How to get started in photography: 10 tips for absolute beginners

First published:
March 10, 2023
January 31, 2024

How to get started in photography: 10 tips for absolute beginners

First published:
March 10, 2023
January 31, 2024

A silhouetted photographer by Mohd Rozi Kassim

Are you just starting your photography journey? This is one of the most exciting times for any photographer. To help you get started, here are ten tips that all beginners need to know

1 Start with the basics

Start with the basics and then head out and practice what you have learned. Photo by Jaromir Chalabala - f/10 | ISO 320 | 1/320s

Starting your photography journey can be daunting. There is so much to learn, and it may all feel overwhelming. So, the best way to manage the situation is to break things down into manageable chunks. Because you don’t need to know everything straight away. Start by learning the most essential elements of any photo – the exposure triangle.

The exposure triangle consists of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. These three elements are the building blocks of every photo. If you can learn what they are and how they impact each other, you will find the whole photography process so much easier.

2 Buy the necessities

Don’t get hung up on having to purchase everything you are ever going to need straight away. In most cases, just a camera, lens, a couple of memory cards and a tripod will suffice. Photo by Magic Bones - f/4 | ISO 3200 | 1/80s

One of the most common pitfalls for beginners is that they feel like they need to purchase every single piece of camera equipment that they are ever going to need from the start. This can, of course, be expensive when you are starting out. Instead of purchasing every accessory, make a list of what equipment you will need in priority order. For example, things like a camera, lens and memory cards are a must. If you are looking to take landscape photos, you will also need a tripod. But for example, a shutter remote isn’t absolutely necessary when you are starting as you can set your camera on a timer. Or neither is a super-telephoto lens (unless you are planning on taking wildlife shots).

By making a list, you can then add to your photography equipment over time rather than in one big expensive hit.

3 Read the camera manual

Your camera manual should be the first thing you read when you get your new camera. Not only will you learn how to use your camera, but you will also learn a lot about photography as well. Photo by Michael Osterrieder - f/11 | ISO 200 | 1/200s

One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give people starting out in photography is not wasting their money on e-books or courses. Instead, simply read your camera manual from cover to cover a couple of times. You will know everything you need about your camera and a lot of general information about photography.

Have your camera to hand as you read through and test out the different functions. Not only will you find that you will get to know your camera better, but you will also pick up some tips and advice.

4 Get to know your camera

Your camera should become an extension of your arm. You should be aiming to be able to change settings without even having to look at your camera. Photo by Tom Yeoman

Reading your camera manual is a great way to get to know your camera. But it’s also really important to know where the different dials and buttons are placed and how to change them quickly. This only comes through practice so spend time just changing functions and settings until it becomes second nature to you.

You should aim to get to a point where you can eventually change some of the shooting functions like aperture and shutter speed, even when looking through the viewfinder.

5 Make time to shoot

Keep your camera in your backpack and shoot whenever you have an oppertunity. But also, set aside dedicated time just for photography. Photo by Tom Eversley - f/3.2 | ISO 800 | 1/500s

There is no question about it, the best way to improve your photography when you are starting out is actually to take lots of photos. Photography is like every other hobby or profession out there. The more you do it, the better you will become. But the problem when starting out is that you don’t always have the time to dedicate to photography because of your day job.

Try to make a concerted effort to put aside time to hone your craft. You’ll be amazed how much your photography will improve by regularly taking photos.

6 Explore different genres

Whether it’s cityscapes, wildlife photography, photographing birds or taking portraits, try out different genres of photography when you are starting out. Photo by Jaromir Chalabala - f/2.8 | ISO 400 | 1/6s

Even though things seem daunting when starting out in photography, this is the most exciting time for a photographer. This is when you are free of the constraints of specialising in a genre which usually dominates your photography as you progress. So, use this time to try out as many genres of photography as you can because you never know where your passion could end up.

For example, when I was first learning photography in university, I thought my passion was going to be in studio photography, but I realised that travel photography was my real passion and it ended up being my profession for 15+ years.

7 Analyse your photos

Spend time looking and critiquing your own work. Think about how you could have improved your photos (even the good ones). Photo by Dean Drobot - f/4.5 | ISO 320 | 1/125s

I can honestly say that when I was starting out, I learned far more from my bad photos than I did from my good ones. By analysing your mistakes you will be able to ensure that you don’t make them again. This can range from technical issues like blurred photos to composition and even light. Try to determine why that particular photo is blurred or why it doesn’t work for you and how it might have been improved.

You could also do the same with your good photos as well. Analyse them to determine what the positives are and if you could change anything to improve them further. This is something that you should look to do all throughout your photography journey.

8 Learn to edit

Editng is an essential step in great photography. So make sure you spend time learning and practicing how to edit your photos. Photo by IKO studio - f/4 | ISO 400 | 1/30s

Even the most perfect photos that you take will almost certainly always benefit from some level of editing. So unfortunately, learning how to use editing software is something that you will have to do. But don’t fear, because editing software these days is very easy to use and there is a ton of free information online to teach you everything from the basics to more advanced settings.

But as a good starting point, learn how to use some of the basic editing options like cropping, straightening, white balance, brightness, contrast, and saturation. Just some quick and easy tweaks of these settings can transform a photo from mundane to spectacular.

9 Follow other photographers

Photography can be a lonely profession or hobby. So make sure you follow and connect with other photographers. They may inspire you to improve your photography or be a good sound board for when you are struggling with something. Photo by Julias Images - f/13 | ISO 500 | 1/125s

Whether you are a musician, painter or photographer, there are always bound to be people whose work you admire. So go on social media and follow other photographers or even artists. They can help inspire you to improve your own photography but also help you to develop your own style. But remember that there is a big difference between being inspired and copying someone else’s work.

10 Make a “learning” list

You can never be too experienced to learn something new. So, always keep a list of things that you would like to improve in or learn. Photo by Lloyd Austin Photography - f/5.6 | ISO 360 | 1/1250s

As you start taking photos, you will always come up against photography scenarios that you may struggle with. For example, this might be when you are shooting in low light conditions. Or it might be photographing people. Whatever you find challenging, at some point you will have to learn how to shoot that particular scenario. A really good way to ensure that you are always improving is to create a “learning” list. This is anything that you may struggle with that at some point you can spend time to master.

When you start out in photography, it’s exciting, daunting, and frustrating. You will make mistakes and may even miss amazing photo opportunities. But don’t worry because, with experience and practice, you will see a huge improvement in your work. Use the tips above as your starting point you’ll be on your way to capturing great photos in no time.

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