Beginner tips: Starting out in Photography

Occasionally I like to share a few pointers and tips for photographers, both established and new.  It's my way of giving back to the community and people who support me and have helped me to grow. 

Today's tips are just a few quick thoughts to help set new photographers on the right track to improvement and long term success.  I'll be posting some much more detailed guides in the near future, so to ensure you don't miss out, please subscribe to the blog.  Thank you.

I just got my first DSLR and would like to know what to shoot to get used to the camera and become a better photographer.
— Everyone who bought a DSLR

I see this question very often and usually the responses are very useful.  The obvious answer is "anything you like" and this is absolutely right.  When beginning in photography it is important to experiment and find your own favourite subjects and style.  The important part is how you go about it.

Take control of the camera

Use manual and semi auto modes when starting out.  It can be very tempting to set your camera to automatic or scene mode then just shoot, and indeed this can be very good when simply looking to improve the basics such as hand holding, focus, framing and capturing the moment. However, at this early stage, by simply switching to A(Av), S(Tv), or M modes, you will gain more control over the camera, and as a result, the composition.  You'll make better use of the camera a habit, and get a fuller feel for shooting particular subjects. 

Don't be afraid to get it wrong

Embrace your mistakes whenever they are found.  Learn from them and create better techniques from your discoveries.  Failure is a far better teacher than success, and not all failures are bad.  An incorrect setting or unwanted composition could hold the potential for a shooting style you may have never considered.  Review your settings and shooting style when editing your photos and keep a note of the ones that worked for you.

Challenge yourself to different photographic ideas

Set yourself a topic a day/week/month to drive creativity.  Setting targets and topics can really hone in your ability to seek out subjects and push yourself to shoot in ways you may otherwise have not considered.  Topics and targets train you to work to a schedule and brief, both valuable skills.  A topic can be as simple as documenting a place or event, a few words to describe your goal, or even an emotion; perhaps yours.  For example, "Warm and soft", "things that fly", or "Happy".  Create photo stories or single images from your topics.

Listen to the critics (but don't be put off)

Seek feedback on your work.  Post photos to forums, and groups for quick feedback on your work.  Invite people to comment and welcome all comments as constructive and useful.  Not everyone will like your work, however those who offer critique with reason and suggested improvement will be of great benefit to you.  Your friends and family will not necessarily offer neutral and constructive feedback. 

Mingle with the professionals

Enter competitions. Once you are skilled enough to produce photographs with intent and a degree of control and planning, begin to seek photography competitions.  Look at first for informal free competitions run by free communities.  They will set a topic or series of topics and a brief for you to shoot to (see Set yourself a topic).  Competitions can be a great way to evaluate your skills and learn to shoot images which will grab attention and excel in creative and technical ability.   visit: for a great community and informal competitions.  Also try your local photographic society or club for competitions and face to face help and advice. 

Follow these tips with dedication and passion and you will be on the right track to producing great photography that you will love.


Let me know how you're getting on. I'd love to see your progress. Show off your best photos below or search for more great tips.