10 Tips to Get Started in Photography
Posted on June 6, 2008 by Bo
If you’re just starting out in photography, you may feel a bit overwhelmed with the amount of information and advice that is available. The important thing to keep in mind is that photography is an art, so everyone you talk to will have a different method or approach.
Here, I’ve outlined the 10 best tips I’ve received that are some basic guidelines. Without getting into the technical operations of your specific camera, these are some tips that you can apply to your photography regardless of what level you’re at.
1. Fill the Frame
I include this tip first because it’s the most helpful rule I received from my first photography instructor and I’ve heard it echoed many times since then. The instruction I received was actually, “get closer,” but I feel it goes hand-in-hand with filling the frame.
Most often, if you’re having trouble with your photos, you’re not close enough. Get as close as you think you need to get, then take a step closer. Really observe your subject and see how it’s fitting in the frame. Allow your subject to fill the frame and cut out all surrounding details that are unneeded and distracting.
2. Rule of Thirds
This is another big one and a common rule of composition. Imagine dividing your frame into 3 equal sections, both horizontally and vertically. The points where those divisions intersect are the hot spots for your photo. Position your subject or key element at one of these points to emphasize them.
3. Light is Key
Photography is taken from the Greek words phos and graphos, literally translated as “writing with light.” Without light, photography wouldn’t be possible. When you take a photo, you’re capturing how light interacts with the subject. You can either capture how the light is occurring naturally, or you can try to influence the light and/or the subject to achieve the desired effect.
4. Keep It Simple
This is commonly referred to as the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Less is more and more is less. Simplicity should be your goal; try to avoid unnecessary complexity.
5. Don’t Take a Photograph, Make It
This tip was handed down to us by the great Ansel Adams. Being a photographer is more than just pressing a button. Your photos are your art, your creation. Each one of us has our own unique view of the world, so let that show in your photos. Don’t just take a picture that a monkey could take; put some thought into it, put yourself into it, and make a picture happen.
6. Think Before You Shoot
This applies to everything all at once, from your exposure settings to your perspective of your subject. Think about why you’re taking this picture. Why is this meaningful to you? Are you framing it creatively and/or from the most interesting angle? Would you hang it in your living room?
7. Beware of Over-Chimping
Chimping refers to the act of hunching over your digital camera’s LCD screen to check out the wonderful pictures you’ve just taken. While there’s nothing wrong with chimping, be aware that while you’re gazing at your camera’s LCD you might be missing a great photo opportunity.
I was recently at a party where a friend of mine was taking pictures of another friend’s 10-month old daughter. He would fire off a few frames of the child looking curiously at the camera, and then he’d stop and examine the shots he just took. Meanwhile, as he was gazing at the back of his camera, the little girl was smiling the most beautiful and natural smile I’d seen her do all day. I pointed this out to my friend, but by the time he took another shot, the natural smile was gone.
While it’s a good idea to often chimp your photos to check for exposure and framing, don’t forget about the subject that’s right in front of you.
9. Take Your Camera With You
Photography is one of the few activities that you can do at any time of the day and get excellent and interesting results. For this reason, I recommend taking your camera with you wherever you go. You’ll find that having a camera handy helps you be on the look-out for interesting subjects. It’s a great and easy way to keep photography on your mind.
10. Take Time to Study
Last but not least, take the time to learn about photography. Get your hands on a photography book; sign up for a photography class or club in your area; study different techniques; give yourself personal assignments. Anyone can take a picture, but you simply can’t learn the art of photography if you’re not prepared to put in the time and effort.