Digital Photography Techniques for Beginners

Digital Photography Techniques For Beginners

 Photo copyright by Amy Renfrey.

There are many ways to learn how to use your camera, but do these things make you a better photographer? The answer to that is “it depends”. You see, the camera is simply a tool to create artistic images. It depends on how that tool is used that determines the best and most stunning images.

Basic Digital Photography Techniques

To get stunning images we first need to look at some basic photography techniques. The first one I can share with you is learn about light. When you learn about light and how it interacts with the immediate environment then your photos will get better.

Examine shape and form- Composition is next. Always look at the lines and shapes of the things you are photographing. Do they create a symmetrical photo that is pleasing to the eye? One way to master the techniques associated with shooting good composition is to see where these objects lead our eye. Always look for balance and simplicity in all how you photograph.

Practice by shooting simple things that have nice straight lines, or curved lines and symmetrical patterns. Don’t have anything else in the background. A good way to get started with this artistic technique is photographing architecture. Architecture is filled with lines. Take shots of walls, lines in the walls, look at where these lines lead us and how it looks as a photo. This is great practice. This technique of looking for symmetry will greatly improve your photography, ten fold in fact.

Easy Photography Techniques

Examining light- One of the easiest techniques I know is to look and study light. Try this: each time you look at something, notice how intense the light is, what direction it is coming from, how much contrast it creates and the colour of that light. For the next week, each time you photograph something, write down what you saw and then what it looked like as a photo.

Once you have successfully mastered this technique begin photographing your lines and curves. If you begin shooting in this way you will notice that a) your technical ability increases and b) your photos begin to look artistic and a whole lot more interesting. It’s not only easy to do, but a lot of fun.

You will begin to feel like you are having a connection with light. Your understanding of light improves. As you understanding improves, so do your photos. You will begin to know what will work as a photo just by looking at the scene in front of you. It’s a beautifully confident and empowering feeling.

Better Photography Techniques

Better photography techniques come with practice. Practice takes time. Time takes commitment and a willingness to learn. One of the things that I did to help me learn was the examination of light and shape.

Another helpful thing you can do is to write down everything. Before you shoot write down notes about the light. Just stop and think before you shoot. What is the light doing? How does it make your scene appear? How does the light change the mood of your scene? Next, write down:

  • Notice the quantity of light
  • What direction it is coming from
  • How much contrast it creates
  • The colour of that light.

Then, if you are shooting in auto, write down what the internal light meter is telling you as you point the camera to that scene. Write down the shutter speed and f stop it wants to shoot at. (It will be wrong and most likely underexposed, but more about that another time.)

Now, switch your cameras mode to manual and change the settings to what the auto setting just said. It will be incorrect, so make sure you put the dial in the middle, or slightly to the right of the middle.

Next, look at the lines and shape of your photo. Where do they lead our eyes? Are there any distracting elements in the scene that you really don’t need?  Imagine that scene as a two dimensional medium and look again. Is there a person in the way? A tree that doesn’t really look like it belongs? Too many cars whizzing by that detracts from the intensity and power of the building?

Always ask yourself these things before shooting.

Digital Photography Expert Techniques

One of the best ways to become good at photography is mastering a photo editing program. Photoshop is an incredibly wonderful tool to have but it takes time to learn. It’s very complicated to the beginner so take some formal classes if you need to. You can also learn Lightroom, which is a simpler version of Photoshop. It’s easier to learn and you may not always need formal lessons.

Whichever way you decided to go, expert techniques come from not only good photography and shooting techniques but techniques in post processing. Post processing is a term given to editing, polishing and improving your photos in a software program.

There are so many incredibly impressive effects you can apply in both Photoshop and Lightroom. Darkening the edges of a photo and increasing colour and contrast are just some of the basic functions within both programs. You can also add objects that were not there before. You also have the ability to remove distracting things in the background. These programs are dynamic for wedding and portrait photography because you can add intensity to colour, create softness, make faces glow and eyes sparkle. A whole new world opens up to you once you realise what Photoshop and Lightroom are capable of, and, how much better your photos can look.

You can get lost for hours when you are post processing, so learn good techniques. The last thing you want to do is spend 1 hour shooting and 6 hours editing all your photos. The faster your post processing techniques are the better photographer you become.

On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography

The worst way to use your flash in wedding and portrait photography is front on. Firstly, people hate the flash being blasted in their eyes. Secondly, the flash is not really meant for front on use (unless it’s a special circumstance, in which case it would be turned down to its lowest intensity.)

The flash is meant for filling in shadows. Professionals usually have an external flash and point it up to the ceiling, to the side or put something over it to minimise its intense, white effects.

I never ever use flash front-on for weddings and portraits because the light is too strong. When we have light that’s intense and white on a person’s skin, we lose a lot of the finer and softer details of a persons face. It makes people look horrible in photos!

Digital Black and White Photography Techniques

Techniques for shooting in black and white are no different to shooting in colour. However, on saying that, you may want to shoot black and white subjects with the intention of creating a black and white photo. That’s ok too.

If you want some really beautiful black and white photos then try shooting scenes that have a naturally strong contrast. For example a white sign with black writing against a silver building might look really nice. A person’s face with red lipstick and strong eye make up looks great in black and white.

Photography Techniques for Beginners

Photo copyright by Amy Renfrey

Digital Photography Lighting Techniques

I have covered how to assess light and how to use the flash properly, but what about ambient light? Ambient light is the light that exists within the environment we are shooting in. Light from a window that fills a room is regarded as ambient light for example. It’s important to take note of ambient light as much as other light sources.

Ambient light is reflected light. It’s light that comes from a light source and fills the environment without a distinct direction. This is very important to take note of because it dictates how you take the photo. If you have lots of ambient light you may have light evenly spread throughout your photo. This is good. But what if that’s not the effect you want? What if you want a moody and sombre effect instead? In that case, you would try and photograph when the light is dim and there is a more intense light source at an angle. The way light is within a scene determines the way you take the photo and the mood of the photo. This is very important, do not forget this.

Canon Photography Techniques

I got asked the other cay what camera I had. I replied a “5D Mark Two”. It impressed the person I was talking too. The fact is that no matter what camera you use you will still need to get behind the techniques and master them. There is really no such thing as specific photography techniques for a Canon and a set of different techniques for a Nikon camera. It’s still photography and light is one of your main concerns.

Digital SLR Photography Techniques

You have greater opportunity to control the camera if it is a dslr. There are more controls and more ways to get the effects you want. I am not saying that it’s bad to have a compact camera. I am simply saying that you have greater control over how your images turn out. I have seen some spectacular photos come out of compact cameras because the photographer understood how to examine and work with light and composition.

The main reason I use a Dslr is because I want more control over my image making. I want to be able to adjust my focal length and have different types of lenses on the camera if I choose. I also want the opportunity for high speed photography if the occasion calls for it.

I also want a really fast shutter speed sometimes. A really fast shutter speed happens when you use a fast lens. This means the maximum aperture of the lens is pretty wide. A lot of light can come in to the lens and you have more light to work with. You can get a fast shutter speed this way.

Dslr cameras have more controls such as a high ISO, high frames per second, the ability for interchangeable lenses, the capability to have an external flash and much more. You will still be able to get lovely photos with a compact camera, but after a while you will feel restricted in what you can do.

To truly master photography it’s ideal to learn from someone who knows about it. This knowledge can save you years of mistakes and disappointments. Learn to master light, composition, your camera and you will have the basis to be an incredible photographer.

About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time.

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