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9 Photography Tips For Beginners

Just getting started with photography?

There are many different genres of photography and it can seem daunting to get started. But it is also can be a really exciting time when you are trying all kinds of new creative pursuits.

These tips for beginners will get you started on the right path…

1. Learn The Camera Modes

Just about every camera have options to shoot in various different modes.

The most common among these are Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Auto.

Auto mode is basically letting the camera do all the work for you. This is the way that most consumer digital cameras take photos. It usually works pretty well for quick snapshots and to make sure you get an image in most situations.

Shutter priority means that you set the shutter speed and let the camera choose the other settings. The is great for situations where it is important to control the shutter speed. For example, you want a fast shutter speed like 1/500 of a second or faster for sports.

Aperture priority means that you set the aperture and let the camera choose the rest of the settings. Controlling the aperture is helpful if you want to blur the background of a portrait by choosing a wide aperture (low number f-stop) like f/1.8.

Manual mode lets you control all the settings. Don’t be afraid of manual mode.

2. Practice With Manual Mode

Anytime you are practicing with your camera, put it in manual mode. Experiment with different settings. Just simply using manual mode as much as possible is a great way to get comfortable using it.

It’s not easy to master shooting in manual. But you can’t do it if you never try. So put your camera in manual and find something to photography.

The best time to try this is when you aren’t taking photos of anything important. Your family vacation or kid’s big game is not the time to try manual mode for the first time.

Mastering manual mode will give you full control over how your images look.

All the buttons and dials can be intimidating, but start with just figuring out how the four main modes work (Auto, Manual, Aperture Prioity, and Shutter Priority).

3. Take A Course (but don’t spend all your time watching others)

As a beginner, you should be investing your photography budget more in education than equipment.

The best camera in the world doesn’t mean much if you don’t have the skills to use it well.

There is a lot of free instructional content out there (you’re reading some now). But the benefit of a course is that they are generally focused on a specific skill and can give you a step by step process to work through learning that skill.

A great approach is to use the free content on the web and places like YouTube to sample different types of photography and help you decide where you want to take a deeper dive. Then seek out a good online course to get started on the path to master that skill.

4. Learn The Exposure Triangle

Part of mastering manual mode is understanding the exposure triangle.

This could be it’s own post by itself.

The exposure triangle is the basic method of understanding how a camera exposes an image. So a basic understanding of that is the first step in getting started with photography.

The exposure triangle consists of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

Adjusting any one of them will have an effect on the others. Understanding how they all work together and what effect each one will have on your images is really the core of learning photography.

5. Get The Right Camera For You

The most common question I hear is “What camera should I buy?”

There is no good answer to that, but as a beginner, don’t go buying the top of the line model from any manufacturer.

Not only will you be spending way too much money, but those pro-level cameras have a ton of features that you’ll never use or need as a beginner that is just learning. That can actually prevent you from progressing in your knowledge and getting a handle on the basics of photography.

You can always upgrade your camera later when you reach the point where your skill level warrant a pro-level camera. By then there will be a whole new crop of high end cameras out there to choose from and you saved a ton of money that you can use to get one of them!

6. Rent Gear Before Buying It

New gear is expensive, and it can be hard to know if a certain camera or lens is right for you before you actually use it.

The solution…renting gear.

For a tiny fraction of the cost of buying, you can rent a camera or a lens and test it out. Take it on a shoot or shoots and see if it really does what the marketing says it does.

7. Shoot Often

The best way to get better is to practice.

So look for any excuse to take out your camera and shoot.

But be prepared, you’re probably going to make some mistakes. Use those mistakes. That’s great! Yep…I said great.

Mistakes are a great way to learn. Use those mistakes to figure out what you did wrong. Then seek out instruction on how you can improve on that.

8. Experiment

The best part about digital photography is that you can try all kinds of shots and get immediate feedback about how well it worked.

So try new things. Seek out examples of great photography online and see if you can try the same approach.

When you are learning, there is nothing wrong with trying to recreate what you see others doing. That’s how you learn. One of the best ways to do that with photo editing is to grab some professional Lightroom Presets like these and see what settings are used to achieve each of the individual preset looks.

For example, a musician doesn’t start learning music by composing their own songs, they learn to play other people’s music. They start with simple songs and then learn to play the more complex songs.

Take the same approach to your photography. Start simple, then try more difficult images. Before you know it, you’ll find your own style.

9. Have Fun

Almost every pro or well accomplished amateur photographer got started because photography was fun.

For many of them, it continued to be fun. Keeping photography fun is what drives you to learn more and get better.

Pete LaGregor

Pete LaGregor

Pete is a photographer in New Jersey and specializes in portraits and commercial photography, but loves shooting landscapes and video for fun. You can check out his work on his website.

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