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photo by kate_sept2004 via iStock
Now that you decided to jump into learning how to be a better photographer, how is it going for you? I’m sure you’re having a lot of fun with it and are probably looking for some beginner photography tips to help you improve your end results.
Here are 5 tips for beginner photographers and also a few ideas for photography gear for beginners. I don’t guarantee you’ll become a better photographer simply by reading this article, but you will have some fun with these easy photography tips.
Learn How to Stand
photo by Dzonsli via iStock
Of all of the beginner photography tricks to learn, this one may be the most common one I get to teach in my interactions with newly minted photographers carrying newly acquired cameras.
The trick part is to learn how to stand in a way that maximizes not moving. Yes, that’s an odd sentence to type. What I mean is that there are stances that are steadier than others, allowing you to have a better chance at capturing sharper images.
Try this: stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, one foot a little forward of the other. Hold your camera by the built-in handgrip with one hand, the other hand cupped and cradling the lens from underneath. Keep your elbows tucked in close to your body, have the lens hand holding most of the weight of the camera.
The lens hand side is also the side with your foot slightly up front from the other. Bring the camera viewfinder up to eye level and gently press down your finger on the shutter release.
Since you’re likely using a camera with an eye level finder, use that as your default when hand holding the camera instead of the rear view screen. Using the viewscreen is great for awkward angles and tripod use, but it defeats a great feature/benefit of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, the eye level view.
This took a whole longer to type and read than it does to simply do it, but it’s a tried and true method used by photographers for over a hundred years. Try it out once and it will become your natural shooting stance.
Use a Portable Mount
Sometimes, despite standing properly and your new camera having image stabilization technology, the picture taking situation you’re in requires a bit more stabilization. Perhaps it’s having really low light resulting in a very slow shutter speed, or possibly you’re trying out some macro photography, or maybe even you’re switching to video mode to start a vlog, sometimes you just need the camera supported.
You already know about using a tripod, probably picked one by now, too, or one came in the full kit you purchased. But there are tripod alternatives you can use, which is our second of the 5 beginner photography tips.
An excellent alternative camera mount is the OctoPad. One of the best pieces of photography gear for beginners or any level of user, the OctoPad is a uniquely valuable piece of gear.
Basically, OctoPad is a tripod alternative. A weighted disk of semi-rigid material with a ball head or extension arm on top and a non-slip pad underneath. It can be placed on any type of surface, even one that is angled up to 45 degrees.
It’s small and light enough to fit into a camera bag or backpack and is refreshingly low priced as a tripod alternative usable indoors and out.
Be a Clean Freak
photo by Eloi_Omella via iStock
Dirty sensors result in spots, specks, and streaks in our image files. Dirty and smudged lenses and filters lower the sharpness of our images and can also cause lens flare. We shouldn't use our t-shirt, tie, scarf, or fast food napkin to wipe things clean, either, like we sometimes resort to with a smartphone.
If you got your camera as part of a kit, it should have a lens cleaning blower brush and a microfiber cloth included. Never put any liquid for cleaning directly on a lens or a camera. Blow and brush off large pieces of dust and then lightly wipe the lens or filter surface with the microfiber cloth.
Be careful when changing lenses or batteries, get out of the wind, choose a spot that is as clean as you can find to make the changes. Especially so with the lens changing will you want to stay out of the wind or any dirty place if at all possible because this is when dirt gets stuck to a camera sensor.
Most new cameras have sensor cleaning built in, but it can do so much. It’s not at all useful for the greasy smudge of dirt that can get stuck on a sensor when changing lenses in a really dirty spot. I don’t like to clean my own sensor, though there are kits for that, I prefer using a local camera shop when I notice the problem.
That’s a sub-tip of beginner camera tips, find a good local camera store, new or used equipment, that you can get hands on help when needed. They are in business to make money, so don’t be a pest, but most of these guys love talking with other photographers since most of them are avid photographers themselves. Plus they often have in house cleaning services and you can find great deals on used or older photographic equipment.
Filters Are Your Friend
photo by Bedrettin YILMAZ via iStock
Not Instagram filters...I’m talking about optical filters for our lenses. A good rigid lens hood coupled with a clear UV filter offers extra protection against damage in addition to the optical benefits.
Another essential filter for many situations is a circular polarizer. You’ll want to make sure your polarizer says it’s a circular polarizer (C-POL) since there are also linear polarizers which will cause the AF or auto exposure sensors to read incorrectly at times.
A polarizer filter is an amazing tool for serious photography. They can reduce or eliminate unwanted reflections in water and glass and also improve color contrast such as with white clouds in a dark blue sky or brightly lit lush green leaves in a dark forest.
Join a Photography Group
photo by vorDa via iStock
Online groups for discussing photography in all its different aspects and genres are everywhere and most of them are free to join and participate. You might also be able to join a local group for in person meet ups.
One thing to be careful of, some groups may have developed a reputation for being kind of abrasive with their “helpful critique” and this can discourage some beginner photographers. Thankfully, most groups I’ve seen have moderation to filter out the less helpful members or keep them in check.
Discussing photography with other enthusiasts of various experience and skill levels is good for everyone involved. There are a lot of technical factors to keep track of in photography techniques and methods but this is an artform, too, so discussions can be very beneficial for a newcomer looking for more beginner photography tips.
I like to think that the forum we host here on PhotographyTalk.com is a pretty good example of a fun place to discuss photography. Sign up for free and join a chat!