Top 10 photography tips for beginners

The 10 things every budding photographer should know

I can remember looking at photography and wondering how in the world the photographer pulled it off. I drooled at the images, and was convinced that it was all about their expensive camera bodies.

Later, I learned that those camera bodies were so much less important than the photographers’ understanding of how to use their equipment — no matter the cost. That opened up a whole new world, and I committed myself to learning all I could about how to use the camera I had.

And, while over time I’ve stepped into a pro camera body (albeit one of the low-level pro models), I’ve learned what my camera can do and I’ve put that knowledge to use to produce great fine-art prints.

Here are my top 10 photography tips for budding photographers:

Louisiana swamp photography

Click the image to purchase this print!

1) Buying the best and latest equipment isn’t the most-important thing for you.

Instead, focus on your photography techniques using the camera you have on hand. Knowing how to capture great images and transfer a vision to the digital canvas is more important than having that $5,000 body. If you learn to take great images with a $500 kit package, you’ll be able to produce stunning images when you build up to those pro-model cameras and lenses.

2) Shoot, shoot, shoot and then shoot some more. And then plan your next trip to shoot even more.

Practice is the key to developing any skill, so take every opportunity to get out and shoot images. You might not notice improvement right away, but I promise there will be growth. When you look back even six months, you’re likely to see a difference. And you’ll definitely be looking at your surroundings with an eye to how you can capture great images.

3) Be your own harshest critic.

If you have to think about whether or not an image you captured is worth keeping, throw it away and focus on those images that stop you. There’s a lot of mediocrity on the web, so your goal should be to break through the crowd and grab attention.

4) Study images of great photographers

Try to determine how great images were captured. What angles did they use? How did they generate the depth of field? How did they frame a subject, and how do the backgrounds contribute/distract from the central subjects. Then incorporate that knowledge into how you approach photography.

5) Shoot with photographers who are better than you.

Group sessions have grown my skills and pushed my vision more than anything else. The biggest jump in my skill sets came while working with Texas photographers David Morefield and Tim Stanley in New Orleans.

Cafe du Monde HDR photography

Click the image to buy this print of Cafe du Monde!

6) Spend time learning photography processing techniques.

You won’t produce that “wow” factor if you don’t know how to maximize your images. Youtube is a vital tool that can significantly shorten processing time.

Hint: Investments in great software like Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop and ON1 Photo 10 are essential, if producing fine-art photography is your goal. And Adobe even offers a photographer’s subscriptioin that costs only $9.99 — can’t beat that. And On1 is a plugin that works seamlessly with Lightroom.

7) Develop your own style.

You can look at others’ work and even incorporate some of their techniques, but do so within your own style so you don’t become part of a fad. When David Morefield, Tim Stanley and I work together, we often shoot the same scenes. But I’m always amazed at how the final images are different. It might be the angle or the processing, but the same scenes always come out looking a bit different.

8) When you do buy camera equipment, focus on glass.

Camera processors have come so far that you can put off purchasing that pro-level camera, but lenses are worth every dime you invest. You’ll go much farther with a kit camera body and a pro-level lens than you will by skimping on the lens and buying a $3,000 body. So learn how your camera works, and build up a nice stock of quality lenses.

9)Get a good tripod and ballhead

You can hand-hold a lot of scenes, but if you want to be a fine-art or landscape photographer you simply have to have a really good tripod and ballhead. Notice I didn’t say you have to have an expensive tripod/ballhead combination. Sure, there are some incredibly expensive carbon-fiber tripods and ballheads that will make you look like you’re a professional, but you don’t have to mortgage your first child. I use an Induro tripod and Manfrotto ballhead that, combined, cost me less than $250. But it’s solid, and has produced amazing images.

10) Market yourself.

I’ve heard people say they don’t sell their work because they aren’t salesmen. Well, if you don’t market your work, no one else will. Your job is as much about marketing as it is about capturing intriguing images. So use every opportunity to put your work in front of people and don’t be scared to put a price on your images.

Church photography

Just click the image to purchase this beautiful print!

My marketing tools include this website (which I spend a lot of time tweaking to take advantage of the search engines), my fine-art gallery, Youtube and social media (Facebook, Twitter and Google+).

I also periodically invest in advertising on different platforms.

11) Be generous.

Yeah, I know this is supposed to be a Top 10 list, but this is important. Don’t think I mean you should hand out your work for free to everyone, but when you are getting started you can support great charities by providing prints (with your logo imprinted and business cards taped to the backs) for raffles and giveaways to help get your name out there and start some chatter about your work. I print canvas gallery wraps that don’t need framing, specifically so my business information glued to the back of the canvas won’t be covered up.

And one more piece of advice: As you learn, be willing to help other up-and-coming photographers.

Click here to browse my full gallery!

About Andy Crawford

Andy Crawford has been a photographer and writer for more than 20 years, with thousands of images and articles published in magazines and newspapers around the country. He now focuses on Louisiana photography, landscapes, HDR photography, urban prints and other fine art photography. He also is a portrait photographer.