- Last Updated: Monday, 04 November 2019 09:04
If you ask me, photography is just about the best hobby anyone can pick up.
Not only does it get you up and moving, but it compels you to be creative, master technical aspects like exposure, and interact with others who love photography (or who want their picture taken).
And just about everyone loves a good photo, right? So photography is a great way to bring people together for the common purpose of taking great photos (and appreciating them too!).
Of course, when you're just starting out in photography, it can be a little confusing as to where to even begin.
That's where this guide comes in.
If you're a brand new photographer, consider these tips as the ideal place to start your photography journey. Get started by watching my video above, and then reference the tips that follow for additional inspiration!
It Will Take Time
I cannot emphasize this enough - mastering photography will not happen overnight.
Sure, that'd be great, but that's just not how things work.
It's hard to look at photos from the masters and not be able to replicate what they do.
But with time and practice, you'll develop the understanding of photography and the requisite skills needed to create better photos.
So, the first thing you need to do is grab your camera, head out, and start taking pictures.
Back up your practice in the field with research and learning beforehand, and you'll be surprised at just how much your photography improves.
Utilize Free Tools
One of the great things about photography is that it's so accessible.
That's been the case for decades, but today that's especially true given that you can start learning photography with nothing more than your smartphone and a few photography tutorials like this one.
Though there are plenty of photography courses out there that you can pay to take, don't think that spending money on learning opportunities is the only way to go.
Start with free lessons like this one. Peruse YouTube and see what sorts of tutorials you can find. Join a photography website like PhotographyTalk so you can get inspired by other people's photos, get feedback on your own photos, and talk shop with other photography enthusiasts.
By focusing on the free tools at your disposal, that frees up money to spend on other photography-related things, like getting a better lens or investing in a set of good filters.
Read the Owner's Manual
One free resource that's vastly underutilized is the owner's manual for your camera. This is particularly true if you have a DSLR or mirrorless system.
I realize that owner's manuals are not enjoyable reads, but that notwithstanding, they have a ton of critical information about the features and functions of your camera that allow you to take better photos.
Think about it like this - if you've never taken a photo in your life, how can you expect to learn how if you don't know how your camera works?
Taking up photography without learning how to use your camera is like taking your driver's test without ever having learned how to drive - it's just that much more complicated!
Make it easier on yourself and spend a little time reading the owner's manual. Trust me, it will pay off!
Never Be Without a Camera
Sometimes, beginner photographers mistakenly think that they have to have the perfect subject to get a good photo.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Often, good photos come about because the photographer was simply prepared to take the shot.
Part of being prepared is to simply have a camera with you at all times.
That doesn't mean you have to lug around all your photography gear wherever you go, either...
Simply having your smartphone with you gives you a camera that's ready and capable of taking a good shot. All you need to do is get into the habit of photographing subjects on your way to work, at lunch, on the weekends, as you walk the dog, and so forth.
After all, you never know when an ideal photo opp will present itself!
Enjoy the Process
When I was learning photography, I was constantly frustrated because I couldn't seem to make my camera and lens do what I wanted them to do.
There were plenty of lose it moments when I just gave up, and you'll probably have plenty of those moments too...
But what I can offer in terms of advice now that I've gone through those experiences is that getting mad and frustrated doesn't do you any favors.
Instead, enjoy the process of learning.
Focus less on what you can't do, and more on what you're able to do.
You'll be surprised at how much you learn and how quickly you learn it. And if you can focus on those positives, you will find that you enjoy photography much more.
Photography, like any art form, certainly relies on your knowledge and skills.
But getting inspiration is a huge component of your success as well.
This doesn't mean spending hours each day poring over the photos other people post on Instagram.
Instead, getting inspired means really focusing on what it is about certain photos that you like.
Is it the way the portrait subject has been posed?
Is it the lighting in a landscape photo?
Is it the colors or the textures in an abstract photo that catch your eye?
By looking at what other people do, you can start to form your own ideas about your personal style and photography aesthetic. And once you do that, you'll start to see your own take on photography begin to emerge in the way your photos look and feel.
Set Some Goals
Though photography is art, and there's something to be said for a relaxed approach to creativity, when you're just starting out, having a few goals will give you the direction you need to become a better photographer.
These don't have to be enormous, life-changing goals, either.
For example, you might endeavor to shoot at least 10 photos a day. Maybe your goal is to try one new type of photography each month for a year. Perhaps you can challenge yourself to become more familiar with your camera's settings.
Even simple goals like these can give you the structure you need to maintain focus on what needs to happen for you to get better! Get more insights on setting photography goals in the video about by the Art of Photography.
Make Photography Friends
One of the best ways to derive more joy out of the process of learning photography is to share your hobby with others.
Be it a friend, a family member, or another photography enthusiast from your town, having someone to go out shooting with gives you many more opportunities to explore photography and learn.
It also keeps you honest!
Having a photography buddy to encourage you to shoot more often and to pick you up when you're frustrated with your results is as valuable an asset as any of the others on this list.
What's more, your photography friends can be a sounding board for you - you can work out problems together and share your images with one another to get honest and helpful feedback.
So, join a local photography club, become a member of a photography website, take a photography class...the point is that if you find ways to interact with other photographers, you'll see a marked improvement in your photos.
You Don't Need Fancy Gear
Contrary to what some beginning photographers believe, you don't need an expensive camera and lens to learn photography.
Heck, you don't even need an expensive camera and lens to take really good photos!
As I mentioned earlier, you can learn the essentials of photography with nothing more than your smartphone.
In fact, learning photography on your phone might be advantageous because you don't have to worry about all the features that a DSLR or mirrorless camera has.
Instead, you can work on things like developing your photographer's eye, composition, framing, and lighting, all of which are crucial to your development as a photographer.
If you're dead-set on spending money on anything, make it on a good lens. A good piece of glass will do more for your photos than any other photography gear!
Shoot With a Tripod
When I started in photography, just about every photo I took was handheld.
There's nothing wrong with shooting handheld, but if you do it, you'll notice (as I did) that your images aren't as sharp as they could be.
Even the slightest movements can reduce the sharpness of your photos.
And even if everything else about the photo is spot-on, blurriness will make any awesome photo a dud.
You can get around that by investing in a good tripod.
Tripods give your camera the stable base they need to maximize sharpness. This is true no matter the subject - portraits, landscapes, abstracts - you name it.
So, after you pick up a better lens, make a tripod your next must-have accessory. You'll have better photos as a result!
You Don't Need to Go Somewhere to Take a Great Photo
Another misconception about photography that some beginners can't seem to let go of is the notion that you have to go someplace to get a great shot.
Again, nothing could be further from the truth!
Sure, heading to the beach or Joshua Tree or the Cascades will give you ample opportunities for breathtaking landscapes, but not everyone has time to spend all weekend in pursuit of the "perfect" shot.
Instead, take the time to photograph things close to home - your dog, your kids playing in the backyard, or the sun setting behind the trees at the park.
By putting yourself in everyday situations, you put yourself in a position to practice the skills needed to take a great photo...
Work on compositional techniques to make a more impactful photo. Pay attention to light and shadows, and work on using those qualities to give more interest to the shots you take.
The point is that all of that learning can take place in or near your home, and that means you get more time actually practicing your craft because you won't spend all day driving somewhere to get the perfect shot.
Putting your photos out there for feedback can be really scary, but it's a necessary process if you want to improve your photos.
And by getting feedback, I mean something more than posting photos to Instagram for your family and friends to fawn over.
Take the next step and show off your work in a photography forum for some constructive criticism.
Open yourself up to seeing your photos from the perspective of others - and to getting advice from people more experienced than yourself.
The first few times you post images and you don't get tons of glowing comments can be a little disheartening. However, if you take the criticism you get and work to address it, you'll be a better photographer for it!
Experiment a Lot
The beauty of digital photography is that you don't have to worry about spending tons of money on film after "wasted" exposures.
Instead, you can fire away all you want!
The great thing about experimenting a lot is that it will not just help you develop your creative eye, but it also encourages you to expand your boundaries and get you out of your comfort zone.
For example, when I first started, I was all about landscapes and had no interest in pursuing any other type of photography.
Then, one day, I decided to take a few portraits of my family, and voila, a new love was born.
Don't get stuck in a rut like I did. Take lots of pictures. Take lots of different types of pictures too. It will only serve to help you improve as a photographer.
Learn Some Post-Processing Tricks
The process of creating a photo doesn't end when you press the shutter button.
Though you should strive to get as much right about the photo when you take it, post-processing is there to help you elevate your photos even further.
Learning how to perform simple tasks like cropping or getting a horizon straight can themselves have a significant impact on how your photos look.
But taking it a step beyond that and learning how to adjust color, contrast, light, and so forth, can take your photos to another level entirely.
Learning how to post-process images is a process that takes time. But just like practice will help you take a better photo, practice will also help you make eye-catching edits to your photos in post-processing.
Get some insights on post-processing landscape photos in the video above by Joshua Cripps.
Wrapping It Up
When it's all said and done, these 14 tips will help you get on the pathway to success with your photography.
It's really all about committing yourself to getting better and putting in the time to practice.
If you can do those two things, and sprinkle in the other tips listed above, you might just be surprised at how quickly the quality of your photos and your satisfaction with your images increases.