Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Photography Advice To A Beginner

I had mentioned in my last post that I was recently on a trip photographing in West Virginia’s Blackwater Falls State Park when a young woman came up to me asking for photography advice. More specifically, she said “I’m just a beginner in photography and, well, you look like you know what you’re doing and so I was wondering if you could give me some tips.”

I thought that was a rather open ended question and I recognized that here was the possibility of either really helping someone learn to experience the joy of photography, while perhaps also helping the public relations image of more experienced photographers, vs the option of being a real jerk. And I give the woman credit for exposing herself to the latter possibility, however, I chose the first response type :)

So I gave her three ‘tips’, and we spent about twenty minutes by our cars talking about them and she left, I hope, with some ideas as to how to embark upon ‘more serious’ photography. Here are the tips I gave her.

  • I explained to her the very basics of understanding and using her camera’s histogram - I asked her if she used her histogram and she responded that she knew it was there but wasn’t sure what it meant or how it was used and that instead she was using the camera’s LCD to assess her exposure. She pulled up an image of a deer she had shot alongside the road. It actually was very nice in terms of composition and then we pulled up the image histogram on the LCD. All the data was there, though shifted to the left quite a bit. But this gave us a good example of histogram shapes (clipping or not) and captured data. I did explain to her that despite the fact that the image looked good on the LCD it was actually underexposed……but that given that the data was all there it could be ‘fixed’ in processing.

  • I suggested she use a tripod for landscapes in order to slow down and better compose as well as to be able to use longer shutter speeds - She said that she actually did have one in her truck, but that she hadn’t been using it much. I explained that there are definitely instances where it isn’t necessary, or frankly detrimental, but that in some instances it is essentially obligatory (think silky water with long shutter speeds).

  • I suggested that she experiment and be willing to try out all sorts of new things and to get creative with ideas in the sense of ‘I wonder what that might look like if’….. - I actually showed her the image from my last post that was created using intentional camera movement and she was fascinated, having never seen that kind of image before. I told her she should just be willing to try anything she thinks might be interesting, after all it’s digital and there’s no cost (though I don’t think she was old enough to remember having to spend money on film, get it developed, and wait several days to see the result). Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember that :0

I believe that she left happy to have received some help and she thanked me. Knowing that this was to be a brief parking lot type conversation, I’m curious as to what other ‘tips’ you might have offered to a beginner?