Learn to take pictures for beginners, Lesson 1: Your first 10,000 photos are the worst, you can throw them in the trash.
Too hard? Possible, but that is what Henri Cartier-Bresson said. Supposedly. Many blame this photography quote on Helmut Newton. No matter who said it first, I think every photographer who arrives at 100,000 photos made enough mistakes to come to exactly the same conclusion. In any case, I am counting myself 🙂
But what exactly is a “mistake” in photography?
Is there anything like that?
Yes. But they may be different than you think now.
We all had no idea about photography at some point, except that it excites us to have a clue and to get really good. This motivation and this enormous energy boost are usually also the main reason why one survives the beginning time and does not give up immediately frustrated and demotivated.
I think that if you know the biggest photography mistakes at least from the beginning and pay attention not to fall into these traps, then you save a lot of nervous time and you have longer and more energy left for the learning process.
That’s why I would like to list here the 7 most painful mistakes that can be made in photography at the beginning. And of course also ways to avoid them and learn to take pictures to make it much more effective for beginners.
1 Learn to take pictures for beginners Fundamental: Take your time and defeat the sweat of fear
Of course, when you learn new things, you want to be fast, you want to take pictures tomorrow better than today and you want to feel good about it. Admitting series of mistakes, starting from scratch and taking time for each camera setting doesn’t feel very good at the beginning.
“What do the others think when I turn around on my camera forever, I look like a beginner”.
Yes, and that’s ok, why not.
Better to spend a few seconds or even minutes more with it, but calm and concentrated when good pictures are at the end, than fast, hectic and with a sweat film on the forehead fiddle around the camera and not get a good result.
Learning to take pictures for beginners is a marathon, not a sprint. So take the time to learn the basics and really understand them and then, just as importantly, take the time to apply them to each image.
Quickly you will become alone with time!
And please don’t be afraid of “mistakes”. Always be aware that you are not a pilot or a doctor, there are no human lives in your hands. When a photo gets bad, nothing happens except that you get an opportunity to learn something from it.
A very simple saying helps to slow down something and not to rush – “Learning to take pictures takes time. If you don’t want to take them, you can snap”.
A great exercise that will take you further as a beginner, By the way, I have summarized in this article. Again, it’s all about basics, though not technical (but much more exciting)
2 The most expensive mistake: Investing too much money in technology
Also of course, we love photography because of the beautiful pictures, but it is the great cameras that supposedly promise us that better, more beautiful photos will automatically come out of it. Decades of marketing have taught us this way.
But it’s not true.
Quite the opposite.
Photographing for beginners is a bit like motorsport.
Cameras are like racing cars. A Formula 1 car does not have any of these cozy and pleasant functions that make driving easy and enjoyable for you. On the contrary. To be able to control a Formula 1 car at high speed you need experience, skill, knowledge, need to be fit, etc.
It’s similar with high-end cameras. The more professional league the camera, the more the one who operates it must be able to. No high-end camera will be photographing for you, no matter how much you suspected it because of the huge price.
So start with what you already have, or a cheap Spieglreflex camera for beginners or mirrorless camera.
First focus on the basics of technology, on your own eye, your perception, on all the other innumerable areas of photography. In short – learn to take pictures, don’t learn what equipment there is and hope that it will do it for you.
Expensive equipment is only required much later if you are really “underwhelmed” with your equipment. A good photographer can satisfy his customers with a cheap camera. A bad photographer can’t take good photos from the most expensive camera.
What is the minimum you need to get started?
Everything that take photos these days works. And at least you have a smartphone with a camera with you all the time. Photographing for beginners also works with it.
You can take care of the most important element in photography: your eye, your perception and attention.
Much more important than the camera.
If you want to buy a new camera – Before you put too much money into a new camera, imagine these questions that I put together here to find out which camera could suit you at all. Maybe you don’t have to invest that much.
3 Stop zooming, movement is required!
Of course, a zoom on the lens is handy. If the image cutout doesn’t quite fit, you can easily help yourself by simply turning on it and changing the cutout.
Zoom makes sense.
But if we are talking about learn to take pictures for beginners, I would recommend to do without it specifically.
Actually, the zoom should only be used to work specifically with a different focal length. A wide-angle photo looks different from one with a telephoto lens. Shorter focal lengths create more intimacy in portraits, longer distances. Longer focal lengths also create more depth blur, etc… And there are a lot of different rules for that than just image snippets.
After that, you should use the zoom. Not out of convenience.
If you just want to change the neckline, you’d better go. That’s why I always recommend to buy a fixed focal length (e.g. 50mm) in my workshops and courses at the beginning. This simply forces you to move, which brings new perspectives to the fore. This not only keeps you fit, but also your photos more vivid and varied.
And don’t worry too much about what focal length might be the right one. I allow myself to tell you – if it is completely unclear to you which focal length you want to use, everything between 24mm and 80mm focal length will be good for the start.
50mm lenses are usually quite cheap despite good light intensity. Or just take what you already have. The main thing is you’re going.
4 Photographing for beginners: Get out of automatic mode
I don’t really need a whole paragraph here anymore. The auto mode is already the error itself. The easiest way would be to abolish it. Of course, this is not possible. And you find me far too strict now. I know that. But what can I say, the automatic mode is not something that makes photography easier for beginners.
On the contrary, it actually makes it even more difficult.
If you only want to develop photography in the slightest (that you only read this article is enough) you should banish the automatic mode immediately.
It promises you to do everything yourself and get the best possible result out of the camera. However, this will only happen in very few cases and only by chance.
The camera can’t take your decisions away from you.
She always tries to calculate a middle way in some way and it rarely fits. Learn how to use aperture, ISO and exposure time and leave the automatic mode behind you before you haven’t, nothing you can learn about photography will ever really take you forward.
(Because there seems to be ambiguity – automatic mode is not the same as partial automatic. AV/TV/S etc. are perfectly fine because you leave a part – aperture or exposure time – to the camera and do a part yourself. I am talking here exclusively about the fully automatic or program automatic)
Incidentally, the same applies to autofocus automatics. Autofocus is ok, you push the trigger half through and let the camera sharpen. But choose the focus point WHERE to sharpen the camera should always be manual, never automatically. The camera doesn’t know exactly what you want sharp, you have to decide that on your own.
Does it sometimes take longer? Yes, back to point 1 – take your time!
5 Flash on or in the camera
I would like to have a euro for every scene I have observed when tourists have photographed a building or even a mountain and flashed from full pipes with their compact camera. It’s like trying to water the garden with a straw.
It just doesn’t work. No matter how hard you work.
And even if you don’t count yourself among these extreme cases, sooner or later we all had this moment where we tried to make a good picture with the internal flash of the camera (or at best with a plugged in). But that won’t work. Internal flashes are “emergency lamps”. With them you can make something bright that was previously dark. If it’s close enough. Finished. Really good flashed photos can only be obtained if you deal with this topic.
But if you are still at the very beginning, I would advise you to completely ignore the flash for the time being and first learn how to use the camera correctly. Later you can learn the subject of flashes and you will see that you will do it much easier!
6 Post-processing? Certainly not, that has to come from the camera.
Why learn to take pictures when we then “cheat” in the editing. Right?
A terrible misunderstanding in digital photography and especially when we talk about photography for beginners. I don’t know who started it, but you hear the internet roaring over and over again, that a good photographer doesn’t rework, but takes the good photo directly in the camera.
It is difficult to bring this to a true level. Because yes, of course a good photographer does as much as possible already in the camera. Let him think about the composition of the image beforehand, instead of cropping it afterwards. He first thinks about the colors that are in the picture and what information is in there, instead of retouching afterwards or repairing for hours. Above all, a good photographer knows how to deal with light, because there isnot really much repair in the processing.
Nevertheless, a certain amount of elaboration is needed. Later on, the laboratory was reworked, i.e. some areas in the picture were lightened or darkened, given more or less presence in the photo, etc. It is simply a big mistake, which results from half-knowledge that “everything used to be better, because nobody worked there”. That is simply not true. Photography error deluxe.
It has always been edited. Also analog. Dealing with Lightroom and incorporateing a little editing into the image is not only allowed, it is necessary. This type of editing has always been a part of photography. What comes out of the camera is just a raw image, like the negative, which just isn’t finished yet.
7 Too much in the picture
Yes, of course, what is “too much”.
At this point, let’s take a moment – there’s no denying about tastes. I just want to build you a kind of “scaffold” that you can orientate yourself on when the frustration grows and the pictures don’t get better. Never forget – rules are always there to break. Just to break them properly, you have to know them first.
As already mentioned in point 6, a good photographer thinks beforehand about what comes into the picture and what does not. A classic mistake for beginners is the “crowded” photo. If you have a lot of information in an image, there are too many people, too much distraction in the background, etc. in the image, then the viewer’s gaze is not clearly directed to a main motif.
The less in the image, the clearer the attention, the better the viewer perceives the photo. Less is actually more in this case. Later on you can bring content into the picture after the series and you will then also learn that with the “big old masters” even if there was a lot in the picture, not a single part happened to be there, but exactly planned and intended.
I hope this article gives you some pushes in the right direction to learn to take pictures and you are making great progress with it 😉