Photography has surged in popularity in the past decade with the emergence of social media and smartphones. Even though we’re all taking more photographs, many of us assume we’re limited in our talents due to our equipment. I’m here to say it’s not about the equipment, and you can create great, even amazing, photographs with any camera.
I’ve had an interest in photography as long as I can remember, but my true passion didn’t emerge until we hit the road full-time in our RV several years ago.
After wearing out a couple of point and shoot cameras, I upgraded to a Bridge camera. I still suffer from camera envy and may one day switch to a Mirrorless Camera, but for now, my Lumix(s) fits my needs … certainly not professional-grade cameras by any means.
We’ve slowed down our travels somewhat and now spend our winters settled in an RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona. I enjoy this RV community and the friendships that have developed.
Although I don’t engage in many activities at the RV Park, I do co-host a photography group … a group of like-minded RVers who share a passion for photography. Not only have I learned a few things, but I’ve also been able to teach and share a few tidbits of my own photography knowledge.
I still consider myself a novice photographer, or rather more of a photo snapper and try to improve my skills with every click of the camera.
Being involved in the RV Park Photo Group has served as a great learning experience for everyone involved. Our group consists of every level of shooter along with every level of camera. Yes, we are indeed a diverse group of photo enthusiasts.
Here are a few tips that our RV Park Photo Group discussed on how to create more professional-looking images with any camera.
15 Beginner Tips – How to take better looking photographs
1. Learn your camera inside and out. This might mean diving into that owner’s manual and actually reading it. If you don’t have a manual, no worries, a Google search will come to the rescue. And don’t forget YouTube tutorials. It really is necessary to know how all the settings work and what they mean. Even if you won’t use all the features, it’s important that you’re comfortable navigating the camera’s menu and settings with ease, especially in the field.
Always half-press the camera’s shutter button before taking the shot. On an iPhone, simply tap the screen for your desired focal-point (a little yellow box appears around the item when you do). Once you know where your camera is focused, you can decide if this is where you want the focal point to be in the image, and if not, start over.
One of the best things I did when I first bought my iPhone 8+ last year was to attend some free seminars at the local Apple store. Needless to say, there were a few ah-ha moments by many of the attendees … me included.
2. Shoot regularly. The best way to improve your photography and get comfortable with your camera is to shoot often. Considering digital photography is free, there’s no reason not to spend hours behind your camera clicking away. Learn to love the delete button but always delete in your computer (unless you’ve taken a complete dud, like your lap or something 😆). You’ll be surprised by how an image might appear on your LED screen versus your computer screen. Sometimes it looks better in the camera and sometimes an image looks better on the computer. So give the photo a chance and review it on your computer screen before deleting it.
Experiment with different subjects, different camera settings, and different light. Over time you’ll develop a style and voice that will be authentic to you.
3. Stabilize your camera to achieve sharp photos. Obviously, the best way to stabilize a camera is by using a tripod, but that’s not always convenient, especially if you’re lazy like me and leave the tripod at home. So, the next best thing to do is to use a wall, fence post, or another stable surface to minimize camera shake. Learn to hold your camera correctly and pay attention to your breathing when pressing the shutter. And be sure to have stabilization turned on when handholding and turned off when using a tripod.
4. Use the Camera’s “scene” modes. Cameras and phones are smarter than ever before. Therefore, take advantage of the camera’s preset scene modes. The various modes optimize your camera’s settings and do the thinking for us. Depending on your camera various modes may include; landscape, food, action, portrait, night, and more. I love using these settings, but I always shoot the same image in P (program) mode or A (aperture priority). Remember, taking digital images is free. So shoot away and shoot the same subject using different settings.
On my iPhone 8+, I use the portrait mode to capture food or flowers and create great Bokeh (blurred background).
5. See the light. Before clicking that shutter, observe and assess the light. The first step to creating better photographs is understanding light. Think about how the light interacts with the scene and subject. Is the light highlighting an area or casting unique shadows? Light plays a vital role in the mood and interest of a photograph and is the most important element in creating a great photograph.
Composition guidelines for newbies
6. Rule of Thirds. This is one of the most common tips when it comes to improving your photographs. It’s an easy technique and will aid in making an image more interesting. Think about cutting the frame into thirds by using both horizontal and vertical lines. Then place your point of interest over the cross-sections of the grid.
I have the gridlines always turned “on” on both my camera and my iPhone. By doing so, it aids in composing my image and keeping my camera level. Actually, when I attended a seminar at the Apple Store, the first thing they recommended was to turn on the gridlines on the phone.
7. Leading Lines. This is probably my favorite form of composition. I’m always looking for leading lines to photograph. This type of composition draws the eye into the image.
8. Interesting foreground. Adding an interesting foreground object will give depth to a photograph, especially in landscape photography.
9. Patterns are a repetition of objects, shapes, or colors. Patterns are everywhere if we once train our eyes to notice them.
10. Negative space. When shooting people, animals, or birds, always leave a little extra room in the image toward the direction the subject is looking. This creates interest and mystery. The viewer may wonder what the subject is looking at.
11. Rule of odds. While composing an image, try to include an odd number of elements in the frame. This is a common practice in interior design. With an odd number of subjects, the image becomes more balanced.
12. Include a frame. A natural frame around the main subject will add depth to the image by drawing the viewer’s attention into the photo. Think about a window or tree framing a subject.
13. Move your feet. Learn to shoot from different angles and varying heights. Moving your body closer to or further away from your subject can often create a more dramatic shot. Walk around looking for a unique perspective. Don’t rely on a zoom lens … move your feet and body and explore the subject’s surroundings.
Final thoughts for beginner photographers
14. Get good at processing. Every image needs some amount of processing, some images more than others. Embrace the process, learn the software, be creative and comfortable with whatever program you use. I’m a huge fan of Photoshop Lightroom while others prefer Photoshop Elements (similar to Photoshop, but geared toward beginners). These days, there are a number of photographic editing platforms to choose from. Some are free and some subscription-based. Find something that works for you and get good at it.
15. Slow down and don’t rush the process. Take the time to think about what is going on in your viewfinder before pressing the shutter. Think about the composition and what you’re trying to capture. Understand the creative process and make intentional decisions. Learn to tell a story with your photos. See the light, the lines, the moments, the little things, BUT be willing to put the camera down awhile and truly experience your surroundings and then photograph whatever makes you happy.
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