Getting started in photography can be quite scary. We all start by investing in a DSLR, and think we are going to take amazing images. In reality it is a bit more difficult, because if it was easy… well everybody would sell prints, quit their day job, and live off photography.
Just like any art, photography has to be learned, and practiced – a lot. It is a trial and error process, we all start at the bottom and build our way up.
If your images do not look like you imagined them, then try a different approach. Just do something. Einstein said that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
#1 – Gather information and knowledge
Photography is the best hobby you could have, but it is a lot of hard work. I personally don’t believe in talent. The first tip I can give you is to absorb as much information as possible. How do you do that ? Well you have so many free resources on the internet, the only need to take advantage of it. Since you are reading this, then you’re on the right track.
By resources, I mean articles online, magazines, and YouTube tutorials. You can learn so much in less than 30 minutes. One other tip I can also give is to check multiple resources for the same topic.
For example you want to learn how take portraits – don’t read or watch only one tutorial. The more you research, the more you will learn, because sometimes one article won’t give you all the answers to your questions, but another article will.
You should also anticipate. What I mean by that, is to learn about it, before trying to do something.
For example, say you want to buy a new DSLR. You should learn how to use it before you actually buy it, read reviews and tutorials. If you are planning a trip to the sea, then learn seascape photography before travelling.
#2 – Try all kinds of photography
This brings me to my second tip: don’t focus on only one type of photography. Of course, if you like portrait photography then do that. What I’m trying to say, is that you should explore all the possibilities, before focusing on only one type of photography. Try to add variation by learning about macro photography, landscapes, portraits, wildlife, etc.
You may be surprised by the results you get, and if you never try, you will never know if you actually like photographing birds or not. From my experience, the more you learn, the more you’ll be able to do things. It’s better knowing how to do five things than only one. Starting photography and only wanting to take portraits is not the right mindset. It’s just like food, if you don’t try new food, you will never know if you like it or not.
#3 – Photography is an investment
The third thing you should know is that photography is a big investment. You will need to buy lenses, camera bodies, tripods, and filters, which will end up being quite expensive. If you are not smart with your decisions, then your bank account can end up in tears.
It may seem confusing when I tell you to try different types of photography, but then warn you about buying too much gear. If you want to try macro photography, don’t buy a macro lens right away. Just buy extension tubes (or close-up filters) until you know if you are serious about macro. They cost a lot less, and increase your focusing distance dramatically.
For filters, you can buy $20 Neutral Density filters for your landscape photography. Of course they won’t have the same quality as the professional ones, but it’s a good place to start.
I started photography with a phone, then moved up to an entry level DSLR, and now I own a full frame camera. But, it took me four years to go from my phone to full frame, so don’t go out and buy the best DSLR ever, find something that will suit where are you starting first.
Make smart decisions, a normal kit lens is enough to get started in landscape photography.
#4 – Post-processing is a good thing
The fourth tip is about post-processing. Most beginner photographers underestimate the power of post-processing. It can make or break an image, that’s why my first point is important. You have to learn and fail in order to succeed – once you learn how to master software like Lightroom and Photoshop, your photography will become more like a process, because you will automatically think about post-production.
For post-production, I also recommend learning about the same topic from different sources. There are a lot of different ways to do the same thing, you just have to find which way works the best for you. It doesn’t matter how you do it, the important thing is the end result.
For example, for dodging and burning an image I prefer using a curves layer with a mask, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to dodge and burn using grey layers.
Post-production can be quite scary because there are so many tools, but once you master a certain software, you will be able to work on your worst shots and get the best out of them.
I would say that post-production is almost indispensable. There are a lot of photographers who want natural photography, but that doesn’t exist. Your colours will get interpreted anyway, it’s up to you to decide if you want your camera to do it automatically, or if you want to take control over everything.
#5 – Good photographers create depth in their images
The last thing you should know is that photography is all about creating depth. There are many ways of creating depth; you can do it with light and contrast, colours, movement, a solid composition, and with depth of field.
You should aim to have at least one of these elements in your images. If you can mix all these elements in one image, then your result will be even better.
With light and contrast you can play around with shadows, and dodging a burning. The main purpose is to have uneven lighting on purpose – try to avoid flat lighting. Some area should be lighter than others, and some darker. You also want to know which lighting conditions will give you the best results. For example, if you like shooting landscapes then you will want to know that you get the best light during the magic hour (blue hour).
Composition is the most important thing, try to use a foreground, middle ground and a background. The rule of thirds is also really useful to frame your subject in a pleasing way.
With colours, the main purpose is to have tones that go together. Always look at your colour palette and see what works best. This is quite difficult to do, but one tip I can give you, is that when the colours do not look good, convert your image to black and white.
For movement, try long exposures, they are a good way to create a surreal images.
The last thing is depth of field. This is very important if you’re taking portraits, the amount of background blur can completely change an image. If you want to learn about it here’s another article I wrote: How to Achieve Background Blur or Bokeh where I explain three easy ways to achieve a nice bokeh.
So if you’re just getting into photography, consider these five things as you begin your journey. Learn everything you can from multiple sources, try different kinds of photography to see what you like, don’t get caught in gear envy, don’t be afraid of post-processing and remember to add depth to make more interesting images.
Are you further along in photography? What other advice would you offer to new photographers? Please share in the comments below.