When you first start out in photography it can feel daunting. There is so much to learn, not mention the time it takes to put into practice what you learn. The good news is that most people go through the same thing when they start out and with patience and practice it will soon become second nature to you. But to get you started, here are 5 beginner tips to help you become a better photographer.
Learn the basics
Believe it or not, usually the best thing you can do at the start is to read your camera manual. Yes, those big bulky manuals can actually be useful when learning photography. Not only will you learn some of the basics of photography, but it will also help you understand and learn how to use your camera.
But you shouldn’t stop there. Try to go further and get a basic understanding of the theory behind photography. For example, what is the actual process that happens when you press to take a photo. Or the different kinds of light and how that impacts your photos. You should also aim to learn what the different terms are in photography. Things like “shutter speed”, “depth of field” and “white balance” are integral to photography.
The more you can learn about the theory side of photography the better you will become at actually taking photos.
Learn about your equipment
Besides learning the theory part of photography, you also need to learn how to use your equipment and also how to look after them. It would be pointless owning the latest camera equipment if you can’t use it to it’s full capabilities. Or seeing a fleeting moment unfold before you but missing it because it takes you too long to get your settings right. Remember that it isn’t just the camera you need to learn how to use. You also should make time to learn how to use accessories such as filters, a flash and even a tripod. These will all be absolutely essential at some time in your photography journey.
Whether you are a fan of post-processing or are a purist and prefer to capture images perfectly when you are taking a photo, the reality is that every photo will benefit from some level of post-production. For some images it might just be tweaking a crop or straightening the horizon. Whilst for others it means retouching and color corrections.
Ultimately though, you will need to learn how to use a post-processing software. The most common software to use are Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop and they offer everything from basic controls like brightness and contrast to extensive retouching and correction facilities.
Don’t be daunted by using these bits of software as they are actually very easy to learn and master. The good news is that in this day and age there are a ton of materials, tutorials and videos that can cover everything you need to know. You just need to set yourself time to learn and practice.
Make a shot list
A shot list is something that most photographers who are working on a brief are either given by the client or create for themselves. It’s a list of specific shots needed that they can then cross off as they work through the list. For travel photographer, this might be a list of sights at a destination or specific foods that need to be photographed. A wedding photographer might be given a list of people or situations to photograph and so on.
Creating a shot list for yourself is a really great way of keeping yourself focused on photographing specific things. For any beginner this is a really good way of practicing what you may not be great at but also break down the learning process into small manageable chunks. For example if you have just been learning about capturing movement of water with a slow shutter speed, set yourself a shot list of different places local to you that you capture photos to show this.
Set yourself photography times
One of most difficult things for people new to photography is making the time in their normal daily life to take photos. Unfortunately, photography is one of those hobbies or professions that you can only improve in by practicing. The more you practice, the better you become at seeing and taking photos. Obviously for most people practicing photography will usually come second to other more pressing matters.
So, instead of just haphazardly popping out here and there with a camera for a couple of hours, set yourself regular periods dedicated to photography. Then whatever the weather or your mood, aim to go and practice whatever it is that you need to. Keeping that consistent practice going is the only way you will improve.
Take lots of photos
These days digital cameras mean that you literally can take as many photos as you like (as long as you have enough memory cards). So, don’t be afraid to take lots of photos, but also to really push yourself beyond your comfort level. Experiment with different settings, crops, different light and even different genres. The more photos you capture the better and quicker you will become in the long term. You will notice that as you become a better photographer, you will begin to be more and more selective about the photos you actually take. So, whereas at the start you might take 100 photos and have 1 or 2 that you love, a few years down the line and you will love 40 or 50. The key is practice.
Evaluate your failures
You will often learn more from your failed photos than from your successes. It’s important that you accept that you will make mistakes when starting out in almost every aspect. That’s just part of learning a new discipline. But instead of just ignoring the mistake, try to evaluate why and where it went wrong? If it’s an obvious mistake like for example a blurred photo, try to work out what settings you should have used instead. Every time you learn from one of your mistakes, you’ll be unlikely to repeat it again.
Set yourself a goal
Even if your intention is for photography to be a hobby, it is still worth setting yourself some photography goals for the future. It could be as simple as you want to have a great website to showcase your work. Or it could be that you want to enter and win a photography competition. Or it could just simply be a list of places or things you want to photograph brilliantly. Whatever your goals are, they are important as they can keep you motivated and the more motivated you are the better your work will be.
Photography is a wonderful hobby or profession to be involved in. But like learning anything new, it requires time, effort and dedication. Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to becoming a better photographer.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.