Photos are one of the best ways we capture memories, tell stories, and share life’s joy. Whether you’re a new mom looking for ways to capture the best photos possible of your baby growing up, looking for creative Instagram photo ideas, or you’re planning a trip to a picturesque location with plenty of photo opportunities. There are many different reasons to pick up photography. But if you’re new to DSLRs or not quite used to your smartphone camera, your camera may feel a little intimidating. If so, we have you covered with our guide on photography for beginners. We’ll help you figure out the camera and photography basics, along with providing some of our favourite photography tips for beginners.
The range of photography equipment available today is astounding. New cameras are being launched daily with bigger sensors and better processing powers. We all want bigger and better gear. But do remember it is not the camera that makes the photographer. You should know how to use the equipment to create the image you have in your head. This is one of the essential photography tips which is evident but harder to practice. You can begin shooting with your smartphone, regular cameras, or DSLR.
An entry-level DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) is a compact camera and known to work best for newbies and amateur photographers. The reason being they are comparatively less expensive, easy to carry, manage, and understand.
Before you dive into taking photos, you need to understand how your equipment works. Learning about your camera’s features and mechanics – whether that’s a point-and-shoot, smartphone, or DSLR – is vital. Check out our extensive list of Wedding Photographers in Melbourne to help capture your special moments.
For example, knowing how to turn off the automatic flash, change the shutter speed or aperture, or even understanding the zoom function, can make or break your final photos. It’s always best to refer to your camera’s manual when understanding the specifics. Still, you can also refer to our resource on taking good pictures with your smartphone for phone-based photography basics.
Beginner photography equipment, camera and touch screen devices on a wooden desktop, flat lay banner with copy space
Camera Features For Beginners
- Viewfinder (and grid mode): You can use the viewfinder to help strategize your photo’s composition. Grid mode turns on a helpful planning grid within the screen.
- Zoom: While it’s generally recommended to stay away from zooming, as this reduces quality in pictures, it’s essential to understand the limitations and benefits of your camera’s zoom.
- Focus: Most cameras come with autofocus, but you should also figure out how to change this setting to manual once you get comfortable with other photography basics. This will help you take more visually interesting photos.
- Colour Balance: Adjust your colour balance settings depending on the lighting to help make sure your photos don’t come out in undesired colours.
- Aperture: Adjust your aperture settings so you’re better able to control the light in your images.
- Shutter Speed: Too fast a shutter speed and your pictures come out dark, too slow, and they’ll come out blurry. Try to find a balance.
- Flash: While most photographers try to stick to external light sources, you still need to understand the basics behind your camera’s flash.
- Manual Mode (and additional modes): Modes such as sport, portrait, landscape and more help you automatically adjust for the subject of your photo. Taking your settings off of automatic will give you more control in your photography.
- Light Balance/Exposure: Adjust this depending on how much light you want in your images before you take them.
- ISO: Your ISO, or your camera’s sensitivity to light, will affect how much photo grain appears in your pictures.
- Histogram: Your histogram is the graphical representation of colour values displayed in your camera. Make sure those values are where you want them to be when shooting.
- RAW vs. JPEG: These files types dictate how much space you’ll have in your memory cards, along with how to advance your editing will be post photoshoot. If shooting in RAW, the more significant file type, plan to bring extra memory cards.
Photography Equipment For Beginners
- Camera Body (or camera phone): Your camera body needs to handle the size of images you want to take and come with any features you feel are essential. For example, you may not want a point-and-shoot if you want to change your depth of field or exposure.
- Lenses (and cover): Lens come in all shapes and sizes, and these are one of the most long term investments you’ll make as they last longer than camera bodies. Spend time picking the right lens with the focal range and functions you’ll want most.
- Tripod: Tripod needs to be sturdy, reliable, and as light right as possible. This is a significant investment for photographers with shaking hands.
- External Light: External lights help erase harsh shadows on your subject. This makes them an excellent long term investment, especially for portrait photographers.
- External Hard Drive: Finding a way to store your photos reliably is essential. Don’t wait until all your hard work is erased to get one.
- Memory Cards: Always have at least two in your camera bag. That way, if your photoshoot runs longer than expected, you won’t have to go back and delete images to make space to keep photographing.
- Bag/Carrying Gear: Your bag and carrying gear should be lightweight enough not to hinder you while travelling to and from locations.
- Cleaning Supplies for lens and camera: Dirty lens decrease photo quality. Worst case scenario, dirt can damage your lens, so always make sure to have proper cleaning materials.
- Rechargeable Batteries: Extra batteries means you can keep your photoshoot going for much longer, and they’re ideal for long trips.
11 Things Beginners Should Know About Photography
Even though you are a beginner, you know you want to create beautiful images and create them starting today.
It can be hard to remember that it takes time to master something new. When faced with beautiful image after beautiful image online and elsewhere, it is easy to think that there must be a shortcut, that if you get that latest piece of equipment, or you only knew some processing secret that your favourite photographers surely must know, your images will instantly be great.
Those kinds of shortcuts don’t exist, but with hard work, permission to grow at your rate, and following some of the tips below, you can become the kind of photographer you want to be.
There’s a Lot to Learn. Take it One Step at a Time.
Once you decide you want to become a photographer, you can learn to do it right. You need to understand f-stops, ISOs, exposure, focus modes, white balance, light, composition, focal length, how different lenses affect your images, posing for portraits, and communicating your voice to the world through your pictures, and so many other things. Looking at the list altogether can be overwhelming, but if you break it down, you can do it! Decide what you want to work on first and concentrate on that. If you’re going to start by focusing first, then read all you can to get the best direction from your particular camera. If you want to understand how to get a properly exposed image first, concentrate on understanding how ISO, f-stop and shutter speed all work together to determine your images’ exposure. Break it down into manageable chunks and once one thing is second nature to you, find something else to concentrate on. If you try to get it all at once, you may find yourself overwhelmed, throwing your camera back into auto, and giving up on what could be an exciting artistic outlet.
I Was Shooting in Manual Matters.
When most photographers talk about shooting in manual, they are talking about shooting in manual exposure mode, but that does not generally mean shooting using manual focus. When I first started, I read enough to understand the basics of the exposure triangle, threw my camera into aperture priority mode, and figured if I was choosing the ISO and f-stop, letting the camera choose the shutter speed fine. I was mistaken in this belief for two reasons. First, my camera at the time wasn’t sophisticated enough to have a minimum shutter speed, so I ended up with a lot of out of focus images from too slow of a shutter speed. Second, possibly an even more important reason is that metering to zero according to your camera’s meter isn’t always the correct exposure for the scene in front of you. Because your camera wants to meter to a middle grey, if your location is light-coloured, you may need to overexpose according to the meter to get the proper exposure. The converse is true for dark backgrounds. Putting your camera in manual exposure mode, grabbing a grey card and learning to use it is a great way to begin to understand this. You will hear people refer to the Zone Method, exposing to the right, or any number of other ways to find the best exposure. Still, the main thing to understand is that your camera’s meter can give you a guideline, but it wants to meter to middle grey metering to zero won’t always be correct. Also, there are times when you will have to make trade-offs and either over or underexpose unimportant parts of the scene to make sure the most important things, say the people in the image for a portrait, are correctly exposed. You want to decide what is most important, not let your camera decide.
Don’t Fear High Iso’s.
The second mistake I repeatedly made when I was new was that I was scared to push my ISO because I had heard that high ISO’s made for more noise in the image. While that is true, I hadn’t realized that a bit of noise is way better than an image out of focus from too slow of a shutter speed. Plus, if you have a properly exposed idea or exposed to the right and maybe slightly overexposed (though not blown), the noise shouldn’t be too bad, even with a beginner level camera. Go ahead and bump up that exposure as much as your camera will let you so you can shoot using natural light indoors, or by the light of a lamp or iPad, or to grab the last rays of light outdoors.
You Don’t Need the Latest and Greatest Equipment to Make Beautiful Images.
When you are new, it can be easy to think that buying a better camera or the lens that everyone is raving about makes your work automatically better. For better or worse, that isn’t how it works. Hard work, study and practice are what it takes to make your images better. I upgraded from my first camera because I was sure I had outgrown it, and I grew exponentially while I had that second camera, but it mostly wasn’t because of the camera. I know that because now, when I take my Nikon D40 with me on vacation these days, I am blown away by the images from it that I know how to use it to its fullest. Any entry-level DSLR and prime lens that suits your shooting style could be enough gear for you to get good. I made it into CMPro with a portfolio that was 90% images taken on a crop sensor, and I know several people who made it in with an entire set made from what would be considered entry-level gear. Once you have a basic set up, it’s up to you to take it as far as you can.
Study the Light.
After the basics such as exposure and focus are mastered, really consider learning to read the light. Nothing can take an image from okay to gorgeous as well as a great light. You can learn about light in a class, from a book, and from simply becoming aware of the light around you as you go through your day. Notice how the light falls on people and things as you go about your day, how people are lit in paintings and on TV. Eventually, reading the morning is hard to stop. Someday soon, you may find yourself running to grab your camera as you notice how the light is hitting your little one as they play in the front hall or come across a stunning sunset.
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Focus on Getting it Right in the Camera Before Spending All Your Time Worrying About Processing Your Images.
This is not to say that you can’t be learning the basics of an editing program or two, but before you spend all your time learning how to fix bad images with post-processing, try to work on getting it right in camera. As you know more about processing, you can always go back and reprocess older images even years later if you still have the SOOC (straight out of the camera) file. Still, there won’t be anything you can do about your baby’s blurry images from not understanding the basics. Also, shooting in RAW gives you tons of flexibility for editing when you get around to it. And having a nice SOOC allows you to use your processing to bring out your vision instead of fixing a bad image. I know that RAW can sound very scary, but it’s not. Yes, you have to do at least the basics to every image because your camera isn’t doing it for you, but you have so much control over the outcome. Want to change the exposure, no problem dramatically. Did the light change, and you didn’t have a chance to change the white balance? You can still do a lot to correct that if you shot in RAW. RAW is the digital equivalent to a film negative. It gives you a great base to develop the image to suit your vision.
Take the Time to Understand How to Post-Process by Hand.
Even if you love using actions and presets, knowing how to edit an image by hand is the best way I know to bring out your vision in every one of your images, not just the ones that your favourite preset works well on. Also, it’s easy to take things too far when just editing with actions and presets if you don’t already have a good feel for how programs work and what a well-edited image should look like. Also, once you do start post-processing, make sure you understand white balance and skin tones. Even with great light and great technicals, your images won’t look as polished and professional as they could be if your white balance is radically off. You may not notice as you’re learning, but as you look back on your early work, you’ll probably wonder how in the world you thought that orange baby looked good. A calibrated monitor will help you develop your eye. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come naturally. Keep practising, study your images and the others around you. Be sure to print pictures, too, to help you notice things that you might miss on your screen.
Learn the Rules So You Can Break Them With Purpose.
I sometimes see people who think that their style should include:
White balance that is off.
- Compositions that are highly unique but maybe not very good.
- Other things that break the conventional rules of photography.
It’s usually easy to separate those who have internalized the rules and are breaking them on purpose to convey their message and those whose eyes aren’t developed enough to know how to break the rules to communicate their vision to their viewers. They break the rules simply because they don’t know them. Be one of the ones who know the rules so well they can break them to your heart’s content.
Slumps Are Normal.
Someday you may realize that while you’ve been learning a lot, your work seems to be getting worse. Chances are you’re not getting worse. It’s more a matter of you noticing things that you didn’t see when you first started. If you need to, go back and look at your work from a couple of months ago, and that should hopefully give you some perspective that you are improving, even if it’s easier to notice the less than perfect aspects of your images now. That being said, when you initially switch to manual, you may have a time when your work isn’t as good as it was when you were shooting on one of the auto modes. Push through that barrier, and soon your images will be way better than they ever were before.
Don’t think that slumps are something that only happens to beginners. Once you’ve gotten to the point where other people think your work is good or even excellent, you may still have times when you aren’t feeling great about any of your latest creation. Slumps come with the process for many artists. You’ll have to figure out what works for you — shooting through the slump, putting the camera away for a while, coming up with a personal project, etc. — but know that you are not alone! Almost all of us feel that way sometimes.
Not Every Image Needs to Be a Work of Art.
Once you know how to take a great image, it can be easy to fall into the trap of not taking any picture in less than ideal conditions. Don’t fall into this trap. You will still want to remember the birthdays, vacations, trips to the playground and all the minor everyday events, even if the light is less than ideal or the background is busier than Times Square. Yes, some people can take these less than ideal circumstances and still create amazing images, but even if you are not one of them, don’t let the quest for beautiful photographs stop you from documenting the important people and milestones along the way!
Enjoy the Journey.
I’ve been at this a long time, and one thing I’ve learned is that growing your photography is a journey without a finish line. As long as you continue to create, you will never arrive at a point where you know everything or have no room for improvement. There is always something else to learn. And no matter how good you get, there will always be someone better than you. Don’t let comparison or the quest for perfection steal your joy in the process. Looking for a wedding photographer in Melbourne? Look no further. Brighton Savoy has compiled an ultimate list of Melbourne wedding photographers to help you choose.