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5 Photography Tips for Beginners

The road is for the journey, the real excitement lies in the ditches.

Acquiring good pictures is a very relative term. I have viewed images from seasoned and well respected photographers that have left me scratching my brow and asking “why is that image so important and stellar that it sends the art critics ga-ga?  On the other hand I have viewed the work of amatuers that were sublime and left me in awe.

Such is photography as an art medium.  As an amateur it matters not what others think of your images as long as you are true to yourself and have satisfied the reasons why you made the image in the first place.

Oftentimes magazines and articles on the web overlook the photographer who has acquired their first camera. The articles are written in such a fashion that the writer assumes the reader has a basic understanding. What if they don’t?

Below are five tricks for beginners that I have been teaching for quite some time.

Tip 1:   Control the Amount of Light Coming from your Flash

Many flashes on entry level point and shoot cameras “over-flash” the subject, and often there is little the photographer can do.  Until now that is. Carry a clean Kleenex brand nasal tissue with you, and carefully drape one layer of the tissue over the flash prior to pressing the shutter. Each layer of tissue will amount to lessening the flash output by an equivalent of one f/stop of light.

Many photographers find the most pleasing flash balance to be between one and two f/stops of fill light. Therefore take three photos: one with open flash, a second with one fold of tissue and a third image with two folds of tissue. Just make sure the tissue is white.

5 Photography Tips for BeginnersOvercast days are perfect for photographing water.

Tip 2:   Wait for the Right Light

If the sun is hiding behind those cumulus clouds on a regular basis, just wait it out – it won’t be long.  Oftentimes with autumn colour, when the red and yellow foliage is dry, it really lacks vibrancy if the scene is not lit with bright sunlight. Conversely, if the scene is damp with moisture from fog, frost, or light rain, the photograph will usually record better when the scene is bathed in a soft overcast light. Know your light and adjust your shooting to the conditions. Nice sunny days equal big blue-sky landscape pictures; grey overcast days are perfect for portraits of people and things with no sky in the picture.

Tip 3:   Use a Tripod, even with your Point and Shoot Camera

Many cameras have the capacity to be attached to a tripod; if yours does, then use it. You will be amazed how the use of a tripod will almost single-handed make your photos that much better. The reason is simple: It will provide you the opportunity to stand, kneel or lay down behind you camera and study the composition elements in the viewfinder or LCD screen. How can you possibly do that if the non tripod-mounted camera is continually moving?

5 Photography Tips for BeginnersFind interesting foregrounds and make that the centre piece of the image … sunsets are a dime a dozen.

Tip 4:  Get down and wet-belly it

Simply by viewing the scene from a different angle of sight, or perspective, your composition will improve dramatically. Observe experienced photographers the next time you are out shooting in a group. I’ll bet those photographers whose work you admire will have very dirty knees and seats on their trousers. Heck, some of us even wear contractors knee pads when working along rocky shorelines (I swear I have periwinkles imprinted on my knees).

Tip 5:  I’ve Saved the most Important for Last

Just get out of bed and do it.  It is usually advantageous when starting your photography career to give yourself assignments or participate in the weekly assignments found on the dPs website.  To paraphrase my good friend Daryl Benson: “You can attend all the workshops in the world and you can read all the books ever published, but if you are not out there just doing it then it is all for naught.”

Most importantly, if you are having fun you are doing it right – disregard the critics!

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Dale Wilson
Dale Wilson

is a freelance photographer based out of Halifax, Canada. He has been a regular staff writer for a variety of Canadian photo magazines for 18 years. Wilson has also published or co-published four books and was the photo-editor on the Canadian best selling Canada’s National Parks – A Celebration. His practice concentrates on commercial work and shooting natural history images for four stock agencies. After a 10 year hiatus Wilson will once again be offering eastern Canadian workshops with his teaching partner
Garry Black.’

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