5 Mind-Traps of Beginner Photographers

5 Mind-Traps of Beginner Photographers

Xava Du

By Xava du

A Guest Post by Laura Radniecki.

Everyone starts their photography journey as a beginner.

Everyone, at some point in time, looks to those who have more experience and expertise than them and feels inadequate. It can be overwhelming to pick up this amazing machine [Point & Shoot OR DSLR camera] that is capable of so much, and not really know what to do with it. It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling incapable.
If you have felt like this, you are not alone.

Here are 5 mind-traps common to beginning photographers, and why you shouldn’t let yourself buy into them.

1. My Photos Are Bad:

It’s easy to feel like your photos are junk. Everyone starts at the beginning; not knowing a thing. Learning about your camera can be a bumpy road, and there will be lots of bad photos for every good one you take. That’s the nature of learning. Each time you take a photo though, you’ll get a little bit better. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you should be taking perfect pictures right away.

2. My Gear Isn’t Good Enough:

Expensive gear doesn’t necessarily equal good photos. If you don’t know how to use a camera to its full potential, the most expensive gear in the world won’t give you great photos. That said, fantastic photos can come from all ranges of equipment.

I started my photography journey when I was in grade school, with several small film Point & Shoot cameras. I upgraded to the digital world with another round of Point & Shoots. I took some photos that I’m really proud of with those Point & Shoot cameras, set on Auto mode. Sure, I have taken better ones with my DSLR, mostly because my knowledge of photography grew and I learned what my camera is truly capable of. But that doesn’t change the fact that I love some of the photos that came from my Point & Shoot camera.

3. I’m Doing This All Wrong:

There is no “wrong” way to take a photo. Many beginners feel like they are inadequate because they don’t understand manual settings, and can’t effectively use them. Don’t fall into that mind-trap! Auto isn’t a bad setting. It is a great place to begin your photography journey. The Priority modes on DSLRs are designed to offer a transition from Auto to full Manual settings, when YOU are ready. Advance at your own speed. Remember, great photos are what count. The settings you used to capture the great photos aren’t important.

*Don’t let the fear of progressing past Auto hold you back, though. It’s a scary world at first, but there is no reason not to take the leap. In the digital world, there’s no consequence for taking hundreds of photos, even if most turn out horrible. Who cares? That’s what the DELETE button is for! Once you’ve mastered Auto mode, practice using the other settings. Research how they work and what they do. Play around with them. They are conquerable and you WILL succeed. It’s all about learning and practice.

4. I’ll Never Be Able to Take Photos Like the Pros

Remember – the pros were beginners once too!

Everyone has to start somewhere. Learn from the pros. Study their work. Use them as inspiration to practice and grow.

5. I Can’t Afford Any Editing Programs:

Photoshop might not be in your arsenal right now, and maybe it never will be. Have no fear! There are plenty of other choices out there, many of which are free. Creative control over your photos is at your fingertips!

Check out these free options:

  • Windows Photo Gallery
  • iPhoto
  • Picasa
  • Gimp
  • PicMonkey

If you’d like more editing capabilities but still don’t want to invest in the full Photoshop suite, Photoshop Elements is a great alternative. PSE has most of the best features of Photoshop, for a fraction of the cost, and in a slightly less intimidating form. Adobe also has the Lightroom software; an organisational and complete editing package, for less than the Photoshop bundle.

It’s easy to let these mind-traps seep into your consciousness and get you down. They might even make you second guess your photographic talent. Don’t let them! Don’t give up. Keep shooting and watch yourself and your photography grow.

See more of Laura Radniecki’s work here.

Note: this post has been updated since originally published.

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Some Older Comments

  • Desirée June 5, 2011 04:42 am

    I am definitely suffering from 1 and 4... I do think my pictures are bad (well, not as good as they could be) and I am afraid I will never be as good as the pro's... I'm also afraid I don't have the talent of the professionals...

    Thank you for this article, it is such a reassurance!

  • hubbul walidainy July 28, 2010 12:39 am

    hi...it's really interesting
    coz i'm a newbie in this lovely area
    thank for sharing this valuable information


  • Vicky July 16, 2010 07:43 am

    The only camera I have is the one on my mobile phone. Most of the pictures I take with it are very ordinary because they're 'happy snaps' rather than *photography* but I've still managed to take a few that I'm rather pleased with. The difference is that with a 'happy snap' I'm capturing a moment, whereas with a 'photograph', I am trying to capture the 'the look'.

    Whoever said photography is mostly about 'seeing' is right.

  • Suzanne April 21, 2010 03:03 pm

    I am just starting out and I have been a little down lately! This helped me so much!

  • Omar April 20, 2010 10:36 pm

    Have you been listening to my thoughts lately?

    This topic discussed exactly what is going into my mind! However, I fighting them back and I'm enjoying each shot I take. Practicing and confidence is all what we need.

  • sabine April 14, 2010 10:32 pm

    Being a hobby photographer for not too long yet, I just felt exactly how you described - not being able to shoot like the pros made me feel bad.

    Well, I guess, I just have to keep on trying. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Jessica April 13, 2010 06:27 am

    as i beginner photographer, all 5 points have definitely crossed my mind many times. thanks for the encouragement! wonderful article.

    i post my photos on www.viewbug.com/member/jchoy and would like some feedback sometime. thanks!

  • Nando Tampubolon April 12, 2010 06:58 pm

    Lol, soon after read this article made me cheer-up again due I just have a point and shoot digital pocket camera. I think I've to enjoy my time with my digital pocket camera before my 'piggybank' is full so I can buy the DSLR one.

    and yeah, i'm go with your words said 'Remember – the pros were beginners once too!'..and I think we all the beginners could be the pros someday..right ?

  • Mussadique April 11, 2010 03:15 am

    You should add Gimp to the list of free photo editing software. Good free full featured alternative to Photoshop.

  • Mandy April 7, 2010 09:17 pm

    Capture NX2 is a great inexpensive alternative. Also, you can download a 60 day trial for free with no strings attached. Tutorials (if needed) are just one google away.....

  • Shelley-Ann April 4, 2010 11:05 pm

    Reading articles like this one makes me glad I found this website. I'm just at the stage of moving beyond these mind-traps and it's exhilerating. What's been helpful to me is to talk about it. I hooked up with a friend who likes photography as well, and we try to do a shoot at least once a month. We compare photos, discuss shutter speed and aperture, and talk about what works and what doesn't. I've learnt to laugh at the mistakes while I learn from them. Laughter helps release some of the stress/tension over getting the right shot. The thing is, there's no better way to become a better photographer than taking lots of (sometimes bad) pictures!

  • LauraRadniecki March 28, 2010 05:59 am

    @guitarboy - Have at it! Print it and refer to it as often as you need to. I'll be doing the same! I was able to write this article because I have felt/still feel these things from time to time!

    Happy shooting,


  • Guitarboy March 28, 2010 12:08 am

    Thanks for that I do dispair sometimes and after checking my results at home I want to crawl into bed and pull the duvet over my head. I may print off your recommendations and carry them round as a reminder if you dont mind.

  • supersonic March 27, 2010 08:26 am

    As above time and practice,,,,if we all had the same taste we would not even be here..fantastic tips,and great people thanks to DPS keep up the excellent work and many thanks. Paul.

  • Kimberly March 27, 2010 01:58 am

    You nailed this perfectly! I'm self taught (and web taught) and it just takes practice practice practice. The photos I took last week are miles better than the ones I took a year ago when I first purchased my DSLR. It takes time.


  • Helen March 27, 2010 12:50 am


    Great article - wish I'd read it when I started out!

    I just wanted to mention paint.net which is similar to Paintshop Pro and Artweaver which looks a lot like Photoshop.

    They are both free/opensource and can be found on sourceforge.


  • MoonShaw March 26, 2010 10:17 pm

    This was a good post! I admit I sometimes think all that stuff... I felt like the post was specially for me! Thanks to the writer. :)

  • Rob March 26, 2010 07:28 pm

    Thanks so much for this article. I've been thinking several of these thoughts recently about my photography so I'm greatly encouraged.


  • Nikole March 26, 2010 03:38 pm

    i would like to also mention that GIMP is a free software program comparable to Photoshop.

  • Varun March 26, 2010 03:13 pm

    Great Article.. Am motivated all over again.. :) thanks..

  • David Arrowsmith March 26, 2010 01:59 pm

    The best way to learn how to shoot good photos? Well it depends on a person's preferred learning style. I like to read a book or two to get the theory in my head and then go out and take some pics putting into practice what I learned from reading. Others may prefer a bit of tuition and others still do it all through trial and error, although it takes longer that way. Horses for courses and all that. Whatever suits you, do it!
    As for software, I use ACDSee for viewing (folder based) and Elements for editing. (I don't like the Elements album and stacking system). Buying the full Photoshop is unnecessary unless you are a professional photographer or graphic designer and even then I doubt they make full use of all it's capabilities.

  • Kristen Sassella March 26, 2010 01:32 pm

    Thankyou so much for the above article. I cannot count the amount of times I have thought the above and felt that I am the only one to feel like that. It is nice and encouraging to know other people have been in a similar thought pattern and been able to overcome this and progress in the photography world. I am very excited and look forward to one day being able to say I am a Professional Photographer!! Thanks again.

  • K March 26, 2010 11:42 am

    Great tips. One of my greatest 'frustrations' is when hearing from wannabe amateur photographers (i.e. those that would like to take better pictures purely for themselves) complaining about their equipment - or rather, asking about my equipment because the pictures are so great.

    I've taken great pictures with very basic point and shoot cameras or even more esoteric pinhole cameras etc. But my point is really, do you think anybody came up to Keith Richards and said, wow that song was awesome, I just have to get myself a guitar like that so I can do the same? Or somebody asking Picasso, wow that is a fantastic painting, what kind of brush did you use for that one? Or somebody asking the US hockey team what sticks they are using so they can become equally good? Or somebody asking Pavarotti what he had for breakfast that made his voice sound so great?

    Equipment might play a role, but only on the margin. The volatility in outcome based on skill and talent is infinitely larger than which camera is used.

    Caveat - I do find that good lenses can make a difference. For instance, having sufficiently fast lenses that you can shoot indoor without a flash is something that even beginners can benefit from with limited skill. Other than that, I just dont see it...

  • James Brown March 26, 2010 10:40 am

    Well, that was comforting to read. Thank you. Really made me feel better.
    And let me just add my love of GIMP. Brilliant software and a brilliant idea- if you want a new plugin (and you have the nouse) make one! I have tried both photoshop and GIMP, but found that the only major difference is that Photoshop has the preset buttons for the same things you can do with GIMP if you know how, so it just seems easier. But back to the article, thanks again, very nice. No matter how long I've been a photographer, sometimes I still want to just burn my hard-drive in frustration and dissapointment.

    Oh, and one more thing, thank you for not telling us what type of camera you have! Some photo-blog contributors seem to want to continually tell us what type of camera they have, and I just find that so un-helpful! That is, after all, the least important thing they could possibly tell us.

  • Bill See March 26, 2010 10:20 am

    You hit the main points. To the readers and those new or old to photography. You are the key to your images.
    If you "see", the equipment is not important. Learning to see starts with recording images, then looking at the result. Start turning the image upside down to find the main point of interest, the point your eye goes to first. Is this what you thought was your main point? In the days of view cameras everything was upside down so the key object was easy to pick out, the likes of Adams and others saw the world this way all the time. With digital the cost of the memory disk is the only cost, no processing, proof prints, etc. you get to see what you recorded right NOW. I suggest that you wait till you view images in larger size before deleting any with one exception, if you can see it has major technical problems not sharp or accidental trip/exposure but you never know what you created till at the desk. Go out or inside and record your visions do not worry about the results till later.
    Do not let others define your vision or "seeing" develop your own style. Now have fun and record. Try getting great images without Photoshop, the old-timers using Kodachrome or Ecktacrome recorded all in camera not with a program later.

  • meep March 26, 2010 10:02 am

    Yay! I'm a newbie armed with my first camera, point and shoot, and Picasa for editing. And I'm grateful for this encouragement sort of post.

    My problem is I feel like I know all the functions on my basic camera but would have no idea what to do with a DSLR.

  • Chris March 26, 2010 09:46 am

    Photo Filtre is another great editing program. I used it for a few years before purchasing Photoshop and still use it from time to time.

  • Sarah March 26, 2010 06:49 am

    Brilliant article. I've never felt confident about the merits of my photography, but I've read the articles here, bought the books, looked at the magazines, made notes about the advice and gone out and taken 1,000's of photos over the last few years (literally!), using different ISO's, settings, light balances and viewpoints. Then I compare the photos, and work out why some worked and some didn't, using the metadata. Gradually I've become more confident about what I'm doing, and technique and seeing stuff are now beginning to fuse, to give me photos I'm beginning to be confident about. Never stop learning!

  • Keith March 26, 2010 05:48 am

    Paint Shop pro is a lower cost alternative to Photoshop although there is less support available by way of online tutorials and classes. Gimp is a free alternative. A steep learning curve but support has improved in recent times.

  • LauraRadniecki March 26, 2010 05:32 am

    Thanks for such a great response to this article, everyone! I feel blessed to read that it was so well received.

    Keep passing it on!

    God bless and happy shooting,


  • Kneedeep March 26, 2010 05:24 am

    Thanks some great reminders, I enjoyed your article.

  • BigDave March 26, 2010 05:02 am

    Wow, I really needed to read an article like this one! I grew up with a great interest in photography, spawned by father's passion, all the way back to the days of Kodachrome! Recently, I have just inherited his Canon 5D, while he upgraded to the 5D Mark II. I have been very hard on myself, because I have not yet been able to replicate the quality of shots he had previous taken with the same camera. My number one issue seems to be camera shake, but probably because I am still trying to understand the triangle that is Aperature, ISO and Shutter speed! Anyway, its still great fun to take lots of pictures, and I very much value the advise of all the other amateurs and pros on the DPS site!


  • Alexander March 26, 2010 04:27 am

    i saw someone mentioned GIMP as a free photoshop alternative. and GIMP is good. but for the Windows users there is also Paint.NET

  • TSchulz March 26, 2010 04:23 am

    GIMP is the best free alternative to Photoshop. But the best commercial competitor to Photoshop is Corel Graphics Suite, which includes Corel Photopaint. You can replace Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign with this one suite for a fraction of the cost and it has a much lower learning curve. You can also try Corel Painter or PaintShop Photo Express. You can get free trials of their products and there is excellent compatibility with Photoshop as they maintain layers and colors between applications.




  • dwight March 26, 2010 04:21 am

    POSTE RAZOR...Super cool easy to download app.Wich allows you to make your picture extra large right on your pc by breaking it down into as many full sheets of paper as you see fit.poster size!AWESOME.Will take some overlapping experimenting..

  • April March 26, 2010 03:55 am

    Thanks for this article. I have felt some of these same feelings. But as I learn and grow I become a little bit more confident, and have got some great pics from that. Also I feel that some of this can also be applied to the editing programs also. I am still learning how these programs manipulate, make better, and change my pictures. Also it helps to know the lingo.

  • Cheryl March 26, 2010 03:15 am

    Thanks for these encouraging tips...I needed that...I have been second guessing my whole reason for having a camera and have been in kind of a shooter's block.

  • Matt March 26, 2010 02:56 am

    Excellent article - I can totally relate to all of the above and even though I have become much more comfortable with manual, auto is still handy quite often.

    Also - I use gimp for my free editing as others have mentioned.

  • Fadi March 26, 2010 01:45 am

    Great Post!!!! u really encouraged me!!!

  • dave March 26, 2010 01:42 am

    what a great post/article. i constantly worry about 1, 2 and 4 and 3 now and then...


  • Kimmy March 26, 2010 01:37 am

    Photofiltre is another free editing program that I use when I am not on my main work computer to access photoshop.

    Very nice for quick color changes, cropping or adjustments. I haven't explored the full extent of the program, I mean why would I, I have photoshop =P

  • Ken March 26, 2010 01:35 am

    I really like Picasa. Very easy to use. I have both Photoshop and Lightroom and use them but for quick easy cropping and editing I use Picasa.

  • Craig March 26, 2010 01:23 am

    I find faststone viewer easy and fun to use , it is open source and offers intuitive real time previews and it reads just about any format.

  • Matt March 26, 2010 01:13 am

    #5 GIMP GIMP GIMP GIMP!!!! No one ever gives it the props it deserves!

  • Rick March 24, 2010 02:54 am

    "Beginer" should be "Beginner".

    #2 is especially true...I tell kids to take pictures with whatever equipment you've got. You can learn a lot about composition and editing using just a simple point and shoot.

  • Excogitator March 23, 2010 01:44 pm

    Great article, this will certainly help :)

  • terryd March 23, 2010 03:32 am

    KISTABILL ... don't worry about Paint Shop Pro ... it's excellent software.

    It's my primary software when working on Windows ... it's not as powerful as Photoshop and only works on Windows, but don't worry about it as a tool, it's excellent. There are many great tools that haven't been mentioned. Consider Paint Shop Pro to be one of the elements mentioned in #2 "My Gear Isn’t Good Enough".

    It's not the gear that produces good photos. Good photos come from YOU. The more of YOU that's in your photos, the better they'll be. Good photography can be done with cheap cameras, poor lenses, and lousy software.

    If you need some inspiration for what can be done with Paint Shop Pro for editing, look at these sites:


  • ely rifhan March 23, 2010 01:18 am

    I've also had that feeling right moment.. thanks for the advice.. i most needed it.

  • Michael March 23, 2010 12:17 am

    I'm a HUGE fan of Paint.net. The program is pretty basic and you can browse the user forums for interesting mods.

  • kistabill March 22, 2010 11:31 pm

    Good article, one question though. Am I doing something wrong? I use Paint Shop Pro and no one else seems to. Does that explain my lousy photographs??

  • Karthik March 22, 2010 04:25 pm

    Lovely article. Thanks for sharing thoughts.
    For free photo edit option you can also try GIMP and GIMPshop.

  • Robert Schwarztrauber March 22, 2010 02:13 pm

    Great article. I'm sure it will be an inspiration to many. It's easy to get discouraged when you see all the great photography online and wonder why yours don't look nearly as good. Rather than get discouraged, get curious.
    As you view and examine great photos, and read about techniques, and practice incorporating that knowledge into your work, you will improve. Perhaps even be great one day.

  • Patrick Mack March 22, 2010 01:49 pm

    I think the test of a true photographer is to battle through the 5 mentioned battles.. To totally disregard the drone of the condemnation pouring down, and to keep taking pictures.. The beauty of digital is that mistakes don't cost like they do shooting film... And everytime I feel like I need to plunge another $1000.00 into my main shooting camera (A $150.00 p&s digital 5 mp), I remind myself I take better pictures than those with the $2000.00 20+ mp cameras.. lol... Keep shooting... :)

  • Jay McIntyre March 21, 2010 11:33 pm

    Another editing platform is Aviary and now it's free.


  • Sheila March 21, 2010 02:05 pm

    Thanx so much for this article. I have been taking pictures since highschool (20+ yrs ago). Still consider myself a beginner. Starting to take interest in photography and have friends and family who say I have potential. Yet I was doing alot of the self doubt that you describe in your article. Thanx for the uplifting advice.
    This beginner will keep plugging away:)

  • Jeannie Hill March 21, 2010 07:08 am

    God BLESS you for this article!! You took EVERYTHING I'm feeling and put it in writing. I just purchased a Panasonic Lumix FX35, which is an amazing camera. However, I am feeling so overwhelmed by what this camera can do, that I almost started to regret the purchase. Your article makes me feel SO much better and less frustrated.

    I just wish I could sit down with someone who knows this camera well and could give me a ltitle "one on one" tutoring!!!

    Thanks for letting me know I'm NOT the only one who feels this way!! I'm just really eager to keep learning and learning, and HOPEFULLY creating some great photos sometime in this century!!

  • Kyle Bailey March 21, 2010 02:39 am

    Great article. I'm writing a similar one for my blog since I've recently started my journey from rookie to pro. The only thing holding me back is myself.

    Thanks for the added encouragement and advice.

    Tell me what you think of my pics on my Flickr.

  • Darrell Branch March 21, 2010 01:01 am

    My two cents...

    Don't get hung up on the "megapixel" quantity thing. My primary body is a Nikon D2H which is a 4 MP camera. The sensor is what really matters and not the amount of MP but rather the size of the pixel.

    Spend as little time as you can with your hands on a keyboard. Software will not make you a better photographer. Shoot, review, repeat.

    Whatever your camera, learn what it can and can not do. Know your gear. Shoot, review, repeat!

    When I wanted to learn to play guitar, I started to hang out with guitar players. Find local photo groups. Artists that love the art of photography will share their experience with you.

    Work on composition, understanding exposure, and the use of shadows and light. Shoot, review, repeat!

    Don't be in a hurry.. frame every shot and act as if you were shooting with film. Just because you can get over 200 images on your given digital media, does not mean that you should make that many images.

    If your camera has a "live view" find out how to turn it off. Use the viewfinder.

    If you have the cash and are looking to move up to a "prosumer" DSLR... spend as little as possible on the body. It's all about the "glass" anyway. Never, ever, ever buy cheap glass. If you stick with the art, even if it is only a hobby you will find that there will be little if any trade in value on cheap glass. Also, do not be in a hurry to build your kit. I was told that you will eventually need the following in your kit: something fast, something long, and something wide.

  • Dave March 21, 2010 12:08 am

    Try to remember that everyone learns at their own pace. Avail yourself of as many sources for learning as you can, and try to have fun with it.

  • Veronica Salazar March 20, 2010 11:33 pm

    Excellent post. Thank you for putting in words what some of us newbies have felt at some point starting our journey into photography.

  • Martin Barabe March 20, 2010 09:42 pm

    GIMP is a very powerfull tool and there are a lot of tutorials available with tons of plug ins that you have to insert into the script file of GIMP (need a little computer knowledge for this) If you know how to work your way around photoshop then you will find your way around GIMP. IT IS A COMPLETELY FREE LEGAL SOFTWARE.

  • Debbie D March 20, 2010 09:18 pm

    Really great article and gives me hope that eventually I'll move forward in my skills as a photographer. I'm gradually moving away from the Auto setting and trying different things with the camera, but it takes a little doing to take those baby steps and feel confidant. It's one of the things I love about this website - I can see some great photos that give me ideas to try out on my own from professionals and enthusiasts alike.

    When it comes to my photo editor, I'm a Photoshop Elements kinda gal. Our household went from PC to Mac this winter and while I love the Mac, I didn't like iPhoto. My hubby just picked up the Mac version of it for me and I'll be installing it this weekend. Can't wait to get back to work with it again.

    Again, great article and i've got this one bookmarked as a keeper!

  • Karen Stuebing March 20, 2010 08:37 pm

    Some of my photos are really bad. :) They all went to the circular file.

    Great tips for beginners and those with experience too.

    I agree with whoever said to go to full manual from the start. I came from film to digital and I did that. True, I had some understanding of the relationship between aperture and shutter speed and what each setting could accomplish. But I personally think you need to learn that right away and the only way to learn is to do it.

    The camera just doesn't get it right all the time in point and shoot and getting photos with blown skies or underexposed or whatever can discourage someone from thinking they can ever take a decent photo. There are plenty of tutorials on the internet.

    As for software, I've got to have Photoshop. I now have a gazillion plug ins for Photoshop. I'm using Photoshop 8 so I want CS4 but can I afford it? Nope. I could buy another camera or lens for what it costs.

    I've been hearing a lot about GIMP and I do plan on trying it.

  • Alex March 20, 2010 05:19 pm

    I'd add my vote for paint.net (ironically, the URl is www.getpaint.net). GIMP is powerful but complicated, especially for beginners. Paint.net is powerful but easier to use (last time I checked it out).

    All good points. I remembered the first time I started winning competitions at local club level. Small club, although tough competition! Point is, I couldn't believe I'd won. Stick at it, develop an eye (as someone else said, it's about seeing), and you will improve.

  • Jesse Kaufman March 20, 2010 04:44 pm

    Thanks for the tips ... good thing to keep in mind as I'm trying to move from more of an "enthusiast" position to "pro" position ... i'm pretty sure i'm guilty of all of those on too much of a regular basis! like they always say: you are your own worst critic!

  • Raleigh Wedding Photographer - Brian Mullins March 20, 2010 03:12 pm

    I can honestly say I went thru every one of these stages before becoming a professional wedding photographer. Sadly, I think it is a natural learning curve in every photographers life and, once you experience it for yourself, you will certainly read this again and really "get it". It is not the camera or the equipment that makes the photo, its the photographer. Hone the "software" behind the camera (your brain) and your photos will turn out wonderful no matter what equipment you have.

  • Al Brissette, Sr. March 20, 2010 01:15 pm

    I've finally gotten to the point where I have the equipment I felt I needed. What I wanted next was that golden program "Photoshop". By searching the WEB I saw that PS CS4 had been released. Further research revealed that copies of CS3 Extended were still available at drastically discounted prices. How does less than $200 sound? Check around and you may find that programs like Photoshop may just be within your budget. Besides, were there that many improvements between CS3 and CS4?

  • LauraRad March 20, 2010 12:21 pm

    I appreciate the positive feedback, everyone!

    Thanks for the information on GIMP! Believe it or not, I hadn't heard of it before. Another amazing resource for beginners who don't want to spend much at the start.

    Photography is a never-ending learning journey; growth at every curve. It's a fun ride!

    I see that there's a typo in the title. I've emailed Darren to have it corrected!

    Happy shooting,


  • Betty Freedman March 20, 2010 12:04 pm

    I loved your article.It gave me the courage to keep trying. Numbers 1 and 3 really resonated with me.

  • terryd March 20, 2010 11:49 am

    Something that the article didn't point out, but I think is at the transition point between some one who takes pictures and someone who makes photographs, is the idea that I have that good photography is about SEEING and FEELING. A good photograph captures what you SEE and FEEL about what's in front of you.

    The greatest blockage I had in photography was caused by art classes in school that emphasized technique and graded me down for not mastering each technique. It wasn't until I found an art teacher/friend who helped me to to SEE, and and then later when I found Betty Edwards book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain that I really started to SEE. I'm still not a very good artist in media like drawing or painting, but the impact on my photography was tremendous. If you're a beginner, the best way to improve your photography is to learn to really see.

    Two ways helped me:

    1) Working through the drawing exercises in Edwards book ... no one would take me for an artist, but the exercises force you to REALLY SEE what's in front of you. Once you can see the way the camera sees, without imposing your own perceptual apparatus between you and the scene, your pictures will better capture what's in front of you.

    2) Carry a frame with a cutout in the same proportion as your film or sensor. Look at things through the frame and ask yourself how you could make this into a picture. Play with what you see by changing positions, moving the frame back and forth, and so forth, playing camera even when you don't have one. You don't need a camera to BE a camera.

    to these, I'd add a third one these days ... I might even replace number 2 by saying:

    3) NEVER NEVER EVER be without a camera ... with a small digital camera, you can shoot LOTS of pictures of everything you see ... but don't just shoot them, look at them and ask yourself how you could make them better. Ask yourself WHY you took the picture. What feeling prompted you to take it? What did you SEE that was worth the picture? Even the camera in your phone will capture interesting pictures. I don't mean just shoot at anything you see, but look for images you want to capture and try to capture them, then take some time and think about how successful you were in capturing what you saw. Photographs are all around you if your eyes are open enough to see them. It works even better if you keep a small notebook handy and note down why you took the picture when you take it so that you can sit down later and think about what you captured.

    I know a number of people who take technically good pictures with top-of-the-line equipment which are uniformly uninteresting. I also have friends who've taken bottom-of-the-barrel cameras or worked with their own pinhole cameras and captured images that would make anyone proud. The difference (in my mind) between these people is their ability to SEE what's there well enough to express a feeling about the scene in front of them that others will respond to.

  • Jason Collin Photography March 20, 2010 11:47 am

    If you are overwhelmed with all the settings and things you can control on your DSLR, I highly recommend taking a lesson or two with a competent photography teacher. See if there are any 1-on-1 lessons in your area and if the teacher offers the chance to have the lesson in the field shooting and learning at the same time. I'm not just saying that because I teach these kinds of lessons. I'm suggesting it because people that were stumped, after just 2 hours of private lessons, were changing aperture, ISO and focus settings competently.

  • Mei Teng March 20, 2010 11:04 am

    Thank you for this excellent article. I have definitely felt like that when I first started out in my hobby.

    I have also experienced the "ugly side" of things where more experienced hobbyist photographers have critisized my early stage of learning post processing efforts behind my back (but later became known to me). It was an unpleasant experience of being laughed at. But hey, those people started off like me too.

  • mandi campbell March 20, 2010 10:56 am

    great article for newbies!

  • Carlos Velez March 20, 2010 10:01 am

    Thanks so much for this encouragement. My wife is somewhat new at photography and I'm sure she can identify with it a lot. I myself am starting to pick up the camera and learn from her so this is a great piece to read at the start of my own journey into photography. I'll be sharing this post for sure.

  • Juan March 20, 2010 09:29 am

    Also thanks to Terryd

  • Juan March 20, 2010 09:26 am

    Thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks, that's really reassuring!!!

  • Daniel Mollino March 20, 2010 09:21 am

    I cannot agree more with this article, Learning manual mode is semi vital in the long run but dont sweat it, as for equipment the only thing I would say when you do go slr is to make sure the body makes working in manual mode easy, As in the rebel xt where to adjust apature you had to hold a button then flick the wheel (the same wheel when used alone adjusted shutter), vs the 50d where it has seperate rollers for each. This is a brutal problem when learning manual mode IMO.

    Other than that go to your local town photo shows, they usually have art tagged when it was taken locally, memorize the shot and try to replicate it, obviously not to sell but it is a good way to learn,

  • Jer March 20, 2010 08:42 am

    What's a "beginer"?

  • Bjorn March 20, 2010 08:29 am

    Great article, hopefully it will help people relax and just enjoy taking photos :)

  • Charlie Essers March 20, 2010 07:30 am

    I'm still rolling with a 4mp point and shoot... it's painful, but I feel like I'm paying my dues somehow.

  • Andre March 20, 2010 07:28 am

    You have a typo in the title of the article.

  • Matt Cieri March 20, 2010 07:23 am

    Don't forget about Paint.Net also. Works well and is pretty easy to use.


  • Kendra March 20, 2010 07:19 am

    GREAT GREAT GREAT post! Thank you!

  • Susan March 20, 2010 07:16 am

    I have PS. Even know how to use it! And i still edit using Picnik !!

  • Lisa March 20, 2010 07:14 am

    Thank you for the encouragement!

  • Willie Coyote March 20, 2010 07:12 am

    It's kind of weird how it works.. I mean the whole: "I can't afford photoshop" thing.

    If you look.. .maybe for a good 20 minutes, you'll find it available to download it for free from the net. Yeah.. it's not exactly "legal".... But you won't get the FBI knoking at your door.

    My point being: If you really need it and want it, you can get it. .

  • Matt Mathai March 20, 2010 07:04 am

    The best tip I ever heard was from a National Geographic photographer and it applies to all of us, not just beginners. He said "Before you take a picture, ask yourself WHY you are taking that picture. Why that specific picture at that specific time. If you can answer that, go ahead and depress the shutter. "

    It sounds simple enough, but it's amazingly effective.

  • Sindawg March 20, 2010 06:38 am

    I think you meant "beginner".

  • Mac March 20, 2010 06:30 am

    ...Rolf's podcasts:


    (No idea why the link vanished!)

  • Mac March 20, 2010 06:29 am

    Like others, I immediately wondered why there was no mention of GIMP - amazingly powerful software that's free in both senses of the word.

    And a really good place to start learning to use it (in addition to the excellent books already mentioned by terryd) is Rolf Steinhort's wonderful video podcasts at .

    Rolf has well over 100 twenty-minute-ish videos in the archive on his site, going back to May 2007, full of really useful stuff; iIf you're new to editing photographs, start with some of his earlier shows.

  • Greg Taylor March 20, 2010 06:21 am

    I have felt all the above feelings with photography. #1, 3 & 4 are the key issues to battle with. Budget takes care of 2 & 5.

    Patience and persistence are key. When I was first shooting photos I would ask questions to anyone and everyone. I was able to pick up good tips from someone at every level. If you keep taking photos you are bound to get better. Become a student of the game. Look at books, use photoblogs etc. as reference materials. See how other people shoot subject matter that you are interested in.

    Over time if you are patient and stick with it you will develop your own sense and style of what works for you. There are many ways to skin a cat - but there's probably only a couple for you.

  • terryd March 20, 2010 06:03 am

    Let me chime in with Chris to say that GIMP is a great alternative to Photoshop AND it works on Windows, OS-X, and Linux ... so no matter what platform you're on, you can use it. If you think that it's hard to learn an open source package, you'll be interested to find that there are lots of books available to teach you all you need to know. Some of my favorites are:

    Beginning GIMP: From Novice to Professional, Second Edition by Akkana Peck
    Gimp 2 for Photographers: Image Editing with Open Source Software by Klaus Goelker
    The Artist's Guide to GIMP Effects: Creative Techniques for Photographers, Artists, and Designers by Michael J. Hammel

    and there are many more.

    GIMP is a seriously powerful editor for serious users.

  • Alex March 20, 2010 06:00 am

    What about GIMP as an image editor? I've heard it rivals photoshop, and best of all, it's freeware.

  • Glyn Dewis March 20, 2010 05:56 am

    Great post for any newbies. Re-Tweeted this the moment I saw it.

    Cheers, Glyn

  • Chris March 20, 2010 05:54 am

    For free editing programs, don't forget GIMP! Much of the power of Photoshop for free: http://www.gimp.org/