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10 Game-Changing Photo Tips for Beginners

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Seems like just about everyone with an iPhone and an Instagram account is fascinated by photography these days. But the truth is, there’s a lot that goes into taking a great picture. There’s the composition, the lighting, the angle … and about a million other things that the pros spend years mastering. If you’re interested in really learning the craft, start with these ten mini-lessons.

Tip #1: Know your equipment

Get to know your camera inside and out. Read the manual, play around with settings, and take lots of practice pics. You want to really understand what each setting is and how it functions so that you can easily use them when you’re out in the field — so be patient and take your time!

Tip #2: Develop your eye

Before you take a picture, look around and try to really “see” what you want to capture. Snap a few practice shots, and then adjust from there. You may even want to stand on a ladder, squat close to the ground or change your perspective to find the scene you want.

This shot is a great example of how a photo can highlight something truly unique about an area. It’s easy to take a typical beach photo, but here I squatted down and focused on the end of the pier. Much cooler than seagulls and sand!

Tip #3: Learn the light

Whether it’s natural, flash, or studio, photography revolves around light and you can’t have an image without it. And learning how photos look in different lighting is huge. In this black-and-white photo of my daughter, I used side lighting. It was late in the day and the sun was directly in front of us, but I liked the shadows it created. To keep her from having to look into the harsh light, I had her turn her back and then only slightly turn towards me.

This was taken on the same day, after the sun had dipped lower in the horizon. I liked the rim of light created by the sun so much that I left the shot underexposed. Happy accident!

Tip #4: Understand camera angles

First of all, beware of the tilted camera. If your horizon doesn’t look level, the photo can be disorienting. (A photography instructor once told me that off-kilter photos were akin to falling off the Titanic. Ha!) Also: Don’t shoot from too far below the subject (think: nose hairs), from too far above (think: forehead wrinkles from looking up), or from too far to the side (you’ll get too much of the white in a person’s eye).

Tip #5: Avoid fad editing techniques

In fashion and photography, always beware of fads. Social media is saturated (pun intended!) with images done with selective coloring, sepia coloring, over-vignetting and the glamour glow, and that’s fine for everyday stuff. But if you’re working on something that you want to really last, stick with your quality techniques over Instagram filters.

Tip #6: Try different types of photography

If you only shoot landscapes, how would you ever know if you had a knack for newborn photography? Each type of photography has its own unique set of rules and techniques, which will help you expand your skill set.

Tip #7: Think about your composition

A successful photo includes elements that work together to engage the viewer and bring him through the photograph. Methods like using leading lines, adjusting the depth of field, and following the rule of thirds can all help with this.

Leading lines

In the image above, you can see how the leading lines direct the viewer’s eye. The more you practice looking for leading lines, the more easily you’ll find them in your everyday surroundings.

Depth of field

Depth of field is the distance between the closest and farthest objects in your photo. In this one, I made sure my daughter was pulled away from the woods as much as possible to achieve a greater depth of field.

Rule of thirds

Here’s the gist: Split your image into a grid with nine equal squares, and the most important elements should fall along the gridlines or at their intersections.

Tip #8: Have patience

Patience is a virtue. It really is. Don’t give up because you are not getting the shots you want in the first week or even month you start photography. Keep it up — practice will make perfect. Always be up for learning new things, and don’t be afraid to step out of the box.

Tip #9: Give film photography a shot

The “film look” has taken off in recent years as a sort of retro type of photography — getting back to our roots, so to speak. If you haven’t thought about it, it might be fun to give it a try. You can usually get film cameras pretty cheap at your local thrift or camera stores. And, yes, you can still buy film and have it developed.

Tip #10: You can make money in photography

Who knows, maybe this hobby can become your day job! Many photographers open a business and work in family photography, weddings, and such. But are there are tons of other options: Product photography, real estate, aerial surveys, sports and events, stock images, forensic imaging and medical photography are just a few.

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