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The Seven Steps to Start Great Photography

Updated on March 20, 2019
Victor Moolman profile image

10+ years of professional photography and several cameras later, I can safely give advice on this.

Just look at it with open eyes

Entering the photography world can be a daunting challenge, especially if the only thing you’ve ever used was the automatic camera on your phone. Some people want to break through the wall of professional pictures on their own; others want some help, which is why I have created this list of the seven things you should know to get the perfect shot.

Follow through to learn how some of us went from taking barely acceptable pictures to near perfect ones. Just remember that you don’t always need the best DSLR on the market to take great shots, just go visit the mobile photography awards website to see the amazing things that can be done.

1. Don’t start with the hardest

Unlike games, technology or any other challenges in your life starting with the most difficult things first won’t make it easier. This is to say, moving as fast as possible to use the manual settings on a DSLR won’t mean much in the end. From experience, the people that start there barely know what certain settings affect or why they are there.

The best place to start when you want to improve your pictures is to stick with the automatic settings. Learning how to compose a picture, which angles are the best and how natural light affects the overall look of a picture should be your first steps. Mixing in these with ISO, aperture and lens choices will just make the wall you have to break so much stronger.

When you are taking pictures on your phone you might actually not be able to change settings manually, but on DSLR camera’s you will be able to manually change everything. When you are ready to transition over to manual controls I recommend looking at the settings your camera chooses and then slightly changing them to see what effect each change has.

2. Take pictures until your memory is full.

This is something that I try to do even now. I’ve been a professional photographer for well over 10 years and every chance I get I still take backup pictures to make sure I have backups for my backups. Photography is a skill that must be built and refined; in the beginning quantity can actually beat quality.

Evidence of this is the method most wedding photographer’s use, if you’ve ever attended one you will know what I am talking about. Every wedding photographer I know takes three to five pictures of everything. This might mean that at the end of the event they have well over 3000 pictures, but they also know that almost every moment was captured.

3.Find your own standard lens, then master it

When you watch videos you will inevitably see people recommending 50mm lenses or 30mm lenses or adjustable lenses, just ignore them. If you have a phone or fixed lens camera then you should only focus (heh) on the abilities that they have, learn how to frame your pictures perfectly with these each time.

If you can change or add to the lens, I still recommend finding one (or two lenses at most) that you will use for every event or trip. The reason for this is simple, right now you are chipping away at a wall as hard as diamond, adding the stress of fixed lenses, FX lenses, or macro lenses will only soften your tools.

I would recommend using the standard lenses that most DSLR camera’s come with, these have good balances of the most basic functions and will allow you to eventually decide which lenses you want. Further, most camera shops will allow you to test lenses before you buy them or you can rent a lens to see how well it works.

4. Always remember KISS

KISS means ‘keep it simple stupid’, which applies to photography as much as anything else. Don’t go out and buy the most expensive equipment if you don’t even know which niche of photography you like. Don’t add equipment that unnecessarily complicates your experience and definitely don’t try to every cool technique you see online.

The first lines of that diamond wall will be chipped away with ease if you just have the basics; a camera, a tripod and if you’re in a studio, a flash. If you want the perfect example of this just visit Peter Mckinnon’s YouTube channel, he started with a point and shoot.

Come to think of it I started with a Kodak 5 megapixel camera with which I took sports pictures in 2008.

5. Find what you like, then get bored with it

If you ask any photographer what their first pictures were, they will start with a story that takes place in their backyards. I myself took thousands of pictures of the flowers in my garden before I got bored with that and started diverging. In the beginning you will want to take pictures of everything, which you most definitely should.

However, with each few hundred pictures you will move closer to finding something that you love taking pictures of. Once you have found the niche that you like, stick to it. Take so many pictures, in so many ways, in so many angles that they start blurring together in your memories. This will allow your skill to reach breaking point, giving you the eerie ability that professionals have of making any camera take good pictures.

6. Never accept your picture

Here’s some life advice, you should always be your harshest critic. Before we go on, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel proud or that you shouldn’t show off your work. It means that you should never accept even your award winning pictures as your best. Confusing I know, when you put five photographers in a room, all award winning and professionals, none of them will like their own stuff.

I’ve had conversations for hours with friends and clients that a specific picture does actually look good. I still see mistakes and things I could have done better with those pictures. This is what drives any photographer to always improve and to continue to go out.

Just know this, if you feel your pictures aren’t good enough, they are so much better than you think and yes, if you try again you will be able to take a better picture. That’s called growth.

7. Have fun with it

This is the last thing on the list, and it is the most important part. Photography isn’t about beating someone else, it’s not always about being the best and it most certainly is all about having fun. You should do things that you would never do, which will give you a picture never before taken.

All the best photographers will always look like they are having the times of their lives, and that’s because they really are having a grand old time.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Victor Moolman


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