Beginner Photography Tips DSLR | 9 Simple Photography Tips Every Beginner Should Know

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Getting started in photography can feel daunting having to learn how to best use the camera, get the best shots and remember to have fun and get creative. These are all the best beginner photography tips DSLR. 

beginner photography tips dslr

The truth is you have to do a whole heck of a lot, but to do a “whole heck of a lot,” you have to start. We were so overwhelmed when we started taking photos and if you’re anything like us, you want some actionable items to start your photography journey. 

We’ll talk about the best ways to learn photography with a DSLR and the easiest way to improve your photos today!

This post is all about the best beginner photography tips DSLR. 

Best Beginner Photography Tips DSLR:

1. Buy Used Camera Gear

There is absolutely no reason to purchase the best of the best gear because to be honest, it’s not the camera that makes a great photographer. It’s the photographer no matter the camera. You can shoot with your phone or a Kodak disposable. It doesn’t matter but you should get gear that you are comfortable to use and comfortable to carry around. Something that works for your needs. 

> Related Post: Travel Gear 

By buying used, you can save some money and not be totally psycho about the condition of your camera. It is a tool and it will get some scratches and dings. Of course, you should take care of your gear, but by starting with used gear, you may not focus on that too much. 

2. Take an Online Photography Class

Now, more than ever before, you can learn anything about photography online. There is information everywhere, and the chances are good that it is on your favorite platform. Do you love Instagram? If so, you are in luck. There are tons of accounts dedicated to teaching you photography. If YouTube is your jam, there are amazing accounts such as Peter McKinnon that can get you well on your way.

Prefer the format of a class? Us, too. We have loved learning about photography via Skillshare. One of our favorite courses is Phil Ebiner’s Photography Masterclass. 

The easiest way to get through the courses is to just learn a little bit each day. We usually take about 15 minutes a day to go through a lesson or two. And then we will go back to a section when we want to use it (e.g. night photography or portraits). 

3. Read Your Camera’s Manual 

You will be shocked by how much information there is in there! The manual that comes with your camera (or that you can easily find online) is chock-full of tips and tricks to best use your camera. 

You can also find many books on Photography and you can get as specific as the camera you are using. For example, when we purchased our Canon EOS 80D, we checked out the book Canon EOS 80D for Dummies and read it from cover to cover. This can be a great start or a supplement to your classroom learning.

For example, I learned that I can turn on a setting that shows where the focus is on the photo so we can review them quickly on the spot instead of realizing at home that all your photos are out of focus because you can’t see that tiny screen clearly. 

4. Be that person that always has a camera

You know exactly the person I am talking about. That should be you as you are starting to learn. I bring my camera EVERYWHERE with me. The only way to really get good at photography is to practice and practice a lot. 

No matter how much research you do, there is no substitute for “doing.” Have you ever heard the saying, it all starts with one? It is true. You can’t take the award-winning photo before you take your first photo. And I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but your first photo is unlikely to win an award. BUT, if you take one photo, then another, and you keep doing this over time, you will break through to those great photos. You will learn a lot, laugh a lot, maybe shed a tear, but it is all a part of the journey. So what are you waiting for? You don’t have to go far. You can start around the house, your backyard, a local park, wherever. The point is simply to start. 

5. Take More Photos Than You Think You Need 

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When we first started taking photos, we would go out and take 10 with a few different angles or poses and call it a day. Then we’d come home and realize 4 of them were out of focus, 2 we were moving, and 3 we were so awkward or had terrible faces. That leaves us with 1 out of 10 if we were lucky. We learned the hard way that we should always take way more photos than we should. 

With a DSLR, there should be no reason at all to limit your photo count. Even RAW photos (see below) won’t take up that much space and we have yet to fill up an entire 128GB memory card in a day. 

These days we may take 1,500 photos in an outing and end up deleting 1,000+ but that still leaves me with 500 usable photos! Much better than 1 out of 10. 

6. Always Shoot In RAW

Strangely enough, your camera’s default setting is JPEG so make sure you read that manual (or YouTube it) and change it ASAP. RAW allows you to get so much more detail in your photos and allows you to actually edit your photos.

When I first started out I didn’t change it because I didn’t know I needed to. I thought the camera just started in RAW. And at that point in editing, I had no clue what the difference was, but boy is there! Just do it and thank me later!

Although the file sizes may be slightly larger than JPEG, I have never run into any issue with storage on my SD card, SSD, laptop, or in Lightroom. I honestly see no negatives to using RAW and it should be the default. 

7. Start with “Aperture Priority” or “Shutter Priority” Mode

basic photography lessons

Everyone always says “Shoot in Manual.” And while we agree, you should aim to shoot in manual mode. But it is a LOT to learn. I was way too overwhelmed by manual mode so I started with Aperture Priority quite a bit. 

Aperture priority mode allows you to set your desired aperture (blurry background) and ISO (digital light) while the camera will automatically select the shutter speed to match. You can also select how bright or dark you want the photo (with most cameras) so it is way more customizable than Automatic mode. In shutter priority mode, you pick the shutter speed and ISO and the camera will select the corresponding aperture.

Whether you decide to shoot in aperture priority or shutter priority modes, you will gain a stronger understanding of how these settings work together and how you can best utilize them when clicking away in the field. This will help build your skillset and confidence for learning to eventually shoot in Manual. 

8. Shoot in Golden Hour

basic photography techniques photography for beginners

Have you ever heard the phrase, “cash is king?” Well, in photography, “lighting is king.” And by lighting, we mean natural light. In its simplest form, photography is capturing light. It is one thing to say it, but another to understand it.

The easiest way to ensure you have great lighting is to shoot in Golden Hour. It is the period of daylight immediately the following sunrise and just before sunset. During Golden Hour, lighting is just about perfect and it is an optimal time to shoot. Basically, you can’t take a bad photo. 

With that said, it is unlikely you will only ever be snapping captures during the hours of dawn and dusk. This is why you will need to understand lighting at all hours of the day and how it impacts your photos as well as camera settings.

We recommend picking a few pictures you want to take and then set out and take them at different times of the day. It won’t take long for you to realize how much of a role lighting plays in your photography.

9. Create Presets as You Learn to Edit

photography settings for beginners DSLR photography for beginners

I would love to sit here and tell you that the photos you see online, on billboards, or on any social media platforms turn out that good with one click, but the truth is that editing is real and very necessary. 

Photos just don’t always come out the way that the human eye sees the same situation. Editing can help bring that photo back to the same as the eye or can take it to a whole new level. 

You certainly don’t have to edit your photos, but it can definitely help your photos pop a bit more. And editing doesn’t mean turning your picture into something it is not. I like to think of it as a light coat of makeup.

As far as where to start, there are several good apps out there. The three most popular are Lightroom, VSCO, and Snapseed. It is totally a matter of preference, but we prefer to use Lightroom. You can stumble through the apps on your own, or take many of the classes that are offered out there.

Lightroom allows you to create presets as you edit so you can apply the same edit to multiple photos. I create presets quite often and will fine-tune them with each time I use them. This is a great way to get a consistent style across multiple shoots and saves time trying to reapply the same edits. 

In the beginning, you will likely edit your photos too much, but with time and practice, you will dial into your own unique style. Just remember less is more.

This post was all about the best beginner photography tips DSLR.

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