12 Things I Wished An Experienced Photographer Had Told Me When I First Started Photography
1. Learn about the characteristics and capabilities of your camera body and lenses.
It is important to know your gear well and how they function under different circumstances, not knowing enough about your gear would be like going to a battle without having the ‘foresight tip’ of your gun. Some examples such as the ‘sweet spot’ of different lenses and ‘exposure compensation’ of your camera body can be a deal breaker in sharpness and clarity of your picture.
2. If you need to choose between zooms and primes, always go for primes you get the results you want without burning a big hole in your pocket.
For me, prime lens allow me to get creative and at the same time learn adaptability. That being said, there are situations where zooms are a lot more useful than primes. My specialty is in portrait, event and product. Generally I use primes for all three genre adding an extra 24-70mm zoom in addition to a prime for event photography. General photography wise, primes will ignite your passion for photography a little bit better as you tend to get results not commonly found on an idiot proof camera/smartphone immediately. That being said, the smartphone cameras have improved tremendously in recent years so take what I’ve said with a pinch of salt.
3. Invest in a full frame camera immediately if you are serious about having more control in photography.
This is self-explanatory, at the same time, full frame is similar to what the range of degree your eyes actually see. When I first upgraded to a full frame, my whole perspective of what I see changed and I tend to frame my subject more accurately. – Purely just my own opinion. The most obvious benefit of getting full frame immediately is that you actually save more bucks as compared to starting out with a non-full frame body and upgrading in a year or two where you actually have to migrate your whole set of DX lens as well. (I have experienced it so you don't have to)
4. Shoot on manual, it’s the one piece of advice I can’t say enough.
I started to differentiate the difference between a good picture and a not so good picture a lot faster after I switched to manual mode. I get a lot more control and decides exactly how I want my picture to look like from the first day I started using manual mode, it didn’t take me long to figure out I could use manual mode to stretch the abilities of my gear and the artistic/creative side in me a lot more.
5. Learn to shoot in Raw and know when it is appropriate to use Jpeg as well.
This is actually pretty subjective in my opinion. I shoot mostly in raw but I do use Jpeg for photography assignments when I know that I got to deliver the finished shots fast and quick and also if I am shooting massive amount of shots without the need to do heavy editing. What I am saying here has got a lot to do with various assignments that I had received over the years, I use Jpeg more for outdoor events where there are a lot of actions going on and I need to capture a lot of shots fast and also when there are critical money shots. You may ask why, the reason being Jpeg captures faster as it is a lot smaller in size and I do not need to do heavy editing in the ~1000+ shots that I have captured for the event, I simply do not use the shot if it is not usable. There is more room for error when I shoot more at an instance for event photography while I do a lot more editing in portrait and product photography.
6. Be organised. Space management and workflow is important
I started out having a Hard Disk(HDD) and put different genre of shots into it, edited or not. This causes clutter and repeats quite often. Learn to seriously organise your pictures in different HDD and learn to create more sub-folders within genres. I place raw and edited shots in different HDD and this keeps my space management simple and easy to pull out to counter-check pictures, it speed up things I need to find, helps to organise my backlog and simplifies my communication with my clients. Workflow is utmost importance, by creating a simple workflow which works for you helps you to be organise and efficient. By workflow I mean the whole process from the time you have all your shots in the CF/SD cards to delivery of the finished photos. (To your client)
Add: A super-efficient tip I would recommend - SSDs! SSD portable drive is a life safer in travels, it transfers and stores pictures incredibly fast and it is so compact I only need to bring that for all my travels now. (Google more for it to know its capabilities in detailed explanation)
7. Move around your subject and vice versa
Walk around to get different perspective and view of your subject, the more you move the better your chances of getting a better and more creative shot. For outdoor shoots, what I actually do on location while my model prepares and get ready for the shoot is that I would walk around the area and hold my index finger up to my eye level. Some of my models have seen me doing it and they might find it weird. I was actually walking around to see how the light is falling onto my finger and the intensity of the shadow it creates. This walking around will form my basis for where the models will face and the angles which they will look at when I start the shoot.
8. Spend a lot of time learning about the characteristic of light
Direction and Temperature
Intensity & Quality
Self-explanatory, the more you learn the better you will get.
9. Spend a lot of time learning about angle.
Same as point 8.
10. If you are an outdoor shooter, know the best times to shoot.
It might be considered a cheat sheet but this really helps a lot especially when you first started and don’t have a lot of equipment to ‘over power’ the sun. My favourite times are between 7am – 10am and 5pm – 7pm SGT.
11. Invest both time and money in resources
Invest in a lot of books/magazines, watch a lot of YouTube, workshops, talks and expert sharing. I have a huge collection of magazines, ebooks and photobooks in my home, I love to purchase photobooks to learn about how different photographers get their shot. In this digital age, it is really so much easier to access knowledge and information know-hows.
12. Learn basic Photoshop/Lightroom at the very least.
Photoshop/Lightroom is essential in our era. 99% of the photos you see in the media/magazines are retouched in one way or another. When I say retouch; that includes simple lighting change, apps, filters and global modifications. That should be enough to convince you to have a try at editing techniques.
These twelve points should be a good starter for most newbies. What are some of your advice/suggestions?
P/s: I will be coming up with another set of 12 pointers for the same title but for mind-set soon, hope that will address some of the mind-set I wished I had knew when I was a newbie.