Photography Tips for Beginners


February 18, 2018

Hey there! I hope you had an awesome Valentine’s Day and your week is going well. Today I thought I would just quickly share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the past 4 years from portrait photography. Obviously each artist has a different approach when it comes to creation and has a unique eye for composition, but these are just a couple of tidbits I thought I’d share. 

Preparing for the shoot.

Initial preparation for the shoot itself is a great way to start the creative process. Here are a couple of ways to prepare:

  • Come up with an initial concept for the shoot that you may want to emulate. 
  • Research – some shoots might require some research beforehand. If you’re looking to portray a story and deeper meaning with your subject, it may take some research on your subject first to help you bring that hidden message to light. 
  • If you are shooting with a model, you might also want to advise them on what kind of clothing you would like them to wear. Think about patterns, textures, colors, and the fit of the clothing. 

Learn to adapt.

One of the toughest things about photography is learning to adapt on site. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve had this great concept in my mind, but have failed to execute it. And so much of art, especially in portrait photography, is learning how to adapt when things don’t play out as you’d hoped. Lighting can get wonky and weather can change in the blink of an eye. Sometimes the location you thought was going to be absolutely amazing…just doesn’t look quite so amazing. It’s okay if you need to change up the pose, the location, the props, or the lighting….things don’t always go as planned!

In the image above, I originally had the model positioned the same way on a different wall in an abandoned house, but the lighting on the other wall was incredibly harsh and I just wasn’t diggin’ the vibes. So I moved the model to a different room where the lighting was less harsh to get the mood that I was aiming for…and this was the result. 

Location…doesn’t matter.

Location matters, but only to an extent. A lot of times people think that you have to travel to extravagant places in order to generate great content, and that’s just simply not the case. You can create great images just about anywhere. All that matters is training your eye to find the beauty that can be hidden in our everyday acquaintances. Framing is everything. An image can tell an entirely different story than the location it was taken in can. For more on location, visit my Blog Post: Ugly Location Challenge.  

You don’t necessarily need the most expensive equipment.

When I started photography I was under the impression that the more expensive the equipment, the better the photos would be. I quickly learned that this was a common misconception. Yes, you do want to eventually invest in a great camera body and some great lenses, but there’s so much more to creating a great image than the worth of your camera equipment. Photography is about composition, learning to work with light, working with your subject, portraying emotion, and telling a story. Work with what you have. It’s possible to have an exceptional photographer with low quality equipment, and an average photographer with top-of-the-line equipment. 

Learn to enjoy the learning process.

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Photography is frustrating. There’s always going to be another concept to try, a new technique to learn, or a new boundary to push. Push it, but know that you’re more than likely going to encounter frustration along the way. It sucks, and it can be super discouraging. It’s okay to take a step back now and again to recenter yourself and find a new way to reassess your approach. The important thing to know and understand is that although learning a new technique or concept is going to be frustrating and challenging, you’re becoming a stronger artist and bettering yourself every time you push the envelope. 

Do it anyway. 

I’ve met a lot of people that have numerous artistic curiosities, but sometimes they hesitate. Don’t. You quite literally have nothing to lose. It’s okay if you try a concept and it fails miserably. It’s happened to pretty much every photographer I personally know, including me. Take some time to regroup and either try a different approach to the concept, or pivot and try to come up with a different execution style for a similar concept to communicate the message you’re trying to portray. If you’re scared to try portrait photography, grab a close friend and spend some time messing around and playing with light. It can help set you at ease to work with someone you’re more comfortable with if you’re nervous about starting portraiture. But the only thing I ask, is that if you have an idea – try it. It’s so much better to fail and learn, than to always wonder ‘What if?’

Look back.

Take time now and then to look back at your work. Sometimes we forget how far we’ve come and it’s important to remind ourselves just how much we’ve improved when it feels like growth has been stagnant. Above are three locations, with my work 3 years apart. The image on the left or on top is from 2014, and the images on the right or bottom are in the exact same location three years later. The difference? Over the course of those three years, I worked on applying all of the little things I learned from other photographers, YouTube tutorials, trial and error…you name it. Looking back at your progress is encouraging and reminds you why you started in the first place. 

I hope these tips added a bit of perspective to your approach with taking pictures, whether it’s just for fun or picking up a new hobby. Best of luck, and let me know some of your favorite photography tips in the comments! 

Have a great and creative week!

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