When I started my blog, I had a point-and-shoot camera that I bought in the early 2000s, and I had never taken any sort of photography class. I didn’t really know what I was doing photography-wise, and it showed. Eventually I acquired a digital SLR, but I didn’t begin to seriously improve my skills until I took a photography class, and then read a ton of online articles and tutorials. Oh, and practiced, a lot. But the effort it requires to take better photos pays off in terms of exposure and readership. Aside from just looking nicer, prettier pictures get shared and pinned more.
Here are my top six ways to improve your photography, followed by the best resources I’ve found to brush up on your photography skills.
My Top 6 Photography Tips
1. Learn how to use your camera
Even if you don’t have a DSLR, there are probably bells and whistles on your camera that you don’t know how to use. If you’re not sure, go look at it (right now–I’ll wait), and make sure that you know what everything does. If you don’t, check your manual. You might be surprised at what you find. If you do have a DSLR, you’re shortchanging yourself if you’re just shooting in auto mode. Read a book, take a class, or utilize the many online resources (see below) to learn how to use your camera to the fullest extent.
2. Know how to use lighting
Start with the best lighting you possibly can. Yes, there is a lot you can fix in post-processing, but it will almost never look as good as it would if you had just shot it with proper lighting in the first place. Whatever you do, don’t use the on-board flash on your camera. Natural lighting is the way to go whenever possible.
3. Practice your composition
Even if you have the best camera in the world, if you don’t know how to compose a picture your photos will never be great. The Rule of Thirds is a great place to start. Experiment and be creative!
4. Styling is important
You can compose the hell out of a shot, but if you’ve got clutter in the background or are missing important props, it’ll fall flat. Play around with the elements of your shot, and don’t be afraid to add or subtract items to get the look you’re after. The merchandising in stores, or in catalogs (or websites) and magazines are great places to look for styling inspiration.
5. Use a tripod
A tripod can make a huge difference in the quality of your shots, especially if you’re shooting in low light or don’t have a steady hand. For self-portraits, it’s essential, as is a shutter remote. Neither are very expensive.
6. Take more pictures
When you’re trying to photograph a particular subject, take as many pictures as you can. Vary the angle, lighting, and whatever else makes sense for the situation. With digital photography, you will never be sorry you took too many shots, but if you don’t get the one you want, you WILL be sorry you didn’t take more. This applies in general, too–the more you practice your photography, the better you’ll get.
As far as I’m concerned, my photos will never be good enough, but fortunately there are many great online resources for improving your photography skills. Here are a few I’ve found helpful.
- I took an in-person beginning DSLR photography course taught by Nicole Hill Gerulat, and I learned SO much about how to operate my camera. She now teaches a whole roster of online courses, which I imagine would be super helpful, too. There are also some free video tutorials on the site.
- Digital Photography School has a ton of great resources, but even if you’re not new to the subject, start with Digital Photography Tips for Beginners.
- A Beautiful Mess has many helpful tips and tutorials for better photography. Emma and Elsie are even writing a book on the topic!
- For a practical, straightforward post, read Photography Tips for Beginners from Stars for Streetlights.
- Even if you’re not a fashion blogger, Independent Fashion Bloggers can teach you a lot about how to use your camera. Here’s a roundup of many of their posts on the subject.
- Speaking of fashion blogging, these tips for taking outfit photos are great.
- Simple photo editing instructions to perk up photos, from Pugly Pixel.
- For a little bit of fancy Photoshop work, check out Bubby and Bean for this tutorial on how to create dreamy, summertime-inspired photos and this one to learn how to create double exposure effects.
Edited to add: I’m going to add more resources here as I find them. Please bookmark this list and check back!
- If you like to photograph food, read this post for tips and tricks.
- For more help with using your camera to its fullest potential, read 20 Things I Wish I Knew About Photographing in Manual Mode.
Do you have any great photo tips or resources to share? I’d love to hear them!