Photography for Beginners: Basics and Extra Tips

Jeff Picoult

By Jeff Picoult

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The beautiful world around us leaves a lot to explore. We get your desire to capture those visually stunning scenes through the camera lens, either as a passing hobby or part of a long-running business.

Photography for Beginners

Unfortunately, being a photographer is not as easy as it sounds. It takes lots of practice, and you’ll even end up with quite a few flops before eventually getting that perfect shot. 

Our team is here to help you with some amazing beginner photography tips. Keep scrolling!

Why A Comprehensive Guide On Basic Photography For Starters Is Necessary

At first glance, the art of photography looks intimidating. Just the technical aspects of entry-level cameras alone already scare off many people! 

A detailed tutorial on the basics of photography will break down the fundamentals to make this huge, seemingly outrageous challenge feel more accessible. The deeper insights you get, the better your sense of accomplishment, and you will feel more encouraged to reach the end of your learning journey.

Grasping all the basics also levels up your photography game beyond the “auto” mode. Now that you understand how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO work together, it’s only a matter of time before you can actively capture your own vision and not just what the camera settings dictate. 

Even if you have second thoughts about becoming a photographer, all this knowledge will not go to waste. A simple photo taken with a phone camera can look a thousand times better once you know how to apply what you have learned. 

Photography Basics

24 Essential Photography Hints And Tips For Beginners

1. Hold The Camera Properly


The tip seems obvious, yet most new photographers struggle with it and end up with shaky, blurry shots. Tripods are a solution, but we do not always have one handy. That’s why learning to hold it right is crucial!

To use a camera for beginners, start by using both hands:

Hold The Camera Properly
  • Use your right hand to grasp the camera’s right side and your left hand to support the lens.
  • Keep the camera close to your own body for extra stability.
  • If you still need more support, crouch down a little or lean against the wall. Widening your stance can also help!

2. Master the Exposure Triangle

Triangle shutter speed ISO Aperture

There’s no need to feel intimidated. The “exposure triangle” is just a technical photography term for three essentials of photography: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, which you must balance out to get well-exposed photos during manual-mode shooting.

  • ISO: Controls your camera’s light sensitivity. Lower ISO settings (100-200) are ideal for bright conditions, while higher ISO settings (400-800+) are necessary for low-light situations.
  • Aperture: This lens opening regulates the amount of light hitting the sensor. A wide aperture (low f-number) will let in more light and is great for isolating subjects, while a narrower aperture keeps more of the scene in focus.
  • Shutter Speed: Determines how long your camera’s shutter stays open. Faster shutter speeds freeze action, while slower speeds create motion blur.

3. Choose A Narrow Aperture for Landscapes

Narrow Aperture for Landscapes

When capturing landscapes, we all want everything from the background to the foreground to be as sharp as can be. 

That’s why a narrow aperture works best here! Look for a large f/ number (like f/22) on your lens. You can also use the Aperture Priority Mode (we will return to that shortly) to test varying apertures without worrying about accidental changes in shutter speed.

4. Choose Wide Aperture Portraits

The main subjects in portrait photography, whether humans or pets, must always stand out. Using a wide aperture is one of the best ways to keep them sharp in focus while naturally blurring out all background distractions!

Remember, a smaller f/ number signifies a wider aperture; the wider it is, the more pronounced this effect becomes. Some compact cameras can go to f/1.2 or even lower, but just f/5.6 already brings magic. Choose the Aperture Priority Mode (A or Av) and start experimenting to see how aperture affects your shots.

5. Learn Your Way Around The Shutter Priority And Aperture Priority and Modes

shutter speed ISO Aperture

At this stage, many people are eager to venture beyond automatic mode yet still not quite comfortable with full manual control. 

If that’s also your case, then the Shutter Priority Mode (Tv or S) and Aperture Priority Mode (Av or A) can become your perfect allies. These modes offer more customization control without overwhelming complexity and are included in most cameras. 

With Aperture Priority, you adjust the aperture and let the camera modify the shutter speed according to your aperture choice. For example, if you shoot a portrait, simply select a wider aperture (for a blurred background), and your camera will handle the rest.

On the contrary, once you switch to Shutter Priority, you can pick a suitable shutter speed and leave the aperture for the camera. Suppose you were capturing a fast-moving subject like a running dog; opt for fast shutter speed, and the camera will modify the settings for aperture accordingly.

6. Embrace The RAW Format

Unlike compressed formats like JPEG, RAW captures all image data that your camera sensor records. 

Thus, shooting in RAW yields higher-quality photos and gives you greater control during post-processing. You can correct exposure issues and adjust color temperature, contrast, and white balance in a breeze.

Nevertheless, RAW files occupy more space than other file formats and require post-processing (as just mentioned), so we suggest investing in photo editing software. Double-check the camera’s manual if you are unsure how to convert JPEG into RAW.

7. Check Your ISO Before Shooting

ISO in Camera

Some people shoot dozens of photos under the scorching sun before finally realizing they have set the ISO to a staggering 800. How frustrating it is! And that will be twice as bad if the photos are for special occasions like anniversaries or birthdays; you cannot wind back the clock and redo them, after all. 

To avoid this deadly mistake, make it a habit to double-check and reset your ISO setting before every shoot. Another option is to always reset the camera whenever you pack it away.

8. Raise Your ISO If Necessary

Even professional photographers shy away from higher ISO settings for fear of noisy, grainy photos. 

We do not deny that image quality might be affected, but sometimes, there’s no other choice. What would you do if you couldn’t lower the shutter speed to avoid motion blur and tripods weren’t an option? 

In that case, we’d rather get a slightly noisy but sharp photo than nothing at all! And since modern camera tech has come a long way, you can still get fantastic shots even at ISO 3200 or higher. 

To minimize noise, try using a wide aperture when possible. Slight overexposure can do wonders, too; it will be much easier to darken bright areas during post-processing without increasing noise.

9. Master White Balance Adjustment

Spring Dresses

White balance adjustments help your camera capture colors accurately. Different light sources give off different hues, so a lack of proper white balance might turn your photos blue, green, or orange. 

Of course, some suggest fixing that issue in editing, but such tasks can be tedious and certainly won’t work for large batches of photos. It’s better to get it right in-camera. 

Most cameras have preset white balance settings, such as Flash, Daylight, Cloudy, etc. Learn each symbol’s meaning and adjust accordingly based on your shooting environment.

10. Be Cautious with The Built-In Flash

Occasionally, built-in flash in dim lighting might lead to unpleasant outcomes like harsh shadows or red-eye effects. 

From our experience, increasing the ISO (and dealing with the noise later during the post production) is still a much safer option than ruining your shot entirely with the flash. But if you’re stuck and need to use it, there are ways to soften the effect:

  • Reduce the flash brightness in the menu of your digital camera
  • Cover the flash with something translucent like tape or paper to diffuse the light
  • Angle a white cardboard so the light can bounce from the ceiling.

11. Get Wild With Perspective

Want to add some flair to your digital photography? Go ahead and play around with the perspective!

The same scene might look entirely different from various angles; try to shoot your subject from below or above to see how it changes the vibe of your photo. Of course, not every viewpoint/angle works for every shot, but you will never find out what works best unless you give it a try.

For instance, when shooting kids or animals, you can crouch to their eye level to see the world from their perspective. For portraits, consider standing on the bench to shoot from above for a unique angle.

12. Understand Your Histogram

Understand Your Histogram

We understand how tempting it is to rely on LCD screens to assess a photo’s exposure. But the truth is that they’re not always accurate, and here’s where the histogram comes in handy. 

This graph shows the distribution of tones in your photo. You might need some practice to read it effortlessly, but in simple terms:

  • Its right side represents highlights or whites, and its left represents shadows or blacks.
  • If the histogram skewed right, your photo might be overexposed, losing lots of detail in the highlights. On the other hand, the graph skewed left means your image is likely underexposed or too dark. Balance is key here!

13. Keep Eyes Sharp

Sharp focus is crucial in portraits, especially the eyes, since they are often the focal point of headshots and close-ups. 

How can we nail this focus? The answer is simple: aim for a specific focus point in one eye. Once this eye turns sharp, press your shutter button halfway down, then adjust your composition slightly to include the other eye. 

This ensures both eyes are crisp and draws the viewer’s attention where it matters most.

14. Master The Basic Rule of Thirds

rule of thirds

Here are the basics of this photography rule: images are more visually appealing when the subject isn’t placed in a dead center. 

Let’s divide your image into 9 equal sections with 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines. Instead of centering your subject, you should position it along 1 horizontal or vertical line (or at intersection points between those lines). 

Many cameras offer a grid mode to help you visualize this ⅓ rule better for intentional composition choices. But, of course, do not bind yourself to this rule or think it’s set in stone. As you gain experience along the way, feel free to break the rule from time to time for artistic effect! 

15. Capture The Golden Hours

jeff picoult image Gallery 3

Lighting plays a huge role in photography, so early evening or early morning are considered prime times for shooting. 

The period just before sunset or after sunrise (known as the “golden hours”) offers soft, warm light with beautiful long shadows. This gentle glow can infuse your photos with a serene atmosphere, whether you’re capturing still life, portraits, or landscape photography.

Of course, we are not saying you can only shoot your photographs during the golden hours. But that certainly makes things easier nonetheless. 

16. Quality Over Quantity

snail above the frog's head

We know you are getting started in photography. But do not forget that even seasoned photographers get their fair share of less-than-impressive shots!

The key to a great portfolio is to showcase your best work only instead of bombarding your audience with dozens of nearly identical images. Select just one or two better-quality images from each session to share on platforms (like Instagram or Facebook) to truly highlight the best, most remarkable moments captured through your lens.

17. Mind the Background

The background of your photo should complement, not compete with, your main subject. This rule is very important when your subject is off-center in the frame! Aim for simplicity and minimal clutter to keep the viewer’s focus where it belongs. 

Plain patterns and neutral colors work well to prevent distractions. If the background is still too busy, you can adjust the subjects’ position, use a wide aperture, or get as close to the subjects as possible. 

18. Move Around for Better Shots

Most people like to stay in one spot when taking photos. That’s alright, but don’t get stuck in that rut forever. Keep moving! Climb up high, crouch down low, step forward or backward – whatever you like, as long as you keep your feet in motion.

If you just take a bunch of photos at that same height, from that same spot, facing that same way, they’re all going to look pretty similar. That’s why moving around occasionally is key to changing the perspective, position, and size of objects in your photos. 

The same rule applies when you want to isolate your subject or remove distracting elements; just keep changing your distance or angle until it looks just right. In wildlife photography, remember to get down to the subject’s eye level to yield better, more creative effects. 

19. Use Tripods (But Only When Necessary)

MeFOTO background

Tripods are our best friends, stabilizing the camera for longer exposures and sharper focus. 

But when is the best time to use one? If the subject isn’t moving, the answer is almost always. A stable tripod is your best bet for steady shots in landscape, still life, and architecture.

Macro photography also calls for a tripod. At high magnification ratios, even the best camera stabilization can’t compensate for the long exposures and low light needed. Plus, precise focus is critical in macros, and that’s exactly what a tripod offers.

On the other hand:

For fast-paced events or action shots, a tripod does nothing but restrict your movements. The same goes for travel photography: lugging one around all the time is not always practical. 

20. Mind The Frame’s Edges

Don’t forget about the edges when framing your shot; they play a crucial role in the photo’s overall “feel!”

Give your subject some breathing space, and don’t crowd it against the edges. Never chop off important elements (e.g., the mountain’s peak) unless it serves a specific purpose.

Also, be wary of distractions near the edges that might pull attention away from your subjects. A messy background or stray objects at the edges can ruin your composition entirely! Remember that a photographer with great composition skills takes the entire frame into perspective and does not just focus on the main subjects.

21. Keep Your Lens Clean

Photographer with camera

It’s shocking how many people neglect to clean their camera lenses. A smudged or dirty lens is the classic culprit behind photo blurriness! Of course, just a little dust won’t affect image quality, but we’re talking about serious fingerprints and built-up grime here.

Spend a portion of your budget on microfiber cloths or lens-cleaning solutions to keep your lenses pristine at all times. Make it a habit to clean your lens regularly, especially before important shoots or trips.

22. Avoid Cheap Filters

Using a low-quality filter on your lens is another surefire way to produce blurry images! Flaring and other optical issues are also inevitable, particularly in bright or high-contrast scenes.

So, don’t compromise on image quality for the sake of a cheap accessory. Always invest in high-quality filters from reputable brands to keep up your game in the long run. 

23. Learn Some Photography Editing Basics

Despite being one of the most essential photography techniques for beginners, post-processing surprisingly often gets overlooked. It can’t fix a terrible photo, that’s for sure. But turning a decent/good photo into a masterpiece? Totally! 

  • Start by learning basic editing techniques in sharpening software like Adobe Lightroom.
  • Focus on non-destructive editing to preserve the original files. 
  • Practice fine-tuning the tones and shades, adjusting exposure, and enhancing mood using online sources or basic photography books. 

Remember that sublet is still key at the end of the day: to retain the photo’s natural yet polished look, do not over-process it. 

24. Learn from Mistakes

Young cheerful photographer

Mistakes happen in photography, for starters, and they’re all valuable learning opportunities. 

So, do not delete a blurry or poorly exposed photo immediately; you should take the time to analyze what has gone wrong and how your work can improve next time. The more you study your mistakes, the better your photography skills will get!


Figuring out how to start photography is undoubtedly tough, and we understand how overwhelming it is to navigate the waters all by yourself.

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Jeff Picoult

Jeff Picoult


Jeff Picoult is a seasoned photographer, who blends artistry and innovation. With a humble approach, he captures moments resonating with depth and emotion, from nature's beauty to the energy of sports.

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