6 Things You Need to Know if You Are a New Photographer

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6 Things You Need to Know if You Are a New Photographer

I have been taking photos my whole life!  In that sense, I have never been a new photographer.  I remember taking my fancy instant camera with me on a family trip to Washington D.C. in 1984, when I was a surly 13-year-old.  Some of my favorite memories on that “educational trip” were of capturing the monuments and interesting plaques with my little camera.

It wasn’t until I was a grown mama with 5 kiddos that I decided to take the next step and actually learn how to take “real” photos with a “real” camera.  I discovered many things along the way, and I’d like to share some of them with you!  Here are the top 6 things that I wish I knew when I started as a new photographer!

New Photog Tip 1

A fancy camera doesn’t make you a pro

I have always had a pretty nice camera and shot in film for many, many years.  I remember my husband purchasing me my first digital camera in 2008 at my fifth child’s birth.  I was just sure this amazing new camera would make me an excellent photographer!  I even shed a tear when he presented it to me.

Sadly, the fact is…  I really had no idea what I was doing, and that fancy camera was only as good as any cheap instant model.  I tried time and again to get beautiful shots of my new baby.  On occasion, I would get a winner, but the photos were just not that great more often than not.  I saw all of the shiny buttons and knobs, but I really didn’t know what to do with all of them.  I would just turn that camera to the “A” setting and snap away, hoping for winners.  I knew there was something more out there – I just hadn’t figured it out yet.

A new photographer shot of my son in the hospital
Here's a shot of my son, taken with a nice camera, but still not a very nice photo.
No longer a new photographer - a great shot of my grandson
Here's my grandson 10 years later and after a whole lot of learning. But what a difference in photos, eh?

Turns out – the camera isn’t what takes great photos, but the person behind it and their knowledge. 

Finally, when my little guy was almost 7 years old, and life started slowing down some, I decided to invest in lessons on using that fancy digital camera.  I officially became a “new photographer.”  Of course, by now, my Rebel model was almost obsolete in the world of photography, so I got the itch to upgrade.  I figured out really quickly that the camera I had was perfectly capable of getting amazing shots.  It was almost a year later before I upgraded, and then only because I had learned every feature on the camera I currently used!  It felt great to actually know what I wanted when it was time to upgrade!

The point here is to learn with the camera and equipment you have before being in a hurry to upgrade.  We all love new toys, but be sure you understand what you want before jumping in and spending a bunch of money, just to have the newest fanciest version.  I promise you can take amazing photos with any camera you have in your hand.  As the old saying goes, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

New Photog Tip 2

Learning to shoot in manual is a game-changer

The most important thing I’ve ever done in my photography journey was to learn to shoot in manual.  In fact, getting my camera off of the auto setting and into the manual setting started me on a journey that I could not have predicted!  Here I am several years later, and I make my living with photography.  Every day I am thankful for this small step in learning manual settings!

If you are looking for a deep dive into using that camera, then check out www.shultzphotoschool.com.  My friend Kyle Shultz is an amazing teacher and I credit him for getting me started on this journey into photography!

New Photog Tip 3

You will need LOTS of Practice... and Practice never ends

Once you start learning how to set your ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed, you will be ready to move from a new photographer to an expert photographer.  But first, you will need to commit some time to practice!  In fact, I wish I knew how much practice I would have needed.  Some days it was easy to get frustrated when I would see no improvement.  But part of learning is getting faster at making decisions on the fly and making decisions about settings while in the moment.  The only way to do that is to practice and practice often!

When you are first learning, try to take some time each day to get the camera out and take photos.  My neighbors must have thought I was a bit crazy when they looked out the window and saw me crawling around the yard taking pictures of anything that moved, and some things that didn’t.  At least I was good entertainment.

I am still learning every time I pick up my camera, and I’m intentional about trying new and different techniques regularly.  Practice never ends in photography.  In fact, neither does learning, thank goodness!

Read more from my friends at SeeImagery: What is the best way to learn photography as a beginner

New Photog Tip 4

It's ALL about the light!

You can have the fanciest of cameras with the best camera bag and the fastest memory card and still…  if the light is not right, your photos won’t be right.  Begin by studying the light around you.  A technique I use is to hold my hand out and look at it from every direction at all different times of the day and every location.  You’ll start noticing that you can see clear detail when the light is best.  The good news is you can do this without having your camera handy.  Just start watching the light.

And yes, if you’re wondering, when I was crawling around the yard snapping photos, I was often holding my hand up and staring at it from different angles.  All part of the fun!

When you get good at using basic natural light to light your photos, you can begin to add artificial light to your skillset. 

New Photog Tip 5

Editing is a tool - Learn to use it!

When I began, I had the notion in my head that I would not need to edit my photos if I got them “right” straight out of the camera (SOOC).  I could not have been more incorrect.  Editing is like frosting on the cake.  A non-frosted cake is good, but it’s the frosting on top that makes it amazing.  Of course, in photography, the goal is to start with a solid photo, correctly exposed, and compositionally sound.  Once you get that, you can take a solid photo and turn it into an amazing photo with some editing basics.

How do you get started?  Invest in an editing program.  I recommend Lightroom, which is an amazing program and reasonably priced at about $10 per month.

New Photog Tip 6

Feedback is a must, and so is thick skin

Once I began improving my skills, other people began noticing.  It felt great!  But if I would have stopped at letting all of my well-intentioned friends and family feed my ego with their compliments (thanks guys!), then I would not have continued to learn and grow.

The lesson here is to seek out feedback from those who are also amazing photographers!  Be ready for some constructive criticism, and beware – some folks in the photography community will tell it to you straight with little concern for your feelings.  You’ll need to develop a thick skin.  Also, it’s a great idea to find and join a FB group or two where the feedback is honest and kind.  I have one you can find HERE (FB group) for starters.

I wish I would have known how ruthless strangers could be when I started looking for feedback in various online groups.  It seems some photographers feel that techniques and information are secrets to be closely guarded.  Look out for those folks and steer clear.  For every one of those, there is someone who will be excited to share knowledge and learn with you.  Don’t let the “Negative Nellies” get you down.  Delete ugly comments and move on to the genuine helpful ones.

Another option is to find a local group with people who meet up for group photo outings!  It’s a perfect opportunity to learn together, practice together, and make new friends.  Just be careful when meeting up with strangers you find online.

Bonus New Photog Tip

The results are worth all of your hard work!

Learning a new hobby or skill is always a fun and challenging task, but almost always worth the hard work!  If you’re a beginner, welcome to the new photographer club!  If you’ve been around for a while, I’d love to hear what surprised you when you first began taking photos!  Leave me a comment!

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