Top 20 Best Photography Tips for Beginners

In Beginner Tips by Stefano Caioni6 Comments
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By following these photography tips for beginners, you’ll see immediate improvements in your images!

Whether you want to master your craft or you just snap with your phone and share your images on social media, these are the most useful tips and tricks you can use to improve your photos!

I’ve put together a list of the best tips and techniques that helped me take my photos to the next level when I started. You can apply these beginner’s photography tips to any photography style, and you can immediately impress your friends and family! 

Photography Tips for Beginners

Remember. It’s only by mastering the most important aspects of photography, composition, and lighting that you can dramatically improve the quality of your pictures. Get ready to take your photography to the next level.

I divided the list into two sections.

  • First, you’ll find quick tips for beginners.
  • Then we dive into some more advanced techniques that require a bit more time to be applied.

Take your time to learn. Start by taking a lot of photos and apply the tips you find less challenging. Then experiment with some of the most difficult ones and keep track of your progress.

You’ll be surprised by how fast you’ll improve your skills.

Don’t forget to ask me questions in the comment’s section below if you need!

Photography for Beginners: Quick Tips

First of all, let’s start with some quick and easy tips that will take you no time to apply to your daily photography routine.

Hold Your Camera Correctly

Holding your camera correctly is fundamental to have more control and avoid camera shake. You need to gather your elbows close to your body for a stable hold. See the image.

Plan Your Shots

Do some research. Get inspired and make a list of shots you’d like to take. Instagram is a good way to start. Portrait, landscape, street or any other style of photography. Looking at the work of more experienced photographers is also a good eye-training exercise.

Less is More

Beginner photographers tend to overcrowd their compositions. Include less elements in your images when you’re just starting. It’s not hard to create confusion in the viewer if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ll tell you some rules of composition in a bit. But don’t forget that sometimes less is more!

Turn Your Camera Vertically

New photographers tend to stick to the landscape mode.
Turn your camera on the side and start including shots in portrait orientation. This way you’ll practice different compositions and sometimes get a better image.

Common Points of Focus

For portrait photography set the focus on the eyes of the subject. If the eyes are not on the same plane of focus, target the nearest one.
In landscape photography, a common rule is to focus a third a way into the picture to get a sharp foreground as well as a sharp background.

Set a Wide Aperture for a Blurred Background

To make your subject stand out, and get a blurry background you need something like f/1.4 or f/2.8. Set your aperture then get closer to the subject and start shooting. Experiment changing the focal length and distance from the subject to see how it affects the background.

Aim for a Straight Shot

This is correlated to how you hold your camera. You don’t want to end up with a bent horizon. If your camera allows you, switch on the grid and use the lines to straighten your photo by looking through your camera’s LCD or viewfinder. If you fail to do so you’ll need to use Lightroom or Photoshop.

Edit Your Images

Most professional photographers do some level of processing to their photos. Fixing the contrast, recovering shadows, and highlight, correcting the saturation and so forth. For some technical reasons, your camera is not able to capture the same range of color highlights and shadow as the human eye. Post-processing comes to the rescue to fix this limit that all cameras have.

Shoot in RAW

RAW is an uncompressed file format. It keeps all the light and color information of your pictures without data loss. JPEG is a compressed image file. It’s processed in-camera. It means when you import a RAW file in Lightroom you can edit more easily since you can benefit from an extended amount of light and color.

Beginner’s Photography Tips: Challenge Yourself

Composition: The Rule of Thirds

Let put this straight: You need to nail your composition

I found out pretty quick that photography doesn’t just mean point and shoot. 

You need to research, study, and train your eye on what is a good composition. I read an insane amount of material on photography composition and learned a thing or two about it. 

You can learn composition even without a camera, by simply observing nature and also by just experimenting with your phone camera.

After all, the best camera is the one you always have with you. 

Photography is a visual art, and to master it, you need to know how to place “objects” within your image.

The most fundamental rule of composition in photography is the rule of thirds

Divide your image in an imaginary grid made of nine spaces or boxes. On your camera, you can turn this grid on, and you’ll see it on your screen. These boxes will help you position the various elements.

Start by placing the main point of interest at the intersection between two lines of the grid. By doing so, the composition results more balanced.

It’s proved by science that the human eye will be captured by that point of interest in the photo. It creates a more pleasant experience to the eye of the viewer. 

I’ve written an article on the importance of the main rules of composition in photography.

You can find it here Rules of composition in photography
To really nail the rule of thirds you can read Understanding the Rule of Thirds in Photography

Play With Motion Blur: For a Photography Beginner

At first, this tip might seem scary to most beginner photographers.

With motion blur, you can produce an eye-catching effect by capturing a moving subject. Start by shooting from a moving train or from a car. 

Set your camera to manual mode and slow down your shutter speed. Start with 1second exposure. Hold your camera still and balance the exposure with the aperture. Change the shutter speed gradually to see how the results change.

I recommend starting with trains or cars and try when it’s a bit dark outside to take advantage of city and car lights and create compelling effects.

Adjust Your ISO

The most natural thing to do when you are new to photography is to set your ISO to automatic (I used to have everything set to automatic really).

But to step up photography game, you need more creative control

Hence, forget about auto settings. 

ISO in digital photography is a measurement of the sensitivity of the camera sensor. To know more, read this in-depth article about ISO.

The lower the ISO, the less sensitive your camera is to light and vice versa. A higher ISO number will make the sensor more sensitive to light so that you can use your camera in darker situations. 

You need to know that by setting a high ISO, you can yes, shoot in a dark environment (let’s say at sunset or indoor), but it comes with a cost. 

Your image will be more “grainy”.

To solve this, you can do the following.

If you want to shoot during the golden hour, you could set up a low ISO (start with 100), and use a wide aperture. To balance the exposure and capture more light, you need a lower the shutter speed. You’ll also need a tripod.

If you don’t want to use a tripod, you need to increase the ISO. This is also true for any dark environment.

Start with ISO 800 and depending on your camera and the light condition, increase or decrease accordingly to get a darker or brighter image. Don’t forget that at very high ISO values (6400 or higher), you can start noticing noise.

Set the Right Shutter Speed

The shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter is open. It’s the length of time the camera sensor is exposed to light. 

If using low ISO in dark conditions, you need a slower shutter speed.

Otherwise, your camera won’t be able to capture the right amount of light needed to deliver a good picture.

For long shutter speed (slower than 1/60 of a second), you need a tripod, or the image will be shaky.

Most new cameras today have an excellent image stabilization. This allows you to push the limit of your shutter speed in dark conditions without using a tripod. 

This is also one of the reasons I decided to buy my current camera. Because it has an unbelievably good in-body image stabilizer, you can find the Olympus OM-D EM-1 Mark II on Amazon and read my review here.

You don’t always need to have a slow shutter speed, there will be times when you will want to ‘freeze’ your image. 

For example, when shooting sport or wildlife. In these cases, you’ll want a fast shutter speed, like in the image below, where you can see how sharp are the drops of water.

Choose the Right Shooting Mode

If you look at your camera from above, you’ll notice some little icons on the dial. P, S (or Tv), A (or Av), M. 

For now, let’s just talk about A mode

First of all, as I said, you need to move away from auto mode if you want to become a better photographer. 

The symbol ‘A’ (or ‘Av’ depending on your camera brand), is the Aperture Priority Mode. In this mode, you will set the aperture, and the camera will choose the right shutter speed.

Aperture has a huge impact on Depth of Field as well.

For example, if you want a shallow DoF, to create a beautiful bokeh on your image background, you’ll need a wide aperture value (f/1.4 or f/2.8). 

With smaller aperture ( f/8 to f/22), you’ll have a deeper area of your image in focus. 

In landscape photography, you’ll pretty much shoot at apertures from f/8 to f/22 since on beautiful landscapes, you’ll want to have everything in your image razor-sharp. From the foreground to the background

Remember, by using this mode, the camera will set the shutter speed to balance the exposure. If your aperture is too small for the current light, the camera will set a longer shutter speed with the risk of obtaining a blurred image.

Unless you use a tripod and there aren’t moving objects. An example of a small aperture is f/16. But it’s all relative to the amount of light in the environment you’re shooting.

The ‘S’ mode, as you can imagine, will do the opposite. You set the shutter speed, and your camera will choose the right aperture. Very useful for action photos to control motion blur.

To learn more, read The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Camera Settings

Capture Car Light Trails

This is a pretty cool technique. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll definitely wow your friends.

If you have a tripod you can quickly achieve some spectacular effects by playing with traffic light trails at night.

Here’s how.

First, know that by using a slow shutter speed (hence increasing your exposure time), car lights will create this beautiful aesthetic effect that you can’t see with the naked eye. 

You need a similar setting to what you would use for shooting the golden hour. 

Set your camera on a tripod and choose the lowest ISO as possible (64, 100, or 200 depending on your camera). Set your camera to Aperture Priority Mode (A or Av) and start with a small aperture of F/11.

Since you’re shooting in aperture priority, your camera will now determine the shutter speed.

To obtain the right amount of light trails in the final image, check that the shutter speed is in the 10 or 30second range.

If it’s lower, you’ll need to adjust your aperture to get more trails.

Relate article: Photography Tips for Capturing Car Light Trails

Don’t Buy a More Expensive Camera

If you’ve been following me, you’d know already that I highly discourage people from buying expensive gear. Especially if you are at your early stages in photography journey. Don’t waste your money on super-expensive equipment in the beginning.

As a beginner photographer, a more expensive camera won’t give you real advantages. Moreover, camera bodies become obsolete in a few years with the advancement of technology. 

A good lens is where the real value is. Quality lenses last for ages (if you don’t destroy them) and don’t depreciate as much as camera bodies. 

Lastly, a beginner photographer can save some money and invest in a course or travel to a beautiful photography destination.

Light can Make or Break Your Shot

Light is one of the fundamental element of photography. 

When taking your photos, think about where the light is coming from. You need to be very careful if the source of light is right at the back of your main subject. 

In this scenario, all the shadows and darks will be in front of the main subject. Your image ends up being a silhouette. 

With that being said, if you know how to adjust the exposure properly, you can obtain spectacular effects. 

Another advice is to not shoot at midday. 

Around that time of the day, you have minimal shadows and contrasts. The light reflections are also very unpleasant in a photo. 

If you want a more dramatic and exciting image, especially when shooting outdoors, try to shoot during or slightly after sunrise and before sunset. That time of the day is called the golden hour

During the golden hour, shadows are longer, and the photos have more depth.

Composition: Change Your Point of View

When taking photos, most people don’t realize that standing on two legs and shooting from eye level often results in a less interesting composition.

The photographer’s viewpoint has a considerable impact on the final composition, and it’s worth experimenting with different angles. 

Change your perspective. If your camera has a tilting screen, try to shoot from a low angle. If you don’t have one, don’t exclude getting down to the ground level to play with a different point of view. 

It could make a significant difference in the final image.

To take it a step further, read my article about Rules of Composition in Photography, and discover how professional photographers compose their shots.

Check Your White Balance

Every photographer has a favorite shooting location.

You’ll have yours too. By going back again and again to a location, you soon realize that the light is always different. 

As a photographer, you have to deal with different lighting and learn how to manipulate it at your advantage.

By controlling the white balance setting, you can avoid that your image ends up being too blue or too orange, too green, or too magenta. 

Light, depending on the source, has many different colors, although our eye is made not to notice it, and it just adapts to it.

Cameras, unlike our eyes, need some help to achieve this.

Thanks to color metering, they’re able to adapt to changes in the color of light. Color metering, though, can fail, and different lighting conditions can give you unusual results.

White balance is what comes to help in this case. 

You can set it to Daylight or Sunny, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, K, Pre.

For now, I want you to experiment with Daylight mode

With this white balance setting, you can shoot outdoor in sunny conditions.

Make sure that the camera doesn’t overcompensate red colors.

This way, you’ll get more consistent tonalities.

Keep Shooting and Have fun

Only practice will bring you closer to perfection.

This seems so obvious, I know. 

If you don’t take photos, you can’t improve. 

It’s as simple as that. I’m sorry.

With digital cameras, taking hundreds of pictures is free. So do it!

There’s no guide, blog article, or course on the Internet that will make you a better photographing by only reading it or watching a video. 

You have to put the effort and keep shooting.

Take your camera with you when you go for a walk with friends. Take photos of nature, capture different subjects, snap away some portraits. Or take pictures of urban spaces. Everything around you can help further your skills.

The more you use your camera, the more you become familiar with all the different settings. 

At some point, you won’t even need to think too much and immediately know how to set up your gear quickly in various situations.


Before you go

I really hope you find these tips helpful. And if you do, please consider sharing this article on social media and subscribing to my blog, so that you will receive notifications of my new posts. 

Creating this content requires a lot of hours of research and work. 

Thanks to some technicality of the Internet, by sharing this article with others on your social media, you help me create more content like this. 

So I can keep creating content and help other people like you developing their photography skills.

Comments

  1. These tips are very useful for amateur photographers. A good camera does not matter when you are not familiar with photography but your skills while capturing a picture with a low-end camera does matter the most.

    1. Author

      You can say that out loud Robert!
      Honestly, I think that even if you’re a professional photographer what matters the most is the camera that best fits your type of photography and clients needs.
      Not the most expensive one.

  2. I read tip 1, clicked on the link to read “Photography Composition: The Best Guide” and came back here to continue reading. In my opinion, the best advice, tips and guidelines given are simple, but effective and you’ve nailed this. Your photos are a awesome too.

    1. Author

      Thanks a million Tim, I really appreciate your comment. I try to keep my tips simple hoping that as many people as possible and especially beginners can learn something. 🙂

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