Photography is a rewarding career, but many working parts must come together when you first start. You’ll need to understand the basics, learn editing techniques and know how to market your business. There are hundreds of photography tips online, but not all help beginners.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are about 132,100 photographers in the country, making a median wage of $34,000 per year. Anyone with a camera can hang a shingle and start a business. To become competitive, you need to take things up a level or two.
Here are the top 22 photography tips you should consider.
1. Invest in Equipment
Yes, you can take decent photos with your smartphone, but it won’t give you the high quality many clients seek. If you want to work as a professional photographer, you must invest in your craft. Not only will you need a high-end DSLR camera, but also different lenses, lighting equipment and backdrops. Don’t forget a tripod and protector for inclement weather. The type of apparatus you need depends upon the kind of photographs you take.
2. Study Commercial Photography
Now is an excellent time to take a look at what’s required to become a commercial photographer. Adding business clients to your lineup helps improve your bottom line. You’ll need to understand some skills outside of other types of photography, though, such as creating a mood board and utilizing lightboxes for product photos.
3. Find the Right Tripod
A tripod allows you to take crisp images without any shake. Three stationary legs are vital in situations with low light, where you have to hold the camera as steady as possible. Photography tips don’t always account for how nervous you’ll be on your first few jobs. Your hands could shake and throw off the sharpness of the photo. A tripod saves you from your nerves.
4. Wear Your Camera
A big part of learning to be a photographer is figuring out when to take what shot. In the early days, keep your camera on you at all times. If an exciting opportunity arises, you can grab your equipment and snap a few images. You should also practice in different lights and both stills and motion shots. Out of all the photography tips you’ll read, practicing your craft is the No. 1 thing you can do to get better.
5. Learn About Composition
There are a few basic rules of photography and photography tips that you’ll find helpful when starting. One example is the Rule of Thirds. Understanding how to compose a photo, where to place the subject and finding unique angles gives your work a compelling edge. Here are a few online courses that are inexpensive or free to get you started:
- Udemy: Composition Masterclass
- SkillShare: Crash Course in Photographic Composition
- Expert Photography: Beginner’s Guide to Composition
Of course, you’ll find many other free and inexpensive courses. Once you understand the basics, the best tool for learning is to try out different compositions and see which setups work best for different scenarios.
6. Experiment With Settings
Experiment with the settings on your camera and figure out what they all do. It’s good to know you need a wide aperture in low light situations. If you don’t understand how to adjust things on your camera, the knowledge doesn’t help. Spend time figuring out where things are and how to correct them quickly. The next time you find the perfect shot, you won’t miss it because you’re trying to get set up.
7. Work With Light
Learning how to balance light is one of the hardest parts of photography for beginners. With too little, your photo has no contrast. Too much makes the image so bright it becomes blurred. Fortunately, there are apps available to help you figure out the perfect settings for any level of brightness. You can also purchase attachments that help you balance white.
Out of all the photography tips out there, learning how to balance lighting is probably the most important. You should also experiment with flash diffusers and reflectors to help shine light where you’d like it to be, such as on someone’s face.
8. Slow Down
You’ll see a ton of photography tips about what type of equipment and accessories you need. However, your behavior also has a big impact on the pictures you take. Learn to slow down and take your time on most shots. Set things up the way you need so the photo has the right lighting and composition.
9. Speed up, Too
At the same time, however, other photography tips might say speed up. You can let an amazing moment slip by while trying to figure out settings. Needing to snap shots rapidly is particularly vital when taking photos of children and pets. They adjust their expressions and positions often, and if you aren’t taking a lot of images, you’re going to miss something.
10. Adjust Your Angle
One trap a lot of beginners fall into is standing still and taking photos. Move around and take the shot from a variety of angles. Climb up on a ladder, lay on the floor and bend over sideways. With experience, you’ll learn what works best in different situations. For now, try to look at the world differently than an average person.
11. Keep Your Lenses Clean
Photography tips are about more than just how to take an image. It’s also important to protect your expensive equipment. Use a soft microfiber cloth and carefully clean your lens after each use. Keep the lenses covered when not in use and store your camera and equipment in a climate-controlled area.
12. Become Familiar With Editing
Learn how to use some of the more popular editing tools, such as Photoshop and GIMP. You can take a somewhat blah photo and make it interesting simply in the editing phase. Get rid of blemishes for portraits. Swap out a background. Enhance color. You can fix most little flaws in editing.
13. Invest in Cloud Backup
You spent all day taking photos of one of your early clients. The images are precious to them because they are of their family. You worked hard to come up with just the right poses and settings. Unfortunately, your computer crashes, and you lose every single picture. This won’t happen if you have your computer set to back up your files in the cloud automatically. You simply go to the site and recover them.
14. Organize Your Files
As you gain experience, you’ll take more photos. You must plan for a way to organize and make them easy to find. You might do so by year and the location or the client’s name. Whatever system you use, be consistent.
15. Find a Mentor
Photography tips aren’t only about what you can do to improve your skills. You should also find someone with more experience who is willing to mentor you. Perhaps you can apprentice under a professional and learn how to take wedding photos. Think over the skills you’d like to learn and then seek someone who is willing to teach you. You may one day be their competition, so you might want to look for someone retiring soon or in an area where there is plenty of work for everyone.
16. Network With Others
One of the best things you can do as a new photographer is networking in your community. Attend your local chamber of commerce meetings and talk to other business owners. You’ll learn a lot, and someone may even hire you for their professional and personal gigs.
17. Assess Your Weaknesses
Take an honest look at your photos and figure out what your weaknesses are. If you aren’t sure, ask someone who knows a little about photography to give you some feedback. Work on improving by taking online classes, reading books and getting tips from your mentor.
18. Focus on the Eyes
When you’re taking a portrait, hone in on the eyes of the subject. The eyes truly are the windows to the soul, and when you capture the person’s emotions, you’ve grabbed a moment in time that is raw and special. Don’t worry as much about the background or anything else when first starting. Zoom in on those eyes and let the other elements fall into place.
19. Understand Lens Focal Length
You may have played around with the different lenses you own and even understand a little about shutter speed. However, did you know there is a rule of thumb for what speed to use with what length lens?
- 200 mm lens = 1/200 second
- 85 mm lens=1/60 second
- 50 mm lens=1/50 second
A longer lens creates more shake, so a fast shutter speed reduces the blurriness.
20. Control the Shake
You won’t always have a tripod or the chance to set one up. In those cases, try to find something to brace yourself against, such as a tree trunk or a wall. Pull the camera in close with your elbows next to your body. Put one hand under your lens. Take a deep breath and hold it before clicking the shutter. These things will help you control the shake a bit.
21. Keep Both of Your Eyes Open
Beginners often close one eye and look through their viewfinder with the other. However, this narrows your field of vision and cuts you off from those you are taking the photo of. It’s much better to keep both eyes open and let the camera become an extension of you. If you feel unsure, you can always close one eye for a second and then reopen it.
22. Use the Golden Hour
The golden hour is a time when the lighting is near perfect for taking photos. It occurs one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. Schedule preplanned photos during this time to avoid lighting errors or weird shadow effects.
Find Your Passion
Photography should be fun. Figure out what you love taking photos of and get creative with your shots. Don’t worry about every image turning out perfectly. Even experienced photographers take dozens of pictures in the hope of getting an award-winner. With time, you’ll learn the basics and figure out all the small elements that go into making beautiful photos.
About The Author
Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her re-reading the Harry Potter series, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or hanging out with her dogs, Bear and Lucy.