26 Best Photography Tips For Beginners In 2024

Never before has photography been so accessible. Gone are the days when you practically needed a master’s degree to understand the intricacies of a camera and the post-production journey. Now, cameras are designed to be easily understood and tools like Lightroom provide almost unlimited creativity.

But there’s no denying that picking up a camera for the first time is still daunting. That’s why we’ve created the ultimate list of photography tips for beginners so you can confidently grow your passion without feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities.

Whether you’re learning how to frame your first shot or wondering about the perfect camera settings, these beginner photography tips are your first steps towards mastering the craft.

An incredible image of sunrise at Liverpool Hut in Mt Aspiring, New Zealand

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Essential Photography Tips For Beginners

1. Learn Which Settings Matter

For beginner photographers, it’s important to start with a simple approach to avoid getting bogged down with too much unnecessary information. Focus on the most important settings (which we’ll list below) and begin by learning these inside and out. This will allow you to build a strong foundation that will not only benefit your progress but prevent overwhelm from the myriad of options and settings found on modern cameras.

Photography focus point on the Canon 90D LCD Screen

Below is a list of the most important camera settings to focus on and understand in the beginning. Getting a good grasp of these 5 settings early will enable you to enjoy the process of learning how to use your camera.

  • Manual Mode – First and foremost, ensure you’re shooting in manual rather than auto. Using auto mode won’t help you understand how to properly use your camera and can often guide you into learning bad habits – find more on this below.
  • Aperture, Shutter Speed & ISO (Exposure Triangle) –The three most important camera settings are aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. These settings work together to control the exposure of your photo. Understanding how they work and how to manipulate them gives you creative freedom to use natural lighting to produce outstanding results.
  • Autofocus Modes – After the exposure triangle, understanding how to obtain sharp focus is the second most important aspect of photography. Use autofocus in every situation other than when it is too dark for your camera to discern contrast. Of the AF modes, servo mode is the best one to begin with as it will accurately work for both moving and stationary subjects. Find out more about the autofocus modes here.
  • Autofocus Area Modes – Along with the various types of autofocus modes (aka autofocus operation), there are also several autofocus area modes to choose from. You can play around with these a little more from the beginning, but the easiest one to start with is the dynamic AF.
  • Auto White Balance – You’ll often find beginner camera tips telling you to manually set your white balance, however, I disagree with this. In almost all circumstances, auto white balance is accurate enough and setting it manually just adds another step for you to remember each time. You’re more likely to forget to change the white balance at a photoshoot – capturing strange colours and missing the moment – than ending up with the wrong colour from auto white balance.

By initially focusing on understanding and mastering these basic settings outlined above, you will build a solid understanding of the fundamentals and pave the way for further experimentation and growth.

2. Become Very Familiar With The Exposure Triangle

The Exposure Triangle is a fundamental concept in photography that refers to the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO – the three main pillars that control the exposure of a photograph. Understanding this relationship is critical for beginners as it allows you to manipulate light in your favour to capture the image exactly as you see it, or even better.

Detailed illustration of the photography exposure triangle
Diagram by Creative Raw

Each element of the triangle affects the other and adjusting one will inevitably impact how the others function. Balancing these elements properly allows for precise control over the exposure, depth of field, motion blur, and digital noise in your photographs.

Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO each serve a unique purpose which I’ll list below.

Aperture

The aperture adjusts the size of the lens’s diaphragm, which determines how much light enters the camera. This, in turn, affects the depth of field in your image.

Explaining how aperture works in photography for beginners

A large aperture (lower f-stop value like f/1.8) allows more light to reach the sensor, enabling faster shutter speeds and lower ISO values. However, it results in a shallow depth of field, meaning the subject will be in focus but the foreground and background will be blurred. On the other hand, a small aperture (higher f-stop value like f/11) restricts the amount of light entering the lens, allowing for slower shutter speeds and in certain circumstances, higher ISO values – this also creates a larger depth of field, delivering a sharper focus on objects both near and far.

  • Larger Apertures (f1.2 – f4) are great for sporting, wildlife and portrait photography.
  • Smaller Apertures (f8 – f11) are great for Landscape photography.

Pro Tip: I always like to set the aperture initially based on the depth of field I want to achieve and the tools I have at hand. Then after I set the shutter speed and ISO I can come back and make small adjustments if needed.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed controls the duration for which the camera’s shutter remains open, allowing light to reach the sensor. Much like the aperture, it plays a crucial role in the exposure triangle by influencing the brightness of your image and the appearance of motion.

Explaining how shutter speed works in photography for beginners

A fast shutter speed (like 1/1000 sec) allows less light to reach the sensor, effectively freezing motion and reducing the possibility of image blur. This is particularly useful in action or sports photography where capturing sharp, freeze-frame shots is a priority. Alternatively, a slow shutter speed (like 2 sec) allows more light to enter, enabling the capture of motion blur or light trails. This is often used in low-light situations or for creative effects such as silky-smooth waterfall images.

Helpful Beginner Photography Tips For Understanding Shutter Speed

  • The speed of your subject determines the required shutter speed to freeze the motion effectively – the faster the subject, the faster the shutter speed.
  • A good starting point for fast-moving subjects is a shutter speed of 1/1000th. If you notice motion blur, increase the shutter speed until you capture a sharp image.
  • Slow shutter speeds are especially valuable when you’re searching for a dreamy effect for your landscape images (think smooth clouds or milky waterfalls) or engaging in astrophotography.
  • Slower shutter speeds generally require you to use a tripod to keep your camera steady and eliminate the risk of blurry images.
  • If you’re hand-holding your camera without image stabilisation, you want to use a shutter speed that is at least double that of the inverse of your focal length. For example, a 50mm focal length will require a shutter speed of at least 1/100th.

ISO

ISO is a crucial aspect that determines how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light and directly affects the brightness of your photos. For ease of understanding, you can think of ISO as digitally introduced light that boosts the brightness of your images without the need to change your aperture or shutter speed.

Explaining how ISO works in photography for beginners

A lower ISO value, such as ISO 100 or ISO 200, means that the camera is less sensitive to light, resulting in darker images. This setting is best for situations with plenty of available light, such as a sunny day or when using slow shutter speeds or wide-open apertures.

Conversely, a higher ISO value, like ISO 3200 or ISO 6400, increases the camera’s sensitivity to light, producing brighter images. This setting is useful for low-light conditions, like indoor or nighttime photography – or when faster shutter speeds are needed.

While ISO is a great tool to add light to a dark scene (such as dense forests), using ISO introduces digital noise, which increases as you raise the ISO.

For beginners, it is crucial to grasp the concept of ISO in order to properly expose your image. Additionally, understanding the limitations of your camera is equally important. Cheaper cameras tend to struggle with higher ISO settings, resulting in more noise. On the other hand, professional cameras can often produce excellent results even at ISO levels of 6400 or higher.

Mountain biker photographed in dark green forest using canon r6 and high ISO
Image shot at 10,000 ISO on the Canon R6 for correct exposure
Mountain biker photographed in dark green forest using canon r6 and ISO Value of 10,000
Cropped to 90% to show virtually no noise generated by ISO

Note: In almost all circumstances, using higher values of ISO to correctly expose an image is a far better approach than increasing the exposure in post-processing software such as Lightroom or Photoshop. The rule of thumb is always to use the lowest possible ISO setting that allows for a properly exposed image.

3. Don’t Over-Expose The Highlights

Once you have a good understanding of the exposure triangle and how to use the settings involved, it’s time to correctly set the exposure. Most often, the goal is to make the image as bright as possible without over-exposing the highlights – this concept is known as ‘exposing to the right’.

Example of exposing your image to the right creating a bright natural light on Lake Emily in New Zealand
Image ‘exposed to the right’

When you ‘over-expose the highlights’, it means that the brightest parts of your image, like the sky or reflective surfaces, are captured with too much light. This leads to a complete loss of detail, where areas of the photo become pure white and lack colour information.

Note: If your composition is over-exposed, start by reducing the ISO setting. If the ISO is already at its lowest level (ISO 100), try increasing the shutter speed. And if adjusting the shutter speed doesn’t achieve the desired image (for long exposures), try closing the aperture by choosing a larger f-stop number.

While it is possible to correct a small degree of over-exposure in post-processing, severe over-exposure can permanently lose detail in the highlights. So, it’s important to balance your exposure settings to preserve the essential details in both the shadows and highlights of your composition.

Lightroom histogram showing beginner photographers clipping warnings on the exposure of an image
Clipping warnings on Lightroom Histogram

To assist in maintaining proper exposure, cameras are equipped with useful tools that can be activated from the settings menu. These tools provide visual cues when an image is over-exposed, helping you capture better photos.

  • Histogram – This is a graph of the range and spread of tonal values captured by your camera. This can help you determine whether you have lost any detail in the highlights or shadows, and adjust your exposure accordingly.
  • Zebras – This feature shows stripes (like zebra stripes) on areas of your image that are over-exposed. These Zebra Stripes are a warning that the areas of the image are too bright and you should adjust your exposure settings to make the image darker.

By utilising these tools, you can effectively manage your exposure and achieve the desired outcome. Personally, I rely on the Histogram rather than the zebras.

4. Use The Histogram

When it comes to tools on mirrorless cameras, the histogram is undeniably one of the most valuable features available.

Lightroom Histogram, a great tool for beginner photographers to understand and use in editing and shooting
Histogram

Using the camera’s histogram is a highly helpful tool as it provides a graphical representation of light distribution in your image. It allows you to accurately measure and adjust the brightness levels within your photo, giving you more control over the exposure.

With the naked eye, it’s challenging to perceive subtle differences in lighting, but the histogram makes these visible. This is particularly beneficial in tricky lighting conditions, preventing overexposed highlight areas or underexposed shadows that cannot be corrected in post-processing. Hence, learning to read and understand the histogram can significantly improve the quality of your photos, ensuring a well-balanced exposure for every shot.

The histogram is a visual representation of the light in your image, ranging from dark to bright. It consists of a horizontal line with dark tones on the left, mid-tones in the centre, and bright tones on the right. The height of the line in each quadrant indicates the amount of each tone.

Histogram exposure example for beginner photographers

Generally, a well-balanced photo has a high peak in the middle and lower peaks on both the left and right-hand side of the graph, while peaks leaning left or right suggest underexposure or overexposure. However, this highly depends on the scene you are photographing and high-contrast scenes will represent a histogram of what you can see above.

Useful Tips For Interpreting The Histogram

  • If the histogram shows a high spike at the far right, it means you have “blown out” the highlights, losing detail in the brightest part of the image.
  • If the histogram leans to the left, it indicates crushed shadows and lost detail in the dark areas of the image.
  • The idea of ‘fix it in post’ has its limits and basically, there is no resolution for a severely over or under-exposed image other than to retake the photo.
  • Nearly all digital cameras will have an in-built histogram that can be switched on from the internal menu.

Although it may look complicated, the histogram is actually quite straightforward and easy to interpret. For beginner photographers, I recommend switching the histogram on and using it every time to get used to it.

5. Learn How To Use The Manual Modes

For beginner photographers, using manual mode might seem daunting at first but it’s an essential step in progressing your photography skills. Manual mode offers total control over the important settings we talked about above – ISO, shutter speed and aperture – allowing you to adjust and balance them according to your creative vision.

Using manual modes on a camera to capture a sporting photo

Auto mode relies on the camera’s interpretation of the scene, choosing each setting of the exposure triangle for you and deciding which aspect of the image to concentrate on – often over-exposing the background as a result. Using manual mode eliminates this issue and allows you to have full creative freedom to capture your desired outcome.

Less talked about manual modes are the shutter and aperture priority modes. These two settings allow you to take partial control of your camera, while the camera takes care of other settings automatically. This is great for quick and easy adjustments in changing conditions such as lighting or movement.

  • Shutter Priority Mode – This allows you to select the speed at which you want the shutter to move and the camera will adjust the aperture accordingly.
  • Aperture Priority Mode – In this mode, you will set the aperture (choose your desired depth of field) and the camera will adjust the shutter speed to suit.
  • Auto ISO – In any of these modes (including full manual mode), you can set the ISO to auto and it will interpret the best ISO value for you. However, if you do this you need to set a high-level ISO limit to prevent unnecessary noise.

These modes can be useful in an array of circumstances such as shooting high-paced action or when you want to learn one setting at a time. But ultimately, full manual mode is the most versatile and reliable once you have a sound understanding of the exposure triangle.

Pro Tip: If you get completely stuck and can’t get the settings right for the scene you’re trying to shoot, you can flick it into auto mode and see what the camera chooses for each of the exposure settings. You can then flick it back to manual and copy the settings, making small adjustments to fine-tune your vision. Think of it as a little reset so you can begin again without the confusion.

6. Nail The Focus Of Your Composition

We touched briefly on the importance of focus above in the tip ‘learn which settings matter’, but I feel it’s a worthy topic to reiterate. For beginners, understanding and mastering focus is crucial as it plays a pivotal role in directing the viewers’ attention within the photograph. A well-focused image is not just technically sound, but it also helps narrate a story, emphasize a subject, and create depth in the composition.

Using dynamic autofocus to nail photography focus on a mountain biker in St Helens MTB Trails
Dynamic Autofocus

It can be as simple as selecting the correct autofocus mode – remember, servo AF for moving subjects and single AF for stationary ones – and using the correct area mode to give you and your camera the best chance of distinguishing your subject from the background.

Along with familiarising yourself with the various autofocus modes and their optimal applications, you can also manipulate the focus of your image by creating depth of field. This is achieved by using a lower f-stop value (aperture), resulting in only your subject being in focus.

To learn more about how to nail the focus of your composition, take a look at our ultimate guide on understanding the art of focus in photography

7. Shoot In Raw, Not JPEG

Shooting in raw format gives you access to a world of limitless possibilities. Unlike JPEG images, raw files capture all the data recorded by your camera’s sensor, allowing for extensive post-production adjustments. With raw, you can fine-tune white balance, correct exposure, enhance colours, and bring out incredible details from shadows, all while maintaining image quality.

Raw photograph of the beautiful lake camp on a moody evening
Raw image
Edited image of Lake Camp showing why shoting in raw is best for beginner photographers
Edited image

Note: While the original photo will appear more lifelike if you shoot in JPEG, the file will be compressed and as a result, have a loss of data and a much lower range of colour. This will severely limit your post-production abilities and can cause your image to produce strange artefacts such as pixelation and blotchy areas.

When it comes to shooting in raw, the benefits extend beyond just post-production flexibility. Raw files, being a complete data record from the camera sensor, preserve the full dynamic range of the image. This means you have more detail in the highlights and shadows, which can be essential when dealing with high-contrast scenes such as sunrise photography. Furthermore, this offers a safety net when exposure doesn’t go as planned during the shoot as you have more leeway to recover details in post-production.

However, shooting in raw does have its trade-offs. The files are much larger than JPEGs, which means you’ll need more storage space and a more powerful computer for editing. Plus, raw files always require some level of post-processing before they’re ready to be shared or printed. So, it’s important to consider the additional time and resources involved when opting to shoot in raw.

Note: If you are a hobbyist and don’t want to adopt photo editing software, I recommend sticking with JPEG. You will receive more lifelike results straight out of the camera.

8. Utilise Basic Composition Techniques

Mastering composition is fundamental to capturing compelling, high-quality images. It’s the arrangement of elements within a scene that grabs the viewer’s attention and directs their eye through the photograph. A strong composition can transform an ordinary scene into a unique and engaging image. Understanding how to arrange a scene’s elements can make the difference between an average snapshot and a thoughtful, visually compelling photograph.

River acting as leading lines into the Matukituki Valley at sunset
Leading Lines

For beginners in photography, it is beneficial to begin with the fundamentals of composition. Simple techniques like applying the rule of thirds, incorporating leading lines, and ensuring important elements are not cropped out of the frame can often distinguish between a good photo and an exceptional one.

Simple techniques that can easily increase the look of your photography are:

  • Rule of Thirds – Imagine your image divided into nine equal segments by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Aim to place your subject along these lines or at their intersections.
  • Framing – Use natural frames like windows, arches or branches to draw the eye towards your subject.
  • Leading Lines – Use lines to lead the viewer’s eye towards your subject. This could be a path, a river, or a fence for example.
  • Fill the Frame – If your subject is smaller than the frame, move closer to it or zoom in to reduce the amount of empty space.
  • Depth Of Field – Creating depth in an image is great for highlighting the subject and directing the viewer’s attention. Try zooming in with a low aperture and incorporating a blurred foreground to emphasise scale and focus.
  • Simplicity and Minimalism – Sometimes, less is more. Simple, uncluttered compositions can let your subject truly stand out.

9. Plan Your Shot

Planning your shot is an integral aspect of capturing compelling photographs. As a beginner, it might be tempting to rely on spontaneity, capturing moments as they unfold. However, rather than snapping hundreds of hurried shots and hoping for a standout image, investing time in planning allows you to understand your subject and setting better, which in turn facilitates stronger compositions and storytelling.

Hiking in Mt Kosciuszko National Park, scouting a photography location for sunset

Considering elements such as lighting, viewpoints, and timing in advance can significantly enhance the final outcome. For instance, the warm hues of a sunset can elevate a landscape photograph, but a composition can be ruined by the harsh midday sun.

Moreover, by anticipating and preparing for variables, you can focus more on the creative aspects of your image during the actual shoot. For beginners, planning can accelerate learning by fostering a deeper understanding of the interplay between various photographic elements.

Of course, sometimes you can’t scout a location ahead of time – we barely have that luxury on our hiking trips. For these moments, I use PhotoPills along with Google Earth and weather apps to learn where the sun will be shining and to determine the optimal time of day to shoot my desired location. These apps can also help with sunrise and sunset photography, allowing you to discover exactly where the sun will hit the horizon.

Furthermore, planning and packing the essential gear for your shoot ahead of time will prevent you from forgetting key items such as tripods, filters, the correct lens or spare batteries.

10. Work with the Scene in Front of You

Adaptability is a crucial skill in photography, especially for beginners. Sometimes, you might find yourself facing unexpected situations, like an inaccurate weather forecast that turns a beautiful golden hour shoot into a gloomy one. Instead of feeling discouraged, see it as an opportunity to experiment with different lighting and atmospheric conditions.

Hiking at night in a Tasmanian Rainforest in my best XTM rain jacket

A misty landscape or rain-soaked streets can provide a unique character to your photos, leading to unexpectedly stunning results. This ability to adapt and transform a challenge into an opportunity is often what differentiates a good photographer from a great one.

In addition, it is highly unlikely that you will encounter the ‘perfect’ conditions for capturing your envisioned shot. Even the slightest variation, like a gentle breeze, can disrupt your planned composition. Without the ability to adapt and seek alternative sources of inspiration, you will frequently experience disappointment.

It’s essential to make the most of the current situation, using creative problem-solving to enhance your composition instead of being deterred by it. For instance, a crowded location might initially seem like a distraction, but with the right perspective, it can add a vibrant, lively atmosphere to your photo.

Learning to work with the scene in front of you, instead of against it, can lead to authentic and spontaneous shots that tell a compelling story. Remember, the essence of photography lies not just in the capture of beautiful scenes, but also in the interpretation and representation of the world around you.

11. Get A Grasp On Lighting And Contrast

Lighting and contrast can add depth, reveal texture, and bring out or mute colours, playing a major role in setting the mood of your image.

Excellent lighting and contrast in this sunset photograph from Red Tarns in Mt Cook

A primary tip for beginner photographers is to utilise natural light. The quality of natural light can dramatically alter the feel of an image. For instance, shooting in the soft light of the early morning or late afternoon can add a golden, ethereal quality to your photos, whereas the harsh midday sun can create strong contrasts and dramatic shadows. Learning to adapt to the changing qualities of natural light is an essential skill for photography beginners.

Contrast, on the other hand, is the difference in luminance or colour that makes an object in an image distinguishable. Effective use of contrast can guide your viewer’s attention to the key areas of the photo and create a lifelike effect. High-contrast images often feel more vibrant and dramatic, while low-contrast images can feel soft and dreamy.

The best way to understand how lighting and contrast can alter your images is to practice at various times of day and in a wide range of conditions. You can read hundreds of tips on lighting and contrast, but trial and error is your ultimate tool for progression.

12. Be Patient

Patience is a virtue that can significantly improve your photography skills, particularly as a beginner. Sometimes, the perfect shot doesn’t present itself immediately. Instead, it requires you to patiently wait for the right moment when all elements align to form a picture-perfect scene. This could be the golden hour light falling just right, a bird taking flight, or the wind settling to create and mirror-like reflection.

Beautiful Hanging Rock sunrise in the Blue Mountains

When you get to your photography location, explore different compositions and angles rather than settling for the first frame that catches your eye. Take the time to frame your subject from various viewpoints, adjust your camera settings, and observe the impact of light and shadows on your scene.

By taking the time to anticipate and carefully compose your shots, you can create images that are not only visually appealing but also unique. Remember, being patient is a great and easy way to improve your photography simply by observing and experimenting with the changing environment around you.

13. Move Your Feet

In photography, finding the perfect composition is sometimes as simple as moving your feet. It’s easy to fall into the trap of staying stationary and relying solely on the zoom feature of your camera to get your perfect shot – especially when you’re just starting out. However, one of the most effective beginner photography tips is to be dynamic in your movement.

Sunset cloud waterfall at Hartz Peak in Hartz Mountains National Park

Even if it means getting into unfavourable positions, many professionals in photography are willing to go to great lengths to capture the perfect shot. They will wade through water, get close to crashing waves, and even abseil from cliffs, all in search of a better angle and composition. These photographers understand that finding the right perspective can make all the difference in creating a captivating image.

By exploring different vantage points and angles, you can discover unique compositions that bring your subjects to life. Moving around allows you to experiment with various perspectives, leading to more creative and visually engaging photographs. Next time you’re out with your camera, don’t be afraid to change your position and explore different viewpoints – you never know what incredible shot you might capture by simply moving your feet.

14. Find New Perspectives

Frosty sunrise at Hartz Peak and Hartz Lake in Tasmania, Australia

In today’s modern era, with the increasing accessibility of incredible cameras and the ease with which we can share our work, it can be challenging to stand out from the crowd. But don’t fret, one of the most effective ways to separate your work from the sea of images out there is to explore different areas and angles not typically used by everyone else.

A unique perspective can make a mundane object or scene appear fresh and intriguing. The power of this technique lies in its ability to highlight aspects of your subject or environment that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. The same subject photographed from an unusual viewpoint or at a different time of day can tell a completely different story – hence, move your feet and be patient.

15. Invest In A Sturdy Tripod

If you’re a landscape photographer, investing in a sturdy tripod is almost as important as the camera you partner with. A tripod is an essential tool that will help you capture better images and experiment with longer exposures.

Using a sturdy tripod for successful beginner photography on Key Summit
Shot using a sturdy tripod

Not only does a tripod allow you to keep the camera steady during exposure, but it also allows for creative compositions like night photography or time-lapse photography that would be otherwise impossible.

But a word of advice, avoid going out and buying the cheapest tripod on the market. If you plan to use your tripod for any long exposures, you will want to find a durable option that will withstand the elements and allow you to comfortably leave your camera on the tripod for multiple hours.

Furthermore, a cheap tripod can cause camera shake and blurred images in adverse conditions – plus you run the risk of the tripod falling or less durable parts failing, leading to damaging your camera or lens.

Pro-tip: A great guideline to follow is to determine the maximum weight of the camera gear you plan to attach to your tripod and purchase a tripod with a payload capacity of at least twice that – preferably 3 times.
For example, with my current ‘heaviest’ set-up, I use the Canon R6 and the RF 70-200 F4. This combined weighs roughly 1.4 kg and following the above rule I would require a tripod with a payload of at least 3 kg, preferably 4.5 kg or higher.

While you don’t need the best tripod in the world, it is important to invest in quality, not just for reliability but for longevity as well. My suggestion is to pick two factors you prioritise the highest (such as price, weight, and stability) and shop around to find the perfect tripod for your photography journey.

Tripods I recommend for landscape and travel:

16. Learn How To Hold Your Camera

This may seem like a rather unnecessary subject to mention, but learning how to hold your camera steady and securely will boost your results and allow you to push settings further than before.

Shooting photos at the summit of Mt Victoria

The correct technique and a steady hand can significantly expand your photographic capabilities. For instance, if you master holding your camera still, you can experiment with slower shutter speeds without the need for a tripod. This can allow you to capture motion in your photos, such as the blur of moving water or the streaking lights of city traffic at night – even when you’re not prepared with your tripod in hand.

A common rule of thumb for hand-holding your camera is to use a shutter speed double that of the reciprocal of your lens’ focal length (50mm focal length – 1/100th shutter speed or greater). However, with practice and a steady hand, you may be able to use slower shutter speeds and still produce sharp images.

Adjusting how you position your fingers on your camera’s buttons and dials is like learning to play an instrument. With enough practice, you’ll be able to adjust your settings instinctively, without even looking at the camera. This ability is beneficial for wildlife photography and other fast-changing scenes when you don’t have time to take your eye off the viewfinder to adjust your camera settings.

The ultimate position to hold your camera is with two hands, close to your body – preferably using your viewfinder – and with your fingers positioned so you have quick access to the shutter button and other important settings.

17. Keep Your Camera Lens Clean

Maintaining the cleanliness of your camera lens is essential as it directly impacts the quality of your photographs. Dust, smudges, or fingerprints on your lens can introduce unwanted artefacts into your images and degrade their sharpness.

Urth lens cleaning kit
Urth Lens Cleaning Kit

For beginners, a key photography tip to remember is that the lens is the eye of your camera and, like our eyes, a clear lens will see and capture the world more accurately and beautifully. So, it is crucial to keep your lens clean, but it’s equally important not to overdo it as excessive cleaning can potentially cause damage.

As a minimum, you should always use a blower, lens cleaning solution and a microfibre cloth or lens pen. All of these items can be purchased together in lens cleaning kits.

Here are some helpful steps to correctly clean your lens:

  • Gently blow off any loose dust particles using a blower (avoid using your breath as it may introduce moisture and result in lens fog)
  • Apply the cleaning solution to the cloth or lens pen – not directly onto the lens
  • In a circular motion, gently wipe from the centre of the lens outward – don’t use excessive force

Remember – clean your lens only when necessary. Over-cleaning, besides risking damage, can also strip away the lens’ protective coating over time.

Note: I now use UV filters to protect my lens from any unnecessary damage or scuffs. I feel much more comfortable on my hiking trips knowing that any small accident I may have or improper cleaning will only result in damaging a replaceable filter rather than a lens worth thousands of dollars. There is a bit of debate about this but I have never noticed a decline in image quality with reputable UV filters.

18. Invest In Quality Filters

Filters act as a powerful tool in a photographer’s arsenal, allowing for creative control over the image’s exposure, colour and depth of field, resulting in more dynamic and visually pleasing photographs. Particularly for beginners, understanding the use of filters can truly elevate your photography skills.

Raw image of Lake Heron without the use of a filter
Raw without CPL
Raw image of Lake Heron with the use of a CPL filter
Raw with CPL
Lake Heron in New Zealand at sunset showing the importance of CPL's in Landscape Photography
CPL Version Edited

There are numerous filters available and the 3 most common are:

Investing in quality filters is a decision that pays off in the long run. Cheaper, low-quality filters can diminish the sharpness of your images and introduce unwanted colour tints or vignetting. On the other hand, higher-quality filters are crafted with precision and made from superior materials, ensuring they do not compromise the image quality. In addition, a good quality filter will also protect your valuable lens from scratches and dirt.

So, while it might be tempting to save money on cheaper alternatives, remember that a quality filter is an investment towards better photography. My favourite filter set is the Urth Essential Filter Kit. Urth not only provides a cost-effective solution to quality, but they are also a sustainably focused company that really tries to make a difference with its impact on the world.

19. Learn Basic Post-Processing

We touched on shooting in raw earlier in this article and paired with a strong understanding of post-processing, you will be able to take your photos from mediocre to incredible.

showing a great beginner photography tip, editing using Lightroom
Possibilities are endless with a sound photo editing technique

Grasping the basics of post-processing with software such as Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom is a critical stepping stone for beginners in their photography journey. It not only polishes your images, elevating their quality, but it also gives you more creative control over your final work. By learning how to adjust exposure, enhance colours, or even remove unwanted elements from your image, you expand your artistic expression beyond just the click of the shutter.

There are countless resources available to learn post-processing, catering to all budgets and schedules. YouTube, for instance, is a goldmine of free tutorials, with experienced photographers sharing tips and techniques on popular editing tools like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

Some of my favourite YouTube tutorials are:

  • Maarten Schrader’s Tutorials – Maarten has a massive library of Lightroom editing tutorials covering almost everything you could imagine. I particularly like his ‘edit like’ tutorials, in which he takes an image from other creatives and reproduces their style, giving you an inside look behind the workflow.
  • Anthony Gugliotta’s Tutorials – Anthony approaches his tutorials with a lot of personality and creates very captivating and helpful tutorials – predominantly for Lightroom and Photoshop.
Video by Maarten Schrader

For a more structured and comprehensive learning experience, you can seek out paid masterclasses offered by professional photographers directly or on platforms like Skillshare or Masterclass. These classes often dive deeper into the intricacies of post-processing, offering comprehensive guidance and personal feedback.

Some of my favourite photography masterclasses are:

20. Don’t Over-Edit Your Images

While post-processing is a powerful tool, one of the most common pitfalls beginners often fall into is the temptation to over-edit their images. Over-editing can make your photos look unnatural and overly processed, stripping away their authentic appeal. It’s easy to get carried away with sliders and adjustments, leading to oversaturated colours, highly exaggerated contrasts, and artificial sharpness.

Over-saturated image of a hut on a mountain ridge showing useful lightroom tips
Over-saturated and over-sharpened

To keep your editing in check, adopt the philosophy of ‘less is more’. Your goal should be to enhance the natural beauty of your photos, not to redefine it entirely. Be subtle with your adjustments, and always make sure to step back and look at your image as a whole during the editing process.

Another useful tip for beginners is to utilise the ‘before and after’ comparison feature frequently available in editing software. This feature allows you to compare your edited photo with the original, providing a reality check and helping you avoid straying too far from the photo’s natural elements. By mastering the balance between creativity and authenticity, you’ll be able to bring your photography to the next level while maintaining the integrity of your images.

21. Study Other Successful Photographers

Studying the work of successful photographers can significantly accelerate your learning curve and help you cultivate a unique photographic style. By observing their compositions, lighting techniques, subjects, and use of colour, you can gain invaluable insights into the thought process behind each shot and what works in practical scenarios.

Moreover, by examining a wide range of photographic styles and genres, you can explore different facets of photography and discover what resonates most with you. This exploration process aids in shaping your own distinctive style, as you adopt elements that you are drawn to and integrate them into your work.

But it’s important to remember that developing a personal style is still essential. Draw inspiration from other photographers but don’t forget to bring your own flare to the table.

22. Practice Makes Perfect

admiring the beauty of beauchamp falls at the base of the waterfall in the great otway national park
A shot from the beginning of my photography journey
Waterfall flowing freely near Cradle Mountain
A recent image of a waterfall near Cradle Mountain

The ultimate thing to do as an aspiring photographer is to get out there and practice, practice, practice! You’ll only become a better photographer through trial and error, so try experimenting in different environments and lighting conditions. As you gain more experience behind the lens, you’ll become more adept at recognising a successful composition and capturing moments that stand out from the rest.

Remember to be patient with yourself as you learn, and don’t get discouraged if not all your shots turn out as planned. With dedication and persistence, you’ll fine-tune your skills over time and discover which techniques work best for you.

23. Get Organised

When you start dealing with a significant volume of work, staying organised will drastically improve your time management and workflow. The more photos you take, the more important it becomes to have a well-thought-out system in place to manage your files effectively.

Flags, ratings and colours all used to organise travel photos in Lightroom
Examples of Flags, ratings & colours used to organise images in Lightroom Classic

One practical way to stay organised is by using programs like Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom not only offers powerful editing tools but also features extensive photo management capabilities. You can sort your photos into collections, assign them keywords for easy searching, and even track your edits. This makes it easier to find specific pictures in the future and keep track of what techniques and settings yield the best results for your style.

By staying organised, you are creating a curated portfolio of your work, which will allow you to reflect on your growth and development in your photography journey.

Check out our detailed article on Lightroom tips for travel photographers for more information on how to use this powerful tool.

24. Back-Up Your Photos

As a budding photographer, safeguarding your work is imperative. Imagine spending hours shooting and fine-tuning your images, only to lose them due to a system crash or accidental deletion. That’s where backing up your photos comes in. It ensures your hard work is not lost and enables you to retrieve your images whenever required. Additionally, backups allow you to free up space on your computer or camera while keeping your photos accessible.

Sandisk Extremepro and extreme portable SSD's plugged into Mackbook Pro 14

Here are some reliable SSDs that are ideal for storing large photography portfolios:

  1. Samsung T7 Portable SSD – This compact and lightweight SSD offers fast data transfer speeds and comes in multiple storage capacities of up to 2TB.
  2. SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD – The SanDisk Extreme Portable offers up to 2TB of storage capacity and features a durable build that’s designed for rugged use. I own and use Sandisks extremely capable line of SSD’s and highly recommend them.
  3. Crucial X8 SSD – Up to 4TB of storage, Dual Thunderbolt 3 ports for daisy-chaining, shock and water resistance and lightning fast speeds.

25. Stop Researching New Camera Gear

We’ve all been there, caught up in the hype of new technology rolling out, paving the way for more innovation and increased creativity. But the truth is, spending all of your money on new camera gear won’t make your photography better – getting familiar with your current set-up will.

DJI Air 2s product photo as part of my camera gear

We live in an age of clever marketing and a consumeristic society, but don’t get caught up – at least not in the beginning. Instead, you’re far better off spending that time learning new composition principles, planning your shots, and learning editing techniques.

26. Don’t Be Afraid To Break The Rules

Understanding and utilising the ‘rules of photography’ – such as the Rule of Thirds, the Golden Ratio, or correctly balancing exposures – are central to mastering the fundamentals. As a beginner, these rules serve as a guide, teaching you about composition, lighting, and perspective, essential elements that contribute to the overall aesthetic and emotional impact of your photos.

However, once you have a good grasp of these rules, don’t hesitate to break them occasionally. Creativity and originality often arise from stepping outside of conventional boundaries. Remember, these ‘rules’ are not set in stone. They’re more like guidelines, which you can choose to follow or ignore depending on the vision you have for your photograph.

By daring to be different, you might discover a unique approach and style that distinguishes your photography. So, take risks, experiment, and don’t be afraid to capture images that defy the norm.

Summing Up

In conclusion, embarking on your photography journey might seem daunting initially, but with these beginner photography tips, you are well on your way to capturing stunning, memorable images. Remember, it’s not the gear but your understanding and application of photographic concepts that counts. Don’t be afraid to break the rules and bring your creativity to life.

The world of photography has so much to offer, and these photography tips for beginners are just the starting point. Keep learning, keep experimenting and you’ll find your unique style that sets your work apart.

Happy shooting!