1. Hold onto your camera
This may sound obvious, but many new photographers don’t hold their camera correctly, which causes camera shakes and blurry images. Whilst tripods tend to be the best way to prevent camera shake, but they're not used in most situations. You don’t use a tripod unless you’re shooting in low-light situations, so it’s important to hold your camera properly to avoid unnecessary movement.
You'll eventually develop your own way of holding the camera, but my golden rule is that you should always hold it with both hands. Grip the right side of the camera with your right hand and place your left hand beneath the lens to support the weight of the camera. This helps to support the weight of the lense and helps to prevent camera shake and stabilizes your stance.
The closer you keep the camera to your body, the stiller you’ll be able to hold it. If you need extra stability you can lean up against a wall or crouch down on your knees, but if there’s nothing to lean on, adopting a wider stance with your feet can also help.
2. Learning the difference between RAW and JPEG camera formats
When an image is captured in a digital camera, it is recorded as raw data. If the camera format is set to JPEG (this is usually the default setting on most cameras), the raw data is processed and compressed before it is saved in the JPEG format.
RAW is a file format that captures all the image data recorded by your camera’s sensor, when you go 'click' rather than compressing it within the camera and therefore losing detail. When you shoot in RAW you’ll not only get higher quality images, but you’ll also have far more control in post-processing your image. For example, you’ll be able to correct problems like over or underexposure of your image and you'll be able to adjust things like colour temperature, white balance, and contrast.
Here's a cooking analogy: a raw file contains the ingredients to make a specific meal that you can prep however you'd like, whereas a JPEG is that meal already cooked, and there is less flexibility in how you can modify it.
One downside to shooting in RAW is that the files take up more space. Additionally, RAW photos always need some post-processing so you’ll need to invest in photo editing software.
You know I personally love and use Adobe Creative Suite in my work, so Lightroom is an easy program to start with to process your images.
The biggest plus with shooting in RAW is it can transform the quality of your images. So if you have the time and space, it’s definitely worth it. If you’re not sure how to switch from jpeg to RAW, check your camera’s manual for detailed instructions.
On my R5, it is under the Menu function - image quality - RAW setting.
3. The 3 friends of imagery
I call them the three friends of imagery because they are the three most important elements of exposure; ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. It's also known as the exposure triangle.
If you’re shooting in manual mode, these friends are who you need to get to know to help you capture a sharp, well-lit image.
ISO: ISO controls the camera’s sensitivity to light. A low ISO setting means the camera will be less sensitive to light, while a higher ISO means it will be more sensitive to light. ISO's have changed SO much over the years with technology jumping ahead. These days most ISO's under 800 are great for outside in good light and above 1000 is great in low light. I say this because my camera can now go up to 51,200. It's amazing how far we've come.
Aperture: Aperture is the opening in your lens and controls how much light gets through to the camera’s sensor. A wide aperture is great when you want to isolate your subject and have a nice blurred background which is why this is used more commonly in portrait photography. A wider aperture (indicated by a lower f-number like 2.8) lets more light through.
A narrow aperture (indicated by a higher f-number like 22) lets less light through. , but when you want the whole scene to be in focus, you’ll need to use a narrow aperture. Landscape photographs require a different approach because everything from the rocks in the foreground to the mountains in the background should be sharply in focus. So any time you’re shooting a scene where you want everything to be fully in focus, you should select a narrow aperture rather than a wide one.
Shutter speed: Shutter speed controls how long the shutter stays open when you take a picture. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light gets through to the camera’s sensor. A fast shutter speed is good for freezing action like sports, while a longer shutter speed will blur motion and also allow more light into your camera in low light- this is when you'd use a tripod.
4. Understand the rule of thirds
First of all, I don't believe there are 'rules' in photography. I think there is creativity and self-expression as well as guides, but not rules. The 'rule of thirds is based on the idea that pictures are generally more interesting and well-balanced when they aren’t centered. Imagine a grid placed over your images with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines that divide the picture into nine equal sections.
If you were following the rule of thirds, rather than positioning your subject or the important elements of a scene at the centre of the photo, you’d place them along one of the four lines, or at the points where the lines intersect. Some cameras even have a grid option you can turn on, which can be useful if you’re still learning to compose your images.
Do you know the beauty of photography? It is all about creativity and personal expression, so you may sometimes choose to break the rules and place the points of interest elsewhere in your photo. This is absolutely fine, but before you start breaking this rule, it’s important that you understand it and are in the habit of consciously thinking about the points of interest and where you want to place them.