How Does a Camera Work?

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works.

How Does a Camera Work? – Behind the Tech

Cameras allow people to capture beautiful memories and preserve them for many years. The camera has evolved. Today, digital cameras have made taking pictures an easy process.

A camera comprises three main elements:

  • A chemical element or the film
  • An optical element or the lens
  • A mechanical element, or the camera body

Photography involves aligning and combining these elements enabling them to record a recognizable and crisp image.

Worth mentioning is that all cameras work similarly, even though some are overly complex.

To master photography, you must understand how to align and combine the main camera elements to ensure they record recognizable and crisp images.

Understanding how the Manual Single Lens Reflex Camera Operates

In this camera, the photographer views the same image as is reflected on the film, and they can make adjustments by clicking buttons and turning dials.

The manual SLR camera does not require electricity to take photographs. As a result, it offers a great illustration of the essential photography processes.

The lens is a camera’s optical component. It is a curved piece of plastic or glass that captures the light beams bouncing from an object and diverts them, bringing them together to create an actual image similar to the setting in front of the lens.

How does the Lens Operate?

Light changes speed as it moves from one channel to the other. It travels more swiftly across the air than it does across the glass, meaning a lens will slow it down.

When light waves penetrate glass at an angle, one section of the wave reaches the glass before the other. As a result, it starts slowing down first.

Suppose you are pushing your shopping cart from the pavement to a grass path in a slanted manner.

If the left wheel strikes the grass first, it will slow down while the right wheel is on the pavement.

Seeing that the right wheel will be moving faster than the left wheel, the shopping cart will turn to the left as it moves towards the grass.

Light Works in a Similar Manner

When light penetrates the glass at an angle, it curves in one direction and curves once more while exiting the glass because sections of the light wave penetrate the air and accelerate before other sections of the wave.

In an ordinary convex or converging lens, one or both parts of the glass bends out. That means light rays penetrating through will curve towards the central part of the lens at the entry.

In a double converging lens like a magnifying glass, the light curves while entering and exiting the glass. This process reverses the trail of light from an object. Suppose a light source such as a candle discharges light in every direction.

The light rays begin at the candle’s flames before diverging constantly. A convex lens grabs those rays and diverts them to ensure they converge back to one location.

At the section where the rays intersect, you get an actual image of your candle. Here are some of the components that determine the formation of an image.


Light plays a vital role in photography. Photographers can use natural light like daylight reflected from buildings or the sun, and artificial light like studio lights, headlights, and candlelight to create images. These different types of light generate either soft or hard light.

While soft light generates light and soft shadows, hard light generates dark and strong shadows. When capturing photos, you need to think about the light you choose because it can affect the final result.


The subject is the component you take images of. It can also involve the composition, or how you create or arrange some elements in the frame. A subject can be landscapes, insects, products, or even people.


Aperture is the size of the lens opening where the light goes through before striking the film or sensor. It is calculated in f-stops and displayed on your camera by the f symbol.

For example; f22, f5.6, and f1.2. A lower number indicates a large aperture. Regulating the aperture enables photographers to manage an image’s depth of field and the amount of light captured in an image.

Large apertures allow the most light resulting in shallow depth of field.


Also known as optics, lenses define how images are created. They help focus the light on the recording channel.

Lenses regulate the focal image length, magnification, angle of view, and describe the image according to its specific characteristics.

Lenses are available in a wide range of focal lengths, varying from super-telephoto to ultra-wide-angle. Different lenses can generate varying results based on the settings you use in the lens barrel.


Regardless of the camera you choose, mastering these crucial basics is the first step to understanding how cameras work and improving your photography skills.

Best Mirrorless Camera for Beginners

Mirrorless vs DSLR

Mirrorless vs Full Frame Camera

Camera Polarizer Lens

Canon Fisheye Lens

Best DSLR Cameras for Beginners

Follow us

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.