Things Every Newbie Photographer Must Learn and Practice

There are certain things as a photographer you should know regardless of if you are an expert or a novice. These simple yet powerful lessons not only differentiate you but also help you grow in your art and your photographic. For every newbie photographer, these are essential lessons to learn and practice.

Note: For the purposes of this article, all the images used here are SOOC (Straight out of camera). This is done to demonstrate key concepts highlighted here.

Know your gear inside out

This almost seems like a no brainer but I am surprised by the number of people who say that they have a really fancy (and expensive) DSLR camera but still shoot in auto mode 100% of the time. Now before you get all upset and say that there is nothing wrong with shooting in auto, I will raise my hand and say that yes, I also shot in auto when I got my first DSLR camera. But very quickly I realized that my camera was a fantastic and sophisticated piece of equipment that was capable of some incredible shots if I only knew how to operate it.

So take the time and really know the ins and outs of your gear. The user manual is a great place to start to not only familiarise yourself with what all the buttons do but also where they are located on the camera. You should be able to adjust settings without removing your eye from the eyepiece/viewfinder when you are composing your frame. Think about it this way, would you like to own a convertible and always drive with the top up (i.e. closed), even on the most gorgeous of summer days.

ISO – Play around with various ISO settings to understand how it affects exposure and what is an acceptable ISO grain (for you). This will help you make photography decisions in low light situations. Some of these ISO decisions may be limited to the kind of camera you have. Regardless, you should know the upper limits of your gear.

Sweet spot – Find the sweet spot for your lens. Every lens has an aperture setting where the image is sharper overall than others. This will help you analyze what is the widest aperture (smallest f-stop) you can shoot in and still have the image in focus. This is different than the depth of field (which is how much of the scene is in focus) in that the actual resolution of the image is sharper at the sweet spot.

Minimum shutter speed – Find out what is the lowest shutter speed you can handhold your camera and get a sharp image. This will also help in low light situations as well as in creative motion blur type shots when you don’t have a tripod handy. The general rule of thumb is to shoot at one over the focal length of your lens.

Know and understand light

There are some photographers who only shoot in natural light while others only shoot using some form of artificial light. Then there are photographers who shoot in any type of light and do a fantastic. There is no right or wrong answer here in terms of preference but it is important to know how to shoot in any form of light. That might be the only thing that stands between you and the shot of your dreams.

Knowing how to read, analyze, and play with light is one of the most basic and important skills every newbie photographer should know, in my opinion. Keep in mind that not all light is equal from a purely technical standpoint (tungsten versus fluorescent versus white-balanced light). Certain types of light are good and others are not so good. Experiment with many different kinds of light so you know how to read light, then learn how to shoot in each.

These three images were all shot within the hour just before sunrise.