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Tips for Beginner Photographers

Just starting out in photography? Here are a few things I wish I knew when I first started.

Tips for Beginner Photographers

I bought my first DSLR camera in 2015 to improve my filmmaking. You can imagine my surprise when I found my new muse: photography! Whether you have a DSLR, a simple point-and-shoot, or even just a smartphone, I hope you can learn from my mistakes by reading these tips about photography!

1. Avoid harsh sunlight.

If you’re like me and you started out with portrait photography, you may have assumed that the more light, the better — and while it is good to have as much light as possible, I recommend staying out of direct sunlight. This can cause your subjects to squint, get washed out, and can even cause super harsh shadows that make editing a pain. I suggest shooting on overcast days, where the sun is hidden by clouds. If that’s not an option, then I would find a shady place, like a gazebo, or under the shade of a building. The key is to achieve soft, even lighting. Another tip: stay away from tree shade! There are little spots of sunlight that shine through the leaves, which causes a strange polka-dot effect on your subjects.

2. Learn basic editing!

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started offering photoshoots was not editing the photos. Since I've started photography, I learned editing is half the job!

Now, I'm not talking about using filters from Instagram or some random "editing" app — I'm talking about Photoshop and Lightroom. They each have their own apps if you don't have a PC, and they're a great way to learn the basics, such as lighting adjustments and color correction. It really makes all the difference for your clients!

3. Take your camera EVERYWHERE.

You never know when inspiration might strike, or when something you perceive to be boring may turn interesting. It's a great way to practice, get more familiar with your camera, and just enjoy photography!

4. Learn your camera.

If you end up purchasing a DSLR, learn the basic settings: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. I know it sounds complicated, but it's much easier than you think! Plus, if you don't think you're ready to change these settings yourself, almost all DSLRs have "auto" settings.

5. Watch YouTube videos.

If you're unsure on how to accomplish something, YouTube/the internet is your best friend! There are so many free resources out there for photographers — I highly recommend you take advantage of them. One YouTuber I'm particularly fond of is Mango Street. They teach you a wide assortment of things, including self portrait tutorials, lighting tips, posing, and even color theory! You can find them here.

6. Have Fun!

Have fun with it! Photography is more than just a hobby, or a profession. It’s an art form — if you’re not enjoying it, it just isn’t worth it! So slow down, have fun, and experiment!

I hope these tips help you on your journey to becoming a budding photographer!

Jasmine Smoot-Leyva
Jasmine Smoot-Leyva
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Jasmine Smoot-Leyva

I’m a professional photographer, filmmaker, musician, podcaster, and author based in Dallas, TX. I'm obsessed with tattoos, my two huskies, and being my own person.

See all posts by Jasmine Smoot-Leyva