7 Tips for Learning Photography

Whether you are a weekend photographer or someone who wants to be more serious, learning photography is a great thing to do. We have all been there, and we have all taken photos that we now look at and cringe, it is a natural part of learning, but you can help yourself by taking some steps to make it easier.

Here are 7 tips for what you can do, or things not to do, when you first start out in photography.

  1. Which camera to pick

It is not the camera that does the work, it is you. So, someone with a phone, could, potentially take just as good an image as someone with a high end DSLR. Of course, it depends on the conditions, but the point is just having an expensive one does not make you a photographer.

Think about the type of photography you want to do and then decide what will be the right camera. Having the wrong one could mean you don’t take many images and could put you off photography. If you love taking photos, for instance, with your phone, then do it. Whichever one you get learn how to use it. Study it and experiment.

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  1. Getting off Auto

If you buy a camera that you can use aperture, shutter speed, and pick your ISO, but you continue to put your camera on Auto, then ask yourself why did you buy a camera like that. While you might get some great photos with it, there will be missed opportunities because it doesn’t cut it. Learn how your camera works and taking it off auto, is something you will never regret doing.

Find a class or photographer who can teach you how to use your camera which will enable to use it to its full potential.

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  1. Copying other photographers

This is a great way to learn. Find photographers whose work you like and try to emulate it. There is nothing wrong with copying, but only if you do it in the process of learning and never pass it off as your work. It is probably best not to put it up on social media as well. Use it to teach yourself, then get on with your own work.

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  1. Study what others do

Like the comment above, you should also be looking at what other photographers are doing. See what they are photographing, and what you can learn from them. Study the compositions, how they use light and even what their subjects are.

Especially look at photographers who do work that you aspire to, who you find inspiration from. It is like that saying, if you want to get better at writing, then read the material that is like what you want to write. Photography is the same, if you want to do some photos of a particular thing or style, then look at images of them a lot.

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  1. Do courses from respected people

Learning what you are doing can never be underestimated and is valuable. You can learn by yourself, but there are always going to be aspects you miss out on and you lose lots of time trying to figure out some stuff. It is great to have someone to ask questions, especially when you get stuck.

You don’t have to spend a fortune, but make sure that whatever course you choose will teach you everything you want to learn.

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  1. Learn basic editing

Whether you want to do it or not, you do have to learn some editing. It is like using the darkroom. Photos straight out of the camera might be nice, but they never seem to have that polished look that photos that have been edited have. If you look at some of the great landscape photographers and see how they edit, they often don’t do a lot.

You don’t have to learn how to use everything, or even learn Photoshop, but Lightroom by Adobe is a great editing platform and easy to use. It is a great place to start and for many it will always be enough. There are some other editing platforms you could try as well, such as On 1 or Zoner Photo Studio X which is one I’ve been trying out.

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  1. Critiquing

Getting people to critique your work can be invaluable, but it can also be very destructive and can kill your creativity. Don’t put photos up on sites and ask everyone to give you their opinion, because they will and you might not like what they have to say. If the image is bad, you will get lots of advice, however, if the image is good, then you might get some bitchy comments.

You need to find someone you trust, who you know will give you honest feedback, but isn’t there to bring you down, or make you feel like crap. Paying someone can be good too, as they, you would hope, wouldn’t be horrible to you. I know when I critique work I try and be gentle and encouraging. I want people who pay me to come back and get more work critiqued.

Finally

If you love photography learning how to do it is not something you will ever regret doing. It will always be money well spent. It could be the start of an amazing adventure and there are so many places to share your work. It is also a very social thing and people love going out with others to take photos. Good luck.

51 Responses

  1. Great advice, Leanne. It’s not the typical advice people always write – which is usually too specific. You spend a lot of time helping people to study experts. I know I need to do that. Sometimes we need to slow down and not try to sail through life, but study it a bit as we go. 🙂

  2. Very useful tips! I know my next step is learning more editing techniques, especially Lightroom- this shows me what I could do if I put my mind to it!

  3. A very insightful list of learning photography tips, and I agree with all of them. Choosing a camera that works for you is so important, and I think you have to be comfortable using it. It was something I struggled with a couple of years ago, and I ended up purchasing a Fiji XE-1 and one of the higher end point and shoot from Canon. Sadly I was not able to click with the Fuji over the last few years (been relying on my Canon and other Canon DSLRs I’ve managed to borrow for taking photos) and I will be looking to sell it off, and then see what’s out there for me. Sometimes you just never know if you get comfortable with a camera until you use it for a while, a few weeks or maybe months.

    Also agree with you on editing. There is only so much we can control about the weather and lighting and where we are taking the photo and in general the context when we’re taking a shot. Sometimes through post-processing photos I also come up with ideas to retake my shots if I do ever go back to that place.

    • Thanks Mabel, good to hear. I remember when you were trying to find your camera, and I remember we had lots of discussions about it. I’m sorry to hear it hasn’t been a good fit for you. Sounds like a Canon DSLR is the way to go for you. If you enjoy using others it would make sense.

      I think editing is very important, it is great to be able to transform an image.I agree, when you spend a lot of time looking at your photos it can help with ideas and what else you can do.

    • I am very excited about getting a new camera in the future at some point when the time is right 🙂

      Editing is when we can make our images unique, and I think that is what I think when I look at your photos – unique 😀

    • It is exciting, I love planning and getting new cameras.

      It is definitely in the editing, that’s for sure. Thank you Mabel, that’s nice of you to say.

  4. Wonderful post .. I so want more lessons. Love learning ..

  5. Amy

    These tips are essential and practical. Thank you so much, Leanne!

  6. All valuable tips for really getting going with photography…I’ll give you one more: shoot, shhot and shoot some more…everyday. Even if you end up dumping every image, practice the craft daily.

  7. Hello Leanne .. as others have commented very sound advice and tips . I feel I’m working through the list 😉 It’s great when there is a *light bulb* moment for me in photography, whether that’s during an editing process , mastering a camera setting, or finding an unexpected composition . I much appreciate your tips tutorials etc , you give back a lot inspite of being so busy . Thank you !

    • Hi Louise/Poppy, great to hear from you, hope you are well. I love those light bulb moments as well. That’s great to hear, good to know that people like these posts. I don’t think I can do them every week, but hopefully every couple of weeks. Thanks Poppy.

  8. #3 has gotten a few folks in trouble recently but I do like seeing what other photographers I enjoy and respect are doing to get ideas or to just learn shooting techniques.

    • Yes, the whole thing around copyright seems to be misunderstood, though you can’t copyright a technique, apparently. I am the same, I love seeing what they are doing.Thanks

  9. Hello Leanne Very good points, and I especially like the jetty/boardwalk image.
    Hope you enjoy a very happy Christmas, which seems to be approaching very fast…
    best wishes
    Julian

    • Thank you Julian, I quite like that one too.
      Thank you and you have a Merry Christmas as well, you are right, it seems to be heading our way very very fast, I keep trying to stop it, but it just won’t.

      Take care.

  10. Nice post. I wish more folks would give me constructive critiques. That is much more useful than praise. Only one critique. Is the horizon straight on the last one? Lovely photos 🙂

    • People want to be nice, that is just how they are, it is important to find people who will, I know there are facebook groups that do it. You also have to realised that not everyone wants critiquing either, me included. I spent years having my work critiqued at University, and now if I want an opinion, then i have a few people I send the images to and ask them. Yes, the horizon is straight, according to Photoshop, but in the end would it matter if it wasn’t?

    • Thanks Leanne. I will look for a group that offers critiques. I won’t offer any more on WP.

    • That is a great idea, just be careful which one you choose, some can end up a bit nasty and that doesn’t help either. You want people who critique and not criticise, if you get my drift. People can be funny about getting unwanted advice, me included. Or if you want to give your opinion ask if it is okay first. I don’t know, I’ve just got that way now, that I try to critique my own and see how I go. I had a lecturer at Uni that said I had to stop seeking approval, so I am trying hard to do that.

    • As an artist I have a big ego and it bruises easily. But I know from past experience that I learn more from honest critisms. So I know what you mean. Thanks for the up front discussion.

    • I think we are all like that Sherry, which is why it is important to find people you trust to give you good critiques. A critique should make you want to improve and inspire you. If you get people who make you want to give up, then they are bad and you shouldn’t take any notice of them.

  11. Nanette Reyes

    Hello. I have following your posts, and this article you shared leave me not to hesitate to say something. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and knowledge. Your inputs are highly appreciated, specially by people like me who is starting to do photography. Keep up the good job, and continue to share. I love the tonal contrast of your picture in number 6 tip. And I learned the hard lesson that I need to learn basic editing.

    • I am so glad to hear from you Nanette, good to know you liked the post. I hope to be doing more like this. I hope it wasn’t too hard a lesson about the need to learn editing, and that you have worked it out now. Thank you and I will.

  12. great post Leanne; love the “take it off AUTO” ! that, and “study” others. Great tips. Love the photos.
    Your first photo buildings/bridge night shot – is amazing. I usually go for nature, but this is so cool. The Sky, oh my I love the graded black to pale dusky red you’ve done!!

  13. I love photography. No matter what you know, there’s always something new to try. You are an inspiring example!

  14. love this Leanne, thank you ❤️

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