mobile

The Ultimate Guide To

Understanding Composition

Learn the Skills You Need
to Create Captivating
Compositions With Our Free Guide.

    How To Learn Photography on Your Own in 2020

    By September 7, 2019 May 27th, 2020 Camera Basics, Photography

    There was a time when photography was beyond the reach of the average person.

    Today, however, taking beautiful images are no longer the province of professionals; it’s become part of our daily lives.

    We have reached a point where almost everyone owns a camera of some type. The vast number of us, of course, only dabble in photography.

    If you are looking for ways to hone your photography skills without going to school, this article is for you.

    Below, I’ll give you a step by step guide so you can move beyond the realm of everyday photography and into that of a skilled photographer.

    1. Buy A Camera

    One of the most challenging things you’ll have to do when starting photography is deciding which camera to buy.

    The best camera to buy will depend on a variety of factors, such as your budget, photographic style, and technological preferences.

    For some, a cell phone may be enough, while for others a camera with more power and versatility would more ideal.

    That said, it’s likely that a mirrorless or DSLR camera would be your best choice.

    Here is a breakdown to help you decide if you want to go with a mirrorless or DSLR to start your photography career.

    Digital SLR Cameras (DSLR)

    DSLR cameras are the most common type of camera used in digital photography. They are still widely popular with photographers because of the many benefits they offer.

    One of the defining qualities of DSLR cameras is its optical viewfinder. Optical viewfinders use mirrors to reflect light and display an image on the viewfinder.

    While some would consider DSLRs technology to be archaic, there are many benefits to using DSLRs as opposed to mirrorless cameras.

    Since DSLRs have been around longer than mirrorless cameras, users have a wider variety of lenses, although this is slowly ceasing to be true.

    DSLRs also have longer battery life and are generally cheaper than mirrorless cameras. 

    DSLR Recommendations 

    ModelTypeMPBudgetPrice
    Nikon D850DSLR45.7HighCheck Price
    Nikon D750DSLR24.9MidCheck Price
    Nikon D3500DSLR24.2LowCheck Price

    Budget: Nikon D3500

    If you are a beginner looking for a great budget DSLR, then your best bet is the Nikon D3500.

    The Nikon designed for simplicity and comfort, making the perfect camera for beginners.

    Don’t be fooled that although this camera comes in at $400, this camera delivers excellent image quality. 

    Moderate: Nikon D750 

    If you are not ready to invest over $2,000 on a professional level DSLR, then the Nikon D750 is a great option.

    For about half the price of a professional camera, you can get the Nikon D750. 

    This camera matches up pretty well compared to other professional-level cameras. It offers a full-frame sensor with a fantastic battery life and a tilt LCD screen. 

    Professional: Nikon D850

     If you are ready to invest in a professional level DSLR, I recommend the Nikon D850.

    It’s often regarded as one of the best DSLRs in the world. This camera never fails to deliver.

    I promise you won’t be disappointed with any of the features, and very few cameras can compare. 

    Mirrorless cameras

    Mirrorless cameras revolutionized camera design by using a digital viewfinder.

    Digital viewfinders enable the sensor and the LCD to communicate directly with one another, eliminating the need for mirrors to display the image.

    This feature makes it possible for mirrorless cameras to be smaller and lighter, but no less powerful than traditional DSLRs.

    As mentioned, mirrorless cameras are inferior to DSLRs for a variety of reasons.

    That said, advances in technology are slowly eliminating these shortcomings.

    Today, many photographers are converting to mirrorless cameras for its compact, yet powerful camera technology.

    Mirrorless Recommendations 

    ModelTypeMPBudgetPrice
    Nikon Z7Mirrorless45.7HighCheck Price
    Canon EOS RPMirrorless26.2MidCheck Price
    Sony A6100Mirrorless24LowCheck Price

    Budget: Sony A6100

    If you are looking for a great mirrorless camera, but on a budget, the Sony A6100 is the best option. 

    With an ultra-lightweight and compact design, it delivers excellent picture quality for the price.

    It is also one of the few budget cameras that offers 4k Video. 

    One of the great things is it’s easy to use, and it comes with Sony’s exceptional autofocus system. 

    Moderate: Canon EOS RP

    The Canon EOS RP is a full-frame camera for a fraction of the price.

    It delivers exceptional quality, and it has a simple design that makes it easy to use.

    One of the most outstanding features of the Canon EOS RP is that it uses dual pixels and pupil detection autofocus.

    Professional: Nikon Z7

    If you are ready to invest in a professional level mirrorless camera, then the Nikon Z7 is the best option.

    Keep in mind that mirrorless cameras are typically more expensive than DLSRs, so be ready to spend up to $3,000.

    The Nikon Z7 delivers on all aspects: image quality, video, autofocus, and design. All of its features are top of the line, and very few cameras compare.

    Crop vs. Full Frame DSLR

    Another thing to consider when buying a new camera is its sensor size.  For this, you have the option of either going with a full-frame or crop sensor camera.

    Your choice of camera sensor will have an impact on the focal length and field of view of your camera.

    Full frame sensors take on one standard size 35 x 24 mm. Crop sensors are any sensors that are smaller than a full-frame sensor but can vary in size.

    Crop sensors get their name from the “crop effect” that results due to the smaller sensor. The “crop effect” magnifies the lens focal length you are using.

    For example, a lens with a crop factor of 2x will make a 50mm lens appear as a 100mm lens.

    This increases the size of objects in the frame and reduces the field of view. Smaller subjects and a large field of view result from shorter focal length.

    The strength of this effect varies by manufacturer. For instance, a Canon’s crop factor is 1.6x, Nikon’s crop factor is 1.5x, and both Panasonic and Olympus have a crop factor of 2x.

    Should You Buy A Crop Or Full-Frame Camera? 

    It’s up to you which type of camera you get, but your budget is going to be a major consideration in this decision.

    I began my photography career with a cropped sensor, something I share in common with many photographers.

    My reasoning was simple; it was cheaper to get a cropped sensor than a full-frame. 

    To compensate for the limited field of view, I stitched multiple images together in photoshop to achieve my desired appearance.

    This solution worked for me for a while, although I did eventually transition to a full-frame camera.

    Below are some different options for full-frame cameras based on your budget. 

    ModelTypeMPBudgetPrice
    Nikon D850DSLR45.7HighCheck Price
    Nikon D750DSLR24.9MidCheck Price
    Nikon D3500DSLR24.2LowCheck Price
    Nikon Z7Mirrorless45.7HighCheck Price
    Canon EOS RPMirrorless26.2MidCheck Price
    Sony A6100Mirrorless24LowCheck Price

    2. Buy A  Lens

    Now that you have a camera your next decision is going to be what kind of lenses to use.

    The types of lenses you select will depend on the type of photography you will be taking and the style of photos you want to capture. 

    For Full Frame Cameras: 

    14-24 mm

    The 14-24mm is my top choice for landscape photography.

    These lenses offer a wide-angle of view and allow for tack sharp images.

    They also come with weather-sealed bodies and exceptional image stabilization.

    On the negative side, this lens is expensive. They are also incompatible with the majority of standard filters, meaning you’ll often need a special filter when using this lens.

    BrandFocal Length
    Maximum ApertureAF MotorPrice
    Nikon14-24mmf/2.8YesCheck Price
    Sigma14-24mmf/2.8
    YesCheck Price
    Canon11-24mmf/4YesCheck Price
    Sony14-24mmf/4
    YesCheck Price

    16-35 mm

    The 16-35mm is another wide-angle lens that I highly recommend.

    It captures sharp images and is quick to focus.

    Unlike the 14-24mm lenses, 16-35mm lenses are more compatible with lens filters. They are also less expensive and a bit smaller in comparison.

    That said, because of the wider field of view provided by the 14-24mm, it is still the first choice of most landscape photographers.

    The 16-35mm is often kept as an alternative.

    BrandFocal Length
    Maximum ApertureAF MotorPrice
    Nikon16-35mmf/4YesCheck Price
    Canon16-35mmf/2.8
    YesCheck Price
    Canon16-35mmf/4YesCheck Price
    Sony16-35mmf/4
    YesCheck Price
    Sigma18-35mmf/1.4NoCheck Price

    28-300mm

    For an excellent walk-around lens, check out the Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S.

    This lens performs well in terms of sharpness, build, and focal range, especially for the price. 

    For my first three years as a photographer, this Nikon lens was my go-to walk around lens. Not to mention that it has vibration reduction which produces great handheld photos.

    While this lens tends to fall short when photographing scenes with fast movements, its focus tracking is generally precise effective and the autofocus feature is relatively fast.

    BrandFocal Length
    Maximum ApertureAF MotorPrice
    Nikon70-200mmf/2.8YesCheck Price
    Canon70-200mmf/2.8
    YesCheck Price
    Canon70-200mmf/4YesCheck Price
    Sigma100-400mmf/5-6.3
    YesCheck Price
    Sony100-400mmf/4.5-f.6Yes
    Check Price

    Lenses For Crop Sensor: Nikon

    TOKINA at-X 11-16mm F2.8 DXII

    It is important to note that lenses for a full-frame camera do not fit on a crop sensor camera. Also, lenses are not compatible across camera manufacturers. 

    The Tokina 11-16mm s one of the best lenses for a crop sensor body.

    This lens performs exceptionally well in terms of speed. In my experience, it is about two stops faster than our previous sights. 

    The alternative Nikon version of this lens is the Nikon 10-24mm.

    In my experience, they produce nearly the same level of sharpness, but the Tokina has a much smaller price tag. 

    Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Di II VC HLD

    If you’re using a Nikon camera then this would be my next recommendation. I find it produces images of higher quality and performs better to the Nikon equivalent lens.

    Recent editions of this lens come with four-stop vibration calibration and improved optics.

    This makes it a great choice for low light images. In addition, it comes with enhances flexibility and accuracy in the autofocus system, thanks to the updated HLD system.

    The price tag for this lens is just under $500, making it a great alternative to Nikon’s line.

    Lenses For Crop Sensor: Canon

    Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

    If you have a Canon cropped lens camera, I recommend the Canon EF-S 10-18mm. This is a great low-cost wide-angle lens that performs well. 

    Though the lens only costs $269, it still captures extremely sharp images. You might be asking what’s with the low cost?

    Unlike other more expensive lenses, the Cannon 10-18mm has a plastic frame and mount.

    This makes it more delicate and easier to break than standard mounts. In my experience, plastic mounts are difficult to break. 

    Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5

    The next best option for those who own a Canon cropped lens is the Sigma 10-20mm.

    This lens offers a durable plastic build combined with exceptional range.

    The images it produces are acceptably sharp and its internal focusing system performs exceptionally well.

    The unique aspect of this lens is the constant f/3.5 aperture regardless of focal length. 

    In many cases, increasing the focal length will increase the maximum aperture of the lens. This static aperture size makes capturing shallow depths of field easier at longer focal lengths.

    One major disadvantage of this lens is that it costs $400 and is much heavier than the Canon 10-18mm lens.

    I also noticed that the Canon lens outperformed the Sigma lens in terms of image sharpness. 

    3. Learn Your Camera’s Exposure Settings

    Exposure is the amount of light that you let into your camera when you press the shutter button.

    You could have the greatest compositional ideas, but without good use of exposure, your ideas will be in vain.

    The three basic components of exposure in photography are Aperture, Shutter speed, and ISO.

    Learning how to control these settings is the most important thing you can do if you wish to have creative freedom in your photography. 

    Aperture 

     

    The aperture is the hole inside a camera’s lens that allows light to enter the camera.

    The primary function of the aperture is controlling the amount of light that will enter the lens and determining the depth of field of an image.

    The camera achieves this by using an adjustable “hole” to control the light that enters the lens. 

    A wider aperture will let in more light and increase the exposure of an image. Wide apertures also produce a shallow depth of field.

    An image with a shallow depth of field will only have a portion of your image in focus while the rest will be blurry. 

    A smaller, narrower aperture will restrict light and decrease the exposure of an image. Smaller apertures also produce a deep depth of field.

    An image with a deep depth of field will place the entire image in sharp focus. 

    Your camera expresses the different aperture sizes in “f” numbers.

    An “f” number represents the “focal ratio” which is calculated by dividing the aperture diameter by the focal length of the lens. 

    As a result, f-numbers and the size of the aperture have an inverse relationship, which means that narrow apertures that use larger “f” numbers.

    Similarly, wide apertures use smaller f-numbers. 

    The inverse nature of aperture was a point of confusion for sometime when I first started photography. 

    I like to think of the f-numbers as an indicator of the depth of field.

    A large f-number will give me a great, deep depth of field while a small f-number will provide me with a shallow depth of field.

    This is a mental trick I use to ensure I am moving my aperture in the right direction when I am making adjustments. 

    Shutter Speed 

     

    The shutter speed is the amount of time your camera exposes the sensor to light. It also determines how your camera will capture motion. 

    For static objects, the shutter speed will have little effect on the image other than exposure.

    For moving objects, the shutter speed has a huge impact on how motion will appear in your image.  

    At slower shutter speeds, your camera will blur motion.

    This happens because, at slower shutter speeds, your camera will record the moving objects at multiple locations on the frame. 

    At fast shutter speeds, your camera will freeze motion in place.

    The faster an object is moving, the faster your shutter speed needs to be to freeze motion. 

    Adjusting your shutter speed will give you great creative control over your image.

    Using fast shutter speeds, you can capture scenes that are otherwise not visible to the human eye.

    On the other hand, using slow shutter speeds can give you help you create eye-catching images through blurred colors and light trails.

    This will make it easier to set your shutter speed at slower  values, especially when shooting long exposures such as star trails. 

    With slow shutter speeds, the small movements in your hands are exaggerated causing your image to lack sharpness and appear blurry. 

    When using slow shutter speeds remember to use a tripod to stabilize your camera.

    I recommend the Manfrotto Befree Tripod, it is a sturdy tripod that won’t break the bank.

    I prefer the carbon fiber to reduce the weight but the aluminum options works just as well and is less expensive. 

    Another way to can reduce camera shake is by using a shutter release button. 

    This will eliminate any movement caused when you press the shutter button.

    I recommend the PIXEL shutter release, it functions as both a wired and wireless shutter release for the ultimate versatility. 

    It also has a 20o foot range which allows you to control your camera even from a distance. 

     

    ISO

    The final pillar of the exposure is ISO.

    ISO is your cameras sensor’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO will make the image brighter while a lower ISO will make it darker. 

    ISO also plays a key role in the amount of noise present in your image.

    A high ISO will produce an image with more noise while a low ISO will produce an image with less noise. 

    Putting It All Together

    These three settings combine to create the exposure of a given image. Exposure refers to the amount of light that reaches the sensor in your camera.

    Once all of the camera settings are taken into account, the exposure is determined. 

    When selecting your camera settings, consider what type of image you are trying to create and which exposure setting will help you achieve that goal.

    For example, if you want to freeze the motion of a flying bird, be sure you use fast shutter speed.

    Then adjust ISO and aperture to reach a proper exposure while holding. 

    Resource: How to Use Your Camera: Understanding Exposure How A DSLR Camera Works - Animated Infographic

    Embed This Infographic: How a DSLR Camera Works

    ND Filters 

    An often overlooked tool you can use to adjust your exposure without changing your exposure settings is ND filters. 

    You can use ND filters to reduce your exposure by up to 10 stops without adjusting your settings. 

    This is done by adding a layer of darker glass over your lens. 

    I enjoy using variable ND filters because they have different intensity levels. 

    To adjust the intensity level, all you need to do is rotate the ND filter. 

    If you are looking for an ND filter, I highly recommend the Tiffen Variable Filter

    It is adjustable from 2 to 8 stops of light, making it versatile across different lighting conditions. 

    Most variable ND filters won’t go as high as ten stops, so I suggest purchasing a few higher ND filters individually. 

    I recommend a 10-stop and 15-stop ND filter for those special cases when you need extra strong ND filters. 

    ND filters are especially useful if you’re shooting during the day. Or if you are using slow shutter speeds or wide apertures. 

    4. Learn Camera Modes 

    Now that we have discussed the three pillars of exposure, the next step is to understand your cameras shooting modes.

    These modes will capture an image with proper exposure. 

    There are three shooting modes you should learn when starting with photography. 

    1. Aperture Priority 
    2. Shutter Priority 
    3. Manual

    When you are just learning photography, aperture and shutter priority modes will benefit you greatly.

    These two modes will allow you to set two of the three exposure settings, and the camera will set the final setting.

    With the knowledge of exposure settings above, you should have no problem using the priority shooting modes. 

    Manual Mode

    In manual mode, you will set all three exposure settings. 

    Manual mode is harder and takes more experience to master completely.

    I don’t recommend shooting in manual until you have had significant practice shooting in aperture and shutter priority modes. 

    Shooting in the priority modes will give you a good understanding of how the exposure settings affect one another out in a field.

    Once you are comfortable using the priority modes, practice using manual mode. 

    Aperture Priority

    In aperture priority, you will set the aperture and ISO, and your camera will set the required shutter speed to reach a properly exposed image. 

    Use aperture priority when you want to control how your depth of field will appear in your image. 

    For example, when I am taking pictures of landscapes, I use aperture priority to make sure that I capture the entire scene in sharp focus. 

    Shutter Priority

    In shutter priority, you set the shutter speed and ISO, and your camera will set the required aperture to reach a properly exposed image. 

    Use shutter priority when you want to control how your camera captures motion. 

    For example, you are shooting flying birds you’ll want to use shutter priority.

    This will give you the ability to set the fast shutter speed to ensure that you freeze the motion of the bird.

    If you are not using aperture priority in a case like this, the flying bird will likely be blurry because you have no control over the shutter speed. 

    Resource: How to Use Your Camera: Understanding Camera Modes

    5. Understand Focus 

    Before you can take an image you’ll need to learn how to focus your camera.

    You can either do this by either setting your camera to manual focus or auto-focus.

    I recommend using auto-focus when you’re just starting.

    Most cameras autofocus systems today are superb at producing tack sharp images. They are quick and easy to use compared to manual focus.

    For most cameras, move your focus point to the subject you would like to focus on.

    Then press the shutter button halfway down until your subject is in focus.

    If your subject does not appear sharp, repeat the process until your subject becomes sharp.

    If your camera doesn’t focus using autofocus mode, you are likely too close to your subject.

    To truly master photography, you will need to learn how to use manual focus.

    Autofocus is not 100% reliable; often in low-light or high contrast scenes, you will have issues using autofocus.

    When using manual focus, you will need to adjust the focus ring on your camera until your object is sharp.

    I recommend using your live view mode to focus.

    Set your camera to live view and adjust your focus ring until your image is sharp. Then, zoom in to 100% on your subject and double-check if it is sharp.

    6. Shoot in RAW

    The RAW file format is the preferred format by most photographers for the higher quality, increased color spectrum, and editing flexibility. 

    RAW and JPEG are the file formats you will be deciding between when shooting with a DSLR.

    The differences in file formats can be attributed to the type of compression they use. 

    JPEGs use lossy compression, which produces a smaller file size but at the cost of image quality.

    On the other hand, RAW files use lossless compression, which produces large files of higher quality.  

    Shooting in RAW will ensure you are using your camera to its fullest potential. 

    Resource: RAW vs. JPEG: The Full Story

    7. Learn About Light

    Taking command of your photography requires an understanding of the different qualities of light and how they interact with your subjects. 

    This means recognizing how variations of light affect your subjects’ color, brightness, tone, and contrast, among others.

    A great place to start learning is by studying the main characteristics of light: direction, color, and contrast.

    Color

    In photography, the temperature of light can have a huge impact on the actual colors in the image. 

    Light comes in a full spectrum of colors. The light from a sunset can be a ruddy orange or red.

    Fluorescent bulbs have distinctive light qualities, especially when compared to standard incandescents.

    DSLRs have a feature that allows for either automatic, manual, or custom adjustment of the color cast caused by different lighting temperatures.

    The feature is called white balance. 

    White balance will adjust the colors in your image to account for any color cast caused by different temperatures of lighting.

    This feature ensures that the colors in your photos are exactly how they appear in the real world.

    White balance can also be used creatively to add an interesting aesthetic to your photos. 

    The most common white balance modes are auto, scene, and custom. 

    In the auto white balance mode, the camera will detect and automatically adjust the colors in your photo. 

    There are several white balance scene modes that will adjust the colors of a photo given presents of a scene.

    These modes include sunny, cloudy, incandescent, and several more depending on your camera. 

    Finally, custom white balance or Kelvin scale requires you to enter the light temperature you are shooting in.

    As a frame of reference, the lighting temperature for sunset is around 2500K, daylight at 5500K, and shade at 7500K.

    Once the value is entered, the white balance will adjust according to this value. 

    You can also correct the white balance in post-processing. However, if you didn’t shoot in RAW format, your ability to alter your white balance will be limited. 

    Other than the natural light temperature, there are other ways you can adjust the color of light in your images.

    For instance, you can use certain camera filters to adjust the color of the light. 

    Another example is by using flash gels. Flash gels are colored filters used to alter the color of the light in a scene. 

    It is important to remember that to use flash gels you need to use an external flash.

    As a photographer, it is important that you recognize the effect that the color of light is having on your images and determine how to move forward to maintain your photographic goals. 

    Contrast 

    Contrast is the range between the darkest and brightest parts of an image.

    The more difference that exists between these two points, the more contrast there is in an image.

    One quality of light that determines contrast is its size relative to your subject.

    The light that comes from a source that is larger than the subject will produce diffused, soft light. Smaller sources will produce a harder and sharper contrast.

    Most photography benefits from diffused light thanks to the soft shadows it produces.

    Hard light results in shadows that are typically unpleasant, especially on an individuals’ face.

    Contrast also influences perceived depth in your image.

    Your audience will perceive the objects with more contrast to be closer than the ones lacking contrast. 

    As a result, your audience’s attention will first be directed to the element in your image with the most contrast before moving on to the rest of your frame. 

    How much contrast you use is determined by your intent for the photo.

    There is no good or bad contrast except when comparing them to the goals of your image.

    Direction

    The direction from which your source of light hits your subject significantly alters its appearance.

    It dictates the quality of your subject’s highlights and shadows and is critical in establishing form.

    Front lighting refers to the placement of the light source in front of the subject.

    This direction of light reveals details clearly, though the results can be somewhat flat and dull.

    Side lighting, on the other hand, enhances depth.

    This direction of lighting produces a smooth gradation of tones on objects, increasing their sense of three-dimensionality.

    The trickiest type of light to shoot with is backlighting.

    Backlit images are scenes where the source of light is in front of your camera and behind your subject.

    This reduces objects within the scene to a silhouette, with a glow of light around it. 

    Backlighting, such as that produced by placing your subject in front of a setting sun, produces stunning images. 

    But, adjusting your camera settings for this type of light is more complicated than most.

    This is particularly true if your goal is not to create silhouettes but to capture the details of your subject.

    Mastering how to use backlighting for your photography takes time, practice, and experience.  

    8. Learn About Composition

    “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

    Pablo Picasso’s famous quote can be related directly to photography.

    The composition rules must be paid attention to if you want to create images that enchant and inspire your audiences.

    Some compositional techniques that you should be familiar with are the rule of thirds, the rule of odds, and the rule of space.

    The rule of thirds is one of the most well known compositional techniques in visual arts.

    This technique produces visually pleasing compositions by placing your subject off-center within your frame.

    Imagine your image has two evenly spaced vertical and horizontal lines to create a tic-tac-toe pattern.

    According to the rule of thirds, you should place your subjects at these intersecting lines to create aesthetically pleasing photographs.

    Some photographers create this tic-tac-toe pattern with their imagination. But most cameras allow you the pattern to your viewfinder as you shoot. 

    Resources:

    The Basics of Composition: The Ultimate Guide

    23 Composition Techniques for Travel Photography

    9. Study Other People’s Work

    You can gain plenty of inspiration and knowledge from observing the work of other photographers. This is particularly true if you spend the time to study the full breadth of their work.

    Examining a photographer’s work collectively instead of individually will reveal to you subtle nuances about their aesthetic approach.

    When studying other artists’ work, try to examine them in the context from which they were created.

    This includes social elements such as economics, culture, and politics. All of these social components can have a profound impact on how and why images are made.

    It’s also a good idea to read about the photographer’s life.

    As you find out what got them started, their obstacles, and how they grew up, you can learn more about your path.

    Finally, study photographers of different genres.

    There is always something you can learn from other photographers, even if they aren’t doing the same type of photography.

    10. Get A Mentor

    If you know someone who’s getting the results you’re looking for, make that person your mentor.

    Your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be someone you personally know.

    You can learn from bloggers, authors, and internet personalities that have the skills you want to obtain. Your mentor can even be a person from the past. 

    Your mentor doesn’t have to be photographers either.

    They can be instructors in creative courses, music, film, even writing or painting.

    They may be your friends, colleagues, anyone whose work ethic and opinion you respect.

    Studying individuals like these can provide you with an immense amount of knowledge and inspiration.

    It will also help you avoid pitfalls commonly made by beginners, speeding up your development. 

    Once you’ve found a mentor absorb everything you can from them.

    You may not always agree with their advice, but consider it carefully.

    Remember, you selected them because they have more experience than you and there’s a reason they’ve developed their opinions.

    Value their opinion, no matter how strange they may seem. 

    Later, once you’ve followed their advice, you can begin to challenge or improve upon them. 

    The best students one day grow to become fellow teachers.

    11. Watch Online Tutorials 

    The internet is a powerful source of information about photography. Today more than ever before we can access information to facilitate our learning with great ease. 

    For those who don’t like to read, the internet is full of video blogs.

    YouTube, in particular, has an immense amount of tips, tutorials, and reviews about photography (Check out my youtube channel here). 

    These are available for almost any imaginable form of photography, making learning easy.

    You can also find reviews about all sorts of equipment to help you make a selection when the time comes.  

    12. Practice What You’ve Learned

    While reading and watching videos can be an excellent way to gather information, practice is essential.

    Experience is the only way to truly learn photography.

    This means you need to go out and take photos regularly.

    I’m not talking about hundreds of pictures; I mean thousands of photos.  

    Experiment with techniques, perspectives, angles, and head outdoors. The more practical experience you get, the better at photography you’ll become.

    13. Share Your Work

    Feedback is a powerful learning tool and motivator, so share your images to the world.  

    You can always learn from asking people what they think about your work, even from those who don’t have any knowledge of photography.

    Plus, letting people enjoy your work is a great way to boost your confidence and dedication to continue improving your craft. 

    Whether it’s uploading your work on social media or simply sending it in an email to friends and family, most people will appreciate you sharing your images with them.

    Alternatively, you may consider creating a blog or portfolio website to share your work. 

    14. Network

    Inspiration doesn’t just come from having new ideas; it’s also about your excitement for your work. 

    Connecting with people who share your passion can give you the motivation and support that you need to succeed.

    Being active in your community helps remind you that you’re not alone in your goals and struggles, boosting your confidence to achieve them.

    Other than support, networking also allows you to serve your community.

    Helping others is not only rewarding, but it can also inspire and motivate you creatively. 

    These are great reasons to get involved with your local photography enthusiasts.

    You could engage with your community online by joining forums, being active on social media, or personally meeting up with local artists. 

    15. Find A Muse

    Having a muse can be a powerful source of inspiration for any artist, and it can be an essential part of improving your photography. 

    Your muse can be anything from a person to music, literature, movies, or a place.

    You may also have a host of muses, use each of them to inspire you in a different way. 

    For instance, among my muses are Zion National Park, Utah, and Oahu, Hawaii.

    I find these two locations to be strikingly beautiful and full of potential. When my motivation is lacking, I return for inspiration and energy.  

    Finding a muse will help teach and encourage you towards growth.

    It will help expand your creativity, sometimes even beyond the bounds of your photograph.

    The most powerful of muses can influence and shape many aspects of your life.

    16. Build A Portfolio

    Having a place to present your work is the next natural step as you create more images.

    If you intend to become a professional photographer, you can use your portfolio as a way of demonstrating your expertise for future clients.

    You can also use it to build your personal brand.  

    If you are a hobbyist, building a portfolio is a great way to study how your work has evolved and track your progress.

    17. Study Your Work

    Study all images, even the ones that didn’t make it to your portfolio. Doing so is vital to your creativity and growth as a photographer. 

    Studying your work helps you see mistakes that you may have otherwise missed.

    You naturally begin to brainstorm, developing new ideas from your previous successes and failures.

    This exercise will also help you see how you’re evolving as a photographer.

    When you study your work as a whole, you’re able to see how your visual aesthetics and preferences change over time.

    Seeing how your ideas and beliefs change with time provide you with vital insights as a creator.

    What aesthetics did you like before but now dislike? How about ones that you disliked previously but now appreciate? What triggered you to change your mind? 

    These kinds of inquiries help track your growth and improve self-understanding. It can also be a source of inspiration you can use when you’re out shooting.

    18. Make Shooting A Habit

    A consistent pattern of shooting will help you tune your creative mind, making new ideas come effortlessly.  

    You’ll form a habit of analyzing your surroundings with the eye of a photographer.

    The likelihood that you’ll be able to capture stunning shots will increase as your instincts improve.  

    Invest time in photography, and you’ll find that you stay on top of your game and become inspired.

    19. Learn Post-Processing

    It’s one thing to take a photo, quite another to edit it to perfection.  

    Editing software like Photoshop and Lightroom are invaluable investments in photography.  

    Editing software allows you to make important adjustments in saturation, sharpness, contrast, color balance, sharpness, and countless others.

    To edit my images, I primarily use Photoshop and lightroom, but you may want to try out other editing platforms to see which one works best for you.

    If you are looking for a free version I recommend GIMP. Although it doesn’t have the higher-end editing tools, it has most of the low to mid-level editing tools offered in Photoshop.

    Another great option is Luminar.

    Luminar as a simple user interface making it very easy to use.

    It also has several AI features that will simulate photo editing for you.  It also has a flat one-time fee and not subscription-based like Photoshop.

    Some Key Tools I Use In Post-Processing Can Be Found Below:

    1. Levels and Curves

    Levels and Curves can be among the most vital editing tool as they allow you to control the tone of your image.

    Levels and Curves permit you to shift the endpoints of the black and white parts of your image’s tonal range.

    Changing these endpoints alters the photographer’s overall contrast.

    2. Adjustment layers

    Photoshop’s layers allow you to make edits to your image in a non-destructive way.

    They allow you to make your edits outside of the original file. This means that your original image will always be intact. 

    3. Clone Stamp

    The clone stamp tool allows you to duplicate areas of a photo and insert them in other areas of the photo.

    This tool is useful when fixing noise or resolving small imperfections such as blemished on your subject’s face.

    4. Sharpening

    Sharpening your image is something you can always benefit from, especially when you’re shooting in RAW.

    You can eliminate softness in the image or emphasize some aspects within the image in preparation for final output.

    The sharpening tools you use will be dependent on your goals for your image. 

    5. Saturation

    You can use the hue/saturation tool to change the lightness, saturation, or hue of the colors in your image.

    The color in your image is the hue, while the saturation of that color is the intensity.

    The lightness controls the brightness value of your image.

    6. Healing brush

    You can fix blemishes, scratches, and various other imperfections in your image with the healing brush.

    This tool works by sampling an area to be used as a source to blend the imperfections into the image.

    20. Develop A Workflow

    A codified photography workflow will help you accomplish your goals faster and with ease.

    Your workflow is the steps that you go through to produce your final image, from scouting your location to capturing your image to polishing it in post-processing.

    Repetition may seem monotonous, but having a process will help protect you from procrastination, distraction, and confusion.  

    On those days when you can’t find the motivation to edit your images or shoot, a workflow can help you get started.

    Not having to think about the steps involved can make it easier to begin your work.

    Having a workflow is especially important for beginners.

    It will help you produce images consistently and smoothly.

    A workflow will also assist you in developing your style or aesthetic as a photographer.

    21. Enjoy The Journey!

    As a new photographer, you may feel the need to sprint your way into learning photography.

    However, like everything good in life, mastering photography takes time.

    As a new photographer, you will have an endless list of places to shoot and projects to accomplish. 

    Do not feel pressured to do them all at once. Doing so will not only be impossible but will only frustrate and discourage you. 

    It takes a lifetime to build a body of work. It doesn’t matter how great your portfolio becomes; if you’re passionate about photography, chances are, you will never finish.

    So, ignore the pressure to achieve things quickly. Be patient and willing to grow in photography one day at a time.

    Conclusion

    There you go, my top 20 tips to help you get started in photography.

    As you advance,  this guide will become less and less needed. Till then follow the steps and you’ll be well on your way to learning and loving this craft. Happy shooting!

    About The Author

    Photographer. Explorer. Story Teller. For the past 5 years, I’ve voyaged across the world seeking the next great photograph. If you’re anything like me, you love to travel, capture beautiful moments, and live life to the fullest.

    5 Comments

    • Amit Shah says:

      Hi,

      Your article is very informative and inspirational.
      Thank you,
      Amit

    • Kamila says:

      This was very informative.
      I struggle with remembering *anything* about photography, even though my dad, who has photography as his biggest hobby, has been trying to explain it all to me since I was 10 years old (so for like good 11 years now…). I’m good at figuring out the composition but I usually end up shooting in auto mode, which doesn’t always produce what I intended it to. I wrote all the important info down and I’m gonna put the paper in my camera bag, so that next time I’m using it and I don’t know what to do, I’ll have something to help me immediately without having to google anything.

      So thanks a lot!

      • Vinci Palad says:

        Hi Kamila,

        I am really happy to hear that you found my article useful. If you want some more assistance shooting in manual mode, check out my article here. I’ve broken down manual mode into 7 easy steps.

        Regards,

        Vinci

    • Bravo says:

      Thanks a lot. The article is inspiring. I will start the hubby I have been nursing to do after engineering works. God bless you.
      Bravo

    Leave a Reply