7 Steps to Becoming a Confident Photographer: a Beginner's Guide - Digital Photography School

7 Steps to Becoming a Confident Photographer: a Beginner’s Guide


Confidence is worth it’s weight in gold in any arena.  As a photographer, there’s nothing like KNOWING you’re capable of “getting the shot.”  It’s so empowering to know that if you miss a shot it’s NOT going to be because you didn’t know what you were doing OR perhaps worse would be that you did know how to nail it, but you were too slow in setting up the shot due to lack of practice!

There are a katrillion ways to gain confidence in your abilities as a photographer.  Here are a few that I have found to be incredibly helpful over the years.  They will help you to be prepared for any shot and ready to get your settings right in a split second.  Feel free to add other ideas in the comment section below!

1. Keep a Notebook . . . or don’t

  • Especially in the beginning, I recommend creating a well organized notebook. I still have one that I jot notes in frequently.  You can treat this like a travel log of your experience, a place where you keep notes, set goals, paste trimmings of shots you’ve found that inspire you etc.  You’d be surprised just how many photographers do this.  I’d say at least 50% of my successful photographer friends still have a notebook of this kind and use it frequently. I’ll mention it a bit more as we move on to the other tips.
  • It is important to acknowledge that for some, it’s just not their thang and I totally get that.  For some people it adds stress and pressure to something that is supposed to be fun.  If you fall into that category, ditch step one and keep moving on to the other tips in the post.

2. Shoot Frequently

(this is the most important of any of the tips, so if you’re going to choose just one, let this be it!)

  • If you really want to gain confidence, you should be out shooting as much as you possibly can.  Perhaps it’s every day on your lunch hour.  If that’s the only window you have to consistently squeeze it in, fine.  Just be out shooting frequently and consistently.
  • NOTHING can replace the benefits of just getting out there and shooting as often as you can. Practice makes perfect after all.

3. Shoot in Different Conditions

By Viewminder

  • Not only should you be shooting regularly, you should be out shooting in different conditions as often as possible to familiarize yourself with them.  A lot of times as photographers we’re searching for good, easy, flat light that isn’t going to throw us any curve balls (ie open shade or an overcast day).  The reality of photography however is that you don’t always have so much control, so you need to be ready for any and everything at any given time.
  • For example: maybe one week you practice shooting subjects that are backlit and the next you go out and shoot in low light.  Just get out and shoot and shoot and shoot and then come home and record what you learn each day in the corresponding section of your notebook.

4. Set Goals

  • Is there a particular technique you’d like to learn?  Perhaps there’s a shot you saw and you’d like to attempt to achieve a similar result. Write your goal down in your notebook and keep track of how far you’ve come.
  • If you’re really brave (and committed to gaining confidence) I recommend that you set your goal publicly (like on your blog, a forum you participate in etc) so that you feel accountable.  Let people know that you’re working on something new and ask for their feedback and any tips they may have.  Then get out and practice like crazy until you get it figured out.

5.  Read


Above: Scott Kelby Boxed Set

  • There are SO MANY great books out there on photography.  Scott Kelby has some really fantastic ones for beginners and the dPS eBook store has a great range too.  Make a visit to the bookstore or your local library and get your study on.
  • Now days there is so much information available for FREE!!!  What Darren has created here at Digital Photography School really is remarkable.  Dig through the archives.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for you can always kick of an email to DPS or directly to one of the writers and give us a post suggestion.  No guarantees, but we really do want to give you what you want and need! We’re here to help you succeed!

6. Ask Questions

  • Sometimes photographers have a hard time asking questions. Why do so many of us like to feel like look like we’ve got it all figured out?  It’s baffling.  Asking questions frequently will help you feel certain you’re going about things in the right way and that’s a HUGE step toward gaining lasting confidence.

7.  Change Your Perspective

Not to get too philosophical, but. . .

  • I recently received an email from a follower of my personal blog.  She expressed frustration over the discouragement she feels when she looks at other photographer’s work:  “I keep thinking I’m learning and improving and then I see other people’s stuff and I just feel like the worst photographer ever!” The concept of comparison is not a new one. It exists in every field but I would venture to say that the plague is particularly rampant in this industry.
  • My anecdote is this: simply remember that no matter who you are or how celebrated you become, there will always be a zillion photographers better than you AND always a zillion worse. And guess what? It doesn’t matter a bit! Comparison is all about perspective, and that’s something you have complete and total control over. Rather than viewing another photographer’s work and feeling down because you feel incapable of taking shots like that, think “Wow!  That’s a great shot! I’m so glad I now I know that shots like that are possible and I can start practicing and trying to figure out how!” How’s that for empowerment! Word.to.your.mother! Instead of secretly begrudging the attention another photographer is receiving for their work, just think, “Wow, if I work really hard, I could get that kind of attention to MY art!”

Ultimately confidence is a choice.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are our skills as photographers!  But I really TRULY believe that with the tips listed above, you can soar above anything you’ve ever dreamed was possible and enjoy your passion for photography in a whole new way!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Natalie Norton is a writer and a lifestyle wedding and portrait photographer who shoots across the globe. She is based off of the North Shore of Oahu and out of Gilbert, Arizona. Enjoy more of her photography and writing at www.natalienortonblog.com. You can also connect with Natalie via Twitter or on Facebook.

  • baskaran

    Just started to learning….

  • Mark

    I had a R wrist reconstruction (I’m R handed). So I know where your coming from it took me an entire year to get about 70% to 80% use back in my wrist. I hope you have better run than I did.

  • avinash avi

    thanks alot for this article i need it badly specially last one. :-) i would like to share my one shoot .. and request to all senior please give me feedback for improvement.

  • Amy M. Kirk

    Great, upbeat article! Thank you! I too needed this little reminder to view things from a different perspective! There are so many photographers whose work I admire greatly. If I can just change the record playing in my pea-brain to the one that says “I’m glad to know this can be done! What must I do to make strides in this area”! Thanks!

  • John Christopher Yapchapco

    if i may, i would prefer this photo to be b&w only or pure colored photo. any how, this photo is great. :)

  • Kevin Kinnett

    WOW, Natalie, your encouragement is one of my own, I look at other photographers too and say, I can do a shot like that. Thanks for the great article. Its a pleasure to read and learn.

  • ello

    It takes practice and fighting your own doubts. We beat ourselves down far worst than other people. I had to learn how to take compliments and not criticize my own work. I realized that to many who saw my work, they have zero knowledge of photography and what they saw was something they enjoyed, admired and wanted. I would judge my work by the standards of a photographer, finding the mistakes rather than admiring the work and giving myself a pat on the back for the shot that was not easy to take. I ran into one of my old teacher from elementary school (i’m in my thirties) and I shared my work with her, she was complimenting the photos and talking about what she saw and felt in the photos. My responses were sheepish. She looked up at me and stated, “You think that anyone can do this. Most people cannot, you’ve worked hard, study and practiced. Learn to appreciate your own work–it’s better than you think.” I know I still need to work and practice to be where I want, but I’ve learned to appreciate my own work and abilities and not beat myself with every photo.

  • ello

    I like this shot a lot. Great job.

  • Kathleen Mekailek

    Perfect timing for this! I am going in this morning for a complete wrist replacement because reconstruction didn’t work! Right wrist will be done next!

  • JBand (Amynta)

    Woman reads: wear an adorable beret, get a very cool over-the-shoulder camera bag, and some adorbs strappy sandles. LOL Just kidding, but all so true! Great article!

  • JBand (Amynta)

    I really like it…I love the humanity of her face, and yet the striking colors of the dress and head ware. I think this may come to knowing what could make your photos stand out. It could be a personal preference for some, but don’t be afraid to step outside the lines either.

  • Lisa

    Keeping a notebook…what section titles do you have in yours? I’ve tried doing this but feel like it needs to be more organized for easier reference.

  • David A Cobb

    That’s sometimes easy and sometimes not :-) Share your pics on Facebook and social media and ask for peoples opinions. Mark them with your copyright so that the really good ones don’t get taken without your permission. Find others that appreciate fine photography, join groups online and off, share with them and get their opinions…
    Whilst it is hard to find professionals that will share, this site is proof that they do exist. 😀

  • debidoozie

    Thank you David.

  • Santiago

    Great article! Definitely an excellent topic that can help us to improve as photographers; from beginners to amateurs to professionals…. Thank you so much! :)

  • Greg

    I agree with John, the blended B/W and color effect takes away from an otherwise emotional shot.

  • Neiks

    you will become an awesome photographer with that dedication. Well done!

  • Neiks

    Thanks for this post David. I didn’t think to put a copyright on anything I post online.

    I do put something like a watermark copyright on anything I do for people. But didn’t even think of just the random ones I do which I post online and someone potentially take without my knowledge.


  • Annika

    I agree! It’s a bit like any project. When you’ve been working on it for any space of time you become immune to the errors and so hard to see them.

  • Jared

    Get rid of the selective coloring. It’s a cheesy trick that doesn’t work most of the time.

  • vijay sharma (VJ)

    I know photoshop nd i want to be a gud proffsnol photogrpher…nd after read all steps nd guides ….it has given me confidence so nw i m rdy for start photogrphy….

  • Prasadkumar Tamilarasan

    the most widespread langurs of South Asia, are a group of Old World monkeys

  • Amole kalekar

    Hey guys goood morning….dis is my Drop water photography.. plz suggest me my mistake….

  • ashik

    my first shoot

  • Nandakumar Nameirakpam

    Me too I will prefer pure B/W or full color. Any way it is personal and subjective.
    It is nice photo

  • Selwyn Lloyd

    Here’s the thing, asking friends what they think of your images are a no no. What you think they going to say, horrible, terrible, not enough of this or that. C’mon, join a photographers blog and there they will give positive criticism and correction. And let me tell you that there is hardly a landscape photo out there that has NOT gone through post processing. So go shoot as much as you can and if your camera has built in HDR then use it! Also get yourself a PS and LR CC for only $9.99 a month and there you have it. Besides PS and LR have enough tutorials to guide you into using it properly.

  • Abhi Gupta

    That was really very interesting and a much needed post
    But i’ve a request to the DPS guys
    That please share a post regarding how the photography market works if i choose photography as my profession
    And how can a professional photographer can determine the price of his work which can be conveyed to the clients…… :)

  • Gabriel

    I loved the girl from the first picture. Anyone knows who she is?

  • Jeune Semeleer

    I want to be a professional photography

  • Cora Hall

    Need a little bit more light in her eyes. Great photo otherwise. :)

  • Cora Hall

    I have learned that they eyes are the most important aspect when taking pictures of animals and such. I know this is not easy when you see one on the spur of the moment and compositional, not always where you want them to be. I wouldn’t use the black vignetting that you have here. It takes your eyes off of the subject, the deer. My eyes go right to the deer. Hope this helps. Keep practicing. I am always practicing and always learning myself. :)

  • Himon Bhowmick

    II am in love with your this airticle. You expressed everything so easyly that i have been facing every single moment. Thank you very much. Thanks a lot.

  • Gregg Hasenjaeger

    Practice makes perfect. Or so they say. Whoever they are.

  • Alex

    Great shot, and you’re right. I find myself thinking the same – my shots aren’t that good, but my friends think the opposite because they haven’t learned and studied.

  • Konrad

    what am i looking at here?

  • Kathy Lynn Hill

    I have always had a love of photography to the point my family hates holidays…lol. However, I recently bought a Nikon Coolpix and did some “Save the Date” photos for a friend who recently got engaged and had so much fun I’m now thinking this is something I want to do on a part time basis. Any suggestions?

  • Krysta Wright

    I know this is late, but going with a full on black and white with high contrast would have looked way more dramatic and professional than the selective color pop. I like the image much more than the editing style.

  • Krysta Wright

    Invest in a decent SLR and at least one good lense. In the mean time, learn the basics about lighting and how it pertains to photographs. A good place to start: aperture, shutter speed, iso. There are a TON of resources online that are free and can help you learn anything you need to know to get you started. Last tip: Do them for free to build a portfolio and until you know you can be consistent in getting professional shots.

Some Older Comments

  • Necole September 30, 2013 10:22 am

    After several years of being told to follow my dream of being a photographer I continue to battle the self-doubt and comparison you mentioned. Your article was like a revelation for me! Thank you for inspiring me.....you don't even know me but you gave me just what I needed to hear as I waiver back and forth about jumping in with both feet. Blessings!

  • Rishab. singh June 18, 2013 07:29 pm

    Hi i have just started learning photography u can just check out my few snaps at instagram by searching rocking_rishab i would love to know ur review and also suggest methods through which i can improve mah photography........ :)

  • kamal March 4, 2013 06:58 pm

    i want to be a very good photographer & can you all suggest me how to do this??

  • Elaine Johnson December 30, 2012 01:49 pm

    I'm starting high school soon and learning how to be a photographer is like learning math but with a camera

  • Myron Wade May 12, 2012 12:35 pm

    I looking for a career change at the tender age of 53. I enjoyed taking picture for friend and family just for fun. Now am thinking of doing it's career change. Is the market for photograper at demand. I like the tips this article provide.

  • rashaad February 1, 2012 07:13 am

    im only in middle school but i am starting photography early good list

  • dora October 21, 2010 10:33 am

    Thank You Natalie for all this advice I will go by it and hopefully be successful in my work!! I truly truly thank you tremendously!!

  • Courtney August 20, 2010 11:33 pm

    Hi Everyone!
    Im really liking this site. I know this is going to sound silly but I do not like SLR cameras. Maybe Im not experienced enough. However, I have a bridge camera that is between a Point and Shoot and SLR. I love it, and it has a manual zoom that I love. Does an SLR really take much better shots or is it all in the editing?

  • Yekinni Abdulahi May 16, 2010 11:24 am

    I actually want to build a career in photography but I have no experience at all.I am a graduate of Economics Education and I work in a bank
    With events recently happening in the industry in my country-Nigeria-I scared of the security of my job and I want to build a career for myself in this creative profession.I want someone to advice on what to do

  • Kathy Baksa December 23, 2009 07:04 am

    I just want to thank you for your post on being a more confident photographer. It really meant a lot. I tend to be overly critical and self defeated at times. Thank you so much for sharing. :) Kathy

  • Diana Mikaels December 18, 2009 01:22 pm

    ADVICE: BE PROUD OF YOUR WORK, AS YOU ARE OF YOUR CHILD (neither are a one person's work alone, hehe....)

  • Diana Mikaels December 18, 2009 01:18 pm

    It's really good to have all this help. When I first started, it all seemed to me as in Chinese - I didn't understand a word... and all those acronyms!! But we won't give up, once we get started. No waste of the used time :)
    And it's amazing how much of one's personality gets reflected on our photographs... it surely represents (in a way) our outlook on life, yeah? When I see other people's work... I can love it, admire it, respect it, wonder about it... but my own work is to me like my own child - there just isn't anyone more beautiful (it's a subjective remark, with modesty). I am inside my work, and I recognize myself there - just as you recognize yourself in your child.
    All of you, keep up your excellent work!! :) :) :)

  • Yogendra October 10, 2009 12:49 am

    i loved the last section.. very practical yet very philosophycal!! thanks for helping to get the "right" perspective!

  • MPPdotORG(supporter) August 21, 2009 06:00 am

    One tip that I learned is to not zoom in too much. You may be going over your pictures later and notice something you hadn't earlier, and want to crop that. If you're using a digital camera, you can always zoom/crop LATER. Try and capture everything, you never know what ideas you may come up with later for that crazy shot you took!

  • Rowell July 15, 2009 07:52 am

    Great tips! This helps me a lot because I am doing a 365 day project. I really need to be creative for this.

  • Pranab Jyoti Goswami July 10, 2009 05:14 am

    I am a newly born baby to the ocean of Photography. Thanks to Natalie Norton for providing us a valuable steps. And also to dcclark for guiding the left out points.

  • Tyler July 1, 2009 09:42 am

    Natalie Norton is awesome! She spits the truth. Thanks for always helpful, sharing, and optimistic attitude! We need more people like you in the world.

  • Donald June 28, 2009 10:45 am

    Lots of good advice and additional suggestions. I am one who would probably wouldn't do a notebook but there are times I do want to note something. My cellphone lets me do a voice memo. Texting yourself could also work.

  • Staci Brock June 24, 2009 07:02 am

    Just what I needed! Thanks for a great article. While some of these I can say with confidence (smirk!) I do, there were a few, I need to work on...! Needed the reminder.

  • Photojoe June 23, 2009 11:02 am

    I am going to put a lot of this information to practice. I am currently in Phoenix Ar. & leaving for Sedona tomorrow for three days. I will be posting my pictures on my web site hopefully within the the next two weeks. Let me know what you think....

  • Author: natalie norton June 23, 2009 10:26 am


    I also own a copy of "The Moment it Clicks" and recommend it highly. Fantastic book.


  • Linda Baca June 23, 2009 09:10 am

    Just this morning I was whinning (okay, not whining, just venting and feeling sorry for myself) to a friend about how I wish I was further in my photography than when I started 2 years ago. I started to have a chat with myself and reminded myself that I AM further than I was 2 years ago. I have learned so much and continue to learn because of forums such as this. I was also just mentioning to my friend that I felt like I just lacked the confidence to become a great photographer. And then . . voila . . . .this article! Just in the the nick of time! Thank you so much. I will stop the whining and keep pressing on. Thank you again for all that you do in helping us newbies achieve our dream!


  • Annie June 23, 2009 12:48 am

    Loved this post.

  • Shaun June 22, 2009 09:59 pm

    I noticed a reference to Scott Kelby and i'd like to drop another name in there, Joe McNally! Joe's book "The Moment It Clicks" is mentioned in volume 2 of "The Digital Photography Book" and i was intrigued so, i checked it out! This and "The Hotshoe Diaries" give great insights into what made HIS photos work, how he created them! Study the "Masters", they're still learning just like the rest of us but they have a wealth of knowledge to share!

  • Beth @ Pages of Our Life June 22, 2009 09:53 pm


    Thanks for the encouragement! I'm on the beginning of the learning curve and often find myself overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge that goes into perfecting this craft.


  • Ger June 21, 2009 01:23 am

    Fantastic tips, I am a begininer so every little thing helps! I like the idea of the notebook but how to go about it i am not sure e.g what would I be recording etc.

  • Ian June 20, 2009 09:20 pm

    that eased the pain. wow! im really glad that you guys exist!

  • Silva June 20, 2009 04:24 pm

    Great article Natalie, some very good advice for beginners, especially about getting depressed looking at other peoples work. Don’t let it happen like this, other people’s work should inspire and generate ideas, ‘the glass is half full’ remember.
    Sure there is always going to be better, we are all different and we all do the best we can with what we’ve got!
    If I didn’t think I could grow and get better I’d have nothing to strive for and would have got bored years ago! I have been photographing for 35 years and am still pursuing it.

  • Joel Schneiderman June 20, 2009 11:38 am

    I agree with this article whole heartedly. I am retired and have time to take all the pictures I want and do. I am involved with several on line picture postings such as Whoopy.com where I can show my photos and receive comments from many other amature photographers. I also compared my photos with others and felt the same way that my photos were not up to snuff, however, I now feel that my photography has improved and I am getting the "Great"shots as well as the average photos. Just keep shooting and it will come.

  • Debra June 20, 2009 09:25 am

    Natalie, thanks for the great article. I am currently taking a home study course and my instructor suggested this website to me, and I'm sooo glad she did. I am one of those notebook people so I am definitely going to try this. I have been taking notes through my studies so far, but it just never dawned on me to put it all together in a notebook. Duh! This site is great. Everything I have read so far is informational and supportive. Just something I need to keep me going when I get down on myself, as I'm sure we all do at times.

    Thanks again!!

  • Janelle June 20, 2009 05:08 am

    I really appreciate this list! Confidence, for me, is something that waxes and wanes. My problem is that I can end up with a few fantastic shots and instead of feeling like I am really improving, I instead feel that I got really lucky! There is SO much that I don't know. This list really gives any beginner a great direction to go, in becoming both more competent AND confident. THANKS!

  • B P Maiti June 19, 2009 10:55 pm

    Confidence building is always unique.It has got no fascade like beginner ,amateur.semi pro or pro.Its like try and try again.So this article breathes freshness,inspiring.Pl .always publish such materials.

  • shibu jacob June 19, 2009 07:58 pm

    Fabulous tips.I studied and practised photography way back in the early 90's,and then i have been relegated to taking photographs when we holiday.SOmehow that passion is rekindled now and these tips were motivating.I felt what someone felt that when i practised B&W photography,that someone else always took better pics than you.But thats life,doesnt mean youre no good.Good on you guys.

  • Lynsey June 19, 2009 06:08 pm

    What a boost! I am so lucky - I studied photography at uni and now I actually have a job as a professional portrait photographer - how many people actually get to say that?! Unfortunately, I spend my days thinking I'm not good enough and never will be. The last few points really hit home. Looking at other people's work is brilliant if you can figure out how they've done it - it makes you feel like you can be capable of equal greatness. Spotting something mind blowing that really makes your brain ache can be so intimidating as it feels beyond your reach. Now it can just be seen as a challenge rather than an impossibility.
    Thank you DPS - you teach me invaluable lessons!

  • lokesh June 19, 2009 04:58 pm

    Hey this tips were very useful for my college project.
    Thanks a lot.

  • Joey June 19, 2009 12:49 pm

    i stopped posting my photos on online sites simply because i may get the praise of someone i do not respect. don't get me wrong, a lot of people will say one photo is good and another is amazing and i thank them for that, but i need honest criticism on technical and compositional shortcomings. these will make me want to do better and improve my shots in the long run.

  • Jill June 19, 2009 11:44 am

    Great tips...thanks!!

  • Lindsey Epps-Tucker June 19, 2009 09:13 am

    This was very-very insightful. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jean Andersen June 19, 2009 07:50 am

    The best tip (aside from practice!) is buried in the last paragraph: Confidence is a choice. Acknowledging ones own small progresses is always preferred over believing that little internal voice that says, "I'll never make it."

  • Barb June 19, 2009 07:01 am

    Being a brand newbie I am often feeling overwhelmed, both with the new camera and trying to begin learning PSE 7. I'm gaining so much from this site (and others) and appreciate the attitude of encouragement throughout. Your article was a great reminder that we all start as beginners, with hopefully an eager, diligent attitude to grow. But I'm spending far too much time learning at the computer rather than out in the field. I'm hoping joining a camera club will also prove to be a great learning tool, which you could add to your list. Thanks, and looking forward to more great info.

  • Lisa Summers June 19, 2009 06:20 am

    Hi Natalie,

    Just to say that all you have said is totally valid. I make prep notes before every shoot & find them useful as a reference the next time round. Also, trying the different settings in different lighting conditions & assessing the results when you have the time & NOT on an actual shoot can help. You are then able to decide what you want to achieve in your next shoot beforehand rather than doing it on the hop & hoping for the best.

    By the way...tried out your funky composition and colours from your maternity shoot (the one with just legs & tummy) and was pleased with the results...thanks!

    best wishes

  • Allison June 19, 2009 05:10 am

    Love all the tips. But I really like tip number 7 about getting inspiration from the work of others. Whenever I see an awesome photograpy, I try to figure out and use the same technique my next time out.

  • mrs vivienne marks June 19, 2009 02:49 am

    Found this artical very very helpful, will put into practice what you recommend
    especially keeping a note book.

  • Gary June 19, 2009 02:39 am


    I agree, I would love to be more organised and a notebook might help, but what to use it for and how to lay it out.
    Maybe an article on this would be good.


  • Ruth June 19, 2009 02:37 am

    I don't even have a case for my camera: there's a squirrel at the bird feeder, my 7 year old's soccer game, the rain is pouring outside. Everything is there to capture. When the Space Shuttle Columbia crashed and they recovered a roll of film that the crew had taken of themselves and the NYTimes published a photo of them alive,smiling and floating, I stared at that photo over and over. I remember seeing a great shot, again in the NYTimes, taken at a soccer game from behind the net. The ball was hitting the back net in the goal, the goalie was looking at the ball in disbelief, and the scorer was on the ground looking into the goal. Photography is a way of seeing and the camera becomes part of you.

  • Jonathan Blocher June 19, 2009 02:25 am

    Your content is good, and I will have by students look at it next school year.

    As a Graphic Designer for 25 years, and a Graphic Design teacher for the last nine years, I can't help proof-reading EVERYTHING. So I couldn't help noticing that (in your second-to-last paragraph) you used the word "anecdote" when you meant "antidote". Sorry to be so picky.

  • Ben June 19, 2009 02:23 am

    that is really empowering and truly inspiring advice...

  • Sharizal Halim June 19, 2009 01:33 am

    Hey Natalie! First things first, great tips! I'm still new to photography, and these tips are truly ones that I can relate with. In fact I just bought the Scott Kelby book, and you recommended it! The last tip, however, is the one I was really thankful for. Simply because I've been feeling that way this whole time. Without a doubt, I should get a new perspective and be inspired by others' work of art instead of feeling discouraged.

    Thanks Natalie! Great tips.

  • Tim Collier June 18, 2009 07:31 am

    All really sound advice. I liken it to a musician. If you are learning a musical instrument you need to spend hours every day practicing scales or chord changes. You wouldn't expect to be proficient and perform in public without the hard slog. No different with photography.

  • Iris June 18, 2009 01:47 am

    Oh, Natalie - I so enjoyed reading this post. My husband always tells me "Shoot, shoot, and shoot again". I too get discouraged when I compare my shots to my husband's, but I guess I just need more practice. How I have been learning about my shot-settings is I check out the settings when I convert my RAW files to JPGS. I think I really need to start to write them down in my journal...Thanks for all your tips and your encouraging post.

  • Stephanie Stewart June 18, 2009 01:27 am

    Love this article! I've just had my first DSLR for a year now, and I can definitely see that I've come a long way, both in confidence and learning new skills, but I have SOOOO far to go!!! But that aspect is what keeps me so intrigued and interested in my passion. Thanks for the idea of a notebook, I'm going to start that today! Thanks so much for these tips!

  • Brian June 18, 2009 12:24 am

    All good tips. I think where most people fall short of achieving great photos they see others capturing is lack of opportunity, location and time. A professional has the ability to travel, sit on location for days to shoot morning, mid-day, evening, variable weather conditions etc. I often struggle finding subjects and/or loactions where I live that will make a great photograph. Sometimes you see one element that will add to a great photo but you can't bring the other necessary elements into the scene to make it work. For instance, I was driving home after work on Friday and there was a beautiful sunset developing. However, I'm on an expressway surrounded by bill boards, cement, corssover ramps and I'm moving at 60 mph with cars all around. I'm just getting frustrated that by the time I could get out of the city the moment is long gone.

  • Zack Jones June 17, 2009 09:27 pm

    Great tips!

    Don't forget to learn some post processing skills. I've watched podcasts of before/after comparisons and it's pretty amazing some of the things you can do in post processing to change a ho-hum photo into an oh-wow photo. I know it can be taken to extremes but it's well worth the time to find a good post processing tool and learn to use it.

  • wogand June 17, 2009 09:01 pm

    I really like the website and all the tips. This list is great, thanks! Word to your mother lol!

  • Author: Natalie Norton June 17, 2009 05:27 pm


    LOVE your comment. Totally agree. Fantastic reminder!


  • Stefan Tell June 17, 2009 05:24 pm

    I think that going back to old photos, good and bad, is very helpful in learning what made them memorable or just boring. It's easy getting stuck in a style just because it works and you feel safe doing like that. Then it might be a good idea to go through the archives and see how you have evolved, and maybe pick up some tricks you might have forgotten. Some of my best photos are from way back when I might not have been so good at technique or other stuff, but compensated that with sheer enthusiasm.

  • Aimee Greeblemonkey June 17, 2009 03:34 pm

    Love the tone of the last anecdote. I feel totally empowered when I search through Flickr - it makes me want to go out and shoot like crazy, and also comment on others work and tell them how awesome they are!

    P.S. great post!

  • Candace Sheets June 17, 2009 02:44 pm

    Love these tips; thank you Natalie. I love your posts and your work :) One more tip I was given by a great photographer, I believe it was Tamara Lackey; was to read your camera's manual front to back 3 times. This goes to what Ravi was saying above about knowing your camera inside out.

  • Author: Natalie Norton June 17, 2009 02:40 pm


    That infuriates me. Why are so many photographers like that??! You know what you do when you are surrounded by people like that?? YOU ASK ANYWAY. Keep asking, don't feel discouraged if people opt not to be helpful and always be willing to share with others. That's the recipe for success.

    Good luck!


  • Heidi June 17, 2009 02:11 pm

    I know with me asking questions is difficult ONLY because I've found around where I live Photographers are a mean species! They just don't want to share their "secrets" with the competition. Well I guess that's why I joined this forum! Thanks all..

  • oliver June 17, 2009 12:49 pm

    This is great and powerful article.. Thanks!

  • ravi June 17, 2009 12:07 pm

    @Lisa, I also had the same thoughts, but i figured that choosing a lay out that someone else uses etc probably won't be comfortable for me, so I ended up just throwing myself at it, sure my notebook is messy (like my desk) but it works pretty well for me!

    i also think a good tip is to get to know your camera inside out, know how to use different modes, what effects you can achieve with different f's and shutter speeds, I found that once i became proficient with my technical skills, it was much easier to see a fantastic photgraph and then decompose it in my head, "oh yeah, i see the fast shutter speed and large aperture they used to freeze that motion and get the background blurry.. etc etc" once i was able to do that, i felt i could also take those fantastic photos given the opportunity, instead of getting down about it

  • kate June 17, 2009 11:20 am

    I always put my camera away in a ready position for an average scene. aperture priority mode f8
    ISO 200 auto focus and my favorite lens 17mm-80mm is. I always know what i'm set at
    and can pick up the camera and change any settings quickly with hardly looking at the camera. Most of the
    time I shoot with ISO 100. but for that grab camera and run 200 is the place to be.

  • MeiTeng June 17, 2009 10:57 am

    Great tips. I find these very helpful and encouraging...especially tip #7. Seeing other great works in a new perspective helps one to learn.

  • Matt June 17, 2009 10:29 am

    This is so ridiculously true it's amazing.

  • Deirdre June 17, 2009 08:43 am

    This is so helpful!

    I'd like to suggest another strategy for people who need help with #4. Find a photographer you like, and see if you can find their early photos. Maybe they'll share these with you. Sometimes you can find these at the beginning of their blog or if you look for their very oldest flickr posts. Sometimes it can be quite clear how much they progressed since they started out, and it' can be inspiring to see another photographer's beginnings.

  • Lisa June 17, 2009 07:48 am

    love this post, i'm curious to see how others set up there notebooks, i've toy-ed with the idea of setting one up serveral times but always get stressed at the idea of how to lay it out and i end up moving on. any suggestions out there??
    also i have a number of post ideas roaming around in my head now! dps might be getting alot of questions from me very soon!!
    thanks natalie!

  • alex June 17, 2009 07:06 am

    Thank you :D very useful information

  • Sandra June 17, 2009 06:48 am

    I always like your posts, Natalie!

    If you can get a fellow enthusiast (or two) to join you on your "lunch hour shoots," it's a great low-pressure way to learn from one another.

  • sheldonc June 17, 2009 06:37 am

    Thanks for the tips - as I really am a beginner I think they cover all the right areas and route I have been following over the past 2 or 3 months

    The only thing I would add and it may be a personal thing or maybe everyone will agree is that unless you know exactly what setting you should be using the best default is to have your camera set to Aperture Priority mode. When you have time you can always play around with different aperture settings but on the whole as long as you are focused on your subject you will normally get pretty good results

  • Richard June 17, 2009 06:25 am

    Incredibly inspiring and practical information. THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  • hagen June 17, 2009 05:30 am

    For that reader with the confidence challenge. I sometimes feel that same on my journey but I always fall back on the thought: they had to go through the exact same learning process and if they can learn it, so can I!

    I have noticed that my output seems to grow slowly in quality, then takes a leap every now and then as i absorb and incorporate an "aha" moment.

    The other thing I find is that there are very few pictures that have not had some sort of tweak to them. So don't despair if you can't quite get there in-camera.

    Cheers and enjoy the journey

    PS and thanks for the newsletter and guides. They are great little tidbits.

  • Josh June 17, 2009 05:20 am

    I don't care how many times I read it, but shooting frequently is always good advice. In fact, maybe the advice should be to "remind yourself everyday to shoot everyday".

    Also, I have never kept a notebook, but might try this for awhile. I wonder if anyone has used a blog for a notebook? With Flickr, DPS, and so many other sites, it seems like a good idea.

  • Prateek June 17, 2009 04:57 am

    I am new to photography and i totally believe that shooting frequently and with different vantage points can help develop ones' skills to quite an extent and hence, is significant in gaining confidence.

    I don't maintain a notebook as yet but now i soon shall!

    Thank you for these quick steps!!

  • Ilan June 17, 2009 04:53 am

    Agree with dcclark - This is a great list.

    When I started to get interested in photography, I found people who I thought that might help me 'evolve' is a better photographer. I listened to their critique, learned from their work and their tips.
    Photo forums are great place to begin. Critique photos of other might sometimes give you insight that you might have missed in your photos.
    Try to imitate the Masters.
    Being a photographer is not only to know how to 'click' at the right moment. It's also about knowing to choose the best frame out of many. It's to know how to edit your photos.
    And most of all - keep an eye of photo sites like this one - They always have great tips :)

    This frame was taken as homage to Edward Hopper, that although was a painter, 'taught' me a lot about light.

    http://www.ilanbresler.com/2009/06/together-and-alone.html (the frame is part of my project to imitate Master, by the way)

  • dcclark June 17, 2009 04:39 am

    This is a great list of suggestions! I'm so glad that you added the "... or don't" option to "Keep a notebook" -- I'm one for which that is a huge annoyance. I keep ideas, locations, and times in my head. But I know others who keep notebooks religiously, and it seems to work very well for them.

    Also, for the record, I think that some of the coolest shots I've ever seen (or taken) have come in difficult lighting situations. After all, it really is all about the light. Sometimes it's ok to shoot into the sun. :)

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