I’ve come to a realisation recently.
Reading through some of our content on Click and Learn Photography I realised that if I was a beginner photographer a lot of these articles would go over my head.
I remember being overwhelmed with information back when I was a beginner just taking my first steps into the photography world. Things started off simply enough only to quickly give way to terminology I didn’t understand.
I remember how frustrating that can be and I can only apologise.
To make amends I’ve decided to cut away all the complexities of photography and just focus on a few quickfire tips that apply to all genres of photography. A perfect (or maybe not, let me know!) list of photography tips for beginners just dipping their toes into the imagery world.
Eventually you will want to delve into some more niche tutorials, and that’s where our photography tips section can help you out. But for now, let’s keep it simple:
1. Know your camera
One thing that frustrated me more than anything at the start of my photography journey was not knowing how to work my camera properly.
I’d see that perfect shot but find myself unable to replicate what I was seeing on the camera. Why can’t I get that silky smooth water? Why is that person blurry? And why the hell is everything so bright!?
The answer was simple. I hadn’t done my research.
So pick up your camera manual, read it and then throw yourself right in at the deep end by switching your camera to full manual.
It’ll be tough at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. Eventually you’ll be changing camera settings without looking or even thinking about it, and that’s when you can truly start to focus on the photography itself.
Recommended reading: The Exposure Triangle explained
2. Find your subject
You know the main difference between somebody’s iPhone holiday snap and a really good landscape image? A subject
Generally speaking, a holiday snap is a very two-dimensional image. The traveller thinks to themselves “Ooh, that’s a nice view. I should take a picture.” Then they do just that. That’s fine, but it’s different from ‘serious’ photography.
Photography needs a subject. It needs something to draw the eye and build the rest of the image around, no matter what genre of photography you’re shooting.
This can be something obvious, like an interesting tree for a landscape or a person in extravagant clothing for street photography, or it can be something more subtle.
The best way I’ve found to find those subtle points of interest is to just walk around, not particularly looking for anything, until something catches my eye. At that point I’ll stop and try to figure out what caught my attention before trying to build a cohesive image around it.
Recommended reading: Beginners guide to photography composition
3. Think about every shot
Memory cards may be cheap and they may hold thousands of images, but let me tell you, it soon gets old trawling through the 500 shots you took on a walk to find that one decent one.
So, before you run off all happy-go-lucky with the camera shutter, think about your poor computer having to delete all those photos.
Instead, try to think about every shot before you take it. Slow down, possibly using a tripod, and decide whether that photo is really worth taking.
Your photography will be better for it, and you’ll thank me when you’re not having to hunt through terabytes worth of photos to find that one good shot you remember taking.
Recommended reading: How using a tripod can improve your photography
4. Lighting is key
Whether you’re shooting sweeping landscapes, gritty street scenes or intimate portraits, light can make or break an image.
Light can reveal detail or, by its absence, enhance that feeling of mystique. It provides contrast, colour and everything in between and is just generally the most important aspect of any image. Why? Because without light there is no photograph.
Photography lighting can be an incredibly complex topic but, whether you’re using natural or artificial light, the idea is to utilise that light in a way that makes the image look better.
That can be done by waiting until the sun is in the right place or by moving a studio light a couple of feet to the right.
There really is no end to what can be achieved with a good lighting setup, but the first step is just to make sure you’re thinking about it, how it’s impacting your shot and if there’s anything that could improve it.
Recommended reading: Types of natural light and how to use them
5. Shoot what makes you happy
If you’re getting into photography for money, fame or glory, prepare yourself for disappointment.
You might think wedding photography is a great way to get into the business of photography, but there’s a reason they charge so much.
It’s tough, high-pressured work and the actual shooting of the wedding is only a fraction of the total workload. Editing, client meetings and all manner of other things take up a lot of their time.
That’s beside the point though. The only way you’ll ever be a successful photographer is if you enjoy what you’re shooting.
I’ve shot a few weddings myself and, while it is the most obvious route into business, I simply didn’t enjoy it. So I packed it in and focused on shooting what I actually want.
Now it’s all landscapes, dogs, horses and cityscapes. That’s what I like to shoot, and I’m completely fine with the rather limited earning potential in those areas.
Photography is meant to be fun, so shoot what you like shooting and apologise to nobody!
Recommended reading: F-stop chart infographic
6. Break the ‘rules’
Assuming this isn’t the very first article on photography tips for beginners you’ve read, you’ve probably already come across a number of different ‘rules’ that are recommended.
Only shoot landscapes in the golden hours
Always follow the rule of thirds
Keep your camera still
Don’t under/over expose
That sort of stuff.
While a lot of it is very helpful, I’m here to tell you to throw caution to the wind and do whatever the hell you like!
There are plenty of situations where straying away from these ‘rules’ will result in much more interesting images, so go wild and see where it takes you!
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Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.