If you are just starting out in photography or you just want to learn something new, check out these great photography tips for beginners. You’ll find tips for getting better photos whether you use a DSLR or your camera phone. The basic concepts are the same no matter what tool you use to capture images.
Learning about proper composition is the first key to improving your photography. If your composition is off, then your photo will just be another haphazard snapshot. Practice composing your shots in various ways and take several images from different positions and perspectives. Also, view photos from other photographers and note what emotions the photo evokes in you. Then study the composition to note how the subject is positioned in the frame, other objects and how are they arranged, etc. Taking the time to study other accomplished photographers’ work is a great way to improve your technique.
Many times when you are shooting a photo, you have to work with the conditions you have. You may have to decide whether to expose for the subject’s highlights or the shadow areas. Sometimes it’s just not possible to get a good exposure of both in-camera. But there is a way. By using photo editing software, you can shoot two photos and expose for the shadows in one and the highlights in another, then combine them in the software. The result is a photo with both properly exposed. I use this technique all the time in real estate photography. I shoot one photo which is exposed for a room, then shoot another photo exposed to show the scene outside the window. I then combine the two photos with software so both the room and the windows are properly exposed. This shot is nearly impossible to pull off using a single exposure.
Practice and experiment. Learn your camera controls and make it a goal to get out of automatic mode and learn about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. Manual mode is where you can really have fun with your photography. We have a whole article about the exposure triangle and depth of field here. Don’t stress about it. Learn one thing and a time and practice with it until you feel comfortable, then move on to the next thing. It takes practice and you may throw away a lot of images at first, but as you get better you’ll see a marked improvement in your skills.
This is one of those great photography tips for all you travelers. Don’t load yourself down with gear when you travel. Try to find a good wide-angle zoom lens that can be used for all purposes, and maybe add a good prime lens for other shots. Too much equipment can weigh you down and ruin your fun. I have an APS-C Canon camera that I attach a 28-250 zoom lens for travel. When I’m in a new place and I want to travel light, that is my go-to walking around kit. I’ll always carry a spare battery and memory card in a pocket, too, just in case.
When traveling, be sure and do some research prior to the trip. Make a list of the things you want to photograph and carry it with you. When you get to the place you want to photograph, try to come up with a different angle or composition than everyone else. Sometimes walking a few feet, or crouching down, can give you a whole other perspective.
Whether shooting landmarks, landscapes, or people be aware of the background and the foreground. Try to incorporate interesting elements into your photos. Keep distracting elements out if at all possible. When shooting photos of people, look around the frame. We’ve all seen photos of someone who has a tree or sign growing out of their head. Don’t be that photographer! Take a few moments to scan around the frame in your viewfinder before taking the shot.
More Photography Tips For Better Photos
Some people simply want to take a picture to have a memory of a time or place. I’m betting if you are taking the time to read this you want to improve your photography and go beyond the basic snapshot. These additional photography tips will help you improve your images. The goal is to give you some helpful advice that will allow you to take photos you can be proud to print and display in your home or office. So let’s get into the tips for better photos.
Use the rule of thirds– this photography tip will help your photos become more interesting from a compositional viewpoint. Imagine your viewfinder is divided into thirds both horizontally and vertically. Imagine a tic-tac-toe board on your viewfinder if that makes it easier. Place your main subject at one of the 4 points where the lines intersect instead of always directly in the center of the frame. This will immediately add more interest to your photo.
Frame your photo– No, I’m not talking about putting your photo in a picture frame. We’re still talking about composition. This is another example of taking a photo with your subject off-center. Use objects in the foreground such as a tree or an overhanging branch to give depth to the photo. You can also use natural framings such as shooting through a doorway or window. Also, you want to eliminate objects in the frame that take away from and distract from your subject. A busy background will take the viewer’s eye all over the place. Either move to get a better background, move your subject, or get close and use a shallow depth of field to blur the background. For tips on getting a blurry background read my post on Understanding Depth of Field. On the other hand, when shooting landscapes you want to use a narrow aperture so you get good focus all the way through the photo. Use an object such as a rock, grass, or tree limb in your frame to add depth.
Understand Lighting– In its most basic form, a photograph is capturing light. You need to understand light and how it affects your photo and the quality of light. For instance, the bright sun in the middle of the day is directly overhead. If you shoot a photo of a person in the midday sun there will be harsh shadows under the eyes and nose. Not flattering to your subject at all. Find some shade to place your subject in and your photo will be much more flattering. If you have an overcast day that is even better. The clouds diffuse and soften the light. The best times of day to photograph subjects outdoors are the first hour of light around sunrise and the last hour before dark. The hour around sunset is called the “golden hour” and the hour after dawn is called the “blue hour” due to the quality of the light. Try shooting at these times and see if the lighting in your photography doesn’t improve.
Understand Flash– Knowing when to use flash is a part of understanding lighting. Flash can help you light your subject in dim conditions such as indoors, and can also help fill in shadows if you have to shoot outdoors during the day. Flash can help you get proper exposure between your subject and the background if you have your subject standing in the shade. I know it sounds counter-intuitive to use a flash during the day, but if you try it you’ll be amazed at the difference. Also, understand your flash range in dim settings. You may have to get the flash close to light the scene properly. That’s why using a DSLR with an off-camera flash can really make a difference.
Use the Histogram– On a DSLR you have what is known as a histogram. You can look in the camera manual for your model to see how to turn it on. The histogram shows light values from white on the right all the way to black on the left. If your values bump up to the right of the histogram your photo is overexposed. If your values are bumping up on the left the photo is underexposed. That is a very simplistic explanation, but the histogram can be a lifesaver to let you know if your scene is properly exposed before you take the photo.
Understand White Balance– Understanding and using the white balance on your camera can save your photos or save you a ton of work in post. Setting the white balance will save you from having a bunch of photos with a yellow tint if shooting indoors under incandescent lights, or a green tint if shooting under fluorescent lighting. If you use auto white balance your camera may get it wrong, since it looks for something that it thinks is 50% grey in the shot, and adjusts accordingly. Many photographers use a grey card and adjust the white balance using that.
Understand Shutter Speed– Shutter speed is part of the exposure triangle of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO settings. Setting your camera to shutter priority and experimenting with shutter speed can allow you to get some interesting creative effects. For instance, by slowing your shutter speed and shooting a moving car while tracking it with your camera, you can get an image of the car in focus while the background is blurred, indicating movement and speed. Long shutter speeds are necessary for shooting in low light. Experiment with this and see what you can get.
Know Your Camera– I know reading the manual for your camera is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but you need to understand all the controls on your camera. Then you need to practice with your camera so you can change the settings quickly to get the shot you want. Nothing is more disappointing than missing a shot because you were fumbling with your camera. Learn all the controls and what they do so this doesn’t happen.
Use a Tripod– Another one of those many times overlooked photography tips to help you shoot creatively is to get a good quality tripod. Tripods can help you get tack sharp images when you are shooting with a slow shutter speed, especially at night or when shooting landscapes. I regularly use a tripod to shoot multiple 20-second exposure shots of the night sky during meteor showers. A quality, stable tripod is indispensable for getting those shots.
Try using these photography tips for better photos. If you use some of these tips I think you will find they will improve your photos and help you capture those “wow” photos your friends and family will love.
If you want to learn more and take your photography journey to the next level you might like the Photography Master Class. This video course will definitely help you on your journey to be a better photographer.