100 Essential Photography Tips for Beginners
(70 + 30 extra)
We are in an age where it has never been easier and more cost-effective to begin your exciting journey as a photographer.
Dark rooms and waiting hours if not days for your photographs are long gone and that means you can start having fun right now.
With all of these hurdles removed the only thing left to think about is how to take awesome photos.
I’ve put together a list of 100 essential photography tips for beginner photographers.
Stick around to the end, I have 30 real tips from so many different photographers, some funny, some serious and some that ring profoundly true.
70 Photography tips
- Nail your focus, then frame your image
An out of focus image has one place, the recycle bin, framing can always be fixed later if need be.
- Eyes must be in focus, always!
When photographing people, animals, and even those little creepy crawlies, always focus on the eyes, if the subject is at an angle, focus on the eye closest to you.
- Exposure Triangle
ISO – Aperture – Shutter Speed, these three elements make up the exposure triangle and when these the sides line up, you get yourself that perfect triangle.
- Shutter speed should always be higher than your focal length when handheld
One way to reduce camera shake is to keep your shutter speed higher than your focal length, So let’s say you have an 85mm lens attached,
Ideally, you would not want to operate freehand with a shutter speed of less than 1/100. Nothing quite as bad as a shaky frame.
- Straight Horizons
Keep your horizons straight. It’s pretty easy to mess up this one, but the most current software allows you to straighten up later.
Once you have this etched in your mind you can begin to try Dutch tilt etc.
- Consider a tripod
Get the best Tripod that you can afford, this will save you in the long run when needing to replace your current one or worst case replace your gear when your Tripod Fails.
Here are some of the best tripods with good value.
- Metering Modes
Learn the different metering modes and how to use them, each has its place.
- Be aware of your background
Nothing quite ruins a portrait like a tree growing out someone’s head, before pressing the shutter, take an extra second to look for any distracting elements that could be avoided.
- Basic Composition
Basic compositions like the rule of thirds and straight horizons are still a go-to for many professional photographers.
- Back up your files
Memory cards fail, hard drives fail, make sure that you are backing up your files and pray that you do not have the misfortune of asking online on how to recover lost images, this is far too stressful.
- You do not need the most expensive equipment to produce amazing images
Amazing images begin in the mind and end at the shutter, your gear is just a tool and yes, it does have its limitations, keep pushing to find what they are.
- Keep your camera on
You do not want to miss that shot because you had to fumble to switch the camera back on, when cameras are in sleep mode, the use very little battery power and switch on almost instantly.
- Create shot lists
The best way to take off some of the pressure is to have a shot list of what you would like to achieve.
- Be patient
Photography is a skill, and like many others skills, it takes time and practice to become great.
- Your input is equal to your output
What you invest in your craft is what you will get out, I would suggest learning material from the greats like – YouTube, Creative Live, Phlearn, RGG Edu etc. Invest in yourself.
- Test your settings
The only way to know what they do is to test them out, Get yourself into a no pressure situation and let your imagination take over.
- Shoot often
Much like any sport, the more you practice, the better you get.
- Fail and Fail hard
Do not be afraid to fail, no one started off being amazing, they tried and pushed boundaries. They all faced failure along the line, embrace it.
- Get low
Change your perspective, you might find you like it down there.
- Photoshop is not evil
Photoshop and other editing programs are just tools in the photographers back pocket, sometimes even a diamond needs a polish.
- Less is more
Try not to fill the frame with too much to process, simplify the image.
- Leading Lines
This is another piece of compositional gold, use them to bring interest to your subject.
- Isolate your subject
If your background is too busy, you can open your aperture up to blur out the background and force your subject to stand out in the frame.
- Think about the light
Light has its own characteristics, soft, hard, contrast, etc. Learn how to see this and use it to your advantage.
When working with hard light, it is best to diffuse the light by means of a diffuser, on a budget, a white bed sheet will do the trick.
- Hot or cold?
Your temperature makes a difference when facing different lighting scenarios, if you are unsure, leave it on auto.
Over time you will see how some lights produce a yellow or blue light, setting your temperature will balance this out.
- Learn and master the rules, then break them with reason
It is important that you do it in this order, too often photographers excuse ignorance as breaking the rules.
- Open your eyes
Shoot with both eyes open, this allows you to see more than just what is in the viewfinder
- Love what you do and photograph what you love
The best way to enjoy your passion is to find what you are passionate about and give that your attention
Reflections make for interesting photographs, use them when you can.
For when you need that little bit of extra light, use a reflector to bounce light back into the scene.
- Window light
Windows are your best friend when you don’t have lights to fill in the scene, place your subject in front of a nice big window for that beautiful soft light.
- Slow Down
Take your time, assess the image and make sure it is exactly the way you want it before you push that shutter.
- Push the limits of your gear before you upgrade
Once upon a time, someone said “ you will run out of talent long before your gear runs out of ability”
Like in life, everything is a fine balancing act, look at your framing and see if you can better balance your space around your subject.
- Study the compositional masters
There is much to be learned from the old artists, study their work and understand why they did what they did.
- Breathing room
Try to give your subject some space in the frame.
- Fill it up
If you can give them enough space, fill the frame right up.
- The histogram is your friend
Learn how to read your histogram, your LCD display can sometimes lie to you.
- Burst mode
For unpredictable subjects, this will save your bacon.
- Tape that built-in flash down
The worst light you could possibly use is your pop-up flash.
If you must use it, try to diffuse the light any way you can.
- Master Manual
The best way to understand how your camera operates is to place it in manual and apply that exposure triangle.
- Understand your Auto modes
When you fully grasp manual, start to explore the auto modes and how they work.
- Megapixels do not matter
This is a marketing strategy, really.
- Service your gear
Your camera is a precision instrument, treat it like one.
- Primes breed creativity
Prime lenses (fixed focal length) force you to move around and get you to look for more interesting angles.
- Memory cards
Don’t get caught up in buying the biggest ones you can, rather have a few that you can change out as they get full, I’d rather lose some data instead of all of it if a card goes corrupt.
- Exposure Compensation
This is your friend when you shooting in bright light, you can tell your camera how much light it needs to add or subtract form the scene.
- Hold your Camera Properly
This allows for less camera shake but also prevents you from accidentally dropping your baby.
- Shoot in RAW
If you have the software to process it, shoot RAW, there is far more information that can be used to improve your image in post-production.
- Understanding aperture
Big number = small aperture = large depth of field / Small number = big aperture = Shallow depth of field.
- High ISO is okay
I would rather have a noisy image over a blurry on any day.
- Be selective
Think about your images and if it is the best way you approach it or is there a better way, once you are 100% certain, press your shutter.
- Focus Points
You have multiple focus points, learn how to change them and see what works best for you.
- Duct Tape
Just do it, you will soon enough find a use for it.
Velcro is great for attaching things like triggers to lights, etc.
- Side-line your doubt
Everyone has doubts, it is only human, put them aside and go for your goals.
- Add supporting elements
Sometimes adding elements that support the main subject can strengthen the composition of your image.
- KISS (Keep it simple stupid)
We all know this saying
- Create order out of patterns
Patterns are everywhere if you just take the time to look, you can simply add interest to your photographs with just this.
- Find a mentor
The fastest way you will grow is with a mentor, the con is that most mentors will want to be paid for their knowledge.
- Less is more
When it comes to photorgaphy post-production, you might feel the need to push the limits with your editing, but pull it back just a little… or a lot…
- Bad light? Try again later
Don’t just take the photograph for the sake of taking it, if there is a possibility for better light, even if it means that you will only take the image tomorrow, wait it out.
- Seek feedback from people that are not your family
Your family loves you and want to encourage you, so most of the time you will find that showing them your work will result in crisp high fives and ego patting, sometimes they are not the best to get feedback from.
- Keep Backup equipment
Even if it is as simple as just spare batteries and cards, backup equipment is a must-have.
- Live a little
Although photography is absolutely the best past-time in the world, life happens 3cm above your viewfinder. Don’t trap yourself within
- Make don’t take
Great photographs a made, not taken. Think your shot through, this will be the difference between a snapshot and an awesome photograph.
- Curate your work
Even the best of the best photographers take meh photos, but they will never put them out. Fight the urge to post everything. Show the world your best work instead of a diluted portfolio with a few incredible images and more mediocre ones.
- Do not compare yourself to others
your journey is your own, each photographer is on their own path with many forks in the road. You do you, keep a mindful eye and focus less on what they are doing.
Laser focus is your goal, spend less time trying to capture every genre, pick your direction, triple down and get awesome!
30 Tips from other Photographers
Gerry Pelser ~ sell your camera and study accounting
Wendy van Zyl ~ Don’t let negative people put you down. Believe in yourself. Shoot at least one photo per day.
Anton Bosman ~ Learn this and live your life by it. Exposure triangle
Leon Kramer ~ Shoot, shoot and shoot some more… Study your own photos and see where you think you can improve… Then apply what you have learned
Sven Slabbert ~ Don’t buy entry level .rent rather in a year you going upgrade
Vivien-Leigh Webber Malan ~ Study others photos and poses. In photography you learn every day – read up as much as you can and shoot everything in 10 different ways until you figure out who you are and what your niche is
Paul Woods ~ Remember you cant break the camera by changing settings, testing and getting to know every inch of your gear,
Janine Pretorius ~ Don’t start out thinking you are good. We all sucked when started out.
Arnold Bester ~ Be yourself. Do not copy others because it looks cool, but try it your way and find your own style. Keep reading and asking. Buy decent equipment to avoid frustration. Find lots of money to buy gear – it is not cheap. Surround yourself with other photographers to learn.
Adrien McGuire ~ Don’t put the cart before the horse! Learn to produce a decent image first and be realistic about your abilities. Accept criticism of your images with an open mind and improve every time you shoot. You don’t need to spend a fortune to produce a decent image, so buy carefully and upgrade only when you have outgrown your equipment. Fancy equipment will NEVER make you a great photographer, it will only make your great images a bit better. Your bad images will still be bad images, so don’t spend money buying gear that will give you better quality crappy images. Lenses are usually more important than bodies unless you are doing really specific work that requires certain body related features. Learn all the jargon quickly otherwise, you will never understand or get to grips with what you are told or read. Learn to edit but remember you can’t edit a bad image well! Get a buddy to shoot with and learn together. Take the lens cap off.
Karlien Geldenhuys ~ Get to know your camera! Know what the different settings can do and test as you go to see it happen. Shoot in a different light and use the light.
Matthew Uys ~ There is no such thing as a gig too small.
Don’t say no to free work.
Hesham Shaaban ~ SHOOT RIGHT! Edit LESS!
Jason Elphick ~ Take as many photos as you can!
Learn how to use your kit correctly.
Anton Bosman ~ Find a genre that you like and bond with and work that genre hard.
Study it and master it (it will take a lifetime) but do it.
Hannes Spookels ~ Nothing in life comes easy, you need to work at it, don’t give up, learn what and where you can, always try improving
Jessica Otto ~ Get yourself a good photography friend and learn with and from each other. Also, photography is not for the faint-hearted, you need to work your ass off and keep your feet firmly on the ground.
Melissa Rhynes ~ Show your model what shots you are getting during the shoot to see if both parties are happy with the images. Speak to your model! Direct them, after all, you are their mirror during a shoot
Leanne Du Plessis Durand ~ Shoot as much as you can, in all circumstances and try to learn something every time, and apply what you’ve learned before. first get that right, then understanding the “science” behind shutter-aperture-iso will make more sense.
Richard Van Zyl ~ This is a game where you will never stop learning. You will never know it all. keep an open mind always.
Victor Peter Dalziel ~ Educate yourself first….then learn to control the light, background, and foreground. Then stay away from kitsch, stereotype themes and shots millions of photographers have shot since 1970
Elsa E van Dyk ~ Don’t give up
Gert van Zyl ~ Focus on the art, not the equipment.
Michael Tucker ~ Apart from the learning, which is fairly obvious, try and have a “Top 5” per genre (in my case as a wildlife photographer it’s a species list) and ALWAYS try and get new images into that list. It’s a nice way to make sure you’re always practicing and also a nice way to keep yourself motivated for what you’re doing… People always wonder why I still photograph Impalas
Annari Nemo ~ Don’t think you know it all. You can always improve.
Carl Gerber ~ Remove your lens cap…
Adél Pretorius ~ Do not run before you can crawl.
Lood Goosen ~ Shoot anything…and as much as you can of it. It is the best way to get to know your gear and what you would like to shoot. Stay humble and teachable. Keep on learning…educate yourself with any resources available to you. Never place yourself above someone else…if you know more…rather help. Remain thankful and remember that all good things come to those who wait…while you work!
Barrie Parker ~ Practice, practice, practice and oh yes, did I mention practice!
Pierre van der Schyff ~ I do love all of the comments … if I can add a little something it would be the science … it is all good and arty but if you don’t understand the science of light and angles and glass … the best of luck understanding photography and what a lens or light can do for you … number 2 plenty has said it RTFM AND BOOKS … don’t get stuck on the YouTube train they will never give you the info required to make you great there is not enough time.
So there you have it 100 Essential Photography Tips for Beginners.
I hope that you have learned a thing or two and are inspired to go out and produce some beautiful photography.
Until next time.