All of us want to take better photos. That’s a given, even for people that to the rest of us are at the pinnacle of creating incredible images.
But when you’re a beginner, getting to that place where you say, “Wow, I just created a great shot!” can be a bit on the daunting side.
There’s many paths you can take to get to a better photo – and that’s part of the confusion, just knowing where to start.
With that in mind, I thought long and hard about all the things I know now that I didn’t know when I started and narrowed it down to three crucial ways you can improve your photography.
#1: It’s Not All About the Gear
If I had to say what the most common problem is for newbie photographers, I’d say that it’s too much of a focus on the gear.
By that, I mean that instead of actually learning how to use the camera they have already, they put all their energy into lusting over what camera they should have.
The problem with that is that the camera they feel they should have isn’t going to make them a better photographer…
Practicing and learning photography concepts with the camera they already have will make a big difference, though.
Even if all you have is a smartphone, you can learn a ton about photography, especially compositional principles.
For example, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a Canon 5DS to practice things like framing, using leading lines, the rule of thirds, and other basic photography composition rules.
In fact, I’d argue that it’s easier to learn about composition with a smartphone because it’s a much less overwhelming camera than a high-end DSLR.
Besides, you already have a phone, so if you’re just beginning, why drop a bunch more money on another camera before you know what you’re doing?
Just use the camera you’ve got, work on developing your creative eye and understanding basic photography rules, and when your camera becomes a liability, and you can no longer take the sort of photos you want to take with it, then upgrade to something new.
Learn a few smartphone photography tips in the video above by CamCrunch.
#2: Zero In on Specific Skills
As I noted above, it’s necessary to learn how to use the gear you’ve got and focus on developing basic photography skills before you think about getting new gear.
But to take that point a step further, I’d highly recommend focusing on one type of photography in the beginning, that way you can develop a keen eye for the type of detail, style choices, and the technical aspects of photography as they apply to one genre.
I know it’s exciting to start photography and you want to try everything from portraits to street photography to macro to landscapes.
But the problem with that is that each type of photography requires a bit of a different approach and mindset.
So, by trying to be a jack of all trades, you’re likely to end up becoming a master of none.
Instead, start your photography journey by working on one type of photo. I chose landscapes, but you can choose whatever you want.
And once you begin, learn everything you can about that type of photography.
Another benefit of working on a specific set of skills is that you become intimately familiar with the gear you’ve got. And once that happens, learning other types of photography will become vastly easier!
For example, when I started shooting landscapes, I learned the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. That, in turn, led to a discovery of concepts like white balance, understanding metering modes, and exposure compensation. From there, I learned to shoot in aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode, and eventually even manual mode.
But you’ll never guess what happened when I took a few portraits of my family – they were much-improved pictures.
Why? Because the concepts of exposure, metering, white balance, and so forth are the same for one type of photography as any other. In other words, the skills I’d learned for landscapes were applicable to portraits, so my portraiture improved as a result.
So, focus on one genre at first, and when you try expanding your horizons, you’ll be better equipped to conquer other types of photography.
Learn a few composition tips in the video above by PhotoRec TV.
#3: Learn How to Process Your Images
When I first started out in photography, I had no idea how much work was involved in processing images.
Even just organizing them into folders on my computer seemed to be an enormous task, let alone actually getting the images into a program to manipulate things like brightness, sharpness, saturation, and so forth.
Programs like Photoshop and Lightroom are incredibly powerful, but for beginners, they can also be incredibly intimidating.
But it doesn’t have to be that way…
Just like you have to start somewhere with learning how to use your camera, you have to start somewhere with processing your images.
I started out with very simple tasks – cropping, straightening if necessary, and adjusting brightness, contrast, saturation, and vibrancy.
Once I felt comfortable doing those things, I worked on mastering more advanced skills like making selections, dodging and burning, exposure blending, and so forth.
The moral of the story here is that you have to approach learning how to process your images like eating an elephant – just one bite at a time.
Yes, it will take some time, dedication, and patience to become a post-processing guru, but in the end, your images will be much better if you actually know what you’re doing in Photoshop or Lightroom.
I suppose that’s also the lesson for this entire article – it will take time.
But if you commit yourself to learning and practicing, with time, you’ll find that you have the ability to take much better photos.
Learn a few ideas for shooting and editing like a pro in the video above by Mango Street Labs.