6. Photography Tips for Beginners

© Titus Bartos - Rock Island Tree
Tree – Rock Island, TN

Although this website is about recommended digital cameras for beginner photographers on a budget, I thought I’d share a few straight forward tips that I wish I knew before I started photography:

1. Keep it simple, don’t overcomplicate it

Get rid of anything that slows you down, sell any lenses that you don’t use regularly. If you absolutely have to have a particular lens for a rare job, rent it, it’s super simple and I’ve done it a lot.

Same principle applies to composition, framing, and lighting: keep things simple, focus on the one thing you’re trying to emphasize, and your photos will look great. Once you master simplicity, you can easily develop a more sophisticated style that isn’t overwhelming to the viewer.

2. Stop thinking about the equipment you don’t have

If you cannot afford a better camera or lens, focus on the photos you can take today with your current camera and current lenses. If you want to be a pro photographer, start taking photos of your friends with your current equipment. Be proactive even if you’re not making money yet: bring your camera with you and just take photos at your friend’s wedding, family reunion, sports event, or take photos of their family. Experience is a lot more important than equipment.

2.1. Expensive equipment doesn’t make you a good photographer

When I was teaching photography, there were students who came in with an impressive collection of expensive lenses and cameras. Almost without an exception, they turned out to take the most boring photos in the entire class. And the clueless girl that was shooting with a 10 year old D40 and a broken kit lens, was blowing away everyone with her creativity and ease of expression through photography. The more you obsess over your equipment, the more boring your photos will be.

3. Travel light

Once you figure out what lens you use the most, keep it on your camera and don’t worry about changing lenses all the time, it’s too distracting.

When I travel with the family, I usually keep a 35mm or 50mm prime on the camera, and if I have my laptop bag with me, I’ll throw an ultra wide lens for landscapes in there too. I almost never bring a camera bag with me unless it’s a dedicated photography gig for a paying customer.

4. Camera care tips

You shouldn’t obsess over the safety of your camera equipment – you’ll miss a lot of photos because if you always worry about lens caps, lens pouches, camera caps, etc. Your camera and lenses are meant to be used often. They are made out of plastic and metal and they can handle being in your purse/backpack without bringing a dedicated camera bag along. Unless it’s a lens I’m borrowing, I never keep lens caps on when I’m out shooting, it’s a waste of time. To protect my camera sensor, I just keep a lens on the camera at all times.

5. People portraits are fun

Many beginners are shy about taking photos of people. I treat strangers, children, family, friends, clients, all the same: I make it all about them. I ask them questions about what they do, what they are passionate about, etc.

I love taking photos of kids – I never ask them to smile, but talk about their favorite toy instead, ask them to tell me their favorite joke, or let them tell me all about their favorite TV show. Even the grumpiest, poutiest, most stubborn child will look straight at the camera and give you a genuine smile when you talk about Frozen, Diego, or Nemo.

Sunrise After Storm - © Titus Bartos
Sunrise After Storm, Murfreesboro TN

6. It’s all about the light

Landscape light

There’s no such thing as magic light, but there are appropriate times to take certain types of photos. If you want a colored sky, get up at 5am and be on location 30 minutes before sunrise, or shoot around sunset. If you want high contrast, shoot at noon. Take sad and melancholic photos during cloudy days, and if you want interesting light, take photos after it rains, when the sun goes in and out behind big clouds.

Portrait light

There’s no magic light here either, it’s all about anticipating the light and the background. If you want bright blue eyes, shoot in the shadow on a bright day – the light reflected off the ground will brighten up the iris and also make the pupil small. If you want a dramatic portrait with a dark background, shoot during the day by the window in a dark room. If you’re indoors, make sure the light comes from behind you or slightly to the side. Anytime you have two lights from opposing directions, it’s a bonus and you should take advantage of it – one of them should light the subject, the other should add contrast on the side/back.

That’s it!

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions or feedback – you can leave a comment below, send me an , or contact me via twitter.