Photography Tips for Beginners

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If you are just starting out in photography and you don’t know where to begin, or perhaps you have been taking pictures with your camera for a while and want to improve your shooting skills, the collection of material compiled in this article will not only help you in building up your photography knowledge, but also assist in advancing you to the next level. On this page, you will find everything from basic photography tips for beginners all the way to more advanced techniques and tutorials to help you grow and get the best out of your equipment.

Beginner Photography Tips
NIKON D800E + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, ISO 400, 1/100, f/5.6

Let’s start out with the essentials.

1) Know Your Camera

Before you start learning about photography, you should first get accustomed to your camera, so that you can find the relevant camera settings when we go over them further down in the article. If your primary camera is a DSLR, it does not hurt to know what a DSLR is and how it works. If you shoot with a mirrorless camera, we have a similar article that describes what a mirrorless camera is and how it compares to a DSLR. And if you want to take it up a level, we have a detailed DSLR vs Mirrorless article that lists every advantage and disadvantage of the two. If you shoot with a point-and-shoot camera, check out our DSLR vs Point-and-Shoot article that compares the two.

2) Buying a Camera

If you currently do not own a camera and want to buy one, we have articles on How to Buy a DSLR camera, Which Nikon DSLR and Nikon Lenses to Buy First and if you are a Canon shooter, we also have a great article Comparing Canon Entry-Level DSLR cameras. Wondering which brand is better? Perhaps you should read our Nikon vs Canon vs Sony article, after which you will hopefully realize that camera brand does not matter, especially for a beginner. And if you don’t mind buying used gear, we have an article on How to Buy Used DSLR Cameras and How to Buy Used Lenses.

If you are evaluating a mirrorless camera system, we have several in-depth articles for you. Start out by reading our Beginner’s Guide to Choosing a Mirrorless Camera, then see our Mirrorless Camera Comparison article for a general overview of all mirrorless systems on the market and lastly, check out our in-depth article on Evaluating Mirrorless Camera Systems that gives our subjective rating on all the mirrorless camera systems on the market.

Want to put together a great camera kit? Check out our detailed Beginning Photography Equipment article.

And if you are not fully satisfied with all this reading material, we have even more links for you to check out on photography gear and how to buy it:

  1. Where to Buy a DSLR
  2. Why You Should Only Buy From Authorized Dealers
  3. Beware of buying camera gear from unauthorized sellers
  4. The Perks of Switching Camera Systems
  5. Micro Four Thirds vs DSLR Camera Considerations
  6. Must-have DSLR Accessories
  7. How to Choose the Right Lens Set
  8. Why Are Some Lenses So Expensive?
  9. How to Use a Monopod
  10. How to Choose and Buy a Tripod
  11. How to Use a Tripod
  12. How to Reduce Camera Shake on a Tripod
  13. What is Arca-Swiss Quick Release System?
  14. Which Nikon Prime Lens to Buy First?
  15. Things to Do After Buying a New Lens
  16. Best Nikon lenses for Wedding Photography
  17. Best Nikon lenses for Landscape Photography
  18. Best Nikon lenses for Wildlife Photography
  19. Best Nikon Lenses for Food Photography
  20. Nikon DX vs FX
  21. Diseases that Plague Photographers
  22. Replacing GAS with SAS

Best of 2016 - Nasim Mansurov (28)
Colorado Fall Colors Road

Lastly, don’t worry too much about photography gear. Although we cover quite a bit of it here at Photography Life, learn to improve your photos without buying more gear!

3) Learn Photography Basics

Once you have a camera kit to shoot with and you know how to turn it on to take a picture, it is a good time to learn and understand the photography basics. First, start out by reading about Aperture (also see Lens Aperture Chart for Beginners), Shutter Speed and Camera ISO. Then put the three together in Understanding ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture for Beginners article and seal it with the Exposure Triangle for Beginners and Choosing a Creative Exposure articles. Oh, and don’t forget about properly exposing your images through our Underexposure and Overexposure and Exposure Compensation articles, where we go in depth about proper exposure and how you can make quick exposure adjustments to your images. If you read all this material, you will get pretty far already, definitely brave enough to start taking your first pictures!

From there, I recommend reading about Exposure Stops in Photography, then learn about White Balance and what it does to your images (see Understanding White Balance for more information). If you have challenges understanding camera metering, see our detailed Understanding Metering and Metering Modes article. Wondering what histograms are and how you can use them? See our Understanding Histograms article. Once you read our guide on Understanding Digital Camera Modes, you will hopefully be brave enough to finally switch from that “Auto” mode!

Best of 2016 - Nasim Mansurov (17)
X-Pro2 + XF56mmF1.2 R APD @ 56mm, ISO 200, 1/8, f/5.6

And if all of the above is not enough, there is plenty more:

  1. How to Hold a Camera
  2. Understanding Depth of Field – A Beginner’s Guide
  3. DSLR Autofocus Modes Explained
  4. How Phase Detection Autofocus Works
  5. Prime vs Zoom Lenses
  6. The Versatility of Prime Lenses
  7. How to Use Wide-Angle Lenses
  8. How to Use Telephoto Lenses
  9. Nikon AE-L / AF-L Button
  10. Focus and Recompose Technique
  11. Taking Good Photos in Bad Light
  12. How to Take Good Pictures
  13. How to Take Sharp Photos
  14. Low-Light Photography Tips
  15. Understanding Auto ISO in Photography
  16. What is Crop Factor?
  17. What is Reciprocal Rule in Photography?
  18. What is Lens Compression and How to Use it
  19. How Focal Length Affects What and How You See
  20. Using Nikon DX Lenses on FX Cameras
  21. How to Spot Dust on Your DSLR Sensor
  22. Hyperfocal Distance Explained
  23. Which Camera Settings Affect RAW Photos?
  24. Compressed vs Uncompressed vs Lossless Compressed RAW Options
  25. What is a Teleconverter?
  26. What is an Extension Tube?
  27. Why Use Fisheye Lenses?
  28. What is Bokeh?
  29. How to Obtain Maximum Bokeh
4) Learn How to Compose and Frame

Now that you know how to operate your camera, set camera settings for proper exposure and use your lenses, it is time to learn how to compose and frame with your camera. Many beginners struggle in this area, so we have plenty of material that covers not just the basics, but also more advanced topics on framing and composition. Start out by reading about Composition, then check out our Introduction to Composition. From there, see basic composition articles such as The Rule of Thirds, the Importance of Straightening the Horizon and Aligning Lines, Creating and Using Leading Lines, Leading the Eye of the viewer, Using Central Composition, Using Negative Space, differences between Open and Closed Composition and Using Foreground Elements to Create Added Depth.

That’s a lot to cover isn’t it? Well, we have plenty more material for you to check out:

  1. What’s Important in a Photograph and What Isn’t
  2. What a 365 Challenge Taught Me as a Novice
  3. Balance in Photography
  4. Four Simple Tips for Better Composition
  5. The Magic of “7” in Composition
  6. Improving Eye Flow by Creating Corner Exits
  7. Composition in Photography: Assignment Discussion
  8. How to Improve Your Photography
  9. Improve Your Photography
  10. Explore the Edges
  11. Beyond the Obvious Shot
  12. The Myth of the Rule of Thirds
  13. How to Find Your Personal Style in Photography
Best of 2016 - Nasim Mansurov (16)
Signal Hill at Sunset
5) Learn Specific Photography Techniques

Ready to keep on learning? Perhaps you should check out the following photography tips and techniques for all kinds of photography genres:

  1. How to Fix Light Leaks in Long Exposure Photography
  2. Six Tips for Better Photographs of Plants
  3. Introduction to Black and White Nature Photography
  4. How to Photograph Cathedrals
  5. How to Focus Stack Images
  6. How to Photograph the Milky Way
  7. How to Photograph Cemeteries and Explore Their Beauty
  8. How to Deal with Harsh, Midday Lighting
  9. Introduction to Street Portrait Photography
  10. Street Photography Tips for Beginners
  11. How to Photograph Food with a Camera Phone
  12. Food Photography Tips: Introduction
  13. Tips on Photographing Food Outdoors
  14. Getting Started with Sports Photography
  15. Maximizing Dynamic Range
  16. How to use a Polarizer
  17. How to Photograph Clouds
  18. How to Photograph a Rainbow
  19. Mountain Photography Tips
  20. Nature Photography Tips
  21. HDR Photography Tutorial
  22. How to Photograph Textures
  23. How to Photograph Waterfalls
  24. How to Photograph the Moon
  25. How to Photograph the Supermoon
  26. How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse
  27. How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse
  28. How to Photograph Fireworks
  29. How to Photograph a Lightning
  30. Street Photography Techniques
  31. Bokeh on Point and Shoot Cameras
  32. Nikon Lens Bokeh Performance
  33. Smartphone Photography Tips
  34. Aquarium Macro Photography of Ornamental Shrimp
  35. If it Moves, Make it Blurred
  36. Stop Taking Crappy Pictures!
  37. Macro Photography Tutorial
  38. Macro Photography Lighting Tutorial
  39. High Magnification Macro Photography on a Budget
  40. Focal Length in Reverse Lens Macro Technique
  41. Using Extension Tubes in Strong Wind
  42. Photographing San Francisco’s Botanical Gardens With An Extension Tube
Best of 2016 - Nasim Mansurov (33)
X-T2 + XF35mmF2 R WR @ 35mm, ISO 200, 1/1000, f/5.6
6) Clean and Maintain Your Camera Gear

It goes without saying that a badly maintained camera can fail at any time, so you should do your best to learn how to regularly clean and maintain your camera gear. We have written a number of articles on this topic, so we recommend that you check them all out:

  1. How to Clean SLR Camera Lenses
  2. What to Do with Dust Inside Lens
  3. How to Wet Clean your DSLR Sensor in Less Than 5 Minutes (video tutorial)
  4. How to Clean DSLR Sensor and Keep Your Camera Gear Clean (video tutorial)
  5. How to Use and Care for Memory Cards
  6. How to Store Memory Cards
  7. Dead vs Stuck vs Hot Pixels
  8. Camera Maintenance: Is Proactive Maintenance Worth It?
  9. Nikon Quality Control Issues
7) Learn Nomenclature and Apply Camera-Specific Settings

For more in-depth articles on specific nomenclature and abbreviations, along with recommended camera settings for a number of different cameras, please see our detailed articles below:

  1. Nikon Lens Abbreviations
  2. Canon Lens Abbreviations
  3. Sigma Lens Abbreviations
  4. Fuji Lens Abbreviations
  5. Sony Lens Abbreviations
  6. Nikon DSLR Error Messages
  7. How to fix blinking “Err” error on new Nikon DSLR Cameras
  8. How to Enable Nikon’s “One-Click Zoom” Feature
  9. Recommended Nikon D750 Settings
  10. Recommended Nikon D810 Settings
  11. Recommended Nikon D800 / D800E Settings
  12. Recommended Nikon D600 / D610 Settings
  13. Recommended Nikon D7100 Settings
  14. Recommended Canon 6D Settings
  15. Recommended Canon 7D Mark II Settings
  16. Recommended Canon 5D Mark IV Settings
  17. Recommended Sony A7R II Settings
  18. Recommended Sony A6000 Settings
  19. How to Find Total Shutter Actuations on Nikon and Canon DSLRs
  20. Focal Length Comparison on Nikon DX (1.5 crop factor) Cameras
  21. How to Update Firmware on Nikon DSLR
Best of 2016 - Nasim Mansurov (1)
Sunset at the White Sand Dunes National Monument
8) Other Useful Articles

We have a lot more content that covers everything from lens filters all the way to building and maintaining a photography blog, so please check out the links below!

8.1) Lens Filters
  1. Lens Filters Explained
  2. Do Filters Affect the Resolution of Lenses?
  3. Not All Lens Filters Are The Same
  4. Are Polarizing, ND and UV Filters Useless?
  5. Must-Have Filters for Landscape Photography
8.2) PC and Mac Recommendations
  1. PC vs Mac for Photography
  2. How to Buy an Apple MacBook for Photography
  3. How to Buy an Apple iMac for Photography
  4. The Ultimate PC Build for Photography Needs
8.3) Cell Phone Photography
  1. How to Take Camera Phone Pictures
8.4) Photography Tours
  1. Choosing and Preparing for a Photography Tour – Part I
  2. Choosing and Preparing for a Photography Tour – Part II
8.5) Case Study Series
  1. Case Study: Shooting NYC Skyline
  2. Case Study: Skin Color Problems
  3. Case Study: Image Spots and Streaks
  4. Case Study: Bird Photography
  5. Case Study: Image Quality
  6. Case Study: Exposure at Night
  7. Case Study: Night Shot
8.6) “How Was This Picture Made” Series
  1. How Was This Picture Made #1? (The Answer)
  2. How Was This Picture Made #2? (The Answer)
  3. How Was This Picture Made #3? (The Answer)
  4. How Was This Picture Made #4? (The Answer)
  5. How Was This Picture Made #5? (The Answer)
  6. How Was This Picture Made #6? (The Answer)
  7. How Was This Picture Made #7? (The Answer)
  8. How Was This Picture Made #8? (The Answer)
  9. How Was This Picture Made #9? (The Answer)
  10. How Was This Picture Made #10? (The Answer)
  11. How Was This Picture Made #11? (The Answer)
  12. How Was This Picture Made #12? (The Answer)
8.7) Photography FAQ Series
  1. Photography FAQ #1
  2. Photography FAQ #2
  3. Photography FAQ #3
  4. Photography FAQ #4
  5. Photography FAQ #5
8.8) Hardware and Software Tips
  1. How to Upgrade to Windows 10
  2. Basic Image Backup Tips for Beginners
  3. Photography Backup Workflow
  4. How to Significantly Reduce Your Backup Needs
  5. Storage Considerations for Photography
  6. Cloud Storage for Photographers
  7. How to Recover Deleted Photographs From Memory Cards
  8. What is EXIF Data?
  9. How to remove EXIF Data?
  10. How to Organize Pictures
  11. DNG vs RAW format
  12. NVMe vs SSD vs HDD Performance
  13. How to view DNG thumbnails in Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7
  14. RAW vs JPEG format
  15. Nikon RAW (NEF) Codec for 64 bit Vista or Windows 7
8.9) Color Management and Printing
  1. How to Calibrate Your Monitor
  2. The Basics of Monitor Calibration
  3. What is a 30-bit Photography Workflow?
  4. Best Monitor for Photography
  5. Is your Browser Color-Managed?
  6. How to Properly Calibrate Dell U2413 / U2713H / U3014 Monitors
  7. Is it Worth Buying a Large Format Printer?
8.10) Building and Maintaining a Photography Blog
  1. How to Create a Photography Blog – Part 1
  2. How to Create a Photography Blog – Part 2
  3. How to Create a Photography Blog – Part 3
  4. How to Create a Photography Blog – Part 4
8.11) Legal
  1. How to Deal with Restrictive Photo Policies
  2. Know Your Rights as a Photographer!
  3. Know Thy Rights: Photography Abroad

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