18.2.14

5 Things I wish I knew when I started out in Photography


We all have something we want to become better at, and wish we were already doing really well. Whatever that is, I think there are two important things to realise:
1. Everyone who is good at something today started out not knowing anything about the subject.
2. The time will pass anyway, so why not start learning today?

Considering these two points, I always find it helpful seeing how others started out and learning from them. So, if photography is what you want to become really good at, here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Know your story
What do you want to say with your photo? What is the story you want to tell? No matter whether you’re working on an actual photo story/essay, or are just shooting some pictures for your blog - there is always a story. Your story. Make sure your photos capture the feel and atmosphere you want to convey, and communicate what you really want to say. This goes back to your brand and your values - show what you stand for in a visual way.

2. Envision the final picture
Before you start shooting it helps to get a clear picture in your head of what you want the final photos to look like. Imagine what the location feels like, what/who is there, what are your surroundings like, etc.
Having a specific idea/goal in mind will help you get there - if you don’t know what you want, then how will you get 'there'?

3. Shoot in manual
Understanding exposure is so important in order to control the outcome of your photos. Learn how to shoot in manual mode, and then practise. I promise, the more you shoot manually, the easier it gets! I've been there myself ;)

4. Understand your camera
If your usual process looks something like ‘just use the auto mode, and press the shutter. Done.’, I suggest you start getting to know your camera. Especially if you’re using a DSLR, there are so many settings that can help you achieve better results. The only way to understand and learn how to use your camera properly is by reading the instructions. I know it can be boring (you don’t have to read everything from A-Z), and not all the settings and buttons on your camera are super important, but you’ll only know what you’re missing out on if you know what you could make use of.

5. A lens is more important than the camera
This one’s a bit technical, and I’m by no means trying to encourage you to spend money on camera equipment - I know it’s expensive. But if you are thinking about investing in some new equipment, consider getting a new lens first. It makes so much more of a difference than the camera, and it will last. Just make sure you get a lens that fits new camera models as well (if in the future you want to upgrade your camera, too).
But again - a camera and a lens are just tools. It’s so much more important to tell an interesting story, and to know the visual stuff (exposure, composition, light etc.)

I hope this has been insightful, and will help you on your way to becoming a great photographer. :)
Is there anything you would add to the list, or that you feel is particularly helpful?



78 comments:

  1. This is a great list - I especially love having a vision of the final picture before you shoot something. I just found your blog and had a bit of a skim - it's great! Have followed you via Bloglovin :)

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    1. Oh, thank you Jess, I appreciate that! :)

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  2. Love this post Helena! I finally braved switching from auto last summer and I can't believe how much my pictures have improved already! Number 2 in your opening paragraph is so true ;) lulu x

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Lulu! :) Sounds great that your pictures have improved so much, that's really good to hear! x

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  3. I love this post. #2 vibes with me the most and I'm only now starting to realize the vision before taking the photos fully - but it really helps so, so much. Especially when you're posing the subject (thinking of what the mood will be - feminine, or strong? Hard or soft?).

    This quote by Ira Glass is brilliant also: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

    xo, Liz
    www.casualconcern.com

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    1. This is SO good, Liz! Thank you for sharing. I'm definitely still going through this time of not feeling like I've met my expectations and ambitions. It can be frustrating, but at the same time I believe it's good - it keeps us going, and it makes us challenge ourselves. And that's how we grow and become better - just as Ira Glass says. :) x

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  4. One more: Don't take photos using a mobile phone. An entry-level digital camera does a 200% better job. So, don't forget to carry the camera everywhere. I learned it the hard way, so will others :)

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    1. So true! Just got to get past feeling like 'it's to heavy to carry everywhere'. ;)

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    2. I wonder if this person has ever heard of Kevin Russ.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this, it's always great to learn new things, especially since my photos are can be quite dull!

    Regards,

    Miss Eliza WonDerland
    www.misselizawonderland.com

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Eliza! Always happy to share some advice :)

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  6. I've always wanted to get more out of my pictures (right now I have a point and shoot camera) and I think your blog has just given me the little push I need to get a better camera. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you, Florence! But remember, I believe you can take good pictures with most cameras. :) If you feel like it's your camera that's holding you back though (and even if it's just a question of motivation), then do think about it :) Let me know if you need any help choosing one.

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  7. I am not a professional photographer, but I do have a DSLR that I've only been using on Auto mode just because it looks hard to shoot in Manual. :( However, your tips are amazing! I'll sit down with it next weekend and try to figure out how to use it properly! :)

    www.amiciarai.com

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    1. Aw, thank you Amicia. I really hope it will be useful, and you can start using your camera more often in manual mode. :) Seriously, it's not as hard as it seems once you start to understand, and just keep practising! :)

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  8. This post was very timely for me as I STILL don't know how to use my DSLR after 5 years!!! LOL I did make it my goal for this year, and you made it sound so doable in this post. Thank you for making it seem less daunting.

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    1. Sounds like a great goal! :) Really, I believe it is SO doable - as I said in my reply just above, it's important to keep practising, and not feel intimidated by it. Good luck with it, I'm sure you can do it!

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  9. Hi Helena! I also just discovered your blog :) Got a new camera end of last year and I really wanna learn how to take great photos. When I'm back in London I might swing by at one of your photography brunches. Keep up the great work! Uli

    www.ringforahug.com

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    1. Oh, that would be great, Uli! Having a new camera is such an exciting time - just play around with it yourself and try out different things. That alone will help you to become more confident. :)

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  10. I love your work Helena. Thanks for this list. I think 'know what your story is' has been the most useful. I will try and translate this to my food photography. Also, reminding me that learning is the process to getting good and everyone needs to begin somewhere. Thank you. :)

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    1. I'm glad it's been helpful, India! I hope applying the 'story concept' to your food photography will go well - sounds like it will be super interesting, and you could come up with some really exciting and creative ideas. :)

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  11. Love this simple list and the encouragement. It's always daunting to flip the switch from auto to manual, but as you say, so worth it!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I think it's so important to encourage each other, so I'm glad this list has done just that. :)

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  12. Wow it was really fantastic. Though I am more of an occasional photographer, this little guide also suits me very well.

    Thanks for it!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your feedback! :)

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  13. A polarising filter was a revelation for me, for any photo with water, reflections, windows, etc. (And I really need to get a new one now I've upgraded to bigger lenses!)

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    1. Sounds like it's really been helpful! :) It's always great when small things can make such a big difference.

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  14. This is great, thanks so much! I've spent so long telling myself 'I'm going to become a better photographer' but then get intimidated by all my camera settings and hit auto. Today I start learning properly!

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    1. That's so great to hear, Verity. I hope your learning goes well! No need to feel intimidated, it should be fun, really! (And it's not that hard once you start to get your head around it) :)

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  15. What a great post! Love your linear and detail way of explaining the point, while emphasizing the vision one has to have in order to tell its story. I've been coping with learning photography lessons, but your tips&tricks make it easier, and it's so much more inspiring and fun than just sitting around trying to get the instructions! Thank you and keep on doing great job!

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    1. Thank you, Natali! :) I'm so glad I can make the learning more fun!

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  16. this is so much true! I am so proud of myself because of using manual settings and now I can't imagine shooting in auto, however I really need to practise, practise and practise ;) great blog, I love your photos, you have a great style and taste! Jula

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    1. Thank you so much, Jula! And congratulations on shooting in manual, that's great!

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  17. Really great and informative list. i think it is so important to sort of envision the end result like you said. Agree with that tip a lot. Also agree with picking a good lens over a good camera and knowing your story. actually ... the other two tips about knowing your camera and shooting in manual are super important too. i would say as a next step, not to be afraid of using lighting!

    rae at lovefromberlin

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    1. Not being afraid of using lighting definitely sounds like a great next step, you're so right!! Thank you for sharing, Rae. :)

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  18. I think sharing a story is the key : ). Love this post. Great advice. Thanks for taking the time to share. Love. Becky

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to read & share your thoughts, Becky! :)

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  19. I'm loving this blog and I just found it. I wonder if you could recommend a good starters camera plus lenses. I'm planning on becoming a blogging photographer on people and exteriors and I wonder if my first choice camera would be a great buy, the canon 700D? What lenses should I buy? Thanks for a great blog.

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    1. Thank you, Maxime!
      I'll definitely write a post about cameras + lenses very soon, since a few people have asked. The Canon 700D sounds like a great camera (also included in Canon's 'beginner's camera's list'. Also have a look at DP review. Regarding lenses it really depends on what you're hoping to take photos of, what your goals are, and what you're willing to spend. As I said, I'll write an article about it, so I can share more in depth ideas than what fits into a comment ;)

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  20. These are terrific tips to keep in mind…thank you! Can you suggest a good "starter" camera? Right now I just have an inexpensive point and shoot, but I would really like to upgrade. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by! As I said above, I'll definitely write an in-depth article on equipment soon. For now have a look at what Canon suggests in their beginner cameras section, and also have a look at DP Review. The Canon 450D, 550D, 600D, and 1100D could be good choices as well, some of them aren't too expensive either. :)

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  21. Very well said. I have DR camera and still haven't read the instructions. I'll follow your tips for sure.

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  22. ahh these are great tips!! we just started a blog about life in brooklyn. for those that check out our blog, do you have any photo advice? felicityleigh.wordpress.com

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    1. Thank you! Have a look at the advice section, you'll probably find some helpful tips in there. :)

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  23. I'm inspired! Not only to get to know my camera more (and read the instructions!), but to think about my vision and the story I want to capture. I'm making myself shoot manual, so your posts on exposure, aperture and ISO are very helpful, as well. Thank you for sharing your amazing talent!

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    1. Thank you so much, Michelle! I'm really glad it's helpful! :)

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  24. I enjoyed this thoroughly, thank you for taking the time to write this post. I'd love to take better photos, or should that be take photos, full stop? In any case, I'll try and persist. Good luck with your blog I enjoyed the visit.
    XOXO

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    1. Sounds great, Gracie - I think the most important thing you can do to become a better photographer is to keep taking pictures ;) x

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  25. I do need to get on that manual mode. I've tried it several times on my DSLR that I end of switching to auto again. I'll get it one day!

    http://fromheadtoheels.blogspot.com

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    1. I'm sure you will! Good luck with it!

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  26. Great points and very encouraging! Thank you!

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  27. Thank you for sharing these information and tips , You dont know how helpful this has been for me because i'm planing on getting a new camera for my blog this week and i want to educate myself more on how to use it when i do i get it. You're a genius.

    ProductsThatActuallyWork

    /

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    1. Thank you so much, Uzo! I'm planning on writing a post on cameras and lenses this week, so that might be helpful :)

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  28. Thank you, this is really helpful! I'm quite into photography, but my photos aren't the greatest! But I will keep these tips in mind next time I'm out taking photos :) I have a photography page on my blog, and I would really appreciate it if you could spend a minute checking it out. Also, if you had any tips to help me improve, I'd be so grateful, thank you.
    www.vintagesoph.blogspot.co.uk
    www.vintagesoph.blogspot.co.uk/p/photography_23.html

    soph x

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Soph. I think you're doing really well! You seem to be really good with composition :) One thing I'd say is to put up bigger images on your blog, it would make it a lot easier to see more details. Hope this helps! x

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  29. Thank you so much for the tips. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm having fun with it.

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    1. That's the most important thing really! :) I'm glad you're enjoying it.

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  30. sigh, i am the auto mode point and shoot! i know i need to learn my manual mode - i just need to start practicing with it!

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    1. You'll get there, Elizabeth. As you said, just keep practising :) Good luck with it!

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  31. This is a great list! It's so much more accurate than others I've seen. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Victoria! I really appreciate it!

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  32. Great post! Love it and very encouraging in how I should get my pictures done. It's just not in work, but even in pictures and a post, think of what you want your final product to look like before just pointing and taking a picture.
    Do you have any posts on how to use a DSLR camera? how about in night photography?
    I got a fancy lens in hopes it would encourage me to learn how to use it (and it worked!).

    http://smittensophie.com

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    1. Thank you!
      Have a look at the following post regarding DSLR camera use:
      Camera settings,
      camera modes,
      focusing and framing.
      Also have a look at understanding exposure, and understanding shutter speed, and the other two posts about aperture and ISO, to help you learn about photographing at night. I hope this helps.

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  33. Hi Helena,

    Your advice is spot on and I am sure it will help those photographers who are just starting out or who have been trapped in 'Auto' mode for tooo long.

    The sixth point I would suggest, is to learn how to use light to set the mood. Look for creative ways to use light and dark to tell your story. Practice is easy. Try taking a photo of your street in (manual mode) at 7am, 11am and 6pm. Note the change in the mood.

    Be proactive and patient too. Sometimes getting up half an hour early or waiting 5 minutes for the Sun to change can make all the difference to getting an awesome photograph! Study photographs that inspire you and try to work out how the photographer used light to get the result they did.

    Happy clicking,
    Paul :)

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    1. Thank you, Paul! This is such great advice, I totally agree with you. I always try to capture the mood and atmosphere of a place subconsciously, and different times of day make a huge difference regarding light.
      Same with being patient - it's something I never really thought about consciously, but it's so important!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  34. nice one, thanks for the heads up

    xoxo!!

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  35. Hi! I'm so glad I stumbled across this now when I'm just starting out. Lucky me, I guess :) Anyway, I do love your blog and your photography - you have such a unique and personal style. It's amazing how personal photography can be, seeing as everybody uses more or less the same gear and it's quite an exact science, after all. Or so it seems to me. Speaking of which, what equipment do you normally use? I'm guessing you get that question a lot, but I couldn't find it anywhere.

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    1. Thank you so much! I totally know what you mean - it's fascinating seeing everyone's different view of the world when the tools are the same.
      I'll have a post go up tomorrow about photography equipment, which also includes the equipment I use - I shoot with a Canon EOS 6D, and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Check out tomorrow's post for more details :)

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  36. Great post! I've recently bought a canon 600D & I'm trying so hard to get used to it! :)
    Ellie,xx
    Elephant stories and more

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    1. You sound so ambitious, Ellie - that's great to hear :) All the best with learning more about your new camera!

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  37. I love this post! I am very interested in photography, for my personal life as well as creating more appealing blog posts. I am ashamed to say I still use my iphone to take photos. Is there a camera you would suggest for someone starting out in photography? I am planning to take some classes as well, but imagine showing up with my phone as a camera won't cut it. :) Thank you!!

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    1. Thank you! A few people have asked about equipment, so I'll definitely write an in-depth article on it soon. For now have a look at what Canon suggests in their beginner cameras section, and also have a look at DP Review. Apart from that, the Canon 450D, 550D, 600D, and 1100D could be good as well, some of them aren't too expensive either. :) Hope this helps a bit for now!

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  38. Thank you for these tips! In terms of lenses, what are the top 2 or 3 lens that you would recommend for any photographer?

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    1. Have a look at today's post - I don't recommend any lenses specifically in it (although the one I own is awesome!), but share some thoughts on what makes a good lens. It depends if you're with Canon or Nikon, and how much you are willing to spend really. Definitely go for a wide and fixed aperture (e.g. starting at f/2.8). Read some review, and see what the pros and cons are. Hope this helps :)

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  39. This is great! I will be taking a trip to Morocco this summer and can't wait to capture all the amazing sites. I have a Nikon D3000 with the standard lens, but I want to upgrade with a new (no too crazily expensive lens) to make sure that I get the best pictures I possibly can. Do you have any recommendations that aren't more than $300? Thank you!

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    1. Thank you Alannah! Morocco sounds amazing, I would love to go! :) Have a look at this post regarding a lens: http://blog.helenalapetite.com/2014/02/tips-for-choosing-dslr-camera-and-lens.html#.U1-Qtq1dWsA
      I hope it helps! :)

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