I remember my first photo shoot, I picked up an old point and shoot camera that we had lying in our junk drawer, dressed up my step-sister in the most “trendy” clothes we could find in her closet and went outside into the dark of night with only the garage flood light to illuminate my first model. It was a disastrous shoot. I used a piece of plywood from our shed as a backdrop and demanded that my step-sister look angry in every single photo.
Now I don't recommend following my example from that night in 2013, but there is a learning curve in photography and I can tell you without a doubt that I have learned from that poorly lit night. However, I will suggest a few tips so that you can have a better experience during one of your first photo shoots.
First off, you gotta have some type of camera. Like I said, mine was a point and shoot which is completely fine for a beginning photographer! The saying “it’s not the camera, but who’s behind it” is famous for that very reason, it's not all about the gear, skill is acquired by practice, not by the purchase of equipment. Nonetheless, if you already have a DSLR and are looking for a good lens to begin photographing portraits with, I would suggest the 50mm f/1.8 standard lens. Not only is this lens great quality, it's also cheap! I’ll add the link to purchase this lens here.
Consider a Tripod:
I hate tripods, I love to be able to move around my subject without picking up and moving a 3 legged camera holder; however, I find them to be very beneficial for photography newbies, it's a great way to reduce camera shake for those who have yet to figure out their way of holding a camera body still. Tripod prices can vary depending on its durability, but I suggest one that is inexpensive if you are just starting out. Here is one of my favorites from your neighborhood Walmart: click here
Know your lighting:
Refer back to the story of my first photo shoot, one of the many things that I did wrong was photograph in the dark. If you are going to shoot at night then I suggest investing in an off-camera flash (this is the one I own). However, I do not suggest shooting at night if you are just beginning photography. The best block of time to photograph is an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset, this is called “Golden Hour,” the sun is just low enough in the sky that you will not have a harsh light on the subjects face.
Learn Your Camera Settings:
If you are using a point and shoot camera this doesn't really apply to you, although it is a good idea to look up your camera’s menu options just to familiarize yourself with your camera. However, if you are using some type of DSLR then it is crucial for you to learn your settings! The best way that I found to learn about your camera is through youtube videos designed specifically for your body style.
One of the major settings on your DSLR camera is manual mode, I will write a separate blog post over that setting some other time due to the fact that its explanation is very extensive. If you have never shot in manual mode before I would suggest testing it out on your own and piecing together which action does what before researching online about it. Although the internet is a beautiful thing, the best way for you to remember something is to do it for yourself.
Shoot Every day:
You’ve heard it before “practice makes perfect” and in some sense, it does, but with photography, there is not one photo that will ever be perfect; nevertheless, I highly recommend photographing every single day, no matter what it is. Because I am a portrait photographer I sometimes feel inadequate when it comes to doing photo assignments that aren't revolved around portraiture, but because I have trained myself to photograph something every day, I feel more confident working outside of
my comfort zone.
Post-Processing is Paramount:
Post-processing is exactly what it sounds like, processing that is done to an image after capturing it. However, this processing does not have to be done through the software of Photoshop, there are many secondary editing software that can be used. For the first 3 years of my photography career, I was subscribed to the web editor PicMonkey, it has a wide variety of editing choices; notwithstanding, I am a now a loyal supporter for anything Adobe. Camera Raw, Photoshop, and Lightroom have all been my saving grace when it comes down to post-processing. Even if you are or aspire to be a “natural photographer” you must edit your images, if you skip this important step you will feel as if there is something missing in your photographs. This missing piece is just a few touchups that can be accomplished through an editing process.
Although these are only a few of the many steps that will help to improve your photography game, if you keep each one of them in the back of your mind while you are out photographing, you will be able to see the difference in your photos the next time that you decide to shoot.