blur to show movement or by freezing action.



Aperture controls the amount of light coming in through the lens, shutter speed controls the amount of time in which light is allowed to reach the sensor. ISO lets you control how sensitive your sensor is in reacting to that light.  Just like the aperture and shutter speed scales, ISO moves from left to right, 32 being (generally) the lowest and …



Q: My daughter is jumping on her bed. How do I freeze her in the air mid-jump?

A: Here’s the magic equation: 

Exposure (Review)

If I handed a beginner my camera in manual mode and asked the beginner to pick the settings to shoot a portrait of me, a beginner would search his or her brain for the “correct” exposure. That kind of thinking gets beginners into trouble.

Focal Length

Remember, we agreed that you’re looking to create images that are first and foremost in-focus and not too bright (overexposed) or too dark (underexposed.) Simple. First learn the rules, then learn to break them.

Lenses come in various focal lengths, the length or distance from the front of the lens to the camera’s sensor measured in millimeters.

Focal Length Lens Comparison

All other things being equal, lens choice can dramatically change an image.  Some photos simply aren’t possible without the right lens, just as sometimes the photo has more to do with a unique lens choice than with the subject.  It’s not practical, affordable or likely that a photographer would have at his or her disposal every possible lens choice — therefore, it’s important to choose lenses carefully and to know exactly what you can expect from each lens. 



The instant feedback of digital photography has made the process of learning to take great pictures infinitely easier. Did I get everybody in the frame?  Check the LCD.  Did anybody blink?  Check the LCD.

Is my picture too bright/dark?  This is where checking the back of the camera can get beginners into trouble.  …


Studio: High-key (white) backgrounds

Metaphorically. I was lucky enough to stumble over the very talented and generous Zack Arias who filled my head with knowledge and ideas. My daughter drove with me to Home Depot and the two of us somehow navigated from store to parking lot with two very large tile boards; her Daddy carried them into the house for us and her brother, anxious to show off his new shark-tooth necklace (thank you, Groovy Becker family!), stood as model.  



Sensor Dust

You know you have sensor dust when annoying little gray spots show up on your digital files.  They are especially troublesome/noticeable when they overlay on skin tones, or in places that make them more tedious to Photoshop.
Sensor dust is nothing new (Google it.) Sensor dust is inevitable, and when it starts to regularly cost me time spent Photoshopping, I get annoyed, and I want it fixed — quickly.  

Printing Digital Files

I fear an entire generation of today’s children are going to emerge from childhood with no photographs to document their journey. My son is 8; it took only eight years for the digital files of him, albeit backed up with great intentions, to disappear. The average photo CD has a lifespan of about 3 years. THREE YEARS! That’s barely enough time to regroup from having a newborn in my world, let alone getting around to properly storing images. Gold-plated CDs have a 10-year lifespan under optimal storage conditions. OPTIMAL STORAGE CONDITIONS. Raise your hand if you’re one of those people who has actually gotten around to optimally storing your negatives and CDs and digital files. (The rest of us can jot a note on our list of things to do someday, right under “learn French” and just before “trek across Europe.”)

Photo Tips for Moms: Lesson One

I don’t know who said it first, but I’m pretty sure it was Jay Maisel who first tried to impress it upon me:

Bring your camera; because it’s pretty hard to take a picture without it. …


Photo Tips for Moms: Lessons Two and Three

Learn to recognize and use the rule-of-thirds; and if your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough. read more …


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  • Paul Metzgar - When I enrolled in Christine Gacharna’s class on the basics of photography I never expected to come away with more than just that, the basics. However, I found myself under the instruction of a very talented and passionate photographer who not only shared with me the technical knowledge, but also the philosophy behind creating stunning images. Unlike some photographers I have encountered, she was infinitely helpful in answering any questions I had. A day or so after class she would send a review email recapping what we covered but also diving deeper into the questions we students had asked. Her passion for photography is evident and very contagious. She takes a genuine, personal interest in each of her students. To this day, several years after taking the class, I consider her a great mentor. I completely blame her for my love of photography and my pursuit to make it my career!ReplyCancel

  • Nancy Adelman - Christine,

    I bought a new lens – a 24-70mm 2.8. I love it. Not only can I take better photos in low light but all my photos are much more sharp than they were with my other lenses. Your recommendation that the lens is more important that the camera body was great advice.

    Yesterday my daughter told me my photos are getting better lately. The lens certainly helps, and so does all the practice I’ve been getting. I was looking at a photo I took the other day of my grandson – the composition wasn’t that great, but what struck me was that the color was perfect, both for the baby’s skin, and especially his white blanket. I realized it was the first photo I’d ever taken that really captured what white looks like.

    So I shoot every chance I have, with the camera set on “M” because I understand how to use that now.

    I have a long, long way to go, but I have learned so much since meeting you, and again, want to say thank you for your help.