Photography Tips for Beginners

You might have just brought your first digital camera, or you might be looking to brush up on some of the basics of digital photography. Either way getting started with digital photography doesn’t have to be daunting. By following these digital photography tips for beginners, you can quickly learn the basics of taking great photographs.

Enjoy learning

One of the best things about digital photography is that you will never run out of things to learn. Even the very best photographers are still learning and still experimenting. Every photo you take will be a learning experience, and every different setting you find yourself in is an opportunity to create a unique photograph. Photography comes with many ‘rules’, but the fun thing about photography is the chance to break those rules and still come up with a great photo.

Experiment with your digital camera’s settings

A digital camera is a very powerful tool. They come with a ton of settings that can all dramatically affect the look and feel of a photograph. As you begin to learn, experiment with these settings. Take the same picture multiple times but use different settings. See the difference each setting can make and learn how those settings will shape your photos. Remember when you review your pictures on a computer you can check the file properties to see the settings used on each photo.

Understand the exposure triangle

The exposure triangle is the three elements that make up exposure. They are aperture, ISO and shutter speed. These three settings determine the exposure of your photos. They also have individual effects on your photographs. By understanding the exposure triangle, you will gain significant control over your photos.

Shoot in RAW + JPEG

RAW and JPEG are two file formats you can use to take photographs. JPEG is often the default setting, and you can also choose RAW and RAW + JPEG. Shooting in RAW captures all the image data recorded by your camera’s sensor rather than compressing it. Shooting in RAW, you’ll not only get higher quality images, but you’ll also have far more control when editing. If you have a big enough memory card, then you should choose RAW + JPEG. When you shoot a photo, you get a copy of both files. This gives you the instant JPEG file, that is ready to share with your friends on social media and the superior RAW version.

Take lots of photos

horseguards parade in london shot during the day

The old saying is true – practice makes perfect. Take as many pictures as you can, even try to take a photo every day. Not only will it give you a chance to practice with your camera settings it will also let you practice visualising a photo.

But be selective

Taking lots of photos is a good idea, but that doesn’t mean you need to keep them all. If you want your work to stand out be selective about with which photos you share. You may shoot hundreds of pictures at a summer BBQ, but if you display them all, you will water down the quality of your shots. Pick your best photos and let them shine. Don’t be that guy that shares everything photo they take.

Make mistakes

Yes, that’s not a typo because you will make mistakes, but if you learn from them, it will make you a better photographer. The first time you spend a sunny day shooting with your ISO set at 1600 the resulting grainy photos will mean you’ll never start shooting without checking your ISO first.

Photograph what you love

labrador dog laying in the garden

Photography is a personal hobby. Your personality will shine through in your choices and in every photo you take. So as you start learning, take photos of the things you enjoy and love. This will keep you interested in photography as you continue to learn.

Learn how to hold your camera properly

Camera shake can quickly ruin a photograph. Learn to hold the camera correctly, and you can start to eliminate camera shake. This will help keep your images sharp. Always hold your camera with two hands. Your right hand should grip the right side of your camera, and your left hand should be beneath the lens to support the weight of your camera. Keep your camera close to your body and where possible lean against something like a wall for extra stability. Ideally, you’d use a tripod but when that isn’t possible holding your camera correctly will help reduce camera shake.

Check your ISO before you start shooting

Nothing will ruin a day of photography like having your ISO set at 1000 on a bright sunny day. Editing software can’t even save those photos. So don’t ruin a special occasion by shooting at the wrong ISO. Make it a habit to check the ISO anytime you start shooting and at the end of the day remember to reset the ISO before you put the camera back in your bag.

Understand the rule of thirds

The basis of the rule of thirds is the idea that pictures are more exciting and better balanced when the subject is not centred. To describe the rule of thirds, imagine two vertical and two horizontal lines creating a grid of 9 squares (think noughts and crosses!) Instead of placing your subject in the centre of the grid, put it on one of the lines, or where two lines intersect.

The whole point of the rule of thirds is to start thinking about the points of interest of your photo and how to place them to make the photograph more interesting. The cool thing about photography rules is you can go ahead and break them all. Photography is all about personal tastes, but before you start messing with the rules, it’s good to know why they work so well.

Give your subject space

Another composition tip involves the space you give to a subject. Consider the direction your subject is moving or the way they are facing and then give them extra space to that side. Doing that creates the sense of movement in a picture as the human eye can sense the space the subject will be moving towards. If you leave no room in that direction, the photo can feel very unnatural.

Shoot in the ‘golden hour’

san francisco city skline shot at golden hour

Lighting plays a significant role in photography and the golden hour is considered to be the best time of day for taking photos. Luckily for photographers, there are two golden hours each day. The hour just after the sun rises and the hour before the sunsets are both known as golden hours. Why is the golden hour so revered? Well, the sun is lower in the sky, so the light is much softer and warmer than during the day. So next time you want to take a landscape photo, set your alarm nice and early and try out the early morning golden hour.

Get a tripod

To get sharp photos, you need to be able to remove camera shake. With most settings on your camera, by holding your camera correctly (as we covered earlier), you can eliminate most camera shake. But what if you’re shooting with a slow shutter speed? This is just one example of when a tripod is a perfect solution for removing camera shake and achieving sharp photos. A tripod is an absolute must for long exposure photos and also capturing light trials. When buying a tripod bear in mind some factors such as weight, stability and height. You need a tripod stable enough to handle the full weight of your camera and lens, and if you’re into travel photography, you will want a lighter tripod that you can carry around all day.

You don’t need to buy high end, expensive equipment straight away

If you’ve just started to learn to play the guitar, you wouldn’t buy a guitar used by Jimi Hendrix straightway. The same goes for photography; you don’t need expensive equipment to take great photos. Don’t think that buying a high-end camera will instantly make your photos amazing. There are lots of elements that go into making great photos, so master skills first before thinking about upgrading to higher-end cameras. 

Don’t buy purely on megapixels

When shopping for a digital camera don’t get caught up with chasing the highest megapixel number. While megapixels do matter to a point, you need to dig deeper to find true picture quality in a camera. Just think how modern smartphones boast 20-megapixel cameras, but a digital camera with the same megapixel count will create superior picture quality.

Size matters with memory cards

collection of memory cards

Digital cameras need memory cards to store your photos, and while it is perfectly okay to buy the biggest memory card you can bear in mind that memory cards and digital storage, although very stable, can still fail. Be careful not to have all your photos on one memory card. Maybe your best option is to use lots of smaller memory cards or maybe transfer photos to a hard drive as and when. Remember to back up your photos as often as possible, don’t let a memory card failure wipe out your whole collection.

Do not try to clean the inside of your camera

Yes, you will want to keep your sensor or camera mirror clean but trying to clean the inside of your camera can do more harm than good. There are simple tools you can buy to keep the worst of the dust of your lenses and camera sensor but if you want to thoroughly clean the inside of your camera take it to a professional.

Make a list of the shots you want to take

golden gate bridge san fransico

You can’t always have your camera on you, so when that happens, and you see a scene you would like to capture, make a note of it. Keep a list and come back to it when you can. It’s a good idea to note down extra details, like lightning. A dream list is also a great tool to keep you motivated as you learn how to use your camera. By writing down your dream shots, shooting the Golden Gate bridge in the fog, for example, it will help you stay committed to becoming the best photographer you can, so one day you can take those dream shots.

Photography tips for beginners summary

Photography is a fantastic hobby. If you enjoy taking photos and are serious about becoming a better photographer these tips are a great place to start.


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