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  • Writer's picture Tony Brown Photography

Basic Photography Advice for Beginners

I thought I'd share some photography tips that will help you take better photos, whether you're a beginner or have had some practice already.

For many, photography is one of the hardest things you can attempt to learn, which is why I thought it would be helpful to share some basic photography tips for beginners. Pointing a camera and pressing the shutter is easy enough. But creating an image to match your vision is when it gets tough.

Photography is a tough hobby to pick up and an even tougher career to pursue. But don't let that stop you from learning photography and maybe even creating a career out of it!

blue and red room Basic Photography Advice for Beginners

If you’ve just purchased your first DSLR and want to learn the basics or are searching for simple ways to update your existing photography skills, the following tips should help you build a strong foundation. Of course, photography is an art, and you’ll never really be ‘done’ learning. But the best way to keep improving is to practice often, make mistakes, and be open to learning from others.

Basic Photography Tips for Beginners

1. Learn to hold your camera

It may surprise you, but many new photographers don’t hold their camera correctly. When you don't hold your camera properly, you'll certainly encounter camera shake and blurry images.

Tripods are of course the best way to prevent camera shake, but as you won’t be using a tripod (unless you’re shooting in low light situations), it’s important to hold your camera properly to avoid unnecessary movement.

While you’ll eventually develop your own way of holding a camera, you should always hold it with both hands. Grip the right side of the camera with your right hand and place your left hand beneath the lens to support the weight of the camera.

The closer you keep the camera to your body, the more balanced it will be. If you need extra stability you can lean up against a wall or crouch down on your knees, but if there’s nothing to lean on, adopt a wider stance to obtain more structure in your position.

tony brown photography Basic Advice for Beginners

2. Shoot in RAW

RAW is a file format like JPEG, but unlike JPEG, it captures all the image data recorded by your camera’s sensor, rather than compress it.

When you shoot in RAW, you’ll not only get higher quality images, but you’ll also have far more control when it comes to post-processing. You’ll be able to resolve problems such as over or underexposure, and adjust things like colour temperature, white balance and contrast.

One downside to shooting in RAW is that the files take up a lot more space. Additionally, RAW photos will always require some post-processing, so you’ll need to invest in photo editing software.

Shooting in RAW can transform the quality of your images, so if you have the time and space, it’s definitely worth it. If you’re not confident how to switch from JPEG to RAW, check your camera’s manual for detailed instructions.

3. Get to Grips with the Exposure Triangle

The exposure triangle simply refers to the 3 most important elements of exposure; ISO, aperture and shutter speed. When you’re shooting in manual mode, you’ll need to be able to balance all three of these things in order to get sharp, well-lit photography.

ISO: ISO controls the camera’s sensitivity to light. A low ISO setting means the camera will be less sensitive to light, while a higher ISO means it will be more sensitive to light. An ISO setting of 100 to 200 is usually ideal when shooting outdoors during the day, but when shooting in low light situations, such as indoors or at night, a higher ISO of 400 to 800 or higher might be necessary.

Aperture: Aperture is the opening in your lens and controls how much light gets through to the camera’s sensor. A wider aperture (indicated by a lower f-number) lets more light through, while a narrow aperture (indicated by a higher f-number) lets less light through. A wide aperture is great when you want to isolate your subject, but when you want the whole scene to be in focus, such as with group shots, you’ll need to use a narrow aperture.

Shutter speed: Shutter speed controls how long the shutter stays open when you take a picture. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light gets through to the camera’s sensor. A fast shutter speed is good for freezing action, while a longer shutter speed will blur motion.

4. A Wide Aperture Works Best for Portraits

When shooting portraits, your subject should be the main focus of the picture. The best way to achieve this is to use a wider aperture. This will keep your subject sharp, while blurring out any distractions in the background.

Keep in mind that a smaller f/ number means a wider aperture and the wider the aperture, the more dramatic this effect will be. Some lenses can go as low as f/1.2, but even apertures of f/5.6 can do the trick. To better understand how the aperture affects your images, switch to Aperture Priority Mode (Av or A) and try taking some shots with different apertures.

Basic portrait Photography Advice for Beginners

5. Make a Habit of Checking the ISO Before You Start

Discovering that you’ve accidentally shot a whole series of images in ISO 800 on a bright sunny day can ruin a whole shoot… especially if the photos can never be recreated. Like a wedding ceremony for example.

It’s an easy enough mistake to make, so to avoid this unpleasant surprise, make a habit of checking and resetting your ISO settings before you start shooting anything. Alternatively, make a habit of resetting this every time you’re ready to put your camera back in its bag.

6. Understand the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is based around the idea that pictures are generally more interesting and well-balanced when they aren’t centred. Try and imagine a grid has been placed over your images, with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines dividing the picture into nine equal sections.

If you follow the rule of thirds, rather than positioning your subject or the important elements of a scene at the centre of the photo, you’d place them along one of the four lines, or at the point of intersection. Some cameras even have a grid option which can be turned on, a useful feature if you’re still learning to compose your images.


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