Photography Tips for Beginners

Photos are one of the best ways we capture memories, tell stories, and share life’s joy. Whether you’re a new mom looking for ways to capture the best photos possible of your baby growing up, looking for creative Instagram photo ideas, or you’re planning a trip to a picturesque location with plenty of photo opportunities.

There are many different reasons to pick up photography. But if you’re new to DSLRs or not quite used to your smartphone camera, your camera may feel a little intimidating. If so, we have you covered with our guide on photography for beginners. We’ll help you figure out the camera and photography basics, along with providing some of our favourite photography tips for beginners.

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Learn to hold your camera properly

Many new photographers don’t hold their camera correctly, which causes camera shake and blurry images. Tripods are, of course, the best way to prevent camera shake. Still, since you won’t be using a tripod unless you’re shooting in low light situations, it’s important to hold your camera properly to avoid unnecessary movement.

While you’ll eventually develop your own way of holding the camera, you should always hold it with both hands. Grip the right side of the camera with your right hand and place your left hand beneath the lens to support the weight of the camera.

The closer you keep the camera to your body, the stiller you’ll be able to hold it. If you need extra stability, you can lean up against a wall or crouch down on your knees, but if there’s nothing to lean on, adopting a wider stance can also help.

Learn the Basic Compositional Techniques Such as Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, Rule of Triangles, and Symmetry

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. And if the photo doesn’t look good on your first try, keep experimenting until you get it right.

Learning the basic compositional techniques should be one of the first things you try to master. By learning some of these techniques, you’ll be able to compose your image in a more interesting way.

Additionally, by understanding the techniques, you’ll understand when and why you should break them.

Photography Tips for Beginners

Here is a brief overview of some of the most useful compositional techniques:

  • Rule of Thirds: in short, this rule breaks your image up into vertical and horizontal thirds. According to the rule, placing your main subjects along with one of the imaginary lines or intersections will create a more balanced and interesting image.
  • Leading Lines: by using obvious or not so obvious lines in the image, you can lead your viewer’s eyes through your image, making it more pleasing. 
  • Symmetry: One of the best ways to use symmetry is to capture reflections in a body of water or even a small puddle. Symmetry will create balance in the image making it more pleasing to the eye.
  • Rule of Triangles: implied triangles in an image can create a sense of the relationship between the three points of the triangle giving the image more unity. Although it can seem a bit daunting at first, the exposure triangle simply refers to the three most important exposure elements: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. When you’re shooting in manual mode, you’ll need to be able to balance all three of these things in order to get sharp, well-lit photos.
    • ISO controls the camera’s sensitivity to light. A low ISO setting means the camera will be less sensitive to light, while a higher ISO means it will be more sensitive to light. However, the quality of the image will decrease as the ISO increases, and you may see ‘noise’ on the image with a higher ISO. An ISO setting of 100 to 200 is usually ideal when shooting outdoors during the day. Still, when shooting in low light situations, such as indoors or at night, a higher ISO 400 to 800 or higher might be necessary.
    • Aperture is the opening in your lens and controls how much light gets through to the camera’s sensor as well as the depth of field. Depth of field refers to the area surrounding the focal point of the image, which remains sharp. A wider aperture (indicated by a lower f-number) lets more light through but has a narrow depth of field. A narrow aperture (indicated by a higher f-number) lets less light through but has a wider depth of field. A wide aperture is great when you want to isolate your subject, but when you want the whole scene to be in focus, such as with group shots, you’ll need to use a narrow aperture.
    • Shutter speed controls how long the shutter stays open when you take a picture. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light gets through to the camera’s sensor. A fast shutter speed is good for freezing action, while a longer shutter speed will blur motion. Long shutter speeds can give interesting effects but usually require a tripod.

Use Some Sort of Foreground Element to Create a Sense of Depth

One of the best ways to make your image more interesting is to add a foreground element to create a sense of depth. The easiest way to do this is to get super close to the foreground element until the element starts to blur. In a sense, what you’re trying to do is frame the subject with the foreground element.

Some of my favourite things to use as a foreground element include flowers, leaves, grass, and the ground (if it has more of a unique texture). Funny enough, I even know some photographers who carry around a pot of flowers to make sure they have a foreground element wherever they go. At Wild Romantic Photography, we have the best Melbourne wedding photographer to take memorable photos on your wedding day.

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, our articles on aperture, shutter speed, and ISO will give you a good head start. Those are the three most important settings in all of the 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. (If you aren’t sure, shoot RAW+JPEG, and keep the RAWs for later just in case.) See RAW vs JPEG for more.

Start shooting in RAW

RAW is a file format like jpeg, but unlike jpeg, it captures all the image data recorded by your camera’s sensor rather than compressing it. When you shoot in RAW, you’ll not only get higher quality images, but you’ll also have far more control in post-processing. For instance, you’ll be able to correct problems such as over or underexposure and adjust things like colour temperature, white balance and contrast.

One downside to shooting in RAW is that the files take up more space. Additionally, RAW photos always need some post-processing, so you’ll need to invest in photo editing software.

Ultimately, however, shooting in RAW can transform the quality of your images, so if you have the time and space, it’s definitely worth it. If you’re not sure how to switch from jpeg to RAW, check your camera’s manual for detailed instructions.

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Invest in a good photo editing software

Once you start shooting in RAW, post-processing will become a must rather than an afterthought, so you’ll need to invest in some photo editing software that will allow you to perform basic editing tasks such as cropping, adjusting exposure, white balance and contrast, removing blemishes and more.

Most professional photographers use programs like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, but if you want something a little less pricey to start with, you can try Photoshop Elements, Picasa or Paint Shop Pro.

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 the 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 a photo’s brightness (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 faster shutter speed. That will take care of the issue. As for aperture, make sure it isn’t set to a crazy value (f/32, f/45, etc.), and you’ll be good.

Pay Attention to the Light

Photography Tips for Beginners

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. Wild Romantic Photography has the best range of services of wedding photography Yarra Valley. Check them out here. 

Learn to Use Different Focal Lengths

Different focal lengths will give you different results, even from the same location. Here are just a few different ways that you can use different focal lengths to create images:  

  • Wide Angle Focal Length (think 24mm and below): By using a wide-angle lens and placing it low to the ground or super close to a foreground element, you’ll be able to create more depth of field with different layers in the image. You can do the same with other focal lengths, but I like to use wide-angle lenses when I’m shooting landscape images from a lower perspective
  • Mid-Range Focal Length (think 50 mm): Using these focal lengths with a wider aperture, you can throw out the background more and separate your subject from the background making the subject pop.
  • Zoom Focal Length (think 70+mm): These focal lengths can compress the background or selectively compose specific subjects in the composition.

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.

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. If you offered me the choice between an entry-level DSLR and a tripod versus the best camera/lens combo on the market without one, I’d pick the tripod kit every time. 

Know When to Use a Flash

Flashes aren’t just meant for dark environments.

Don’t get me wrong – 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 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.

It’s silly, but I like to tell people that their camera’s built-in flash is more useful on a bright, sunny day than in the dark. That advice holds just as true here.

Learn Basic Post-Processing

Post-processing isn’t very high on the typical photographer’s priority list, but it probably should be. Sometimes, with the right post-processing, a good photo can turn into something truly exceptional.

It’s easy to overdo it when you’re post-processing, so the most important thing is to make sure none of your edits is permanent (AKA “destructive editing”). Either use the Save As command to preserve your original files or, better yet, edit in software that stores your edits in a separate file rather than baking them into the image.

Post-processing is about imparting a mood and guiding your viewer’s eye in an image. You’ll get better and better at this over time. My top recommendation? Be subtle. You don’t want your photos to look over-processed. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here. 

Backup Your Photos

Almost every photographer I know has lost some important photos at least once in their life. Don’t let this happen to you.

For starters, keep a backup of every single one of your photos. Your photos should never be stored on just a single hard drive at a time because eventually, your hard drive will break. It’s not a question of if, but when.

Ideally, you would have at least three copies of all your photos at a given time. This should include at least two different media types, such as an internal hard drive and a removable storage medium. And at least one of the backups should be stored off-site. This is known as the 3-2-1 rule. It’s the best way to avoid losing any of your photos.

Personally, my photos are my most important possessions, and I don’t want to lose them no matter what. My hard drive is backed up online in real-time, and I have several external hard drives with complete backups as well. It’s overkill, but that’s the point.

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Have Fun

Photography is supposed to be fun. Even professional photographers chose this career, almost without exception, because they enjoy photography. Don’t let that spark die out.

Some of this is down to trying something new, as mentioned earlier, and learning new skills. But it’s also about not taking photography too seriously or getting caught up in camera equipment at the expense of photography itself.

Many people online get into heated debates about their choice of camera brand or a good/bad/opinionated review they see from someone else on the internet. Who cares? All of this contributes to exactly what you’re trying to avoid – making photography just another annoyance in your life, not a source of happiness or joy.

Instead, think about why you like taking pictures. It’s meaningful; it’s a way to see amazing sights and meet brilliant, creative people. No surprise, the best photographers are always the ones who have the most fun with it.