Photography Advice for Beginners

What basic photographic advice would help you improve your photography as a beginner?

One of my colleagues shared a post on our Teton Photography Club Facebook page last week that really got my attention.  His exact post was “What’s one piece of photography advice you’d give to your beginner self?”  It got me thinking … a LOT of thinking … and also encouraged colleagues in our photography club to share their thoughts.  I thought it helpful to share these comments with you and encourage you to think, and respond, with your ideas.  Here are the comments from the TPC Facebook post.  Thanks, Michael, for starting this discussion:

Here are some of the basic first steps:

“Take your darn cap off.”  “Always carry your iPhone with you.”  “Join a camera club.”  “Practice.  Practice.  Practice.”  “Every shutter click is practice.”  “Just point and shoot.  Don’t overthink things when starting out.” 

These are some great suggestions when you first start “becoming a photographer.”  That very first step can be frustrating since your images typically aren’t as good as you were expecting.  If you take enough shots, one of them is likely to be quite good … hip, hip, hooray …

There was also basic advice I would describe as the second step you take after you decide to get more serious:

“Tripod.”  “Always have charged, spare batteries.”  “Find more time to shoot.”  “99% of getting the shot is always having your camera with you.”  “If you see a picture, take it now.  It will never be there for you to come back to.”

These steps depend quite a bit on a more serious commitment to improvement.  It often begins when you carry your camera (or your cell phone) around with you and stop to take a variety of shot.  If you are looking for scenes that might make good photos, you are likely to find some.  And in time your expectations will rise.

And then there are the steps that I consider to be the thoughtful variety that are much more likely to bring about a change in your photos.  These steps move you into an intermediate phase where you really want to see a change in your photos.  You may experience more frustration, but that can motivate you to think more and shoot more.  When you start thinking about these steps you are likely to see a major improvement that I believe is tied to your motivation; you now think about how to improve quite often, spend time thinking about how to improve,  AND stick with those strategies:

“Can you name your subject with one word?”  “Take your time as you are shooting and think about what is showing up in the viewfinder.”  “Look at the whole picture and not just the subject.”  “Checkout the edges and corners.  Are there any distractions?”  “Light and opportunity are at the core of photography.  Without them, nothing in your toolbox will matter.”

When you first begin to improve your photography it is very likely that you are overwhelmed by aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and … OMG what are all these buttons?  You aren’t any different than I was when I started … calm down !  If you are committed to improving it is likely to take time and patience.

My advice is always, Don’t think you are Stupid !  For most of us it took time and commitment.  If you can find another amateur photographer, or a photography club, to work with it will make your growth easier … IF you trust them to support you and give you feedback.  

The goal of this new version of FirstAmAmateur is to help you find a way to improve your photography.  I’ll be posting the February Peer Mentor Natural Frame Theme Challenge later this week.  Having a partner or peer mentor with monthly “homework” will help you to take steps to improve your photography.  It ain’t easy to improve on your own.