Let’s face it, everyone would like to take better photos. But as a beginner, photography can seem a bit daunting. There are loads of technical terms and a vast choice of equipment — and that’s before you’ve even pressed the button and had to wonder about things like lighting and composition!
To help you get through the maze, I’ve put together these beginning photography tips. These will help give you some ideas for where to focus your attention and why.
Photos via findingtheuniverse.com
1. Learn the basics of how a camera works
A camera is a tool for capturing light, that is, as you might imagine, a bit complicated. Understanding the essence of how it does that is key to taking better pictures. I’m not saying that you need to take a degree in physics or anything like that. What I mean is that you need to learn about the variables that you can control, which will let you control how your images turn out.
Taking a photograph is all about controlling how much light the camera allows in. Photographers call this the exposure. There are three factors that work together to control the exposure:
- You can control the shutter speed, which is how long the camera lets light in.
- You can control the size of the aperture, which is the size of the hole that lets light in.
- You can control the ISO rating, which is the camera’s sensitivity to the lighting
Each setting affects the end photograph differently, from controlling motion to depth of field, so learning how and why they work together is vital to getting great photos.
2. Learn how your camera works
It doesn’t matter what camera you use, from your phone to a beast of an SLR, but it’s really important to know how to operate it.
The worst thing that can happen is missing that once-in-a-lifetime shot because you had the camera in the wrong mode, or couldn’t remember how to adjust that setting you saw once in a menu or can’t find the right button because it’s dark.
The easiest way to learn about your camera is to read the manual. It’s not likely to be thrilling, but it will make everything a lot easier going forward.
3. Learn the basics of composition
Knowing how a camera works is half of the photography puzzle. Learning how to make great pictures — the art of composition — is the other half. Master these two, and you’re well on the way to being a photographer!
The human brain loves patterns, and if you can learn these patterns, then you can learn how to take pictures that people are going to like — often without knowing why. This includes learning things like the rule of thirds, how colors work together and how to use lines to draw people into your images.
There are lots of guides to composition, and I’ll be sharing my tips to help you improve your photos.
4. Learn how to edit your photos
You know how I said that composition and learning how your camera works are the two halves of the photography puzzle? Well, there’s a bonus section to the puzzle — editing your photos, or what photographers refer to as post-processing.
There’s quite a misconception that post-processing is somehow cheating. The reality is that it’s an essential part of making great photos. From simple fixes like cropping and straightening an image, to more advanced techniques like removing spots and tweaking contrast and brightness, post-processing will let you get the most from your images.
A simple free tool like Google’s Picasa is a great starting point, but for real control, you should learn how to use Adobe Lightroom, the industry standard for professional photographers.
5. Learn how to curate your own work
This is the last thing you need to teach yourself as a beginner — the art of self curation.
We’ve all been there, painfully sitting through someone’s endless family album, or sharing 300 photos from a two-week trip that no one seems interested in. Being self-critical and, frankly, brutal to yourself, is essential if you want people to really look at and enjoy your photos. Limit yourself to only posting 10 photos instead of 300. Everyone would love to look at 10 amazing photos from your trip. No one is going to sift through 300 to find 10 that they like!
Focusing your attention on these five areas will really help you to improve your photography as a beginner.
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