In this article, we’re going to share 21 photography settings, techniques, and rules you should know as a beginner photographer.
Some are very basic while others go a little deeper, but all have been selected from our archives specifically for beginners and new camera owners.
Introduction to useful modes and settings on your digital camera
1. Digital Camera Modes Explained – I spoke with a family friend recently who had just bought a new point and shoot camera. She came up to me with her camera when no one was watching and embarrassedly asked me if I could tell her what all the little icons on the dial on top of her camera meant. This article explains what each of the most common digital camera modes means and does. Knowing these photography modes can take your shots to the next level.
2. Aperture and Shutter Priority Modes – This introduction takes you through these two very useful settings that can be found on many digital cameras. Aperture and Shutter Priority mode take you off of Auto mode, giving you more control over your images without thrusting you fully into Manual mode. They are great settings to explore and master.
3. Introduction to White Balance – One of the most common problems that I see in beginner photography is shots with incorrect colors. We’ve all seen them: portraits where your subject’s teeth and eyeballs (and everything else) have a yellowish tinge. Learn what causes this and how to combat it with this tutorial on white balance.
4. Understanding Histograms – “Histograms are scary.” This is what one reader said to me recently when they discovered that they could view these little graphs on their camera. While histograms might seem a little technical, it is amazing how simple a histogram is to interpret. Know what to look for, and with just a glance you can tell if your image is under- or over-exposed. It’s a useful tool to master.
5. Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB) – This feature is another of those often-unexplored settings that many cameras have built into them. It will allow you to get well-exposed shots in even the trickiest of lighting situations.
Other basic camera techniques
6. How to Hold a Digital Camera – This beginner tutorial covers a topic that most camera owners skip over without realizing that it is a foundational lesson in photography. Get this wrong and it can dramatically impact the quality of your shots.
7. Shutter Release Technique – Another basic tip that many do intuitively, but which can drastically improve your photography if you don’t do it.
8. How to Use Focal Lock – Yet another beginner technique that many of us take for granted, yet is at the core of how all digital cameras focus automatically. Get this wrong and you’ll take a lot of shots of out-of-focus subjects and in-focus backgrounds!
9. How to Take Sharp Digital Images – “My shots are fuzzy.” It’s a problem we’re frequently asked about, so we wrote this tutorial to help you get the sharpest images your camera can take.
10. Shooting with an In-Camera Flash – Flash photography with a built-in flash can lead to some terribly blown-out images. This article offers a few tips on how to avoid this. And here are 7 Strategies for Avoiding Flash Blow Out.
11. How to Get Shallow Depth of Field in Your Digital Photos – A great technique to learn if you’re into many types of photography (portraits, macro, etc.) is how to control the depth of field in your shots. That way, you can make your main subject pop by making your background nicely blurred. This tutorial walks you through how to do it.
Camera care and maintenance
13. How to Avoid a Dirty DSLR Sensor – One of the fastest ways to ruin every single shot you take with your new DSLR is to end up with a dirty image sensor. This tutorial gives some basic tips on how to ensure it stays as clean as possible.
14. How to Clean a DSLR Lens – As much as you try to protect them, lenses tend to get grimy over time. This tutorial shares some basic tips on how to clean lenses so that your shots will be as clear as possible.
15. 7 Digital Camera Predators and How to Keep them at Bay – This tutorial takes you through 7 of the most common ways that digital cameras get damaged, what to look out for, and what preventative actions you can take.
16. The Rule of Thirds – Whether you follow it or break it, the rule of thirds is a topic you should at least know about.
17. Points of Interest – An image without some visual point of interest is unlikely to hold the eye of anyone viewing it.
18. Getting Horizons Horizontal – The perfect way to ruin that lovely sunset or landscape shot is to make it lean to one side. Get your horizon horizontal!
19. Fill Your Frame – This is not applicable to every shot you take, but many photographers could drastically improve their photography by getting in close to their subject and filling the frame.
20. Getting Backgrounds Right – The background can make or break an image. This tutorial walks you through a number of things to look out for and techniques to use to get the background just right.
21. Adding Randomness to Your Photos – Learn how to set your images apart from everyone else’s by injecting creativity, variety, and a little randomness into your shots.
Of course, these 21 photography settings, techniques, and rules for beginner camera owners just scratch the surface of all there is to learn about the art of photography. Subscribe to our blog here to get more free daily tips to help you keep learning and improving.
Our guide to getting creative control over your camera
If you’re looking for a complete guide to taking control of your camera, then you might like to check out our course, Photo Nuts and Bolts, which walks you through everything you need to know to start taking beautiful photos.
Here’s the intro: