Need a little help with your photographs? Here is my compiled list of top 10 photography tips for beginners.
With the rise of digital photography it has given us all the opportunity to flex our tools and become a buddying photographer. But that doesn’t necessarily always equal great images. So how do you make sure you take your best photos? Here below I have compiled my top 10 photography tips for beginners to help you make your potential good images into your best pictures.
Whether it be your fav DSLR or smartphone, photography is even more accessible and affordable to us all, no matter what age. Regardless of what type of camera you use, there are always a few key important photography tips to bear in mind while you’re shooting. I’ve included a some of the usual suspects – we all need reminding of how important these are – plus a couple of my own personal favourites. So lets get started..
1. Think before photographing:
One of the best photography tips I learned along the way is to stop and think before shooting. Now being a female photographer, I can usually multitask; be speaking to my client while thinking not to mention doing a head-stand, answering a call from a creative off-set and eating lunch all at the same time…
However for most beginners, I would strongly advise against this! I do advise that you take the time to stop and really think about your photograph before shooting. Before you take any photo ask yourself, ‘What am I trying to say here?’. When you ask yourself this question, it forces you to think about everything before you click. This ’time out’ gives you the focus for your images voice.
No matter what you photograph, the image has to be composed right. Make sure you have leading lines that guide you around the image. This can be done with either the light itself or with actual lines within the frame. Again, most of the time I do this intrinsically. Just by looking at the image I can feel the tension and just know if something is right or not. But if I am ever unsure, here’s what I do: turn away from my image, close my eyes, count to two, turn back, open my eyes and watch where I look first. Then I watch to see how my eye is guided around the image. If I see everything organically, I keep it. If I struggle with where to look, I move, reframe, refocus and photograph it again.
Now close your eyes and try one of my images as an tester. Comment below on what you see first and how you are guided around the image – below are my answers.
Every image needs to be photographed with the correct exposure. Now if you decide that you like to over-expose your images and that’s your style, then great. But make sure you don’t blow out the whites too much so you lose important details. And same with the blacks – make sure that any necessary details are not too underexposed so you lose precious information. For me, I’ve never stuck to the norm of a ‘grey card’ – the cards that help you to obtain correct exposures. I’ve just photographed what I like and disregarded what I don’t. But as a general rule of thumb, you can always push the blacks but you can never add details into an over-exposed white area. So allow for this and keep shooting!
I know this seems like an obvious one but how many times have you taken a shot that looks like it’s going to be one of your best images yet and when you look later, it gets put into the bin because it is out of focus? ‘Ok’ is not good enough and photo blur is a deal breaker. So how do you prevent or minimise this from happening? The first and foremost is to learn how to use your camera’s focusing settings. If you’re using a DSLR and you’re on autofocus you will have the option to depress the shutter release button half way down before shooting, to focus. Use this button. It is a godsend and it is your friend! There a loads of different options in the focus settings so take some time to read your manual – no matter how manual-phobic you are – and play around. After you have mastered the focus settings you will be able to move onto my next 3 points which also play a vital role….
There are three pillars in Photography; shutter, aperture and ISO. Understand these and you’re half way there. Let me try to shed some light on the situation for you….
Your choice of shutter is vital to making sure your subject is in focus. Say you’re a parent and you want to try your hand at some sports photography while Jackson is running over the finish line – first, of course! You need evidence of this for his 21st and you MUST get this image in focus. Photo blur will not be accepted in your embarrassing speech! So stop and think before you photograph. Think about what is needed to ensure a moving image is in focus…. A fast shutter speed!! And make sure you chose shutter speeds that are high enough to capture the moment but doesn’t make the image too dark…
6. Aperture and F Stop:
So back at Jackson’s race… Behind the finish line – where Jackson will be racing – you notice the crowd and the stadium! You think to yourself ‘how do I get all of this in focus as he is running over that finish line?’ This is where aperture and F Stop comes into play. This can be quite confusing so read carefully and allow me to simplify.
Inside the camera there is an opening at the back of the lens known as the aperture. The aperture determines how much light travels through the lens and to the image sensor. The size of this hole is measured in F Stops. The larger the hole – F Stop – the more light that travels inside the camera. The smaller the hole, the lesser the light that is able to travel through the camera to the image sensor. But just to confuse you… The numbers work inversely to each other. So an aperture of F2.8 – which has a large hole – is larger than F16… It’s the opposite to what we think. Got it?
Once you get the hang of this then you will understand that a large F Stop i.e. F2.8 will have a shallow depth of field. Equally a smaller F Stop i.e. F16 will have a deeper depth of field and you will get more in focus. ‘What is depth of field?’ I hear you ask? Depth of field is the area of your image that is in focus. So if I want to get the crowd, the stadium and Jackson all in focus in my image, I am going to need a lower F Stop – i.e. F16 – to create this great image. If I only wanted Jackson in the photo to be in focus – and the crowd and stadium out of focus – then I would chose a high F Stop i.e. F5.6. Make sense? Brilliant!
Back in the good old days of film I found it so much easier to understand and explain ISO but now with DSLR’s it can be quite intimidating. The philosophy is the same but let me use film as the example to help me explain.
ISO usually works in increments starting from 100, 200, 400 – it usually doubles each time – and goes up to 3200. *Please note DSLR’s offer a much higher ISO now too. If I was using film and didn’t know which one to buy I would ask myself the following questions:
1. What type of lighting will I be photographing in i.e. a lot of light or only a little light and
2. Do I want to do long exposures or not?
Once I knew the answers to these 2 questions I would then be able to make my decision. If I had a low light situation, I would chose a role of film with more light in it. This would be in the range of ISO 800 – ISO 3200. If I was shooting outdoors in the middle of the day I wouldn’t need that much light in my film so I would chose ISO 100 or ISO 200. If I wanted to shoot a long exposure I would also opt for the lower ISO range i.e. ISO 100 or ISO 200. The only factor I needed to bear in mind was that the higher the ISO i.e. ISO 800 and upwards – the more grainier the film would be – with DSLR’s this is referred to as noise.
So if we convert this into modern day language without being too technical, ISO is just another way to inject more light into a situation if you need more light, or remove more light, if you need to. The reason why you would need to do this is dependant upon the questions I asked above i.e. where are I am shooting, when am I shooting, how much light do I have vs how much do I need and so on. This takes a little practise to get use to as every situation is different.
With all of the above information the best photography tip I can give you is to experiment. And with most of us shooting on DSLR’s these days there is no excuse not to experiment since we no longer have the cost of developing film. So take as many images as you possibly can, take your camera off of auto and experiment as much as you possibly can. If you always shoot on one type of lens, change the lens. If you always shoot from the same level, change your angle. Shoot from above, from below. Move the camera while you’re shooting. It doesn’t matter what you do, just experiment. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t like your images. So guess what? You delete it and try something else.
9. Evoke emotion:
The next two tips are my personal favourites of my top 10 photography tips for beginners… And it is one that I cannot express loudly enough to you. Everything I have written above you can read and teach yourself. It’s technical and readily available on most sites. But this isn’t. If you look at all the best images in the world they all have one thing in common.. They all evoke emotion. And this is something you cannot teach anyone. It is about you and your journey as a photographer. Each one of us has something unique to say and interpret every situation differently. The way I see someone or something doesn’t necessarily mean you will see it the same way. But this is what makes us all different. It is also what sets our own good images apart from our best images. Make sure in every image you evoke an emotion so that when your viewer looks at your photograph, they feel the emotion too. If you connect with your viewer and they hear and feel what you want you’re saying, this is when you become a visual communicator. Image is powerful and evoking emotion is immensely overwhelming to accomplish but totally worth the challenge.
10. Keep going:
Some days as a professional photographer you hit a photographers block. It happens at times. You look at your work and think it is not good enough. Well never fear, we all have days like this, beginners and professionals. The best advice I can give you is to always keep going. Practise one of my top 10 photography tips I mentioned above like experiment to get you through your block. Break all the rules that I mentioned above and see what happens! Introduce a tripod or change your settings to the black and white photography setting. Whatever it is, just always keep going. You’ll be amazed once you push through to the other side…
As a beginner photographer there is so much to learn and it really can be overwhelming. But if you read through my top 10 photography tips for beginners it will help you on your way to understanding more about the world of photography. Please let me know if you have any questions. If you’re not sure, leave me a message below or email me, I will gladly help! In the meantime I will leave you with a beautiful testament to photography that I came across a little while ago by the extremely talented and well-known photographer Tim Walker. His words ring true to my ears and I hope it does for you too:
If you simply want to make a living – out of photography – that’s one thing, if you want to create a legend or testament to your talent … it’s an obsession. It’s something that has to fill your waking and sleeping hours… it’s an exhausting profession because every moment of the day that you’re using your eyes you’re looking for that picture . . .
Quote taken from an interview by Muse Magazine