Photography Tips for Beginners That Worked For Me

Photography Tips for Beginners That Worked For Me

After a couple of weeks in Mombasa it is back to Nairobi and what do I do? Get on the weighing scale. Bad idea!

You don’t shock yourself with 8 new pounds of flesh that seem to have appeared from no where! A month of fasting is meant to make you lose a couple of pounds. Maybe one. May be retain your weight. Then you remember how you plated all that succulent Swahili food at the end of every dry fast. For thirty days!

The 8 pounds of flesh didn’t appear from no where after all!

If you find this post illegible, do know that I have temporary fat fingers tonight. After 20 minutes of high intensity interval training, this photog is Parkinson’s-ish. Be gone 8 pounds of fat!

The feeling after a workout is epic though!

I receive a text from a pal saying he just bought a Nikon D5500 and asking if he can take decent photos with it. He had just read This is Not Another List of Street Photography Tips and seen the photos in there.

“That is in fact one of the best entry level cameras there is and the possibilities are immense”, I replied.

I am asked more times than I could count on whether a certain camera can take good photos. Here is the thing, if a camera brand or model is anything to go by, consider me the wrong person to ask. I have held far less camera models to qualify my opinion. Plus, I have seen amazing shots taken with camera phones. Legendary photographer Ansel Adams was absolutely right when he said, the single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.

Asked whether a certain camera takes good photos, my answer is always yes, with a big but (single ‘t’) as I am about to list out.

It is about time I do a post on photography tips for beginners based on my own experiences. I researched extensively on these pointers and practiced them diligently. They worked for me.

I am also writing this post so that I can share the hell out of it to anyone else asking me if their camera can take good photos!

If you are an advanced photographer read through so that you can add your experiences on the comment section below.

Know Thy Gear

A friend once asked to go with me on a photo shoot so that I could teach him depth of field. A couple of minutes in and I realize that I knew more about rocket science than he knew his gear. The session ended up being less productive than I had wished of it.

Obvious as it may sound, knowing your camera should be the first thing. Spend time with it (you two can get a room) and know all the functions and features it comes with. Carefully study the dials and functions your camera has, it will spring you to probe deeper into other photography topics. Take your time to explore your gear as much as you can.

I get it, reading a manual is boring but not do forsake the little book, it is full of vital information. If you bought a second hand camera without a user guide or lost yours, try searching the internet. Chances are someone has already posted a detailed article on the camera you have.

Shoot Manual

Shooting on manual mode is one of those things professional photographers do, you should too. However, that should not be the only reason why.

Photography is a love story between the person behind a camera and the light falling on a subject. Going on Auto Mode only means you are letting the camera write the love story for. You don’t want this. What you want is to take that control by using Manual. It will let you be the one deciding what kind of mood you relay to your viewers.

By shooting manual you take ownership of exposure through manipulation of aperture, shutter speed and ISO. The moment you start learning how to control exposure by altering these three variables, you will notice how in control you are over your photography.

I am glad I went full throttle manual mode from day one because I had read a lot of articles on why I need to do so. I also wanted something more exciting than just clicking.

If you are comfortable with Auto or P mode because Manual sounds scary, sell your DSLR camera and buy a point and shoot. Even point and shoot cameras come with manual mode these day, ever wondered why?

The good news is, it will take you roughly a couple of hours to master manual mode. The bad news is, no one in the photography universe will ever take you seriously if you do not shoot on it.

Sorry, it is what is. Make that switch!

Shoot RAW

There are gazillion articles written on the benefits of shooting RAW. There are also quite a number who advocate for JPEG (I do not understand why, but that is just my opinion).

In simple terms, RAW is a file format that allows your camera sensor to capture all the data as it appears. In other words, if you shoot in JPEG, the files are compressed deleting tons of information in the process.

Secondly, JPEG means giving control to the camera. We have established we do not want this with our photography is a love story analogy. JPEG allows the camera to decide on what it deems as data that you do not need and do away with it. I believe you can make better decisions than the camera. You will notice that a single JPEG file is far much less than a RAW file. The difference in size is the amount of data lost due to the compression.

RAW being uncompressed data, denotes that you are left with a lot of room to work with in post processing. It gives the control back to you and lets you depict how you want your end results to be.

One thing you need to know about RAW is, unlike JPEG, you cannot share your photographs before processing them through a post processing software.

Learn to Cook Your RAW Files

Once you start shooting RAW, you have no option (this is a good thing though) but to learn how to use a post processing software such as Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop.

Remember what used to happen in film photography days? Photographs had to be processed in a dark room before they could be viewed. Post processing softwares are the digital version of a dark room.

I use Lightroom not only that Photoshop is advanced, but I find Lightroom to be an adequate tool for processing my photos.

Start learning and getting comfortable with any post processing software in the market. Latest version of Lightroom costs about $80. If budget is an issue in getting one, I have never used Google Nik but it has great reviews and absolutely free. These robust applications will allow you to develop a post processing work flow to manage your images, fix and enhance them.

Mine the Internet

As a fully self taught (and still learning) photographer, this is powerful advice I am sharing with you. The Internet is your friend. It is undoubtedly the world’s biggest library in human existence. Whatever is not on it (yet), it will give you references of where to find what you are looking for.

Blogs, Vlogs, YouTube and podcasts are some of the resources you need to acquaint yourself to. They will arm you with more information than you could absorb in a lifetime. I am habitual internet searcher (almost perfecting the art of Google searching) and I keep jumping from one item to the other.

Find photographers you admire and gather the information they share with their fans. If you happen to find a particular Photographer you admire, copy what they do and in the process you will find your own unique style.

I consider Photography Life and Improve Photography gems. They dedicate on sharing information to aid photographers in becoming the best they can be. The amount of guidance you can gain from just these two blogs is amazing.

People have laid out priceless information out there for you, create the discipline and drive to acquire it.