Photography for Beginners: 15 Tips to Get You Started

Learning a new skill can be intimidating, especially one as complex as photography. The world of photography is one which is marked by complicated technical knowledge; however, as with any art form, it is also incredibly subjective. Here is a detailed guide on photography for beginners tips as well as examples of what not to do when getting started out as a photographer. It is important to know that there are no rules but rather many people who have honed the craft and excavated methods for producing quality photographs. As with any discipline, the best course is to learn that tried and true form and master it before then reshaping it to your vision and there are many different styles to learn. Good luck.

1. Do Observe the Rule of Thirds

One of the first things any photographer learns is how to frame interesting and aesthetically pleasing shots.

The rule of thirds is a guideline for placement of your points of interest which breaks down an image into nine parts with four lines and four intersections. Based off of genuine scientific principle, the resulting photograph is one which is most comfortable for the viewer to interact with; the eyes naturally follow the formula and don’t become overwhelmed by too much stimuli. Consider beginning with a tripod for consistent results while learning.

Being mindful of the rule in the framing of your every shot may seem formulaic, but it is a beneficial tool which teaches good composition and dissuades overly cluttered shots. Breaking rules has its merit; however, only once those rules and their function are fully understood.

2. Don’t Over Compose Your Subject

Being told how to stand is a funny and specific type of awkward. A subject may be entirely willing to pose themselves in the manner delineated, however, having become aware of one’s  movements to that degree of specificity is unconsciously disorienting. Unless you are working with professional models, you may find giving too specific direction may result in “awkward” photographs.

It is essential, as a beginner photographer, to learn how to properly interact with your subjects. Use the poses that you wish to capture as a framework and then forget them. The key to producing a natural feel is to encourage organic behavior. Jest with your model, make eye contact, and create an environment where they forget about the camera.

3. Do Know Your Camera

Regardless of what you are shooting on, it is imperative that you familiarize yourself with your camera in every way. This I cannot stress enough: read the manual. Every camera is different and thus the manual is a piece of literature which you should pour over like your skill depends on it. It may. Play with the settings in your camera and learn what each of them means.

If your photos consistently turn out blurry or unsharp, or they seem over or under exposed, it’s time to better understand your hardware. Get acquainted with the concept of the exposure triangle. When taking a photograph, three factors affect the outcome of the image: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Aperture is the diameter of the lense opening. Shutter speed is the length of time which the shutter is open and thus the amount of light let into the sensor. Finally, ISO is how acutely the sensor is going to register the light input.

Understanding how your camera defines and adjusts these values is crucial to knowing how to get the picture you want from the subject and setting in which you are shooting. If you want to primarily shoot in low light, it may be wise to learn the specifications best suited to that type of image.

4. Don’t Use the Wrong Focus Mode

As with the aforementioned exposure triangle, mastering your cameras various focus modes is essential to getting the results you want. Accuracy in your focus is made even more important by the fact that it is one of the few things that cannot be altered in post. Focus is something that needs to be adjusted in-camera and expeditiously, depending on the shot.

Typically, there are three modes, for uniquely specific objectives. One mode is designed to hold the focus whilst following a moving subject, another will lock the focus in place for shooting static subjects. Using them incorrectly can result in a camera that is constantly trying to refocus when you are still and goes blurry when in motion.

5. Do Learn how to Effectively Post-Process

A bad photograph is not going to be improved with any amount of digital touch-up. However, a competent photographer can take a good photograph and use a program such as Adobe Lightroom to accentuate the beauty in his or her image. Editing software, to good photographers, exists to draw out and compliment existing things in the photograph, and learning how to subtly manipulate the image in this way is absolutely invaluable.

The goal should always be to preserve the integrity of the shot and keep your image grounded yet with depth and substance where the camera falls short. The old adage is never more applicable: all things in moderation.

The price range for editing software can be quite broad. While there exist some of quality on the lower end of the spectrum, the investment, in this case, into one of the more substantial programs will never be regretted.

6. Don’t Over Process Your Images

For the beginner photographer, image post processing can seem like an exciting prospect which will elevate the work to a professional standard. This is precisely why it is all too easy to over process. Don’t get zealous when editing your images; over saturating or enhancing digitally is a very efficient way to produce images which have a certain unreality. A dull unreality which detracts from the subject.

Processing can be a wonderful and even indispensable tool, but it is highly recommended that learning photographers try to perfect their form “in-camera” before worrying about what comes after.

7. Do Take as Many Photographs as Possible

Have a camera on your person at all times. You can never predict where and when the perfect shot will present itself; and, the only way to ensure that you get it, is to always have a camera of some type with you. Spontaneity breeds good art. Get used to your camera and get used to living behind it; allow it to become an extension of yourself that won’t inhibit the natural flow of your life.

Additionally, the only way to become proficient at anything is with repetition. With enough practice you can master the technical knowledge of photography so that it almost becomes autonomous and with that you will become open to developing and inhabiting your style.

8. Don’t Shoot the Same way you See

Generally speaking, a shot from eye-level, straight on, is not going to be terribly compelling when it comes to shooting mundane subjects. People see the world from eye-level every day; your photograph of a bicycle from that perspective is not bringing anything new to your viewer’s life. Photography is at its most remarkable when it shows us things with which we may be familiar but from a different point of view. That may not always denote a literal change of vantage, but doing so is an effective way of creating a more dynamic image.

Try skewing your frame, changing your angle or height and you might find that a minute change on your part informs a drastically more compelling result. For more beginner advice on how to take stunning photos, check out these tips.

9. Do Master Your Color Palette

Study the color wheel to learn what colors compliment each other and how to use that relationship to great effect. A barrage of many colors in a single photograph can be distracting as in paintings or film. Color should be used to set the tone of your image in a way which is pleasing to look at. Exercising discipline and limiting your palette is a great way to learn the best uses of color for your subjects.

Having a congruence and solidifying a style is just one of the ways great artists set themselves apart. Find what palettes work for you and why, then stick with them.

10. Don’t Overlook Simple Shots

You may not spot anything remarkable in your daily life to photograph but, as previously mentioned, take photos as often as you can. So, even when things do appear rather unremarkable, try viewing them from a different perspective. Forget what they mean to you and try to capture something in them which might mean something to someone else. There is beauty in the mundane.

Look for patterns or nuances in everyday life that you feel goes overlooked. Highlight that nature and exaggerate it in your art.

  1. Do Know how to Properly Store Your Photos

For beginners, one thing that often gets overlooked is how the images get stored. To begin with, there is the matter of file type which can seem rather inconsequential. It is not. For any photographer, RAW is the file type best suited for quality photos. Generally speaking, new cameras will most often be set to JPG by default. And why not? It’s the file type you’ve always seen before. Well, for a wider breadth of opportunity in post-processing, switch to RAW.

Simply put, the JPG image is automatically balanced and compressed, whereas Raw retains all the original detail. This comes at a price and that price is size. Fortunately, external storage is something which is getting cheaper and cheaper as well as easier to use. A device such as a portable SSD is one of the most important tools for any photographer to have in his or her arsenal.

Additionally, it is advisable to have two hard drives at all times or, alternatively, one hard drive and one cloud system. This doubling of your photo storage will greatly reduce the risk of losing your precious work.

12. Don’t Invest in Gear Over Knowledge

The gear does not make the photographer. Likewise, buying the most advanced gear as a beginner, will not make you the most advanced photographer. A good photographer can take an excellent picture with any camera; however, familiarizing yourself with the technical complexities of a DSLR early on is a good way to perfect form. Always do your research when buying gear. Something like a Canon EOS Rebel or a Nikon D3400 would be an excellent, moderately priced, entry level piece of equipment on which to learn. Choose the camera that suits your needs rather than the flashy piece of tech your favorite photographer uses.

If you could speak to the great photographers you look up to most they would most assuredly tell you, knowledge and inspiration is infinitely more valuable than equipment. Consider allocating more of your beginner budget to photography books or even courses. Study the greats, their work, and their form, and how and when they deviated from it. Learn how to take a good photograph, then put your camera to the test.

13. Do Network With Other Photographers

Connecting with other photographers is an excellent way to progress your talents. The discourse with peers is something which will force your brain to ask questions it wouldn’t have otherwise asked. Having a community goes a long way to keeping the beginner photographer inspired and on task.

Often online clubs hold competitions or exhibits for their members. Signing on in the form of a social media group or email newsletter is a great way of putting one’s self in the path to feedback.

Feedback is instrumental in forming strong and relevant artists in any field. In order to connect with the human condition and create pieces which evoke emotion and purpose, photographers need to be in touch with people who can respond to their work.

Art, by nature, is subjective and thus no two pairs of eyes are going see the same image with regard to how it makes them feel. Furthermore, the person responsible for creating it is, in many ways, the last person capable of judging it. Don’t be afraid at the prospect of negative feedback because it is the tool that will make you the best photographer you can be, use it.

14. Make Use of the Golden Hour and use Flash

The golden hour is a period of time just before a sunset or just after a sunrise. It is during this time that the rays of light are coming from a greater distance and thus the quantity of direct sunlight is far less. The golden hour is a measurable length of time that is different depending where you are and not necessarily one hour long. So, learning your unique golden hour can be very beneficial to your new life as a photographer.

The golden hour is all about light. With the sun at that far angle, more light is diffused through the atmosphere which softens it and warms it. Photographers love these conditions because they make for a wonderfully balanced image that is evenly exposed. The golden hour makes your background, your midground, and your foreground beautiful and textured. With plenty of practice and exploration, the beginner photographer can learn to use this time to create portraits of ethereal looking subjects, showered in bursts of dreamlike light. Layered shots with long shadows create drama and evoke emotion. Overall, photos taken during the golden hour can be more magical than under typical circumstances.

15. Do Find the Subject That you Connect With

As a photographer who wants to make a strong statement through the art, you need to find the subject that you feel passionately about. The best photography is going to be a piece that exudes the emotion of the photographer; when you love the subject and you love the camera, the work will resonate with people. So go out and find something that speaks to you and stay with it for long hours until you capture the best shot you can. Then do it again.

Having a strong foundation in the field of photography is very important and following these tips will ensure that foundation is strong. However, follow these or any other tips or rules as strictly as you can and it will not guarantee you become a great photographer. That is up to you. Break the rules. Ignore their advice. Be the photographer you want to be and make the art that means something to you and do it from the most well informed base.