Photography Tips for Beginners

Photography is a booming industry that has been disrupted, and changed into something it never was before. Cameras have become so advanced with fantastic lenses that can focus in, and take pin sharp images that are mind blowing, and for many new users the array of little black buttons all over the camera is daunting.

Here are a few tips to concentrate on as you become more and more familiar with your own camera.

  1. Be happy with the camera you already have. Don’t be a “gear head”, it’ll drive you nuts with constant thoughts of wanting the latest of everything. And that is an extremely expensive way to think. If you have analog camera and it’s all you can afford, it’s good, and you are ready to start taking great photos and learn a hell of a lot about how to take impressive shots.
  2. When you are learning to frame a shot, think in terms of the rule of thirds. Divide the image that you are looking at through four lines, two vertical which divides the visual in front of you into three sections, and two horizontal lines equally placed at thirds in the image.

Consider how this divides what you see through the lens into sections of a larger composition.

Rule of thirds is a “Rule” written on paper. It is found throughout nature and is difficult not to include in a photo or painting, or a book cover. If you watch out for it in everyday life, dividing things you look at, you’ll see how it is included in everything from buildings, people, and landscapes. It’s not the invention of somebody smart, the rule of thirds is a discovery of how our brains perceive the world around us.

Try taking a photo that doesn’t have the rule of thirds naturally in it, or the Golden Mean to compose it into order.

Ask questions about which section holds the most attractive, eye pulling part of the whole composition. That part could be your centre of focus. The most interesting, or telling part of the image is where people who look at your shots will always go back to and think about.

  1. Avoid camera shake by building the habit of holding the camera in a comfortable and firm manner. Try sitting the base of the camera in the palm of your hand and wrapping the fingers around the sides to give you a solid base that allows your move your wrist and arm without stress.

The other hand can hold the side of the camera and also be in a constant position to adjust focus, shutter speed and ISO settings quickly. Camera shake is caused by an awkward way of holding the camera, or through a too low shutter speed setting: don’t set the shutter speed lower than the focal length of the lens. 50mm lens, minimum shutter speed setting shouldn’t be set lower than 1/50 of a second. Even though, 1/50 of a second is very low in itself and would be used in a dimly lit room or darkened space.

  1. Modern technology automates everything — including cameras and taking photos. If you’re happy to set your camera on automatic “P” on adjustment dial, normally on the left side of the camera, then that’s your bag, and enjoy not having much control of the outcome of a photo.

You’ll be a lot happier if you practice using the dial on “M”, which is manual settings and means that control of how the end result looks is up to you and your abilities. Control of shutter speeds, ISO, and Aperture settings will allow you to look at a your subject and use your imagination and camera settings in combination to get exactly, or close enough, to what you intend.

Think of shutter speed as controlling how much light will enter the lens at the moment you click the button. Longer opening, 1/60 of a second, will ensure plenty of light entry in low lighting settings. If you are out and about doing street photography, on a normal day, bright and breezy weather, I would recommend keeping a rule of thumb setting at 1/125 of a second, maybe 1/250/ even, for fast moving objects that you don’t want to blur as they pass.

When the shutter is set on the above, the ISO setting should be around 100 ISO for normal days, and if you are in shadows or interiors. like a train station and so on, you might need to adjust the aperture to 400 ISO — this is okay and it won’t lead to grainy shots — that happens when it’s a slow shutter speed and high ISO. Between 100–600 ISO setting and 1/125–1/250 seconds settings is safe against grainy shots but really depends on the weather conditions you are shooting in.

ISO controls the sensitivity of the sensor and gather more pixalated light. In analog cameras, ISO is called ASA and is printed in the side of the roll of film you buy. It tells you how sensitive the film is; 125 ASA was always a standard roll of film for everyday use. 400 ASA was a good film grade for fast moving objects.

The number used to grade ISO and ASA on sensors and film is different and therefore depends on the manufacturer or type film.

5. If you taking people photos, be sure to include the background in your set up. Often, and after today’s taste, the background is bokeh’d out of the composition., Bokeh is not just a blurry out of focus part of the composition, it is a uniform softness that can be achieved through a powerful focal point on the subject in the shot.

Check out a the photo below and notice how the background is in “bokeh”. It looks intentional, and certainly doesn’t look like it’s just an accidental blurriness in the shot.

The word Bokeh comes from the Japanese language, and describes something that is sort of out of focus, but aesthetically so.

The above shot shows you how bokeh can be use creatively to isolate a subject. The man in the photo is the subject — we know this because everything else is not in focus (bokeh). The photographer achieved this by using the right lens to get tack sharp focus, a high setting on the aperture and a shutter speed of probably (guessing) around 1/125 of a second. The lens focus allows the point of interest to zero in and ignore everything else around it, thus creating a blurry/bokeh effect all round.

It’s great fun to experiment with this effect, but don’t over use it. Some photographers become obsessed with certain effects and end up being gadget clowns who’s photos all look forced and full of artifice.

Use your eyes to look at situations to photograph and think first about what the settings on your camera should be to achieve what you personally want as an outcome — Intention; always work with an intention, it lends enormous strength to your learning curve, and it gives you a path to follow that could lead to something quiet unique — you’re vision of the world.

When taking people shots (not street photography necessarily), focus on the eyes. It’s a good way to get life into the shot and to ensure that other parts of the photo get a good exposure all round.

Backgrounds are a backdrop. Have your subject stand away from the background so that you can put it into bokeh. If the person is leaning against a wall, then make that an important part of your composition and work with it. If you show that it was intended, it will look right, if you take a shot and forget to pull the subject away from a distracting background, it will look like a bad shot which wasn’t properly thought through.

6. Always work with the Triad of balancing the shutter speed with the aperture opening, and the ISO setting for sensitivity of light. These three together will be a main-stay in learning to balance light and shadow, bring out certain colors, and to get the best in camera shot that only requires a couple of minutes or not of Photoshop work later.

7. Lastly, really, really, important. Just take shots. Make tons of mistakes, and study your mistakes to find out what you should have done to get the shot you wanted.

If you are trying to get a shot using manual settings (which you should do, from day one), but are having trouble, quickly flick the dial setting to “P”, (automatic),take a shot and see what the camera did to get the best lighting for the shot. It helps to sort your brain out and put you on the right track again.

Three settings and learning to balance them takes you closer and closer to better photography. That combined with what you personally want from your photography, will lead to fantastic discoveries about the capabilities of the camera that you have. Whatever might look great on Instagram and other sites, isn’t necessarily a marker for what’s good photography — sometimes it’s just a repetitive trick of a Photoshop process, and leads to the same — again and again. be Unique, think uniquely, and get what you want with your camera.

Written by

Berlin Notes — Writing about the Creative Art of Living

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