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Photography Cheat Sheets: Why every aspiring photographer needs one

by Andrea Spanik / December 19, 2021

Okay, if you’re a profesh photographer who knows how to take an epic shot like it’s second nature, you might not need a photography cheat sheet to get you through a photoshoot (tbh we kind of hope you don’t).

BUT

If you’re an aspiring photographer looking to curate a beautiful Instagram feed, while building up a portfolio with stunning shots, we get it, keeping track of all your camera settings can be a pain.

 

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This is especially true if you’re an aspiring photographer who is finally making the jump from their auto settings to their own manual settings.

If this is you, here are the 6 biggest reasons why you need a photography cheat sheet in your life:

1) Hello, serious time saver

Sure, you can fiddle with your camera’s settings and sit around trying to remember what you read about fixing blurry images, OR you can simply pull up your handy-dandy photography cheat sheet, reference what you’re struggling with, fix the issue, and move on.

No drama or frustration necessary.

2) It’s time to embrace looking professional

If you’re working with a model or you finally have your first client who is willing to pay, there’s nothing that makes you look more like an amateur than fiddling with your camera settings.

Embrace that professional energy by consulting your cheat sheet when you need it.

Trust us, you’re probably more prepared than you think you are (you might not even need the cheat sheet!), but having this little cheat sheet ready to go when you need it can help give you a more professional edge.

Yes, please.

 

3) Find the right photography cheat sheet for you

We don’t have to tell you what aspects of your photography you struggle with.

Maybe you’re constantly getting confused with shutter speed. Maybe you still haven’t mastered picking the perfect aperture for that blurry background.

Whatever the case, there’s a photography cheat sheet for you. Make sure you have the one that you’re most likely to reference at your disposal. Doing so will help you save a lot of time, energy, and frustration.

4) Improve your skills

 

 

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Let’s use an analogy here.

When you’re exercising and trying to achieve your dream body, a little struggle is necessary, right? Sure, it’s not easy, BUT having a little help along the way also won’t do you harm. A stocked gym, a personal trainer, proper nutrition—these aids can absolutely help you on your way to your dream body.

The same idea applies to your photography.

Eventually, certain aspects of photography will become second nature to you, but while you’re in these beginning phases, take all the help you can get. They’ll improve your skills, and in the long run, help you become a better photographer.

5) Let’s avoid giving up, shall we?

Photography tends to be a skill that many people take up because they think it will be easy (how hard can it be to capture some pretty pictures using a camera?).

Let us let you in on a secret: Professional photography is not easy.

It takes an expert eye and an ability to utilize a professional DSLR camera that goes beyond what you might learn in your high school photography class.

 

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Having a cheat sheet available to you can help prevent you from prematurely quitting photography. Having this cheat sheet allows you to reference aspects of photography that you might be confused about, fix the issue, and keep going.

No crying in frustration and quitting photography is allowed when you’ve got this handy tool in your back pocket.

6) Capture the best images possible

And last, but certainly not least, having a photography cheat sheet will help you achieve the best images possible. Plain and simple.

Your job as a professional photographer is to capture beautiful images. Use a photography cheat sheet with no shame and watch as your skills, your images, and your confidence increases.

Bottom line: Every aspiring photographer needs a photography cheat sheet.

Best Photography Cheat Sheets

Photography is an extensive hobby that has a host of different techniques and nuances. It can therefore be overwhelming knowing what to learn first or where to start. Do you keep it simple and look at basic camera features? Or maybe you learn about important settings like aperture, exposure, and ISO?

Related: Check out our photography hashtags guide for social media!

If you want to improve your photography skills quickly, there is a simple way to do this – by looking at photography cheat sheets. These are short and effective snippets of information that usually cover one specific photography subject. You can read them and use them as reference as you test out new skills. In this guide, we have listed five fantastic photography cheat sheets together with a brief explanation of the subject described.

1. Exposure Cheat Sheet

Exposure is one of the most important aspects of photography. Exposure is how much light can enter the camera and hit the sensor. It is affected by three main things – aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. This is known as the exposure triangle and these three things interact with each other to directly affect the exposure of a photo.

The aperture is the size of the lens opening and directly affects exposure and depth of field. Alternatively, shutter speed controls how long the shutter is open for, and thus how long the sensor is exposed to light. Finally, ISO affects the cameras sensitivity to light, and it also affects how much noise or grain is present on a photo.

 

2. What is ISO?

As mentioned above, ISO is part of the exposure triangle. It is incredibly important and directly affects exposure, but also the overall quality of your photos.

You can change the ISO value on your camera with the lowest value usually being 100. Different quality cameras have different ISO ranges, and this directly affects their ability to shoot in low-light settings. This cheat sheet shows what different lighting conditions are suitable for the different ISO values.

 

3. Shutter Speed: An Overview

Shutter speed affects how much light enters the camera and hits the sensor. Also, it affects how easily you can shoot photos handheld, whilst still gaining clear and sharp results.

Faster shutter speeds are generally used to capture motion – such as moving wildlife. Alternatively, slower shutter speeds are used to show motion such as the silky movement of water, or to create specialist long exposure shots. In this photography cheat sheet, you can see what different shutters speeds can accomplish, and the affects they can create.

 

4. Photo Basics

Although it is fun to learn advanced photography techniques, it is also important to have a firm understanding of the basics. To effectively use your DSLR camera, you must understand how it works, and what affect changing different settings will have.

This photography cheat sheet provides a handful of basic tips that will give you flexibility and allow you to adapt your photography to various situations.

 

5. A Visual Demonstration of Depth of Field

Depth of field is controlled by aperture. The depth of field is how much of the photo is in focus. A narrow depth of field is achieved by using a large aperture such as f/2.8. This will mean that less of the photo is in focus and is ideal when you want to separate the main subject from the background.

Alternatively, a large depth of field is achieved by using a smaller aperture such as f/11. This will mean that more of the photo is in focus. A large depth of field is ideal for landscape photography where you want to capture the entire scene in detail. This simple cheat sheet provides a visual demonstration of different aperture values ad how they affect depth of field. Check out an awesome visual here.

6. Basic Photography Rules

There is a host of basic photography rules you can utilize to greatly improve your composing skill. Examples of such rules include the rule of thirds, balancing elements, using symmetry, and correct framing. This cheat sheet explains 10 of these main photography rules.

 

How to Find The Best Photography Cheat Sheets?

Pinterest is by far the most packed social platform filled with photography cheat sheets, followed by Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Social media is an incredible place to start and many aspiring and professional photographers share their knowledge via cheat sheets.

Take Advantage of Photography Cheat Sheets to Improve Your Skill

We hope you have found this list useful. This is just a small sample of the wealth of information, tips, and guides available on the internet.

Instead of taking photography courses, or spending money enrolling in classes, why not utilize these free cheat sheets? You can learn a ton in a relatively short time, without spending anything. Also, you can learn about specific subjects and techniques, and tailor your education to your own circumstance.

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