Saturday, December 24, 2011

Photo Tips and Techniques for Beginners

Photo Tips and Tricks

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I remember the day I got my DSLR camera in the mail-- I had saved up for months to buy my little Nikon D40 and I watched the postal tracking code like my dog waits for her food in the mornings. (So. Excited.) :) When my brown Amazon box finally came, my heart was beating so fast that I could barely cut open the tape. I took out the Nikon and held it in my hands-- that weight and feel is so familiar to me today. I started taking pictures right away, the same photos that everyone takes with a new camera: everything that is in direct sight. My hands, the countertop, the microwave, my feet, the cat, a pile of newspapers.

Back then, I didn't have a clue as to what in the heck I was doing. I had video experience and I've always been that person who carries a camera with them... I just never had a nice, non-point-and-shoot camera. It's been over 2.5 years since I first bought my little Nikon D40 and I still use and adore it today. Even though my Nikon isn't, and was never, a top-of-the-line gadget, I have come leaps and gigantic bounds in my photography knowledge because of that camera and the photo-curiosity it fueled in me. I've written 9 of my favorite photography tips and tricks to help all the other heart-racing-excitable new SLR photographers out there. ;)



1. Composition

Photo Tips
This photo: ISO: 400, f/2.8, Shutter: 1/30, taken in Wyoming at the Grand Tetons National Park, summer 2011.

I think that composition is the first, easiest, most fun, and most important lesson to learn in photography. Composing a great photo gets easier with time and repetition, but reading up on how to frame an image is also helpful. The most popular way to compose a rectangular photo is with the "Rule of Thirds". The Digital Photography School has a great article on the "Rule of Thirds" and why it works. Of course, there are always times to break the rules as well, especially when you don't want your image to look cliche. :)

Square Composition:
Photo Tips
This photo: ISO: 400, f/5.6, Shutter: 1/125, taken in the middle of the "Snowpocalypse" that happened early Feb. 2011.

I am also a huge fan of the square photograph. After looking at rectangular 4'' by 6'' pictures all the time, there is something so refreshing and powerful about a square. Perhaps that is one reason Instagram pics feel and look so wonderful to us? I love this article on square photo composition by Andrew Gibson.

More square love:
Photo Tips
This photo was taken in Victoria, BC in fall 2010.

2. Aperture


One of my favorite things to play around with these days is the aperture. I recently bought a 50mm f/1.4 aperture prime lens and I am in heaven. The control that you have over the foreground and background is so rewarding.


Photo Tips: Exposure
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(The deer in the photo is this little DIY photo holder I made. :))

Aperture is the opening in the camera that adjusts how much light you want to let in for your photo. The lower the aperture number, (ie: 1.8, 2, 3.5) the more blurred your background will be. (Or foreground if you want to focus on the background.) The higher the aperture number, (ie: 16, 22) the more everything will be in focus. It is good to remember that there is not just one way to take a well-lit photograph-- photography has equivalents. This means that you can have a dark room with an aperture of 16 and you can still get a photo to turn out... You'd have to have the shutter open for a few seconds... but it would still work. This chart is good at explaining photography equivalents. PS: I love this blog post on exposure.

3. Shutter Speed

To freeze motion:
Photo Tips
This photo: ISO: 200, f/1.8, Shutter: 1/250

To freeze all movement like this confetti image I took of my friend Sarah, you need to have your shutter speed above 1/125.

To illustrate motion:
Photo Tips
This photo: ISO: 200, f/32, Shutter: 1/6, taken in Montana in Yellowstone National Park.

To illustrate motion you need to have a tripod (or a rock like I used for this photo ;)) and you need to have your shutter speed slow enough to blur the moving things in the photograph. For sunny days, this can be hard. This is why my aperture was all the way up at 32. (Crazy!)

For fun:
Photo Tips
Photo from a ferry ride from mainland Canada to Victoria, BC.

With a higher shutter speed, you can take ninja-jumping shots. ;)

4. ISO

Photo Tips
This photo: ISO: 1600, f/1.8, Shutter: 1/60

When it comes to ISO, the higher your ISO, the less light you need to take a well-lit photo, but your photo will be a lot grainier like the bottles above.

Photo Tips
This photo: ISO: 200, f/8, Shutter: 1/250. Photo from an enormous magnolia tree that used to be outside my room's window at college. 

With a lower ISO, (usually reserved for sunny days) your photo will be noise-free like the magnolia tree above. (Noise-free=less grainy.)

5. Lighting

Clouds=Best Friend
Photo Tips
This photo: ISO: 200, f/1.8, Shutter: 1/450

When it comes to lighting, clouds are the best. The photo above is a perfect example. This photo of my friend Sarah was taken on a cloudy day-- the lack of sharp shadows and harsh light flares makes this photo well-lit. I love clouds because they act like a gigantic light diffuser-- like the umbrellas that you see professional photographers use.

Sunny Photography
Photo Tips
This photo: ISO: 200, f/5, Shutter: 1/1250 How to make Maggie's printed scarf. :)

This isn't to say that you can't take a great photo with bright sunlight. If the sun is glaring on your subject, you need to keep more things in mind for those photos. Is the subject squinting? are there any weird shadows on their face? Is your subject backlit? When it is cloudy, you can take great photos any time of the day. When it is sunny, you should probably stick to the "golden hours" of sunlight-- after dawn and before dusk. Noon photos are just not as good. :)

Backlight (Usually bad. But not always.)
photopost-1-3
This photo: ISO: 200, f/2.8, Shutter: 1/2500

Usually backlit photos turn out terribly, but sometimes you can use the light to create a halo around your subjects. This photo is an engagement photo I took. :)

Shadows:
Photo Tips

And sometimes a harsh sun can be really fun. :)

6. Tripod

Photo Tips
This photo: ISO: 200, f/14, Shutter: 8 seconds

Whether you use a rock, a park bench, a mini travel tripod, a water bottle tripod, or the ground, a tripod can help you get an amazing shot. I took this photo in the High Line Park in New York City. I wanted a long shutter so that I could get a lot of light streaks in the photo. Whenever I took versions of this photo with shorter shutter speeds, there weren't as many headlights in the picture to make it visually appealing. My tripod in this photo? A bench.

Tip: If you want to take photos of people with long exposures, just get them to stand really still. Easier said than done, I know. ;)

7. Colors

Photo Tips
This photo: ISO: 400, f/5, Shutter: 1/100. Photo from the 4th of July in the Madison, Wisconsin botanical gardens.

What about them? Just think about them when you shoot. It's a good idea to break out that color wheel and give yourself a little refresher course on complementary colors, tertiary colors, hues, tones, and tints.

Photo Tips
Photo from the DePauw University Nature Park in Greencastle, IN. Lots of limestone.

And sometimes avoiding colors all together and taking the monochromatic route is the best way to go.

8. Try a Film Camera

Photo Tips
My friend Emily in a photo for my film class in college. I do love confetti photos. ;)

While I use my digital camera all the time, I took a film photography class last year and it probably taught me the most about using my digital camera. Shooting with film teaches you to make a mental checklist of things to do to get a good photo because you don't have the option of guessing and checking like you do with digital photography. If you're interested in photography and you're still in college, TAKE A CLASS. (Not to be bossy or anything. ;)) But seriously, film photography classes are SUPER expensive outside of school. Take it while you can.

Photo Tips
Long exposures with film. And a tripod!

(All of my film photos were actually taken with the Pentax K1000 pictured in the first image of this post. If you are looking for a great film camera, that camera's your guy. It is an incredible student camera.)

9. Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.

Photo Tips
Some of my Polaroid photography collection.

I know this is one of those annoying pieces of advice like "practice makes perfect", but unfortunately it is true. The only way to get better at any art form is to do it. (So annoying, I know!) ;) Shoot photos with vintage cameras. Shoot photos with your cell phone. Play around. Have fun.

Also, read books on photography. (This is one of my favorite photography books by far.
) Look at photos, too. Go to museums. Throw yourself into it. Then you can start breaking the rules and getting some rewarding shots. :)

Photo Tips
Photo from downtown Old San Juan in Puerto Rico. I went there for my spring break in 2011.

(One of my favorite photos I've taken. I stalked birds on a wire for a year to get a shot like this.)

In short?

Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!


With a bunch of practice and a love for cameras, you can evolve from opening your new camera box and taking photos of the microwave to this:


;)

Extra resources:

My Photography Pinboard
My Vintage Photography

Great Photography Books:

The Photographer's Mind
The Photographer's Eye
The Photographer's Eye Field Guide
The Photographer's Vision
Perfect Exposure


(Can you tell I love Michael Freeman? :))


33 comments:

Aneesa said...

OMG I LOVE THIS! I've been reading your blog for about a month now and, you're so creative and talented!!

I've been neglecting my DSLR, turning to my point-and-shoot over the last few months. This post has inspired me to shoot! shoot! shoot! And try film photography!! Thank you! :D

alina said...

omggg!!! i love this and the photos and tips! i bookmarked it. i always see things like this and am inspired to do it but always get too lazy! i've googled how to take good photos a lot and this one has some of the best tips. i think next year when i'm in college, i'm gonna take a photography class for fun :) i always wanna take pretty pictures haha.

Grace said...

This is incredible. I love photography and I take pictures, but my digital camera screen cracked awhile ago. I'm jealous! :)

tulleandtrinkets.com said...

These are awesome tips, Staice! I ESPECIALLY love the shots from our scarves shoot!! I squealed when I saw the confetti one (I've been trying to explain to Chris what the picture was all about)

Carly Webber @ My Life in Colour said...

Hello Stacie! Found your amazing blog via some hits to mine {My Life in Colour}. Thank you so much for the huge compliment and sharing my link to my Exposure Post. Your work is amazing and I really appreciate you linking up. Will stalk your FB page ;) so I can stay in touch with what you are up to - love love LOVE that you shoot film and polaroid!
Take care and hope you had aMerry Christmas xx
Carly

Jill said...

This is just what I've been looking for! I recently got a nice DSLR and a 50mm lens and one of my goals for the coming year was to learn how to use it for reals. I just spent about 3 hours reading through this post and following the recommended links, cross referencing my camera's manual, testing it all out with my camera and mini light box studio in front of me, and taking notes! I'm ready to practice, practice, practice now! Thanks again!

Semalina said...

Thank you for the incredible tips! I love the picture with the confetti, and the ones about lighting as well.

Photography is such an interesting and fun thing, but I can never get myself to bring out the camera and go for a walk away from my laptop :).

Kathy said...

I have read so many articles on aperture, ISO, etc. and have never actually got it, but with your article, I somehow got in more info than I did from 5 articles!
I especially love the 1st confetti photo ^^

Connie said...

Love your advice! I need to think about these things more often. Thank you so much for putting this list together!

Marijke said...

Thank you soooo much! Best advice I've ever got :).

Shug in Boots said...

Sweet! I just got a "real" camera, and you did a great job of just laying it out in plain English. I'm excited to go try some new things out now. :)

Micupoftea~ said...

Thanks! I'm am learning how to use my D40...love the ad at the bottom! lol

Sarah said...

I got a new camera for Christmas: a Canon Rebel T3 and I know NOTHING about photography, haha. But! Your tutorial helped out so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you :]

Sarah
lovexretro.blogspot.com

Sew Country Chick said...

This is such a great guide! BTW i have you on my blogroll.your blog is so inspiring! Happy new year!

Virginia said...

Great advice. I'm still laughing at the ad too!

Maria@Crafty Cre8tions said...

great tips!

Thank you!

oonaballoona said...

i missed this awesomeness in the holiday craze-- bookmarking and pinning it!

L said...

Ooh I love this! Thanks for the helpful post, would come in helpful with my Project 366! <3

booksphotographsandartwork said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

fashionlovin,harrylovin geek said...

you are such an inspiration to me! i am 13 years old and really interested in photography i want a camera but i dont know which oine to buy and i am just a beginner so i dont need anything really fancy so i was wondering if you had any suggestions

Judy v said...

Beautiful Photos but I have no idea what you are talking about.

Faizan Khan said...

I was looking for an impressive iPhone/iPad app for editing my photographs and one of my friend had recommended me very cool app named “Photo Splash Fx”. Although I have tried many others but this one is simply wonderful, as it enables me to

· Make my shots awesome, no matter if they are old vintage, black and white or new high resolution colorful photos, by applying a plethora of special effects.

· Use selective colors, variety of brush sizes (adjust manually or automatically), gestures like Pan/Zoom/Splash, unlimited Undos, Colorize, Tintalize, Recolor, blend brush to create custom effects and text blending on your photo.

· It supports both landscape or portrait mode and options like loading/importing photo from Cloud, instead of just from the camera or photo library.

· Choice of 135+ built-in effects on different parts of the same photo and still have the option of creating your own custom effects.

· Option to make favorite list of built-in effects to choose them easily for future.

· Sharing my edited photographs with friends through Email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picassa, Dropbox or post it in form of the post card, to anywhere in the world.

Katie said...

#8 is SO true.

Faizan Khan said...

Version 2:

Being an experienced photographer are you looking for some impressive iPhone/iPad app to make your photographs masterpieces instantly with a few taps? Try Photo Splash FX, with following unique features that you can’t find in any other app altogether:

· Make your shots awesome, no matter if they are old vintage, black and white or new high resolution colorful photos, by applying a plethora of special effects.
· Use selective colors, variety of brush sizes (adjust manually or automatically), gestures like Pan/Zoom/Splash, unlimited Undos, Colorize, Tintalize, Recolor, blend brush to create custom effects and text blending on your photo.
· It supports both landscape or portrait mode and options like loading/importing photo from Cloud, instead of just from the camera or photo library.
· Choice of 135+ built-in effects on different parts of the same photo and still have the option of creating your own custom effects.
· Option to make favorite list of built-in effects to choose them easily for future.
· Share your masterpiece with your friends through Email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picassa, Dropbox or post it in form of the post card, to anywhere in the world.

A.L. Designs Jewelry said...

Beautiful photos!!! I will learn how to use my camera better. :) Thank you for the tips.

Faizan Khan said...

Digital photography is becoming the
most popular hobby of the world today. The recent developments of smartphones,
iphone/ipad has changed the way, how we think of photography. To give
professional touch to your photographs, now it is not necessary to consult some
professional. One may use various tools and apps to make one’s photographs masterpieces
instantly with a few taps, particularly those taken on graduation/wedding ceremony,
honeymoon trip or New Year celebrations. I have used many such apps in recent
past. One of such app is Photo Splash FX on iPhone/iPad that provides following
unique features that you can’t find in any other app altogether. I noticed
following notable features:



· Make your shots awesome, no matter
if they are old vintage, black and white or new high resolution colorful
photos, by applying a plethora of special effects.

· Use selective colors, variety of
brush sizes (adjust manually or automatically), gestures like Pan/Zoom/Splash,
unlimited Undos, Colorize, Tintalize, Recolor, blend brush to create custom
effects and text blending on your photo.

· It supports both landscape or
portrait mode and options like loading/importing photo from Cloud, instead of
just from the camera or photo library.

· Choice of 135+ built-in effects on
different parts of the same photo and still have the option of creating your
own custom effects.

· Option to make favorite list of
built-in effects to choose them easily for future.

· Share your masterpiece with your
friends through Email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picassa, Dropbox
or post it in form of the post card, to anywhere in the world.

Cika Spasoje said...

Thank you for this great tips! Also checkout this 99 photo tricks website.

Divster said...

OMG!! Thanks sooo much!! Now all I need to do is buy a camera!!! :D

Petar Barg said...

Every photography beginner faces some problems in making their
photography eye catching and awesome. So, they must needs to follow
above given photography tips for improving their skill and be a good
photographer.Chorma screen is easy to use and provides superior green screen for digital effects. Green Screen Paint

Madelon said...

This was really helpful for a starter like me!

Kayla Litchholt said...

Thank you, internet Gods for letting me stumble upon your website! I'm shooting my first wedding this weekend (they know I'm an amateur) and these tips were just the tips I was looking for! Whew!

KathleenJestin said...

Love your blog, it's gorgeous! And crammed full of fabulous beginner tips! Well done!

Ella said...

Hi! I currently own a Pentax k1000, and I have no idea how to buy film or have it developed. I noticed you said Wallgreens to have film developed in another post, so I'll definitely check that out. Can I buy film there, too? Thank you! I love your blog and photography so much.

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