14 Simple Photography Tips for Beginners

looking up in the forest
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I have always been interested in photography.

I liked to take pictures of my friends in school (we are talking film, baby!) and places I would visit.

My photos were just kinda ok, but I still loved them and I didn’t know any better.

Then I got married and started a family.

I wanted to document everything that was happening and I wanted these pictures to be better than just snapshots.

So I dug into photography with everything I had, determined that my kids were going to have awesome pictures of their childhood to share with their posterity.

It took me awhile to learn how to take good photos, and I loved every step of the way.

But I wish I had known these simple photography tips earlier in my journey.

Maybe those pre-marriage photos would have been a lot better.

So whether you are looking to become a professional photographer or you just want to have good pictures of your kids, these tips will help you move forward in your photography journey.

photographer holding a camera

14 Simple Photography Tips for Beginners

1. Stay steady

A steady hand leads to better photos. If that means you need to lean against something or use a tripod, do it. You won’t get clear, crisp photos if you have camera shake.

I discuss holding a camera and keeping yourself steady in this post —> 10 Steps to Manual Mode: Holding Your Camera

I can’t tell you how many photos I see on Facebook where I think, “if they had just slowed down and held the phone steady, that photo would be so much better.” This is a super easy fix and will make a big difference in your photos.

2. Get the eyes in focus

“The eyes are the gateway to the soul.” How many times have we heard that statement?

When taking a picture of someone’s face, it is very important to get their eyes in focus.

Even if the composition and the lighting are great, if the eyes aren’t in sharp focus, the photo will seem off.

If you are using a DSLR, put your focus point on the eyes and shoot straight on so that both eyes are in focus.

little boy with big blue eyes

3. Clear distractions

Sometimes we are so busy thinking about camera settings, composure, etc that we forget to check for distractions in our photos.

Look, I get it. When you are first starting out, there are many different things you have to think about to make a good photo.

But clearing distractions while you are taking the photo is so much easier than trying to edit things out later.

So before you push the shutter button, look around the background of your photo first. Do you have a tree sticking out of someone’s head or dirty clothes laying on the floor?

If you do, move your subject or move the items that are distracting from your vision of the photo. This one step will save you time and heartache later, I promise.

4. Get in closer

I love a good close up shot, whether it is of my child lost in thought over something or a pet or any other subject.

By getting in closer, you increase focus on what you are really trying to portray in the photo.

Some of my favorite photos of my children are when I got in close to capture their little hands or them holding their favorite toy. These photos capture emotion and tell the story more often than a wide, sweeping shot with lots of things to look at.

So get in close and make the focal point crystal clear in your pictures.

5. Find the best light available

Not all light is equal and the brightest light isn’t always the best.

If you are outdoors, try to find some open shade or shoot on a cloudy day. This will help your light be more even and help you avoid dark shadows on your subject.

If you are indoors, try different rooms and windows in your house to see which ones have the best light. Also know that this will change throughout the day. So the morning light might be better in the kitchen, but the afternoon light might be better through your living room sliding glass door.

Photography is all about light, so the better quality light you have the better chance you have of getting a beautiful picture.

For instructions on how to do this, read this blog post —> Finding the Light in Your House for the Best Indoor Photos.

6. Rule of thirds

When people start taking photos, they have a tendency to want to put their subject right smack in the middle of the picture. This is normal, but isn’t very appealing to the eye.

There are many ways to add interest to your photos through composition, and the rule of thirds is the most popular.

The rule of thirds helps you break up your photo into nine equal squares. You want to put your subject in the intersection of these lines to make it off center.

This composition trick makes the photo more interesting and helps your eye flow through the photo.

To see some other tips for composition, check out this post —> 13 Composition Rules to Improve Your Photography

looking up in the forest

7. Get a different perspective

When we first start taking pictures, we are very inclined to take photos from a standing, head on position. This works for some photos just fine, but this viewpoint can get old after awhile.

To switch up your photos, think about taking them from a different perspective.

Some popular perspectives to use:

  • From above
  • From below
  • Thru another object
  • Wide angle
  • Super close up (macro)

Try out a new perspective and you will be surprised how quickly it can bring your photos to life!

8. Practice background blur

Many people want to learn how to get background blur in their portrait shots, like the professionals do.

This blur is called bokeh and it is achieved by using a small aperture in manual mode.

My Apple iPhone also has a portrait setting that will give this effect, although not as authentic as in your DSLR.

In order to achieve this effect, you can shoot in manual or aperture priority mode on your DSLR and set it to a smaller number (anywhere under 6 should do the trick).

Also, the farther away your subject (person) is away from the background, the more bokeh (background blur) you will get.

So instead of having them stand right up against a wall, have them step away from it for a more blurry background.

chipmunk in motion

9. Don’t cut off body parts

This (and the next point) is one of my pet peeves. If you are taking a photo of a whole person or animal, don’t cut off fingers or toes (or other parts) when taking the photo.

Of course, you can crop in close and just get the head or upper torso. But it is very distracting to have a photo of a person where you can see everything but one foot or an elbow or something.

If you are trying to shoot a whole person (or animal), step back far enough to get the whole thing without chopping off bits and pieces.

cadillac ranch, Amarillo, TX

10. Keep things level

My other pet peeve (see above) is when a photo isn’t level. I know that it can be a trend to take crooked photos.

If you are taking a selfie, that’s one thing. No one expects a selfie to be professional. The crookedness is part of the charm.

But if you are taking a photo where you can see the horizon line, please make it straight.

If you are taking a photo of someone against a wall, please make the wall straight. It looks really strange when the wall looks like it is leaning on the person instead of the other way around.

11. Golden hour

Light can be a tricky thing, especially when you are first starting out.

If you are wanting to shoot photos outside, the most “magical” time of day is golden hour.

Golden hour usually refers to the time just before the sun goes down in the evening.

At this time, the light is soft and often has a golden appearance to it.

This makes you photos look amazing and many professional photographers use this time to do family photo shoots.

rustic cabin at dusk

12. Open shade

I discussed this some in #5, but I wanted to discuss it more.

Open shade is when you have something covering your subject’s head (like a large tree or porch) but you still get lots of light from the sides.

You want to find open shade when the sun is really bright outside and making hard shadows on your subject.

Just make sure that if you are under a tree, you are getting even shade, not speckled shade. It will be very hard to edit later if you have bright spots on your subject from light peeking in through the leaves. This is especially bad on a subject’s face.

By finding the open shade, you can soften the light and make the photo more evenly lit.

13. Catch the laugh after the pose

Posing people can be difficult and often people look too rehearsed or forced when posing.

Some of the best pictures you can get are the ones you take right after they break the pose.

So no matter what pose or face they are trying to make for the picture, keep taking photos a few seconds after the initial photo is done.

This is where you get the real laugh or face you are looking for, when they think you are finished taking the pictures.

And these can be priceless.

14. Keep shooting

The best thing you can do for your photography is to keep shooting.

Practice makes perfect, so keep practicing wherever you are.

As you practice, you will start to get a rhythm to your photography. You will start to understand the settings on your camera more and they will start to become second nature.

As you shoot more, you will find your style and vision. So just keep shooting.

Actions Steps:

  1. Read thru these tips and choose a few to implement into your photography workflow.
  2. Be aware of what you are shooting in camera so you don’t have to overly edit your photos.
  3. Keep trying, shooting and critiquing your photos so you can continue to get better.

Photography is something that takes a long time to master. It truly is a journey and the more your practice, the more you will change and grow.

I hope these tips will help you move forward and improve your photography. You can do this!

photography tips pin

What tips would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share. Thanks!

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