Here you’ll find beginning photography tips so you can learn basic photography and how to take good pictures one step at a time. Discover the ABC’s of exposure, composition, lighting — and let’s not forget about creativity!
Larry Monczka, our special guest writer, has contributed a fabulous article with basic photography tips to take your pictures from snapshots to wall-worthy. It’s all in the details.
Digital Photography for Beginners
If you’re just starting out in photography, let me welcome you to the fun! There’s lots to learn, but you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. You don’t need to know everything all at once, and you don’t need to know everything to start enjoying photography right away.
If you’re ready to learn a few things to get started, then you’ve come to the right place. This section contains a collection of helpful tips on digital photography for beginners to prepare you for great shooting. Read this basic photography information before you head out with your camera! Find out about everything from the “golden hour,” to insuring your gear, to creating the right state of mind.
When you start using a digital camera, it’s usually in one of the built in “program” modes. If you’re here visiting this website, then I’m guessing that you might be ready to take your first tentative steps out of program mode, and start making some decisions about exposure settings yourself. Once you do, you’ll never look back! You will find that by learning about exposure, you actually gain the extra creative control to do things like blur motion, and use selective focus. How are motion and focus related to exposure? Read on, and find out!
Understanding exposure basics is crucial to making a great photograph. Spend some time to understand the four ingredients of exposure: light in the scene, ISO,shutter speed and aperture. Don’t be intimidated! The concepts are not hard, and once you get your head around them, you’re well on your way to great images!
Find tips on picture composition to help you create more compelling images. Hone your skills in seeing, choosing, arranging and framing picture elements. What are the rules of composition in photography, and when should you break them?
Before striving for any goal, it’s a good idea to define it clearly. So, before you can achieve good composition in photography, you need to understand what that means. What is composition, anyway?
Why is Good Photo Composition Important?
Picture composition is one of the most important aspects of a great photograph. What you include in the image (and what you don’t), and how you arrange the elements within the frame, contribute significantly to the overall success of the image. Will it have impact? Will it convey your message?
The purpose of making a photograph is the effective expression of facts, ideas, or feelings. Whatever the photographer is trying express guides the photography composition. Two photographers shooting the exact same scene at the exact same time may choose entirely different compositions, each to reinforce their personal interpretation of the scene. For example, two photographers shooting the streets of Manhattan may each have a different story to tell. One might get down low with a wide angle lens to emphasize a homeless person in the foreground, contrasting poverty and wealth in the city. The other photographer might shoot a horizontal frame to take in all the skyscrapers and the big city skyline. There’s no right or wrong, but the elements included, and the perspective taken, should serve to strengthen the story being told.
All this implies that you actually do have a vision, or a story to tell with your image. In fact, that’s one of the first keys to making a good photograph. Understanding why you want to take the picture, and analyzing what has attracted you to the scene, allows you to emphasize the right elements in your picture so that your message is conveyed to the viewer.
Once you master the different aspects of good photography composition, you can begin to make deliberate choices about how you use them to express your own vision.
Visual design elements are the fundamental building blocks of your image. They include light, lines, shapes, texture and perspective. All images can be broken down into these elements. Each one can be used to convey information. These elements form the visual vocabulary you use to speak your message.
Photography Rules of Composition
Once you understand the vocabulary of images, in the form of visual design elements, you then need to understand the grammar. How you assemble the elements together determines whether the final image “works” or not. In fact, the photography rules of composition are not hard and fast rules; rather, they are guidelines that you can use to combine your picture elements so that you tell your story most effectively. You need to be aware of them, but they cannot guarantee a good image. It’s up to you to learn when to apply them — and when to break them. This comes through
practice and experience. Here are some rules for you:
Cropping photos refers to removing parts of the photographs to emphasize the subject and remove distractions. What you choose to include in (and exclude from) your image sends a strong message about what you want to call attention to. Where you place the boundaries of the image, relative to the individual elements within it, contributes to the overall design of the image. And that design underlines the image’s message.
Make sure you don’t get too boxed in by all the rules! It’s still important to be creative and retain your own personal vision. Check out this article on abstract photos by guest writer Larry Monczka. He provides some specific techniques to help you take abstract photos of nature that go beyond the straightforward record shot.
Photograph Composition: Examples
Nothing’s better for your understanding than looking at examples, and seeing whether you can apply what you’ve learned. Check out the following examples of Photo Composition to see whether you’ve made sense of the rules.
Here you’ll find photography ideas to get your creative juices flowing. From interviews with experts, to descriptions of photography project ideas, to photography contests, we have resources to stimulate your photographic creativity.
“Some Tips to Perk up Your People Portfolio” by Larry Monczka
“Do it Anyway” by Barbara Bender
It’s important that, as photographers, we keep stretching our own creative boundaries. It’s easy to get into a photographic rut, and keep shooting the same old subjects over and over. For me, that means returning time and again to flowers, and the rural landscapes around my home. I don’t think I should ever give up shooting those; they are my passions. Every now and then, however, it’s good to shake things up by shooting a different subject, or using a different style than your usual. Those “out of the box” shoots will stimulate your creativity, and grow your vision and your skills, and the images you make of your favorite subjects will improve as a result.
Being away from home can free you to be more creative. One great way to break free of a rut is to take photographs when you travel. This is how many people first get into photography.
If you need assistance with planning your perfect trip, I find that Top Travel Tips has practical, comprehensive, and unbiased travel advice.
Here are some other photography ideas to stimulate your creative juices and get you photographing outside of your box:
Also check out the photography project ideas from our readers on our forums page on this topic. And please contribute your own!
A “365 project,” where you commit to taking one photograph every day for a year, can be an excellent way to push your own creative boundaries. Take a peek at the 365 project I’ve undertaken, and consider doing one of your own. This is hands-down the best exercise I’ve ever set myself. Barbara Bender, a guest contributor on this website, has written about her experience with a 52-week variant of the project 365.
Photography Ideas by Technique
This project of shooting flowers through waterglass can be done inside or out. You’ll need to purchase a piece of waterglass, or other textured glass, and create a stand to hold it. Then you shoot through the glass at your subject. Flowers make a great subject, but experiment and try others too!
If you want a great photography project for a rainy day, then try this activity on your kitchen table. You need foil or silver mylar paper, glasses of water, food coloring, and a close-up lens. And lots of patience! This one’s not easy. Have some fun with foil and food coloring.
What better way to push yourself creatively than to actually get out and take pictures? When the theme is set for you, it stretches you further, since it may push you out of your comfort zone. Test yourself, and submit an image to the latest of our monthly photo challenges. Check out past photo challenges to get inspired.
It’s also valuable to look at the images of others for inspiration. Check out these stunning top photographs from our 2010 Worldwide Camera Club Competition.
My Favorite Inspirational Photography Books
These all have a place of honor on my bookshelf, and I turn to them for inspiration.
I’m a quote collector! Here are some some fun, inspirational and insightful photography quotes.
Interviews with Experts
Listen to a podcast interview with Tony Sweet, as he talks to us about his ideas on creativity in photography.
Tony tells us not to listen to any one else! We each need to forge our own path. Get out there and try new things!
Articles by Guest Writers
“Some Tips to Perk up Your People Portfolio” by Larry Monczka
In this article on portrait photography technique, Larry Monczka, freelance photographer and writer, offers some creative tips to add a little spice to your portrait images. Panning, zooming, using light and color — it’s all here!
All of us have the potential to be creative but for many, creativity can be hampered by the fear of disapproval or the fear of failure.
In this article on photographic creativity, Barbara Bender, freelance professional photographer and writer, encourages us to overcome our fears, take a risk, and do it anyway!
Let our guest writers help your learning digital photography with more inspiring articles! The full collection includes everything from photographing “real” children’s portraits, to abstract photos, and more!