Photography offers us the chance to be an artist and to witness the world through a lens – creating art through imagery, all while witnessing something unfold right before our eyes. This is why photography is such a worthwhile pursuit that you should seriously consider taking up. However, newbie photographers (me included) may find themselves frustrated at the beginning, as there are some growing pains to endure before getting that perfect shot. Fortunately, I’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to help you get better relatively quickly:
Do use what you already have
As a beginner, any camera you currently have for photography will suffice, whether that’s your phone or a point and shoot camera, and then you can work up to a DSLR or Mirrorless camera. For now, use what you already have to get a good understanding of the different camera settings and practice composing pictures until you can buy that upgraded camera. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, entry-level cameras listed by Tech Radar that you can begin with. The Nikon D3500 and the Canon EOS 90D are a good start, as both are packed with features and are reasonably priced, but there are certainly others to consider.
Don’t go crazy buying equipment
Some beginners make the mistake of going for the most expensive camera, mistakenly believing that the pricier, the better. While others, stock up on pricey equipment, thinking that all that gear will make them a great photographer. Don’t make the same mistakes. It’s important to remember, it’s not the gear that makes a great photographer. Rather than focus on stockpiling equipment (some of which you might not even need), devote your energy and budget to learning about photography by attending seminars, taking courses, reading books, and learning from others.
While you don’t need to buy everything professionals have in their kit, accessorizing is still important to make the process much easier. Luckily, there are plenty of accessories to begin with, depending on your needs. In fact, the range of photography equipment on Adorama such as tripods, battery packs, and lighting equipment is a testament to just how much equipment is out there to help make the job easier. Whether you’re looking for your camera to last longer by purchasing additional battery packs, or looking to get a steady shot using a tripod, there’s bound to be an accessory to assist you. For beginners, you should start with a lens cleaning kit, a couple of new lenses, spare batteries, a bag to keep your gear organized, and a basic tripod.
Don’t settle for Auto
Photo Pro Magazine state that it can be hard to steer clear of the automatic settings, as it makes capturing photos easy and convenient. However, you should break that habit if you want to become a better photographer as there is a lot to explore beyond the typical settings. At the end of the day, the more you explore your camera’s settings, the better you’ll be at photography and shooting in different scenarios. Not to mention, you may have already invested in a DSLR/Mirrorless, so make the most out of it by testing out new things.
You get better by taking photos of different subjects in diverse scenarios using a multitude of settings. As you practice, keep in mind some guidelines, like the rule of thirds, where you divide a frame into a 3×3 grid and place your subject on any of the four intersections. It’s a purposeful misdirection, as it goes against the eyes’ natural inclination to look directly at something. Nevertheless, it creates a dynamic balance and compels the viewer to look at the entirety of the image. Now, as you practice, it’s important to keep those creative juices flowing, and my ’10 Tips for Finding Inspiration’ post will hopefully help inspire you.
Even walking around with your camera on you at all times will help you to flex those creative muscles.
Ever hear a photographer say “look at the bokeh in that photograph” and wonder what the heck they were talking about? Well, what they’re referring to is the dreamy soft background in a photo.
More specifically, they’re referring to the quality of the blur or quality of the dreamy soft background. Certain lenses and cameras produce better bokeh than others.
Why use bokeh?
Good photographs are supposed to be sharp, not blurry, aren’t they? So, what’s up with bokeh? Although the background is purposely blurry, the subject is still meant to be in focus.
We want to create an effect like this to draw attention to our subject. This way, we’re literally pulling the viewer into the photograph and showing the viewer what we want them to focus on. They really don’t have a choice because the rest of the photo is literally a blur.
Fun Fact: the origin of bokeh is Japanese and it literally translates to blur!
How do you pronounce “bokeh”?
I think it’s pronounced “bow-kay”, but you can watch the attached video to see all the different pronunciations and decide for yourself. Personally, I keep saying “bow-kuh”, which I’m pretty sure is incorrect.
How do we achieve bokeh?
First off, it depends on the type of camera and lens we use to create bokeh. With a DSLR, we’ll want to use a wide Aperture like f2 or even better f1.4. The goal is to create a shallow depth of field.
With a point and shoot camera or phone, you’ll want to experiment a bit and see what works best with your equipment. With my P&S camera, I set it to the “food” setting and zoom in. The more I zoom in on my subject, the more background blur I create. Good bokeh has a soft dreamy feel to the background, and it’s something we see a lot of in food photography.
I’m certainly no expert when it comes to creating bokeh, but I do have fun trying. How about you? Do you like creating images with bokeh?
What do you do when the creative well seems to be empty? When you don’t know what to blog about or what to photograph? When the creative juices just aren’t flowing? Inspiration disappears for all of us from time to time, and it’s something I personally have struggled with for months.
Since Al and I won’t be traveling much this winter (we’ll be in Phoenix, Arizona, till April), I find myself wondering what I should blog about and what might be new for me to photograph. Ever since our son moved to Phoenix in 2009, we’ve spent a substantial amount of time RVing around the Phoenix valley, and I’ve written dozens of posts in the past about our time in this Arizona city.
I suppose I could re-purpose some of my old blog posts, but that would keep me inside the RV and in front of the computer, and as much as I enjoy my computer time, the reason for living the RV lifestyle is to seek out new experiences and new sights and not sit in front of a computer screen all day.
The incentive to go out and about is easy when we’re visiting new places, but takes a little more effort and reflection on my part when I’m living a stationary life.
Reflecting on the past can help direct you in the future
Now that I’m sitting in a familiar city that we’ve already spent a significant amount of time exploring, I find myself reflecting on the past for inspiration.
During our last year of owning a sticks and bricks home along Colorado’s Front Range, Al and I decided to pretend we were tourists. After all, Colorado Springs is a major summer destination for many. It was amazing the beautiful sights we discovered right in our own backyard (well, not literally in our backyard, but around town).
I’m grateful that we took the time to explore a little more of Colorado Springs before moving away. We still never made it to the top of Pikes Peak, but perhaps that’s an impetus for us to revisit.
So, think about your past. Think about a memorable place or time, and ask yourself where, when, and why? Memories can serve as wonderful inspiration. All I have to do is think about our five week stay along the shores of Lake Powell this past April, and a smile comes to my face. There was no lack of creative inspiration with scenery like that!
Meet new people
Attending a conference, a seminar, or engaging in a local “meetup” group, forces us to mingle with new people. In the RVing world, this is an everyday event as our neighbors are forever changing. RV parks are a social mecca filled with activities, and meeting new and interesting people is always inspirational. But what if you don’t live in a setting that’s easy to meet new people?
At the end of November, I decided to attend a local WordPress meetup group. I thought it might be a good way to meet locals outside of the RVing community, as well as get a little WordPress help. You see, I’ve had difficulties commenting and liking some of my favorite blogs.
It all started about a month or so ago. I have a bunch of blogs I follow via the WordPress Reader along with receiving posts via email. I used to be able to easily comment or ‘like’ an emailed post, but no more. Grrr … without getting into the nitty-gritty of my frustrations, I was hopeful in meeting some local techies.
Although I enjoyed mingling, this meetup group is geared toward the self-hosted WP user, and therefore, of little help to me. With that said, listening to other creatives was inspirational, making my attendance worthwhile. I might go again or maybe I’ll try some other “meetup“ group.
Go for a walk and search out the beauty around you
Phoenix, Arizona, is known for its mild winters and beautiful blue skies. The other day was cold and dreary. There was a thick cloud cover and the threat of rain. It was late afternoon when I decided to don my sweatshirt and head out on a photographic outing.
My husband was perplexed and expressed concern about the poor weather conditions, but when I explained that today was the perfect day for me to shoot a waterfall, he understood …. well, not really, but he did a good job pretending he understood.
I headed off to a local park in the quaint town of Anthem, Arizona (far north Phoenix valley). It’s a beautiful park with ponds, waterfalls, a Veterans Memorial, baseball/soccer fields, a skate park, railroad, a Sunday morning farmers market, and more.
I had a fabulous time playing with my camera and searching out creative inspiration. That little outing was exactly what I needed to get the creative juices flowing, and I’m so glad I didn’t let the weather deter me.
Study other creatives
Visit a local art gallery, museum, or library and immerse yourself in other works of art. My recent sculpture tour in Scottsdale found me appreciating the talents and vision of the various artists and asking myself, “What inspires them?”
If your creative outlet is writing, are you as awed by J.K. Rowlings talent as much as I am? Sometimes I like to go to the local library and peruse cookbooks looking for recipe and photography inspiration. A library is a great way to discover works of art.
And let’s not forget about music. Listening to the words of a favorite song or dancing to an irresistible rhythm can be very inspirational. Unfortunately, the music gene doesn’t run in my family, but I’m an appreciative listener.
I’d have to say, my most favorite (my favorist 😆) way to find inspiration is via blogs. Seriously, you my friends, are the best creative inspiration around. When I’m really stuck … you know, staring at a blank screen ‘stuck’, and can’t begin to figure out what to write or share, I turn to my favorite blogs.
If that doesn’t work, I go in search of new blogs. Don’t you love it when bloggers write a post linking to other inspirational bloggers? I know I do! Of course, there’s Pinterest to consider, but blogs still rule in my humble opinion.
Write a bucket list
Ask yourself, “If money were no object, I would ….?” Write down a list of things you’d like to accomplish … places you’d like to visit … maybe it’s a dream job … maybe you’d like to publish a book, whatever comes to mind. Be honest with yourself. I bet, when you read that dream list that many of the things you’ve written down are attainable.
Research! Whatever the subject, see what other’s have to say about it. What do they say about that dream job, about publishing that book, or traveling to that destination you long to visit? If you don’t have the physicality or finances, perhaps writing a blog post about those bucket list items will be a start to fulfilling a dream, and your writings might inspire you, as well as others.
Sedona – Buddhism Park, vortex
We all have something we believe in that helps us get through life. For some, it’s attending church services regularly while for others it’s a way of living one’s life. I have friends who tap into their spiritual beliefs by reading the bible or devotionals everyday. Another friend of mine has quotes delivered to her inbox daily, and these quotes serve as her inspiration and enlightenment. Many use meditation, prayer, or both.
I know when I tap into my spirituality, I feel a sense of renewal and hope. That renewed feeling helps me focus and work toward goals.
Meet a friend for coffee (or a drink)
Enjoy some one on one time with a friend over a cup of coffee or a cocktail. Be the listener and really listen to what’s going on in your friend’s life. What are their motivations and goals? How do your ambitions compare or differ?
Maybe they recently read a fascinating book that would make for a great blog article or maybe that photo shared on their phone was taken at an unusual angle, giving you inspiration for your next outing with the camera.
A relaxed get together with a friend is something we should all do regularly!
Take your camera in search
Take your camera (or phone) on an outing devoted to photography. Be a tourist in your hometown. What would you share with someone visiting your town/city for the first time? Walk around your neighborhood and find unique things to photograph.
My neighbor, here in the RV park in Phoenix, is a photographer. In an effort to exercise, he walks around the park, up and down the streets, regularly photographing interesting sights … the little yard decorations, door details, interesting plants, colors, etc., and in the process, he gets in his steps.
If the weather is too cold and blustery in your neck of the woods, think about heading into the kitchen and cook/bake something new … then photograph it. Step outside of your comfort zone. Photography is about finding out who you are and focusing on the world around you.
Listen to your thoughts
Allow yourself to slow down, look inward, and listen to your thoughts. Although my camera shutter clicked often at the park the other day, I did take time to just sit on a park bench and watch the world go by. I watched the ducks drift by on the pond. I listened to the trickle of water from the nearby waterfall. I watched the storm clouds swirl about. I watched the changing light on a mountain as the sun was beginning to set.
I thought about the photographs I had just made, and recognized my strengths and weaknesses. I was feeling creative, a feeling which I hadn’t felt in some time, and it felt good. I needed this time at the park to just be … to listen to my inner voice and listen to my thoughts.
It was at that moment I realized, I don’t have to travel to far away places to be creative … to find blog material, photographic material, inspirational material. I just need to look at things from a fresh angle and shake up my routine.
10 Tips on how to find creative inspiration
Reflect on the past. Analyze fond memories and decide to create new ones.
Meet new people – interact, learn, and find out what inspires others.
Go for a walk and immerse yourself in your surroundings
Study other creatives
Write a bucket list
Embrace spiritual enlightenment
Meet a friend for coffee or a drink
Take your camera in search
Listen to your thoughts
If we look at the world with a love of life, the world will reveal its beauty to us – Daisaku Ikeda
How do you find blogging ideas and subjects to write about? How do you tap into your creativity or decide what to photograph? What inspires you?
When I started this blog five years ago, I was sharing photographs that were shot with a $79 Kodak digital point and shoot camera. I didn’t know anything about photo editing or even that the photographs needed to be edited. What came out of the camera got shared on the blog … as is.
Like any newbie blogger, I was excited to get that first follow, that first like, and of course, that first comment. As the months passed, I eagerly continued writing posts filled with photographs. The comments and followers increased and I developed friendships, friendships that continue to this day.
One day, I received a message. An email message from a fellow blogger? Oh, how exciting, I thought!
That excitement was short-lived as I read … “If you’re going to post pictures on your blog, the least you could do is a little photo editing. There’s no excuse for sharing a photograph with a crooked horizon especially since there’s free editing software like Picasa that’ll fix it in a second.
Oh and quit posting the photos so little. If you’re going to share photos, then share photos so we can see them. Don’t expect readers to click to enlarge because they won’t. Nobody has time for that.
Aside from the poor pictures, nice blog“.
All righty then …. I was heartbroken, mortified, and embarrassed. How is it I was capable of building award-winning custom homes from conception to completion, and yet I knew nothing about photo editing?
Quite frankly, my computer/technology skills were basic at best, which drove my business accountant crazy 🤓
Old school film seemed simple; snap a bunch of pictures until the roll of film was full then take it to the drugstore to get it developed. Botta bing, botta boom!
That message gnawed at me. Editing? Hmm! Google and I became well acquainted. Picasa was downloaded. I started following blogs that focused on photography, along with all the RVing blogs I already followed. As our RV travels increased, so did the photo-taking AND sharing. A slow and steady photographic evolution morphed.
I’ve been humbled by many of your complimentary comments lately about my photography. Through A LOT of trial and error, I do feel it has improved as have my editing skills, but the compliments and questions still surprise me. I consider myself a novice, a beginner, a work in progress when it comes to photography.
With that said, I thought I’d share a little behind the scenes, or shall I say, behind the lens with you all, and show you a few of my photo fails and successes…. a post about what works for me, using simple and inexpensive camera gear.
I’m still a comedy of errors behind the lens, and fully embrace my tried and true method of ‘point and pray’ style of photography. So this isn’t a detailed ‘how-to’ post. And if you consider yourself an accomplished photographer, I always welcome critique and recommendations.
I’m actually grateful for that critical email message …. well, maybe 😉
I’ve gone through the camera envy stage, and still do. When I see amazing images on a blog post, I’ll ask the blogger about their camera gear thinking if I use what they’re using my photographs will improve.
Or maybe if I spend more money on camera gear, I’ll capture better images. We all know this isn’t necessarily true! We’ve all seen stunning photographs taken with an iPhone and some very poor photos taken with a DSLR.
Therefore, camera choice is personal, and the best camera to have, is the camera that you carry?
So what camera(s) do I carry? I predominantly use what’s referred to as a “Bridge” camera. A bridge camera is more than a Point and Shoot, but not quite a DSLR. Thus, a bridge between the two. There’s no lens changing with a bridge camera but there are a lot of customizing options. I have a whole page dedicated to cameras if you’d like more detailed information. I realize, whatever camera I use, it’s important to learn how to operate the equipment and know its capabilities and limitations.
The built-in zoom on my Panasonic is marketed as a 25-600mm lens which allows me to shoot a wide-angle landscape image one minute and then zoom in on wildlife within seconds. I love this flexibility, but it does have its drawbacks. The quality of the photograph will never be on par with a DSLR and the crop factor is limiting. It’s all about resolution, pixels, and sensor size.
I’ve used this camera for three years and have learned its strengths AND its weaknesses and I know when I zoom in to that 600mm capability, I will lose image quality. I also know its aperture sweet spot is F4.0 and it’s best not to take the ISO over 400. There are also times it has trouble focusing,
How close am I to the birds and what lens am I using? Hmm! I have no clue on actual distance but I can share lens distance. Since I’m using a bridge camera, there’s no specific lens to talk about, but I can share an equivalence to a DSLR. If you note the info on each photo, I’ve shared the mm number.
Since I have a cropped sensor camera, the number in parentheses is the equivalent if using a full-frame camera. If you don’t understand sensor size or why my camera or an iPhone will never capture the image quality of a DSLR, here’s an enlightening article that might clarify.
How do I capture birds in motion? For a Point and Shoot, I set the camera to the “sports” setting. My little Sony P&S doesn’t offer a sport setting but it does have a “pet” setting that does ok. Then set the camera on “burst” mode.
Multiple shots taken at one time is key, but note, point and shoot cameras can be slow to process multiple shots and take a few seconds to recover and be ready to snap again. I’ll admit, I rarely use the Sony P&S for birds. Too challenging.
For my bridge camera, I prefer to set the camera on “shutter priority”. I’ve tried using the “sports” setting and “aperture priority”, but wasn’t pleased with the results. Every camera and user is different.
Because I’ve photographed so many birds with my Panasonic, I have a pretty good handle on how fast my shutter needs to be for specific birds. For example; cranes and herons in-flight, the shutter can be as low as 1/800 but for ducks, I need at least 1/1600. And I always have the camera set on “burst” mode, taking at least three shots at a time.
Yes, I do delete a lot of photographs, and I’m ok with that. I also set the camera on continuous focus (AFC) and switch back and forth between a center focus point versus multiple focus points.
If my subject is holding still or I’m shooting landscapes, I’ll alternate between the IA (intelligent auto) and P (program) settings. I do acknowledge that the camera can oftentimes be smarter than me. Thus, I never feel badly using the camera in full auto mode.
Whenever I’m photographing wildlife, I take a ton of photographs. Remember, digital photography is free. So why not shoot away! It’s not uncommon for me to shoot 300 plus photographs in a day, and if the birding is really good, I might shoot as many as 1,000. Out of those images, I expect to like maybe 25. By the way, I only shoot that volume of photographs when it comes to wildlife.
Photo processing – This past January, I finally graduated in the editing department. I jumped from Picasa to Photoshop Lightroom. I know some folks think processing/editing is somehow trickery, but processing is necessary for optimal imagery.
It’s no different from film. The roll of film was processed and pictures were developed from the negatives. You wouldn’t walk around sharing the negatives. It’s the same with Lightroom or any other photo editing program.
Some folks like to over process a photograph for dramatic effect. Most of the time, I try to keep the colors in my photos to as close to what I see, to reality. However, even Ansel Adams played around with developing/processing. It’s just another way to let the creative juices flow.
Lately, I’ve been shooting more purposely. You know, thinking about composition, accessing settings, and striving for a compelling image.
All I can say to that is the delete button is working in overdrive and the fails far outweigh the wins more than ever before. Ah, but isn’t that part of the fun and challenge of photography?
Hmm, maybe I’ll return to that ‘point and pray’ method 😄
But the big question is always, “Are we having fun yet?” You bet I am, and my recommendation is whatever camera you’re using, whether you process or not, keep posting. Don’t let anyone derail your creativity.
Cheers to sharing photographs – the good, the bad, and all the in-betweens!