So, you’re fairly new to the fun and exciting world of photography, huh? And, like most in your situation, you’re probably looking for some quick and simple, yet very effective, tips for beginner photographers that will prove useful in improving the look and impact of your photos. Well, don’t fret! Just keep reading. I’m going to lay out a few of the most basic and easy to master and execute tips for beginner photographers that you can use right now to instantly improve your pictures!
First of all, you should understand that what you’re likely experiencing right now is a very common experience among people just beginning photography: You have a real interest in photography. You’d really like to create amazing and stunning images like ones you’ve seen from gifted, experienced photographers — you might have even gone out and spent a fair to ridiculous amount of money on some quality camera equipment, Yet, you’re surprised to find that even though you’re now using ‘professional’ level photography equipment, your photos still look fairly ‘amateur’, and you can’t figure out exactly why. Sound familiar?
If the above paragraph describes you — even fairly closely — then I’ve got some news that you’re probably not going to want to hear. But, don’t get scared off too quickly: it’ll be followed by some pretty great news that you will want to hear, as well.
The bad news is this: If the above does come at least somewhat close to describing the situation you’re in, then you’ve got a long way to go. Unless you’ve been blessed with some remarkable, natural talent, you’re just not going to be making incredible images overnight like the ones you’ve seen from the pros. Photography is skill. The reason the images from the real pros look so good is because the real pros have spent a lot of time and effort developing their skill — it comes down to experience. It really does. It comes down to putting a heck of a lot of time into taking pictures and, from learning and seeing through experience, what works and what doesn’t, improving one’s skill with the camera. Unfortunately, there just is no substitute for that. There’s no shortcuts. There’s no magic buttons you can push. There is no substitute for skill and experience.
The good news is that even though it may take a lengthy period of dedicated practice to develop your skills and experience to a state where your photos are consistently just as powerful and beautiful as the photographs of the real skilled, professional photographers, there are some quick and simple things you can put into practice right now in order to drastically improve your images and really soar above the amateur hobbyists. All you need, really, is just a few tried and true, effective tips for beginner photographers.
But, remember: Photography is a skill. And, like with any skill, the best of all tips for beginner photographers is this: Practice, practice practice!
Tips For Beginner Photographers #1
Always be aware of your background! Photography beginners, almost without exception, tend to focus 100% of their attention, or very close to it, on their subject while completely ignoring everything else — including their backgrounds. Pros NEVER do this. A skilled photographer knows that, while the subject might be the most important thing in their image, the photograph isn’t made up of the subject alone! The photograph is about the entire picture — it’s about the subject and the environment the subject exists within. It’s about the relationship of the subject with the rest of the image — where the subject appears in the environment, why and how.
A good habit to get into is called the ‘four corners, center’ rule. Frame up your subject and, before you take the picture, force your eyes to go to each of the four corners of the frame, then the center — top-left, top-right, bottom-right, bottom-left, center. Force yourself to be aware of everything you see in each spot. Is there anything distracting in the background? Is there an object in the background which interacts with the subject in a weird way? Is there a better way to frame the subject in relation to other things in the frame which would make the image more interesting, or cause the subject to stand out more?
Learn to see the photograph in your viewfinder as an entire, cohesive thing. And, keep your mind on the finished resulting photograph as a whole, cohesive thing. Remember, you’re making a photograph — a whole photograph. You’re not *just* capturing a visual record of your subject. Visual records are uninteresting. A well made, cohesive photograph is beautiful and interesting.
Do this EVERY TIME you take a photograph and soon it’ll become second nature and you’ll do it without even really thinking about it. And, your pictures will improve, greatly!
Tips For Beginner Photographers #2
Do not be afraid to fail. About 80%, at least, of the photographs that the best photographers take go directly into the trash bin — they’re substandard. The top photographers in the world have taken more photos that they’ve deleted and no one will ever see, just in the last few months, than all of the photographs you’ll likely take in the next few years. So, just take the picture. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be afraid of getting a lot of bad photos.
You’ll learn just as much from the bad photos you take as you do from the good ones. And, here’s the thing: if you experiment without the fear of getting a terrible image, you’ll sometimes get gems. It happens to every photographer from time to time — a picture comes out exceptionally well entirely unexpectedly. So, just take the picture — experiment without a fear of failing. Most times, you will fail. Big deal. Delete those photos. But, every so often, a picture will work in a remarkable way and you’ll have no idea why — it just happened. Here’s the trick: When that happens, ask yourself why. Try hard to understand exactly why that unexpectedly great photograph came out so great. Work at it. What’s so different about it than all of the duds you took? Why were those ones bad and this one so good? Put effort into trying to notice what makes that photograph stand out in particular. By doing this, you’ll gain information that you can use deliberately in the future.
Tips For Beginner Photographers #3
Shoot in RAW mode! Practically all modern, decent quality digital cameras offer the option of shooting in RAW mode. Pros almost always shoot in RAW. If you shoot in Jpeg format then any decision you make regarding the look of your photo will be locked in and mostly unchangeable at the time you click your shutter. Shooting in RAW allows you to adjust things like color, contrast, exposure, white balance, and more, in post processing without compromising the ultimate quality of your photograph. Really, the only reason to not shoot in RAW is to save yourself some time. But, this is a trade-off. You save time at the expense of image quality. You can’t have both. Either you give up time, or you give-up quality. It’s one or the other.
So, shoot in RAW mode and use a program like Lightroom to adjust and process your RAW images to make them the best they absolutely can be. Then, dump those processed, finalized images to a final Jpeg format for printing, or sharing.
In this regard, you can think of modern digital photography like the old days of film. In the old days, you took your pictures, but then, the film had to be developed before they were finished. Today it’s pretty much the same, except, when you shoot in Jpeg format, the computer inside the camera is doing the developing for you, instantly. Unfortunately, computers are kind of dumb. They just follow a set of rules that work well enough in most situations. But, ‘well enough’, will rarely give you truly spectacular images. You need to use your brain to work the images into the best they can possibly be. When you shoot in RAW, you will do the developing of the images — not a dumb computer. You can make decisions and tweaks according to human aesthetic judgments than only a human brain can achieve. And, as your experience increases, the better your judgments with such things will become.
Tips For Beginner Photographers #4
Learn to be aware of light! Light is what photography is — it’s capturing light. So, learn to always be aware of light. Learn to see light and how it’s interacting with objects. Look for interesting light. Look for beautiful light. And, chase it! Chase great light. Light is the one essential element in every photograph ever taken. To know how to take great pictures is to know how to capture, and even sometimes manipulate, light well. Always be aware of the light in your environment. Really *think* about the light — always. Really notice it. Really be aware of it and its character. Think about the quality of the light. Think about the direction of the light. Think about how much light there is. Think about how the light is falling on the subject or the environment. You’re never, ever taking a photograph of an object — you’re taking a photograph of the light coming off of that object. Be conscious of that!
As a photographer you are a capturer of light. Light is everything to you. You MUST give it the utmost attention and respect. Think, primarily, in terms of light. When shooting a subject or scene, take notice of the light and ask yourself how you can best take advantage of it in order to improve the photograph. Here’s a rule: If the light is better, your photograph will be better — every time. No exceptions. You can not degrade the quality of the light and get a better photograph. It can’t happen. So, make sure the light is as good as it can be, and your photos will be much, much, much closer to being as good as they can be as well.
This is probably the most important of the tips for beginner photographers out of all the ones listed here. You should try to change your way of seeing the world — change your way of thinking. See and think in terms of light. Become hyper-aware of it — always.