If you’re asking how can I improve my photography skills? then you are definitely in the right place.

We’ve gathered up our very best photography tips for beginners, with useful insights that can help anyone learn how to take better, more effective pictures. From portrait photography tips to food photography tips (and everything in between), here 25 essential pieces of advice to get you started.  

New York street photography by Skillshare student CJ Treasure.
New York street photography by Skillshare student CJ Treasure. 

25 Photography Tips to Level Up Your Skills

Thanks to smartphones, many of us now have the ability to take amazing, professional-looking images. How we do it though starts with an understanding of the basics of photography, including composition and lighting. With that in mind, here are 25 photography tips for beginners that will have you feeling like a pro in no time.

1. Know Your Equipment

Whether you use an iPhone or the best digital camera on the market, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with your camera and its features. The same goes for any additional pieces of equipment you use, such as lenses and light meters. The more you know, the better control you’ll have over the finished product.

2. Use the Elements of Composition

There are three basic elements of composition, known as the exposure triangle or trifecta: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Study up on the topic (or take a class on it) to learn why some photos work while some photos don’t.

3. Always Choose a Focal Point

The eye naturally seeks out a focal point in any image. This is the one element that stands out the most and that conveys the primary message or emotion of your work. Consider your focal point before you shoot, and use elements like light, shadow, and focus to bring it to the forefront.

boat sails along Lake
A boat sails along Lake Louise in Banff National Park, shot by Skillshare student Genevieve Hathaway.

4. Mind the Rule of Thirds

The “rule of thirds” is the idea that all images can be divided into nine equal squares using two horizontal and two vertical lines, and that the main element(s) of the photo should be situated at the intersection of one or more of these lines. This is especially useful for landscape photography.

5. Use Flash Sparingly

Even the best camera for photography isn’t going to produce stunning photos if you overuse flash. While flash does have its uses (such as when you need to eliminate shadows), most of the time you’re better off increasing your ISO and optimizing light saturation during edits.

6. Use Wide Aperture for Portraits

One of the most important portrait photography tips: stick to wide aperture to make your subject the main focus. Wide aperture keeps your subject sharp while blurring the other elements in the frame. The wider the aperture, the more pronounced this difference will be.

a cat
A cat takes the frame in this image by Skillshare student Alex P. 

7. Focus, Then Frame

You don’t want to frame your perfect shot only to find you still need to fiddle around with focus. Always nail down your camera’s focus first and then frame so you don’t have to worry about otherwise beautiful photos coming out blurry and unusable.

8. Match Your Shutter Speed to Your Lens Length

Every lens length has its shutter speed pairing. Matching them up ensures that your photos come out as sharply as possible, and can be accomplished using the simple rule that you want the shutter speed to be about double the lens focal length.

9. Play Around with Sun and Shadow

Light and dark are a photographer’s friends, and can be used in myriad ways to create interesting effects. It’s the secret to a lot of the best still life and food photography tips, especially when it comes to achieving impressive moody food pics.

Skillshare student Rifa A. illustrates the use of light and dark in food photography. 

10. Always Find Your Best Angle

Optimal perspective doesn’t always come from where you expect it to. It’s worth taking photographs of the same subject from multiple angles, as well as approaching familiar objects from totally unexpected perspectives in search of that wow shot.

11. Seek Out Patterns

Patterns can be found in lots of unexpected places, and they always make for super cool images. Seek them out or create your own for photographs that are visually balanced and intriguing.

12. Make Use of Negative Space

You always want some breathing room in your frame, which can be achieved through both composition and tricks of focus. When in doubt, aim for at least 30% of your image to be made up of negative space.

photo by Skillshare student David Nascimento
In this photo by Skillshare student David Nascimento what’s not there is just as important as what is. 

13. Let There Be (Natural) Light

If you’re looking for real estate photography tips, here’s one you won’t want to skip: natural light is always going to be preferable to artificial light, and it can make a huge difference in the overall quality of your shot.

14. Reduce Camera Shake

You need a steady hand to achieve a steady image. To make it happen, practice proper camera holding techniques (such as using one hand on the body and one hand on the lens), and get familiar with using a tripod.

15. Shoot in RAW

Don’t spend money on the best digital camera if you’re not going to use its best features. This includes RAW shooting, which, unlike JPEG, doesn’t compress an image before saving it. You’ll use more memory, but you’ll also end up with more dynamic results.

“Cold Nights,” by Skillshare student Colin Swift.
“Cold Nights,” by Skillshare student Colin Swift. 

16. Bring an Extra Set of Batteries

Have an extra set of batteries or rechargeable batteries in your photography kit. It’s a bummer to run out mid-shoot or right when the ideal conditions hit.

17. Shoot With Intention

Take some time to observe your subject before you start photographing. Not only will it better inform your concept, it may also clue you in on an interesting angle or element.

18. Use Props

Another of the top real estate photography tips (but that also applies to food, portrait, product, and other types of commercial photos) is to introduce props to the scene. These can bring some much needed balance to the frame.

rings still life
Props add more visual interest to this product shot by Skillshare student Monica Diaz. 

19. Adjust Your Exposure Level

Exposure refers to the brightness of your image. If you go too light or too dark you’ll lose important details, so adjust exposure prior to shooting to find that perfect balance.

20. Don’t Rush

Mistakes happen when you don’t take your time, including blurry, improperly saturated, or simply boring shots. Slow down before and during your shoot and you should end up with a lot more workable images.

21. Learn Basic Photo Editing

How you edit matters. Take a course in photo editing so that you can pick up the basic—and not-so-basic—techniques necessary for post-shoot success.

edited photo of a dock
An expertly edited photo by Skillshare student Manu Szy. 

22. Experiment with New Subjects

Open your mind to new ideas and methods by straying from the usual once in a while. If you normally stick to landscapes, try out portrait photography; or swap out food for flowers. You might learn something new about best practices, or about your interests as a photographer.

23. Be Selective

Not all images are equal. Look at your work with a discerning eye, and over time separating out the amazing shots from the just okay ones will become easier and more automatic.

24. Keep Portrait Backgrounds Simple

For beautiful portrait photography, it’s the eyes, and not the background, that need to take center stage. You don’t need to only stick to white screens, but simplify your portrait background as much as possible to keep the focus where it should be.

 portrait photography
Skillshare student Nabe’s portrait photography puts the focus on the subject for a more impactful piece. 

25. Add Depth

Last but not least is to add depth for more compelling photographs. This is especially true for wide angle shots, but even close-ups can benefit from having distinct foregrounds and backgrounds for more texture and balance.

Turn the Lens on Yourself

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Written By

Laura Mueller

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