Thursday, September 10, 2015

6 Tips for the Beginning Photographer

Getting a DSLR camera is quite an investment, even if it is a beginner level camera. I decided to get one to help make my blog look a little more professional. I had no idea that I'd discover that I absolutely LOVE taking pictures of people. Before I even got my camera, (right after ordering it) I began researching like crazy to figure out how to use it. My main goal was to get out of Auto as fast as I could and get into Manual mode. I was so grateful I put the work in to understand everything better. It was totally and completely worth it.

I bought my camera, last year, on Black Friday. So it's been about 9 months since I actually had it in my hands and started shooting with it. The following tricks that I picked up over the past 9 months have helped me to quickly elevate my skills to a level, I felt, that was able to start charging for my services for shoots and to feel confident sharing my work, as a photographer, with others.

Hopefully these tips will help you, whether you're just barely beginning and wanting to start a photography business yourself or just wanting to improve your photography and get out of Auto.

These are very basic and easy tricks that simplify the camera and photography process. If you want information in greater detail, this is a good starting platform to jump from and begin your search for more in depth information!
Now, are you ready? Get ready to switch your camera into Manual Mode!

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR CAMERA: Search on youtube and watch a tutorial on your camera. I promise you, there is one out there for almost every DSLR model. I probably watched 5 of them when I first got my camera. These tips won't help unless you know your buttons. Particularly pay attention to the buttons that control ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed as well as how to focus and change your focus point. You'll also want to understand how ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed work together in capturing light. This is a good article that explains it very well. 

2. SHOOT OUTDOORS IN THE SHADE OR NEAR DAWN AND DUSK: It may sound funny to say a particular time of day is better to shoot, but let me explain. Think about the sun around 1 or 2 in the afternoon on a blazing day. The light is directly above you, it's probably nearly blinding you, it's VERY harsh, and it's easy to cast dark shadows on parts of your face. The magic hour for shooting is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. This is when the light is the least harsh and easiest for photography.  As for the shade, the harsh light from the sun is blocked, but there is still plenty of light reflecting onto your subjects to work with. If you do shoot inside, try to shoot near a window that's letting in a lot of natural light.

3. ADJUSTING CAMERA SETTINGS: Pay attention to this one. This made a HUGE difference for me in becoming a pro at managing light within my camera. Here is how I ALWAYS set up my camera and control it during a shoot. Adjust your aperture first. I almost always set it to the highest aperture (lowest number) my camera will let me go*. After I have that set, I adjust my ISO. Usually when I'm outdoors during the magic hour my ISO is set to between 200 and 400. I snap a quick picture to check the lighting to see if my camera is letting in enough light for the images. Once I have these two settings set, I usually don't touch them for the rest of the shoot. My main controller after that is shutter speed. I like to keep my shutter speed above 1/160. If I have to go below that, I bump up my ISO to the next notch, but usually all I have to worry about is shutter speed during a shoot. If it's too dark, I lower my shutter speed. If it's too bright, I increase my shutter speed. That's it! See! It's not as complicated as it sounds!
The difference shutter speed can make.

4. GETTING A BLURRED BACKGROUND WITH KIT LENSES: Everyone loves that nice blurred background (bokeh) and sharp focus on the subject. However, that's actually pretty difficult to achieve with kit lenses. I was lucky and figured this trick out early on in my experimenting. Choose the highest zoom lens that you have. For me it was my 55-200. Go outdoors and find a location where the background will be really far away. Think a large backyard or a field. Have your subject stand relatively close to the camera, and zoom your lens all the way in. Practice makes perfect. It will be a lot more difficult with shorter lenses (like my 18-55) but you may be able to achieve a decent bokeh if your background is very far a way. (There are easier lenses you can use to get a great bokeh, (for those ready to move on to the next level). The most affordable one is the 50mm f/1.8. That lens changed EVERYTHING for me and helped me to bring my game to a whole new level.)
This is a picture I took less than a month after I got my camera. It was the picture where I finally figured out the zoom trick. Look at that bokeh! This was just after sunrise, she was in the shade, I was zoomed in all the way focused on her face. So worth all the practice!

5. SHOOT IN RAW AND GET A SOFTWARE THAT CAN PROCESS RAW PHOTOS: When I first heard the term RAW I was so confused. It's just a way that your camera can save images. When you first get your camera, it is automatically set up to save your images as JPEGs. The .raw file just saves more "information" about your photo so that you have more editing options later. (**One very important thing to note however, is that RAW files will only open in certain programs. With a google search I found a few free options.) If you look at the images below.... because I shot these photos in RAW, I'm able to make a whole array of adjustment to my image to make it more to my liking and fix any mistakes I made while shooting. (I waaaaay overexposed this shot.) Adobe Creative Cloud makes it more affordable than ever to have access to Lightroom or Photoshop which I use. *You don't have to shoot in raw, but this  is definitely a step you will want to take if you decide to take photography more seriously.  
Overexposed image straight out of the camera.
Adjustments made possible by using Camera RAW in Photoshop.

6. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE: Practicing is the only way you will come to understand lighting and improve your photography. How the light falls on your subject, positioning in relationship to the sun, camera settings, achieving that nice bokeh, etc. These tips will just help you improve a little faster!

I hope this was helpful! I've loved the whole process of learning and improving and I hope you do to. I never envisioned myself becoming a photographer, but sometimes life takes a different course and you stumble across something you love. I never thought I could love a job so much that it felt like I was playing the whole time!

Best of luck and hopefully you come back for a visit soon!



  1. Thanks so much for your great article. I also have some tips, for example, try to make sure that your subject does not blend with the background. Select another shooting point, pick up the background of contrasting color, choose an object shadow or limit the depth of subject area. Avoid bright lights or colored spots, distracting from the spot. And use soft to get better images

    1. Thanks so much Katty for sharing those! I love them all! Such good advice! Thanks for taking the time to read!


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