Photographer is a wonderful hobby, but the more you get into it, the more you realize that it takes an immense amount of time, effort, and dedication to really hone your skills. No matter how many years you've dedicated to this craft, there is always something left to learn and improve upon. These challenges are even greater when you are just starting out with your photography. The myriad of resources and opinions dedicated to photography are certainly great for the beginner, but they can also be overwhelming and make it hard to know what exactly you should be focusing on. In an attempt to help with this problem, I present to you my 25 tips for the beginner photographer.
1. Better Gear Doesn't Mean Better Photos
I think every photographer suffers from GAS (that's gear acquisition syndrome). I mean, who doesn't want the latest and greatest photo gear?
While it is certainly true that nicer gear is, well, nicer to have and can produce better results, it does not mean that buying all that expensive gear is going to make you a better photographer. The truth is, your gear just doesn't limit you nearly as much as you might think it does. Don't believe me? Just check out the iPhone fashion shoot.
Learn to get good with the equipment that you've got. The money that you'd otherwise spend on that expensive gear would likely be better spent on books and travel.
2. Learn Composition First
Time and time again I come across resources that tell beginners they absolutely must shoot in full manual mode at all times in order to get better at photography. Don't get me wrong, this is an important part of really learning photography, but it's not the area that I think a beginner should be focusing on.
The most important thing you can learn is composition. I don't care how well you nail the exposure of an image, if the composition sucks, then the final image will suck. You are more likely to get away with a less-than perfectly exposed image if your composition is good.
3. It's Okay to Break the Rules (But Only When You Know You're Doing It)
The rules that dictate a good composition are great and are something that every photographer must learn, but do you want to know a dirty little secret? Those rules are really just guidelines made to be broken!
That's right, it's perfectly okay to break the rules of composition, but only when you know you are breaking them and have made the conscious decision to do so.
4. Learn about Light
Photography is, in its simplest form, the process of recording light. This means that learning about light and how it affects your images is the next most important (if it's not of equal importance) thing to learn. The direction, quality, temperature, and color are all properties of light that has an effect on your image. Trust me, you'll want to learn about light if you're going to take this whole photography thing seriously.
5. Slow Down!
Getting a great image is not a race (unless, of course, you are photographing something fast paced)! Slow down and contemplate your shot before you hit that shutter button. Walk around, consider different compositions, think about the light, take a look at your background. Remember, the more time you put into thinking about your shot, the better the result you are likely to get.
6. Learn From Those You Admire
Actively seek out the work of other photographers that you admire and follow their work. Don't just glance at their photos, but instead take the time to really analyze them and determine what it is you like about them. What is it about them that makes them work and what maybe doesn't work so well? In photography, like any other art form, it's okay to draw inspiration from those you admire.
7. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Yes, I encourage you to draw inspiration from others, but don't compare yourself to them (or anyone for that matter). You must remember, you are your own worst critic, so comparing yourself to others (especially those with significantly more experience that yourself) will likely have nothing more than a negative impact on your photography. As with most things in life, it's best to quit worrying about everyone else and worry about yourself!
8. You will always have Critics
Everyone is different. Diversity is a great thing, but it means that you will never be able to please everyone with the work you are doing. Not everyone will like you ore even your work, and that completely okay! This is why the next tip is so important.
9. Shoot for Yourself, not Others
Since we've already established that it's impossible to please everyone, there's no point in even trying. Don't produce content with the purpose of pleasing someone else. Produce the content that you want to produce. If you don't enjoy the work you're doing, then there is no point in even doing it!
10. Experiment, Experiment, and Experiment
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO EXPERIMENT!
Seriously. I even encourage it. You will make mistakes in the process, but that is how you learn and find out what does and doesn't work. Never stop experimenting!
11. Stop Being Afraid of Making Mistakes
You're going to make mistakes. You're going to have projects that fail miserably. I don't care if you have 1 day of experience or 25 years of experience, this statement will still hold true. It's okay to make mistakes. Remember, it's only really a failure if you don't learn from your mistakes!
12. Keep that Camera with You!
The more you shoot, the better you will get. In fact, it's often said that your first 10,000 images are your worst. I think there is definitely a lot of truth to that. Constantly have your camera with you. Keep shooting and keep learning!
13. Don't be Afraid to Ask for Help
Remember, every photographer had to start from square one at some point. Don't be afraid or feel embarrassed to ask for help! The truth is, most of us photographers are a friendly bunch who are more than happy to help out a fellow photographer!
14. Always be Prepared
Picture this. You roll out of bed at 3 a.m. to drive 2 hours and hike 8 miles just to capture that perfect sunrise image. You fumble around in the dark, freezing, early morning to set up your shot. Finally, the sun comes up. The colors are breathtaking.
This is the best sunrise you have ever seen!
Excitedly, you press the shutter button. That's when it hits you... you left your SD cards sitting on your desk!
Just imaging all the frustration! It's important that you are always prepared for your shoots!
15. Don't Ignore Your Thoughts and Emotions When Shooting
When you are shooting a scene, be sure to pay attention to your thoughts and emotions. If you can figure out how to convey these in your images, you will end up with better results. Photography, is after all, nothing more than a medium for story telling!
16. Experience the Moment!
As a photographer, it is easy for me to get so caught up in photographing a scene that I forget to take the time to actually enjoy the moment that I'm trying to document. Remember that life is short. It's great to put all that work into photographing that amazing Smoky Mountain sunset, but make sure you take some time to actually enjoy and appreciate the moment!
17. Accept Constructive Criticism
It's important that you accept, and even encourage, constructive criticism from others. It's quite easy to feel defensive when someone offers a critique of your work, but know that they are trying to help. Criticism can be a great way to learn and expand as a photographer.
18. Shoot RAW
If your camera supports it, you should be shooting in Raw. There are a plethora of reasons to shoot in Raw, a few of which you can see here.
19. It Takes a Long Time to Get Good
And I mean it takes a LOOOOONNNNGGGG time to get good at photography. There is a whole lot more that goes into a great image than simply pointing a camera at it and firing off a few frames. Don't expect to get good fast... that's just not how it works!
20. Look Behind You!
No, Michael Myers isn't sneaking up on you. Instead, you might be surprised to learn how often a great composition is hiding right behind your back (literally). Always take the time to turn around and assess the whole area around you for potential compositions.
21. Don't be Afraid of Getting Dirty and Looking Goofy
It's not uncommon to find beginners who pass up great images because they are too self conscious to get dirty and contort themselves in the goofy looking angle to get the shot. Honestly, who cares what someone thinks of that goofy pose you're taking? After all, that's how you get the shots that count!
22. Don't Trust Your LCD
Seriously, it will lie to you every time. It's impossible to judge how well an image turned out by simply reviewing it on your camera's LCD panel. You're better off learning to read a histogram and using the LCD to quickly check the composition.
23. Fight Laziness... Creativity is a Discipline
It's going to happen. You are going to get lazy with your photography and not feel at all creative for a while. Creative slumps happen to anyone who pursues creative endeavors. This laziness is the worst possible thing for your photography. Fight the laziness!
24. It's Never a Wast of Time if You Learned Something
Trust me, I get it. Nothing sucks quite as much as going out and pouring your heart and soul into capturing an image, only to get home and find out it just doesn't work. It's going to happen. It's just the name of the game. The important thing to remember is this: you didn't waste your time if you learned from the experience.
25. Have Fun!
Photography is pointless if you're not enjoying it. Do what makes you happy and just get out there and have a good time!
Got some great beginner photography tips? Feel free to share them with us in the comments section below!