Some of the most common questions I get from my blog readers and friends who are just starting to photograph is “How do I take great pictures with what I already have?”. Since mirrorless cameras and DSLRs have become cheaper, and people began to buy advanced “entry-level” camera models, there has been an increase in interest in photography. The problem that everyone faces at some point is that professional photographers often show their equipment to create great images. It all comes down to how serious someone is about photography and their budget. Some people buy expensive gear thinking that it will improve their photography. Others keep their DSLRs and mirrorless cameras for “point and shoot” purposes, realizing they can’t do better with what they have.
You can read my article about how to purchase a DSLR camera if you don’t have one yet. Also see Mirrorless vs DSLR.
My DSLR Purchase Guide emphasized that you don’t need expensive equipment to create great-looking images. When I tell people that their first DSLR camera is going to be their best investment, they should know that an entry-level DSLR will get them 90% of the way. Professional equipment will always be faster and better than entry-level equipment, which is why it’s called “professional”. Some entry-level cameras, such as the Nikon D5600, are close to professional cameras like D500, and some even surpass them in terms of image quality.
Professional gear is distinguished by a variety of advanced features. This goes beyond the camera’s sensor quality. Compared to entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless, professional cameras typically have the most options, have more durable shutters and faster frame rates, can handle abnormal temperatures/humidity, have faster processing speed, better auto-focus, and so on. The “top of the line” professional gear, such as the Nikon D850/Z7/D5, has lower noise levels, better dynamic range, and higher image quality. This is due to a larger full frame sensor. All entry-level DSLRs/mirrorless cameras today have “crop factor” sensors. The Nikon entry-level DSLRs feature a 1.5x crop factor while Canon’s entry-level DSLRs boast a 1.6x. I won’t get into the details of “crop factor”, but you can read this article.
Forget about sensor types, crop factors and other technical stuff. Ask yourself this question: Who would paint a better painting? A great artist with a poor brush, or a beginner with the best brush on the planet. It is clear that a camera is only a tool in the photographer’s toolbox. Give that same brush to a great artist, and he’ll create even more amazing paintings. Professional photographers invest in the best equipment because they know how it works.
This article isn’t about camera gear. Let’s get on with the business of using what we have and how to take great pictures.
Although it might seem awkward, how great is your camera if you forget to take it with you? It has cost me so much to forget my camera and I have missed many wonderful photo opportunities. You might be able to capture those unique moments once in a lifetime, no matter how silly or extraordinary.
As simple as it sounds, the more you take photos, the more you will learn. Photograph every opportunity you have to capture images. You will learn how to use your camera under different lighting conditions, and what works. You will also learn from your mistakes and start to research online, read books, magazines, and forums to find solutions to your problems. You will eventually learn from your mistakes, and you will be able to use your gear efficiently.
Photography wildlife can be very costly and risky. You can check out your local animal sanctuary or zoo if you don’t have a long-telephoto lens. They may offer great opportunities for photos. Because fences and other man-made obstacles are less noticeable in large zoos, they are ideal for photographing. It is possible to get very close to many animals and capture amazing moments.
For macro/close-up photography, botanic gardens are great. It’s easy to experiment with butterflies, flowers, and other insects at various times of the day. You can also take beautiful photos. Everyone loves butterflies and flowers!
You can search online for local photography clubs and most likely you will find several. Many clubs have either no monthly fees or are free. You will not only learn from other photographers but you will also have access to valuable information about local events worth attending and photographing. Ask advanced photographers to help you with any of their tasks. You will be amazed at how helpful and friendly many photographers are. And you’ll learn a lot about them.
A workshop is a great way to learn photography if you have the money. Workshops are affordable at $20-50 for large sessions in an auditorium, but can cost several thousand dollars if you’re in a small group led by a professional photographer. Workshops are great for people who want to quickly learn from pros. Although I’ve never been to a workshop, I didn’t mind spending more time reading articles and learning from other photographers. But if you want your learning process to be faster, then find the workshop that best suits your needs and take it.
You should experiment with angles if you’re still taking photos standing straight up, at eye level. To get a new perspective, try getting down on your knees and even laying on the ground. Photographing animals and people can be a challenge, so it is worth trying to get low.
You might also want to read my article about taking sharp photos and avoiding blurry images. Blurred or soft images can make it difficult to see the point. This article will help you if you are having trouble creating sharp photos.
You should check out my article about how to use a circular Polarizer. Although this is contrary to what I said about shooting with what you have, I believe a polarizer should be in every photographer’s kit bag. I recommend it highly, especially for landscape photography.
I highly recommend purchasing a tripod if you don’t already have one. Why? A tripod opens up new possibilities for low-light photography. You can play with the lighting at night to capture beautiful images of objects that come to life at night. You can take sharp photos of stationary subjects with a tripod and blur out moving subjects to create dynamic and interesting photographs.
A tripod can be used to photograph lightning or the moon. You can also engage in night painting using a flashlight and photograph fireworks and sunsets.
A tripod allows you to use low ISO levels for the best image quality and least amount of noise. Small apertures, such as f/16, can be used to achieve a higher depth of field and HDR (high dynamic range), images.
Direct sunlight can cast shadows on faces and other objects, which can lead to poor photographs. It’s best to photograph in the mornings or late afternoons, when the light is soft and beautiful. There are many sunrise and sunset times throughout the year. You can search for your city by simply typing “sunrise/sunset times” into Google. Landscape photography requires that you are at the scene just before sunrise or sunset to capture the best light. Portrait photography is best done two hours after sunrise and two hour before sunset. You must also consider the weather conditions. Because clouds can soften the light and diffuse it, I love photographing portraits with thin clouds. However, it can be difficult to capture fast-moving subjects if the sky is covered with thick/stormy clouds.
It is time to switch to RAW if you still use JPEG to save your photos. Every DSLR can record images in RAW format. Don’t forget to set it to RAW. Raw images are called raw for a reason. They are unprocessed images with more colors than JPEG. RAW offers a lot of flexibility and is more suitable for printing, as you can easily convert it into any color space that you want. Although RAW is more space-intensive than JPEG (which isn’t a problem nowadays), memory is very cheap. A large hard drive with a lot of storage can be purchased for under $100. You would also need many pictures to fill it up so storage on your computer is no problem. There is no reason to shoot RAW, other than this.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is highly recommended if you’re still manually saving your photos on your hard drive in different folders. Before using Lightroom, I processed all my photos in Adobe Photoshop + Camera Raw. This was not only cumbersome and time-consuming, but also left my files scattered and unorganized. It made a big difference in how I store, process, and organize my photos. Lightroom integrates every feature of Camera Raw into the Develop module so that you don’t miss anything. Yes, there are many imaging suites available but none that compare to Lightroom.
You can’t expect to take great photos if you just sit at home. You can find local, state and national parks close to your home. Landscape photography requires you to be able to see what works and what doesn’t. A still lake can be used to create a mirror image. This is possible because the reflections of the trees, clouds and other objects on the lake make the scene look stunning. If you are lucky enough to find a small still lake, you should try to visit it at sunrise or sunset several times to see what you can capture. A tripod may be needed to take good pictures. If you are interested in portrait photography, take a drive and look for locations that would make a good background. Portrait photography is great because a background can be found easily. You just need something interesting like an old building or a painted fence. You’ll soon find great spots around you if you use your imagination. Travel is a great option if you have the means to do so. Also, as I’ve already mentioned, you should always bring your camera along!