Photography Tips For Beginners

I got a call the other day.

“Sheena, I got a new camera. Where do I start?”

SLY: Well, where do you start where? What do you mean?

“Well, if there was one Sheena tip you had for photography what would it be?”

SLY: Turn your camera on and take a picture.

 What follows are 10 Photography Tips for Beginnings.

1. Turn your camera on and take a picture.

(That would mean charging the battery, adding your SD card, taking the lens cap off, at the very basic level putting your camera on “auto” and pushing the shutter button down.) Just take one picture before you get bogged down by novels upon novels and websites upon websites of links, tips, and more. I’ve heard one too many cases of people getting their first DSLR and feeling overwhelmed, so they sit the camera down and never actually use it. Just take one picture to get it out the way. It may be out of focus. The composition may suck. Still, take one picture. Anne Lamott talks about the “Shitty First Draft” as it relates to writing in Bird by Bird. Yeah, well every budding photographer needs a “shitty first image.”

"Photography Tips for Beginners by Sheena LaShay"

2. Read your manual.

Learn what those buttons are. Before you go buy 10 books on photography and watch a million youtube tutorials on photography, PLEASE read your manual. That’s probably going to answer a shit ton of your initial questions like where the on button is, how to switch from Photo to Video, and how to attach your lens.

3. Stop shooting in “auto” mode quickly.

I’m going to assume you’ve taken the time to buy a nice, DSLR camera because you want to increase the quality of your photographs. In order to do that, you need to control how you’re taking your photos. In order to control that, you have to shoot images on something other than auto. Otherwise you could have settled for a decent point & shoot. Or even your iPhone.  Here’s a manual photography cheat sheet. There are more cheat sheets like that. Take the time and look for them.

4. Play with all the buttons.

As children, we’re taught not to push the buttons on important equipment. Throw that philosophy out the window. Play with all the buttons on your camera. You won’t break the world or shut down the security system at the Pentagon. Most DSLR’s have options to shoot with Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual, Creative Mode and a whole host of other options. Take something in your house…a vase, a book, your daughter and take a photo of said item/person with each of the buttons to see what happens. Once you’ve played with all the shooting settings. Keep the camera on “aperture priority” for instance, and then play with your “ISO” settings. First shoot the book or vase at 200, then 400, and gradually go up. Then play with your White Balance settings. Just see what happens. There are also cheat sheets for the ideal settings between shutter speed, aperture and iso settings. Just google it.

"Photography Tips for Beginners by Sheena LaShay"

5. Think about light.

After you’ve taken your shitty first image and you’ve played with the buttons, think about light. Lighting is important. It’s how we see your image. I don’t like using my flash and I don’t like florescent lights, so I go for natural light and lens that are great in low light settings. If you have a window that brings in great light, move your book or vase or daughter over by the window. What happens if the natural light is behind your subject? What happens if its shining on the side of your subject or underneath or above or in front of your subject? What if you have light coming from two directions? And then what if you move around your subject in a 360 degree angle snapping pictures along the way to see what happens.

Pause for the Cause.

Listen, some people understand the technicality of photography. Without even having an artistic eye, they understand how light works and reflectors and what distance and the speed of light reflected have to do with the sharpness and focus of a shot. Great for them. I don’t know stuff like that. And sure there are books out there that break it down like that for you. There is a science to photography but there’s also an art to it. I think fusing both is good but I love the art of it. I like to experiment and try shit, as you can see by my suggestions.

 6. Consider composition.

After you’ve played with buttons and noticed a few things about light, think about what’s actually in the frame of your photo. Yes, make sure your house isn’t junky with dirty laundry on the floor, next to the subject matter of your photo. But also think about other things too. What colors are in the background? Any personal information in the background that shouldn’t be shown? What happens if the subject is in the center of the photo or on the left hand side of the photo? There’s just lots of think about when it comes to composition. How can your subject, the space around them and your position create the most dynamic shot?

"Photography Tips for Beginners by Sheena LaShay"

7. Purchase an auto focus lens.

Most camera’s come with a starter lens, but eventually you’re going to want lens that work for what ever your photography goal is. If you’re taking pictures of mountain ranges or flowers or portraits or events, the additional lens you purchase will need to be geared towards that. Whatever lens you buy, save yourself the heartache and make sure your lens shoot on manual and autofocus. For three years I’ve been shooting on a 50mm on manual focus. I had no idea and now that my latest 50mm has both options, it has made all the difference.

8. Set an intention for your photography.

Why did you buy a nice DSLR camera? Why are you taking pictures? What message are you trying to communicate? Do you just want to take cute pictures of flowers because you like nature? Are you taking product pictures for your etsy shop? Thus you’re trying to entice people and market your business? Are you trying to capture the memory of your daughter at the park on the swing for your scrapbook? Are you a food photographer? Travel Photographer? Think about the picture you’re taking. Rather than just snapping 100 pictures in a row because you can. Think about why you’re taking that picture, what you’re trying to communicate, who your audience is and how you can best share your message with that photograph. Besides, why take 100 pictures when you can be intentional about 5 pictures? Get the shot and then move on. Who wants to edit 100 pictures from the same angle? Who wants to take up all that memory on their computer and camera?

"Photography Tips for Beginngers by Sheena LaShay"

9. Print your photos.

This is especially for people who just take pictures for fun or they want to take pictures of their family or their latest vacation. Don’t forget to actually print your photos and put them in a scrapbook or in a frame or turn them into a card or print them and put them in your journal. Don’t let your 5000 images live on your computer or just in your facebook feed.

10. Google photography tutorials or phrases for what you’re trying to do.

I’m always googling shit. Take a look at my PINTEREST BOARD for PHOTO LESSONS. Its full of links to tutorials, prompts, and ideas as it relates to photography. Make your own board too. Below you’ll find some of my favorite links.

9 Things Photographers Need to Know About Memory Cards – The few times I forget to reformat my card and I keep shooting…UGH! I hate it. Pay attention to these tips.

21 Things You Can Do Today To Change Your Photography Forever – My favorite tip is the one about looking at the best photo you’ve ever seen and deciding WHY you like the photo. This will help you as you start taking pictures. I realize I like patterns and shapes, amongst other things. So I also intentionally shoot photos that show lots of patterns. After shooting your own images for awhile as you’re experimenting, make an album of your favorite photos that you’ve taken. Then start to articulate why you like those too. This will help you develop your eye and style.

5 Tips for Lifestyle Photographers. – Elsie and her sister have lots of tips that should inspire you on everything. Check out all of their Photography Tips

"New York Sky Line"

31 Days to a Better Photo – My goal is to go through each of these.

12 Beginner Tutorials for Getting Started With Photoshop – Eventually you’re going to have to edit your images. My intention is to be so intentional about the photos that I shoot that I do not have to edit at all or that editing is down to a minimal. I don’t want to rely on photoshop. I want natural pictures with natural lighting of everyday life. I’m not a graphic artist. I capture moments as they occur. So I don’t rely too heavily on photoshop. Even still, you’ll need to know a little bit of something.

Aperture and Shutter Speed – This is important. Learn about it. Its how you get cool effects like bokeh or crazy depth of field stuff.

8 Things You Didn’t Know Your Camera Couldn’t Do. <– This is awesome.

Tips on Self Portraits – Because of course you’re going to take images of your self too.

Common Editing Photo Mistakes – Pay attention. My eyes hurt for the porcelain skin and uber blurry, “soft” effect amatuers go for when editing. Please stop over editing your photos.

Lens by Kevin and Amanda – One of many post that explain the differences between various lens.

How to Take Pictures of a Bottle – This was interesting.

Creating a Home Studio in a Small Space – See there are articles and links on everything.


Coming up, I’ll do post on my favorite photography youtube channels, my favorite photography challenges with a few of my own thrown in, my favorite photography books and possibly even a video too. Do you have any questions about photography or any questions regarding the tips that I gave? Put them below and I’ll be sure to address them. You can also google “Photography Tips” and find excellent, probably more articulate, technical, creative tips from the professionals. This is all just my opinion. Ooh, maybe I’ll also ask like five photography friends of mine to each give me their ONE SPECIAL TIP as well and that can be a blog post too. I see a new series creeping itself into existence!

Have a yummy, delicious and artistic day!

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