So you want to be a photographer? You've got your first DSLR camera and would like to start creating photographic masterpieces. These tips for beginners starting out in photography will help you on your way.
Are you looking at purchasing your first DSLR? Check out this great DLSR buyers guide for beginners by Reviews.com.
The tools for beginner photography
Know your camera.
Learn your cameras basic controls. Every workman must learn their tools. As soon as your camera stops getting in the way of your photography you can begin to learn to shoot great photos.
You must know how to:
Set your Aperture - that's the opening of the lens.
Set your Shutter Speed - how long the camera takes the photo for.
Adjust the camera's ISO - how sensitive the camera is to light.
These controls are used for setting exposure - learn more about Exposure.
Use a sturdy tripod.
Until your technique develops, you'll need a little help with keeping the camera steady enough for photographs in anything less than perfect light. Don't get tempted to use that tiny built-in flash every time the sun goes behind a cloud. Use a tripod to keep the camera steady when it needs just a little longer to gather that light.
Later on, you'll need that tripod again for experimental shots using long exposure.
Protect your camera and lens with a bag and UV filter or Lens Hood.
You'll want to keep your new camera in great condition and while you're learning there is a higher likelihood of expensive mishaps. Invest in a good padded camera bag and a clear UV filter to protect your camera and lens from knocks and dirt. Once you've got used to handling your camera and start producing good quality photographs I recommend removing the UV filter and just using the lens hood for protection.
Buy a spare battery and keep them charged.
You're not going to learn very much with a dead battery. Buy a spare battery and keep them both charged. This will keep you in the action for longer and increase your shooting time.
Shoot Raw + JPEG and carry a spare memory card.
If you have editing software such as Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Affinity Photo, set your camera to photograph in Raw format. Raw files offer much more scope for editing as they contain all of the information that your camera captures, while Jpegs are pre-edited by your camera and all of the extra information is thrown away to save space. At first you might find prefer the Jpeg files as they're ready to use and look great, but later on you will want the ability to produce your own edits. Set your camera to Raw + Jpeg to enjoy the advantages of both. You'll need to carry more memory cards to handle the much larger file sizes.
Practice makes perfect
It is said that 10,000 hours of practice can make one the master of any skill. Photography is no exception. The more you practice, the better you will get.
Keep your camera with you.
Photography is about being in the right place at the right time, with a camera. Chase Jarvis famously said "The best camera is the one you have with you". Don't be that guy who always says "I wish I had my camera on me".
Study photographs that inspire you.
It can be difficult to learn in isolation. Find photographers and photographs that inspire you and study their work. Try to figure out what makes the photos appeal to you, and have a go at applying those concepts to your own work. I discourage copying people's work, but most of the rules of composition and appeal are universal and transferable, so find your own way of using them.
Try photographing everything.
Most professionals specialise in a particular field of photography. For example, I mostly shoot animals and nature. This allows the professional to hone a specific set of skills needed to perfection. However, to start, you'll need to try everything to find what your best fit is and learn a wide range of techniques. Photograph everything until you find what you are most interested in.
Photograph the same thing many ways.
Experiment with your scene and subject. Take the time to find different points of view, get low, go higher, shoot from the shadow side then try the light side. Revisit locations at different times of day or year. Trying many things will help you to discover new ways to present your scene. If you also keep in mind what you want to express in your photograph you'll have a much higher success rate.
Take feedback and review your photographs
An important part of the photography learning process is to review your work, acknowledge the successes, and improve. Without this process of reflection we lose our objectivity.
Self critique, but not too much.
The best photo is the one you're going to take tomorrow. Always view your work as a continuous process of improvement. Don't be afraid to discover your own failings as these will set you on the path to improvement. Try to find a balance between finding areas in need of improvement, and identifying your successes.
Revisit old photos from time to time.
As your photo editing skills improve you'll learn techniques and skills which can make better work of old photos. You'll also find opportunities that you'll be able to shoot better as your camera skills improve also. Use these to plan re-shoots.
Seek impartial critique from experienced photographers.
An important part in beginner photography is to accept advice and praise from other more skilled photographers. Their trained eye will identify ways to improve that you might not have noticed yourself or even knew existed. They'll be able to point you in the right direction, and give you praise where you did well. You'll find that this type of support never stops being useful.
Don't be put off by negative feedback.
Of course, your photography will not be to everyone's taste, and you'll almost certainly receive negative feedback. Take your advice from trusted professionals and peers, their advice will be constructive and supportive. Ignore unconstructive comments and don't feed them with arguments.