Ten Ideas To Improve Your Photography, For Beginners

1. Shoot in Auto mode when you’re first starting out. I know it can be daunting to live up to the pressure of supposedly knowing your shit, especially when you’ve a DSLR in your hands. I’ve felt that fear before. Aperture priority? Shutter priority? What are those?! You can fake knowing what they are, but not for long. Because someone more knowledgeable will ask what settings you used, and you can only smoke them for so long. You can roughly gauge how your photos will look by shooting in Auto and see what Aperture and Shutter values your camera used, then try to replicate them by…
2. Shoot in either Aperture or Shutter Priority. The aperture controls the amount of light entering your lens. The smaller the F value, like say F1.8 (or f/1.8) the more light enters, and the more bokeh (aka lens out-of-focus blur) you’ll get, while your subject remains in focus. Shutter Priority controls your shutter speed. 1/200s or faster to freeze a moving object, 1/30 or slower to show motion or to photograph something in dim light. Google for topics on these, chances are, you’ll find a lot more info on them than what I’ll include in this list. Oh, and learn about Metering too.
3. Books. Buy more books than gear. As a beginner, I bought (and was presented) Michael Freeman‘s titles like The Photographer’s Eye and Perfect Exposure. Over time, I’ve bought books on flash photography by Joe McNally, Scott Kelby‘s Volume of 3 books (which have now been expanded into 4), books on Photoshop, also by Scottt Kelby. Also, street photography books, with titles like Street Photography Now and The Street Photographer’s Manual. They were my teachers, including my wife who taught and refreshed me on the basics back in 2010 when I first started.
4. Shoot free. If you have to shoot for free as a beginner, make sure your clients give you back something much more valuable than money; Feedback. How you did for the shots, which shots they liked, why they liked that shot. Was it because of the composition? Or the way you edited it? Find out. Learn. Read.
5. Charge. Camera gear costs money. Memory cards costs money. Your computer and programs, used to edit your photos, cost money. Your transport to the event costs money. Charge your future rates for gigs you take now, because your skills will improve by then, and if you charged low initially, you’ll be kicking yourself for accepting the gig when it comes around and you feel like you deserve better. If you’re paid and paid fairly, chances are, you’ll be happier. A happier photographer is always better than being an unhappy one.
6. Find a photographer’s style you like and follow them. Study what you like about their photos. Buy their books, see what they have to say. See what experts have to say about those photos. Remember, you are the average of the company you keep. Learn from the best, and someday, you’ll be The Best. Personally, since I like street photography, I follow Zinkie Aw and a few others.
7. Follow people who don’t do photography, and talk about everything else. Like James Altucher. I like James Altucher. I like his insightful posts. His “Ten ideas a day” mantra are what spurred me to have this very list done for you.
8. Write. Take time to learn to write proper and interesting titles and captions. Titles like “DSC_00991” simply don’t cut it. I mean, what kind of title is that? It just shows that the photographer doesn’t care. Really. Try it for yourself. What reaction do you have when you come across a photo or album like that? Take time to write and think. I say this because C.S. Ling very helpfully posted her thought of the day, quoted below, about this issue a few days ago. And you should sit up and listen to what she has to say. I know I did.
From my experience as a photography lecturer, photography business owner and photography judge who have taught students, trained employees and judged thousands of photo entries – One of the most important life-long skills other than technical & aesthetic photographic skills, is writing skills.
A photo description that you submit for competition is not just something you can cook up in 30secs. Each sentence has to be properly crafted to impress the judges on why this moment, perspective and subject that you’ve captured is special, rare or memorable to you and to the viewers.
If you don’t know how to convey your thoughts behind the image to the viewer properly, it means you don’t know what you are seeing before you press the shutter button. Then ultimately, your photo is just a snapshot.


9. Curate your work. Not everything has to go on Flickr or whatever website you upload photos to. Select only those you feel are the best. Be ruthless with your work. Or others will be ruthless for you. To you.
10. Contests. Join them! Submit your work. See where you stand. Look at other contestants’ work if possible, to see if any of them gives you inspiration, or what standard is expected and if you can surpass them. If other peoples’ work is good, and your shot ends up as a finalist alongside others, it sure as heck gives a warm, fuzzy feeling. But, always remain humble.  Didn’t win even if you thought your photo was better? Doesn’t matter. Look at why you didn’t win despite your best efforts. Maybe it’s because of your caption. Or your title.
That’s my list for now. Hope you’ve found them useful!


P.S. That’s my beginner at work in the pic above, haha!

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