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Useful Tips for People Who Want to Get Into Photography

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

Lake view in Lake Seminole, FL. Shot on manual mode. Auto mode would have made this into a silhouette.

Lake view in Lake Seminole, FL. Shot on manual mode. Auto mode would have made this into a silhouette.

How to Get Into Photography for Beginners

You love taking pictures. You might also love showing your pictures to everyone and looking at beautiful photographs in magazines and books.

But one thing is for certain—there's a major difference between taking quick snapshots for fun and making images come to life.

The first thing that you will soon find out is how many alternatives you will see in cameras, lenses, and other gear.

You need to seek the advice of a good salesperson who really knows about photography and doesn't just happen to sell equipment. Don't go to a major retailer that sells all types of electronics. Their sales staff are not trained, nor do they really know much about photography in the first place.

Instead, go to a photography store where the only thing they sell is photographic equipment. They will advise you as to what is best for your style and what your intended subject matter is.

Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), my backyard. Notice how blurring the background emphasizes the squirrel?

Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), my backyard. Notice how blurring the background emphasizes the squirrel?

Shutter Speed and F-Stops

The second thing that you will learn is how important knowing the fundamentals of photography is in order to make really good images pop and be admired.

The rule of thirds, the ratio of f-stops, light, and speeds, and how they work in combination to produce stunning results should be among the first things that you should get to know.

Knowing the rules will aid you in becoming better but knowing how to break them is also good if you are to separate yourself from the rest.

Research shutter speeds and what speed is usually used for the type of action like 1/500 for really fast action like a fast-moving car or flying bird and 1/30 to blur the movement of water in a river, making it seem like clouds or that you need at least 1 or a 2-second shutter speed to capture fireworks at night.

Get to know how f-stops work and which is used for what. These are really important because nothing can help you save your shot more than having the correct f stop, even if you missed the correct shutter speed (but only by one speed or so).

Blue-bellied roller ("Coracias cyanogaster"), Guatemala

Blue-bellied roller ("Coracias cyanogaster"), Guatemala

Get to know the camera's settings and what every knob in the camera is used for so that you learn when to use it and when to play with it to change the outcome.

How and when to use and not to use the auto mode and when to use the manual mode instead, which coincidentally is the preferred setting for most pros.

Please understand that even when you are comfortable with everything that your camera can do (and what it can't do), you will still make mistakes, and some of your pictures will not come out the way you intended them to be. I still make the occasional mistake when shooting, especially when in a hurry or when I come upon an unexpected subject, and so will you.

Canoes, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Canoes, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

If I had to give you only one piece of advice and ever again tell you anything else about photography, this would be to shoot as many pictures as you can as much of the time as you can.

Practice makes perfect, and this is definitely true when it comes to the wonderful world of photography.

There is no excuse in the digital age for you not to shoot all the time. You really should not waste any opportunity to snap a picture. It really costs you nothing, unlike when I started and used film, which was about $5.00 bucks per roll, not to mention the development of the film and the printing of the images, plus not knowing what I had captured until the process was completed.

Keep in mind that today's memory cards offer you the opportunity of shooting hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of images before the card is full.

African elephant, Metro Zoo, FL

African elephant, Metro Zoo, FL

If you don't shoot often enough, you might miss opportunities to make improvements. What you see as a bad picture can be fixed the next time by understanding what you might have done wrong the first time.

I remember that when I first started photography in college (as an elective, mind you), I came upon a chair in an old classroom that was facing an open door.

The chair was in the shadows, and when I composed the shot to show the chair against the light coming into the room from the open door, I did not realize that if I had used the correct shutter speed, I would have captured much more detail of the old wooden chair instead of just getting an image of a chair silhouette.

 Wild orchids, Quetzal Biotope, officially known as the Mario Dary Rivera Nature Reserve, Guatemala

Wild orchids, Quetzal Biotope, officially known as the Mario Dary Rivera Nature Reserve, Guatemala

Final Points to Keep in Mind

The shutter speed is partly determined by not only the available light; less light=slower shutter speed, and vice versa, but it is also determined by the size of your lens (minimum/maximum aperture range).

Try never to use a shutter speed that is lower than the size of your lens. In other words, if you use a lens that is rated 80mm, for example, then the slowest shutter speed should be no lower than 1/125. Plus, the slower the shutter speed, meaning there is little available light, like at dusk or dawn, the larger the f stop should be to allow more light to reach the sensor.

Keep in mind that the larger the f stop, the less detail that will be clearly visible in the background (behind the subject).

Watch out for objects behind the subject, like a tree branch or light post that seems to be growing from your model's head.

Practice often, be mindful of composing the shot carefully, be aware of your speeds and f-stops and your surroundings, and take plenty of shots. Afterward, look at your images and think of how you can make the shot better.

You don't need exotic locations. Your neighborhood, the park, the zoo, even your backyard, and inside your home can feature an almost unlimited supply of subjects. Just look at things from a photographic mindset and with a photographer's eye.

With time and practice, you will quickly see your skills improving, thus making you a much better photographer too.

Don't forget to avail yourself of as many instructional videos, books, or classes that can help you take it to the next level. You will also learn how and when to use a tripod, shutter release mechanism, when to and when not to use flash, and when breaking the rules can lead to exciting and unusual results, but these can come later after you master the basics. Have fun!

Monarch butterfly ("Danaus plexippus"), my backyard

Monarch butterfly ("Danaus plexippus"), my backyard

© 2017 Luis E Gonzalez


Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on January 11, 2017:


Thank you for this information. I'll check it out now. You are kind to help me with this.

Luis E Gonzalez (author) from Miami, Florida on January 11, 2017:

vocalcoach: Try this; at $69.00 you can't do better for everything it includes.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on January 10, 2017:

Learning from you is such a joy! I'm constantly working on being better with my camera. I'm presently looking for a camcorder for making instructional piano and voice videos. Need something easy to operate and budget-friendly. Any ideas?

Thanks Luis.