Photography Tips for Beginners

Whenever I think of a useful photography tip, I always write it down for later. Most of them are forgettable, but some are so helpful that I try to tell them to as many photographers as possible. These bite-sized photography tips are easy to understand, covering everything from beginner camera techniques to creativity and composition. If you’re learning photography, these should be especially helpful for you along the way.

Work with Your Composition

To take engaging photos you need to be engaged with what you’re doing. Don’t just fly by on autopilot. Instead, put thought into your composition and try to make your photos as good as possible. That starts with knowing the basics of how to compose good photos. Don’t cut off important parts of your subject with the edge of your frame. Keep your horizons level and try to eliminate any distractions in your photo by adjusting your composition. See if your photo has a sense of balance and simplicity. If the photo doesn’t look good on your first attempt keep experimenting until you get it right. It is so easy to depress the shutter when something looks good and then stop, but if you consider a few alternative compositions, chances are one of them will be better than the first.

Use the Camera You Already Have

There are countless cameras, lenses, and other accessories on the market today. We spend a lot of time reviewing them online trying to find out which one is best for use. It all depends on how much your going to spend on new accessories and equipment because you get what you pay for. Buy a cheap camera and lense for less than £300 and you will find out how bad a camera can be. You can buy second hand equipment from online website like eBay but you have to be very careful because some sellers might be hiding a fault and when the item arrives and you come to use it only to find out its faulty it can be very disappointing. Then you have to go though the process of sending the items back to the seller and getting a refund and that can take several days to a month. I know myself because it happened to me once. I purchase a lense from a seller saying in the description the lense was brand new and never used. Not when it arrived and I looked at it in the box. Its looked like it had been used and had dirt on it and a few faults. It was so annoying I had to send it back. I got a refund after 14 days minus the delivery costs. That was a learning curve for me.

Learn Which Settings Matter

There are a lot of camera settings, and it takes some practice to get them right, especially as a beginner. Even advanced photographers won’t always do everything perfectly. But it’s worth learning how to set your camera properly, and which camera settings matter the most, so you have the best chance to take the photos you want. First, try practising with camera modes other than full Auto. You won’t learn anything if your camera is making all the decisions for you. It might be confusing at first, but hopefully, the articles on aperture, shutter speed, and ISO will give you a good head start. Those are the three most important settings in all of photography. Aside from aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, learn how to focus properly by practising with the different autofocus modes. You’ll probably prefer single-servo autofocus (also known as One-Shot AF) for stationary subjects, and continuous-servo autofocus (also known as AI Servo) for moving subjects. Don’t use manual focus unless it’s so dark that autofocus isn’t working. Lastly, shoot in Raw if you want to edit your photos, or think there’s any chance you’ll edit them in the future. JPEGs look good out of the camera, but the files have much less latitude for post-processing.

Don’t Overexpose Highlights

When you are picking your camera settings, it is critical to avoid overexposing highlights in a photo. The reason? It’s simply impossible to recover any detail from white areas of a photo. It’s pretty easy to keep your highlights intact. But this is where shutter speed, aperture, and ISO are so important. These are the only camera settings that directly affect the brightness of a photo (ignoring flash settings, of course). Even exposure compensation – an important setting itself – just tells your camera to change one or more of these three variables. When you’re taking photos, watch the camera screen to see if there is any overexposure. If there is, the first thing you should do is lower your ISO to its base value (usually ISO 100). If it’s already there, use a faster shutter speed. That will take care of the issue. As for the aperture, make sure it isn’t set to a crazy value (f/32, f/45, etc.) and you’ll be good. If your camera is mirrorless and has a histogram or zebras, enable them. These tools allow you to check your exposure and more easily get a properly-exposed photograph.

Pay Attention to the Light

Probably the single most important part of photography is light. If you take a photo with good light, you’ve taken a huge step toward getting a good picture. But what counts as good light? It’s not all about sunsets. Often, the goal here is to balance the light’s intensity between your subject and background. Even if you’re photographing an amazing sunset, the photo could be ruined by a completely dark and silhouetted foreground. The easiest way to solve this is to pay attention to the direction and softness of the light. If the light is too harsh, you could get bad shadows going across your subject, which is especially a problem for portrait photography. If the light is coming from an unflattering angle, see what you can do to move the light source (in a studio) or move the subject (outdoors) – or wait until the light is better (landscape photography) Also, if you’re taking handheld pictures, make sure there is enough light. If not, use a flash or move where it’s brighter. The easiest way to get bland, discoloured photos is to shoot in environments without enough light.

Take Your Time

It’s easy to make mistakes in photography if you aren’t careful. The best way around this is to slow down and take your time whenever possible, particularly when you are beginning to learn photography. First, double-check your camera settings. If you’re shooting outdoor portraits on a sunny day, but you’re using last night’s settings for photographing the Milky Way, something is wrong. Slow down and take the time to get it right. Then, keep the same mindset for every other important decision. Is your composition as good as possible? Did you autofocus in the right place? Have you done everything possible to improve the lighting conditions? And don’t listen to people who tell you to avoid reviewing photos in the field. Sure, it’s a bad idea to review photos when something amazing is happening in front of you, but you’ll almost always have some downtime between shots.

Know When to Use a Tripod

Tripods are one of the greatest inventions in photography. They all but eliminate one of the trickiest problems there is – a lack of light. With tripods, you can shoot multi-minute exposures and capture details so dark that they are invisible to the human eye. Even in a brighter scene, tripods improve the stability of your composition and help you take sharper photos. So, when should you use a tripod? If your subject is stationary, almost always. That means landscape photographers, architectural photographers, and still-life photographers better have a good excuse if they aren’t using a tripod. Macro photography is another case where tripods are essential. At high magnifications, even the excellent in-body image stabilization (IBIS) of today’s cameras cannot compensate for the very low light and long shutter speeds required for truly excellent macro work. Even if you are using Flash, it is very difficult to get the plane of focus right. The only solution is a tripod. Event photography and action are a bit different because it’s true that a tripod can slow you down. The same is true of travel photography; as much as you may want to bring along a tripod, it might not be worth the hassle. That’s fair, but know that you’re missing out whenever you leave your tripod at home.

Know When to Use a Flash

Flashes aren’t just meant for dark environments. They’re great if you need some extra light. Get an external flash, tilt it at the ceiling, and use a relatively long lens (50mm or longer). Everyone you know will be amazed at the quality of your event photos. It’s the easiest way to get good results without actually knowing what you’re doing. But flashes are useful outdoors, too, even in the middle of the day. If you’ve ever heard of “fill in flash,” this is why it’s so important. You can fill in ugly shadows on your subject just by using a gentle flash – and most people looking at the photo won’t even be able to tell.

Clean Your Camera Lens

I’ve seen too many people walking around with the front element of their camera lens dirty, dusty, and smudged. That’s the easiest way to get blurry photos 100% of the time. Of course, a little bit of dust won’t do any harm; it won’t even be visible in an image. There are small particles of dust inside every lens, which are impossible to clean without taking apart the lens – and they have no impact on a photo whatsoever. Instead, I’m talking about lenses that have never been cleaned, with grime and fingerprints that haven’t been removed in ages. Do yourself a favour and get a microfiber cloth and lens cleaning solution. Bring them along on trips and use them at least once a week.

Be Organized

Whether you’re an organized or messy person, your photos must be easy to find. It’s not just about speeding up your workflow; if you don’t remember how you’ve organized your hard drive, you might end up deleting a folder that contains important images without realizing it. The easy method is to use formal filing to create new folders for images. Think of a filing cabinet with folders organized from A to Z or 1 to 20. I have folders for every year like 2000, 2001, 2021, 2024. Then in each of those folders is another folder set as months of the year like 1 January, 2 February and 3 March. So I know where to look for each photograph. I even have a folder labelled Holidays, Visited and Family. This way, I can find images from a given location, Year and month. This makes it even easier to find a photo once you’ve taken tens of thousands. But there are many possible methods. Some photographers prefer to organize their photos by year, and then divide each year by specific events rather than months. The exact method doesn’t matter; use what you’re comfortable with. But make sure that you start good habits early, or you’ll eventually run into a lot of issues.

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