Do you consider yourself a photographer? If not, why not? Nowadays, even if you don’t have a dedicated camera, you likely have a smartphone—which means you have everything you need to start taking pictures like a pro.
If you think you’re a lousy photographer, fret not! As Henri Cartier-Bresson once said, Your first 10,000 photos are your worst. And between vacation photos and selfies, you’re probably well on your way to 10,000 already. In the digital age, there are almost no barriers to taking countless photos. Along the way, be sure to study up on techniques to improve your photos. In this blog post,we’ve gathered a list of hacks that professional photographers use to create gorgeous images—hacks you can start using right now.
10 Professional Tips for Beginning Photographers
Discover how pro photographers beat the best!
1. Use natural light
Don’t have a studio? Not to worry—the world is your studio. Daylight is an amazing light source for photography lighting, especially on overcast days when there isn’t as much harsh direct sunlight. Remember, excessive light may create harsh shadows around your subject.
In the absence of natural light, photographers can use studio lights and LEDs, which is recommended if you need to take photos at all hours of the day or if your shooting location has poor lighting. Capturing photos at dawn and dusk can also make for beautiful, visually interesting images.
2. Your backdrop is as vital as the subject
A background will always do one of two things to your picture: it will either accentuate the image or detract from it. Some photos will benefit from interesting, dynamic backgrounds, while others are best kept clean and simple. Think of it like this: if you’re trying to have a deep conversation with someone, you don’t want to be in the same room as a crowd watching football. Cluttered backgrounds can have the same kind of effect when you’re composing an image. On the other hand, sometimes a lush and visually interesting background can add texture and personality to your images. It all depends on what’s important to the photo in question.
The great news is that even if you later realize you want to remove some or many elements from the background of your photos or even cut the background out completely, you may be able to use photo-editing tools to do just that.
3. Experiment with angles
Don’t shy away from crouching, lying on the floor, or climbing a ladder to find interesting and evocative angles for your photography. Utilizing different angles can help you bring a fresh perspective to your subject and highlight elements that wouldn’t be seen from a straight-on view—for example, if you’re an e-commerce retailer and want to make sure your product and marketing photos capture every detail of your products.
4. Keep it sharp
Do you find it challenging to hold your camera perfectly still? Great news—you’re just like everyone else. There’s nothing wrong with snapping photos without a tripod, but you may risk capturing blurry images if you can’t hold your hands steady. And if you want to take a set of photos where the framing and angles are consistent, a tripod is very helpful. But if you’re holding the camera yourself, there’s still plenty you can do to keep your photos sharp. Practice improving your posture and stability to make sure you’re able to hold as still as possible. And when photographing a person, focus on the model’s eyes to make sure the image is crystal clear.
5. Get the exposure right
Pro photographers put a lot of work into mastering exposure. As a new photographer, you likely don’t play too much with these settings—and in many cases, neutral exposure is a perfectly good choice. However, it’s not always the best option. For example, when taking pictures on a bright sunny day, neutral exposure will likely result in a dull subject and a loud, distracting background. Getting to know which exposure settings will serve you well in diverse lighting conditions will help train your eye to anticipate potential exposure issues that could ruin your photos.
6. Gear doesn’t really matter
You can own $10,000 dollars in fancy equipment and still take terrible photos. And that’s a great thing: it means the power to take amazing photos is in your hands, not your camera’s inner workings. Dedicated cameras can take you further and give you finer control over your photos—but in the end, all you really need to do is learn how to get creative, even if your only tool is a smartphone.
7. Proper depth of field
Depth of field is a hallmark of professional photography, especially when it involves models. Learning to adjust the depth of field properly can quickly transform your amateur photography into professional portraits.
To incorporate shallow depth of field into your photography, follow the instructions below:
- Place your model far away from the background
- Put on your longest lens
- Set the camera to aperture priority and set the aperture to as low as possible
- Step closer to the subject and let the lens focus
- Snap the photo!
Side note: if you’re using a smartphone, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to adjust the depth significantly, but you may be able to fake it; see this blog post for a thorough explanation.
8. Add shadows
This tip is especially important for photographers who are looking to take photos of products for their e-commerce stores. In product imagery, shadows add realism and a sense of dimension. They can also add drama and interest. Conversely, photographing a product against a white backdrop with no shadows makes it look like it’s hovering, which will feel unnatural to viewers. Fortunately, a few AI-powered tools exist to let you automatically add ground shadows to your photos.
9. Use leading lines
Leading lines are a compositional technique that subtly uses paths or lines that lead to the subject. Pro photographers use it because it guides the eyes of their viewers to see images exactly as intended.
10. Don’t forget about post-production!
As we’ve mentioned in the tips above, there are all kinds of tricks you can use in post-production to elevate the quality of your photos. Retouching isn’t cheating—it’s a skill unto itself, and professional photographers know that it’s essential to bringing out the best in their work. From minor changes to major revisions, retouching is a major component of pro-quality photography, whether you choose to make those changes yourself or hire an editor or automated editing service.
There’s more to professional photography than fancy equipment, and you can master the skills you need with nothing more than a smartphone. Whether you’re looking to produce product imagery for your small business, capture dazzling portraits of your pets, or launch a new photography career, the tips above will help you along the way. Photography is complex, but also simple: train your eye, learn your equipment, and eventually you’ll be snapping stunning photos without a second thought.