There are lots of new things to learn as a beginning photographer. It can all seem quite daunting when you’re just starting out. But mastering the fundamentals will make all difference in your photos. Here are 15 photography tips that every photographer needs to know.
1.) How to get sharp images.
Camera shake is probably the biggest problem new photographers will suffer, but it can also affect well seasoned pros on occasion. There are a number of ways around it, the first is to ensure your shutter speed is high enough. As a general rule your shutter speed should be equal to or greater than your focal length. If you’re using a 50mm lens, then your shutter speed needs to be 1/50th or greater.
However, even following this rule, some people STILL get camera shake. This is usually because they ‘jerk’ the camera away as soon as they’ve taken the picture. Hold your camera using your right hand (* or your left if you’re left handed!) and cup the lens in your left. Bring your elbows in nice and tight to your body. Just as you’re about to take the picture, tense your arms and hold the camera in tight. Take your picture, but DON’T MOVE until the shutter has come up again. If you follow these rules you’ll soon have your images pretty sharp every single time.
2.) Use a tripod.
Once upon a time (No, not in Victorian times, I mean the 90’s!!!) it was almost inconceivable for a professional photographer to take a picture without a tripod. This is really, really hard work, especially as the cameras and the tripods were extremely heavy. (It was also common to stand on a small step ladder to get a bit of extra height, but that’s a story for another day.)
However, using a tripod really will help your images to be completely pin sharp, in a way that hand holding really can’t. If you are going for a tripod, get a really good quality manufacturer like Manfrotto.
If you enjoy landscape photography you would do well to NEVER take a picture without a tripod.
3.) Slow down.
This is probably the best piece of advice that anyone can give you, if you want to improve your photography. Too often photographers will say ‘It can be corrected in Photoshop’ or will just take a picture and then move on.
Take a breather. Slow down. Take your time to frame the shot you want to take. Pay attention to what’s in the background and what’s in the foreground. Can what you’re photographing be improved at all? Can you move or remove something in the frame that will improve the picture? What are the clouds doing? If I wait five minutes, will the light be better? Will those people in the background move out of the way if I give it a minute?
Only once everything in your picture is right and the very best it can be should you take the photograph. This way you will learn to be the very best photographer you can.
4.) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
This may seem a bit obvious, but when you’re starting out in any hobby you are going to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid of it! Go out and make as many mistakes as you can and then learn from them. If you speak to the majority of professional photographers in the world, you’ll find most of them will have no formal background in photography. Almost all of them will be self taught and will have done that with the age old method of going out and giving it a go!
5.) Take lots and lots of pictures. (Then take some more!)
You need to get out and take pictures at every opportunity you have, to make yourself a better photographer. Looking at pictures and reading blogs like this will give you the inspiration to get up and have a go, but you need to make photography a part of your life.
Join a photography group, take your camera every time you take the dog for a walk, take your camera everytime you go on holiday. The more pictures you take, the more you’ll learn.
6.) Focus on the eyes.
They say that eyes are the window of the soul. We’re not too sure about that, but it is the very first thing you’ll look at when meeting someone or talking to them. We are naturally drawn to people eyes. It is a focal point that we connect with.
The same is true when you look at a picture or photograph. If your focus is set on the eyes then your image will look ‘right’. If you’ve missed focus on the eyes, then most people will notice there is something wrong with the photo, even if they can’t point out straight away what it is.
7.) Pan to Create Motion.
Now that we’ve discussed keeping your image sharp and in focus, let’s talk about blurring it!
If you use a fast shutter speed to capture a moving object, it will appear static… frozen.
However, sometimes we want that image to LOOK as if it’s moving. For this we can use a panning technique.
You’ll need to set a shutter speed of around 1/125th of a second or slower.
As your subject moves, keep it in your viewfinder… when you’re ready slowly press the shutter button, but keep moving that camera!
This is not an easy thing to learn and a monopod will help you tremendously, while learning to get your panning action just right. Once you’ve mastered it though, you can capture some amazing images! Don’t just stick to sports cars though, you can get some amazing images of wildlife, planes and anything else that moves…
8.) A better camera won’t make you a better photographer.
It used to be said that a camera is ‘just a box with a hole in it!’ and to an extent this is still true today.
While anyone involved in photography will be eyeing up a new Leica or the latest professional Nikon or Canon (we all do) unfortunately buying said gear won’t really improve your photographs.
The most important thing you can invest in is yourself. Learn the techniques needed to become best photographer you can be. The person behind the camera is far more important than the camera itself.
Once you’ve done that, invest in quality lenses BEFORE you buy that new swanky camera, even if it does look really, really cool!
9.) Keep ISO low to produce the highest quality images with maximum sharpness.
A lot of modern cameras these days boast crazy ISO’s in-to the many thousands. While it can be great to be able to take a handheld picture under just about any light, there is one major drawback to super sensitive ISO settings: NOISE.
Quite simply the higher the ISO setting, the more noise you’ll have to contend with. While it’s true that there are some amazing noise reduction settings inside Photoshop, Lightroom and similar, it’s still far better to keep your ISO (and the noise) to a minimum.
Try and keep to ISO 400 and below wherever possible. If you want to do some studio work, keep your ISO at the lowest setting you can.
10.) How to “freeze” your subject in motion.
So we spoke earlier about the way things can look a little odd if we freeze them in motion, especially if what you’re photographing, is supposed to be moving.
However, sometimes we WANT something to be stopped in motion. Sometimes because it’s so very fast we can’t see it with the naked eye, sometimes to create a factual image and of course sometimes to make an artistic image. Do you remember that whole ‘doing a Vader’ craze where everyone seemed to be floating in the air?
It is quite simply achieved by ensuring you have a shutter speed much faster than the subject you’re trying to capture, generally 1/1000th and above.
You’ll need to experiment a little with the shutter speed and your settings, but once you’ve got them right, you’ll find everything can be stopped in motion!
The hardest part can sometimes be setting your subject in motion and then pressing the shutter button quickly enough. Some shutters have a slight time lag, so you may need to press the shutter first…
If you’re feeling creative try photographing something you can’t normally see with your naked eye, such as a drop of water. Seeing things as a photograph that we ordinarily see with our eyes always makes for fascinating images.
11.) Get in close.
Famous photojournalist Robert Capa once said, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”
By getting in closer, you’ll often find that the photo starts to reveal more emotion. Your photos start to pop. The subjects quite literally come to life.
Take this photo as an example. Imagine if the photographer stepped back and instead captured the entire profile from head to toe. You would lose much of the emotion that makes this photo so special.
Beginning photographers tend to leave too much space around their subject. Decide what your photo is really about and then fill the frame with what’s most important.
Using a zoom lens can also be quite beneficial to zoom in on a subject without invading their space. This allows you to capture more candid photos without having to get up close to the subject.
12.) Learn to look for photo opportunities.
Do you ever find yourself looking at a beautiful sunset and thinking ‘Gosh, that’s a beautiful sunset?’
Well, from now on you need to think… ‘Gosh, that’s a beautiful sunset, where’s my camera?’
While there are many photographers who visit the same site over and over again and will work hard to get that perfect shot, for the vast majority it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
Train yourself to look for amazing photo opportunities. A sports event, a car meet, a school play can all be places where you can get some amazing images and learn more about being a photographer.
What you need to do is stop looking at them as things to do and places to be, but ‘photo opportunities’
13.) Change your perspective.
When you first start using your camera, you’ll probably take most of your photos at eye level. It’s a bad habit that’s easy to fall into for both beginners and pros alike.
But by changing your perspective, you open up entirely new photo opportunities.
For example, getting down low to the ground can completely change the look and feel of a photo. You’re bringing an entirely new perspective to your viewer and it allows them to see the world in new and interesting ways.
Photograph a flower from the side, above, and underneath. Capture your subjects from a wide variety of angles to see what kind of impact it has on your photos.
This is my favorite part of photography. Just experimenting. Not every photo is going to be a winner. But you’ll be surprised how many gems you find simply by changing up your perspective.
14.) Use shallow depth of field.
When you talk to those people who know nothing about photography, you’ll often find them most impressed by the effect of having the main subject in focus, with the background all blurred out. What we call shallow depth of field.
You can achieve this effect by choosing the maximum aperture (The smallest number the lens will go to) and if you’re using a zoom lens, then the longest zoom setting.
On a 50mm lens with an f1.8 aperture we’d use the f1.8 setting. This means you’ll have a shallow depth of field. (This is what is in sharp front to back. )
This technique works best, if your subject is a good distance away from the background.
Using a shallow depth of field is probably the easiest and most fun thing to learn with a camera… You’re shooting wide open so you generally have a fast shutter speed and the great thing is you can easily see in the viewfinder what effect you’re going to get!
One of the first pieces of extra equipment most photographers will recommend after you’ve purchased your main camera is a ‘nifty fifty’ 50mm f1.8. This is a perfect lens to get to grips with depth of field and well worth investing in.
15.) Be Present.
Photography is really all about being present in the moment. Telling a story.
Capturing new and interesting ways of looking at the world.
We live in such a fast-paced world that I find photography brings me back into the moment. Reminds me to enjoy the world around me. And hopefully, to “save” a few of my favorite moments by snapping a photo 🙂
Perhaps the last little piece of advice and maybe the most important one; You’ve all heard ‘Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.’ The same goes for photography.
If you’re going out and doing what you love, your life’s passion and you just happen to be taking your camera and photographing it too, then photography will never, ever get boring for you.
Who knows you may even find that you pick up some work or start selling your pictures too…
So, we’ve discussed some great little hints and tips about photography, you’ve got some new ideas to try out and some things to practice… GET OUT AND TAKE PICTURES.