When I started to learn photography, every photo I took was terrible. These are the things I discovered that made the biggest difference overnight and helped me go viral!!!
First off, let me introduce myself. My name is Phillip Haumesser, I am an award winning natural light photographer/artist based in a rural part of Missouri. I wanted to learn photography, so I started teaching myself in late 2015. One year later my work was featured in The Huffington Post, Daily Mail, SHUTTERBUG, CountyLiving, My Modern Met and dozens of other sites around the world! Click HERE to read the rest of my story.
Let me Help you learn Photography, I Can Teach You What I Know
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you are a photographer, or you would like to learn photography or get better at photography/art. You are in the right place. I say art because I consider my work to be as much art as it is photography.
My desire is to help other people learn photography and/or to get better. So I don’t want to hold anything back! I’m not and don’t expect to get rich with my work and though I do sale some training materials, I want to give more! So here goes.
The goal of this article is to help you get started with the least amount of money possible. You can upgrade your equipment later. I want to show you how to achieve the best results while spending the least amount of money. Once you master these skills with this equipment, you can only go up!
These are the things that changed the game for me and made the biggest difference in my work in the most easy to understand and plain English way I can give it. These are the things I wish someone told me when I started to learn photography. Obviously I can’t teach everything, but I can teach what I know. So if you like my work and you want to learn photography from me, here’s how!
Don’t Make it Complicated
I’m not going to get technical, I’m going to be using plain English here. One thing in the beginning that was preventing me from learning photography was that I was way over complicating everything. There were so many things to learn, so many cameras to choose from, so many lenses, all of the different options on the camera, and the price of everything on top of all of that! Then there’s the rule of thirds, composition, color balance, editing, editing software, AGHHHH!
BREATH!! First I am going to tell you, you do not need to spend a ton of money. In fact, this will be quite cheap starting out. Forget about trying to learn everything at once, believe me, you don’t need to know everything. I’m only just getting started myself. Lets keep this simple. Let’s start with the camera.
Now here is the part where I’m going to tell you that you have to be a Sony person because that’s what I use… NOT! Yes, I use and love Sony, but the truth is, it does not matter one bit what brand camera you get, especially starting out. They are all fantastic cameras, but what we’re looking for is a camera with an interchangeable lens and something in your price range.
Don’t get caught up with megapixels or sensor size at this point. Remember, we don’t have much money right now and we just need something to learn photography with. But don’t think you won’t be able to get amazing photos with this camera ether, because I’m going to teach you how. It’s not the camera that takes great photos, it’s the person behind the camera. Want me to prove it to you? I took and edited this photo with my iPhone! 😉
Also, try to find a used camera that is still in good shape and perfect working conditions. You can find some fantastic deals on eBay.
Of course you will probably want to upgrade to a full frame camera down the road. But we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. There’s no point in getting a ridiculously expensive piece of equipment that we have no idea how to use. Unless of cause money is not a problem for you, then get whatever your heart desires. 😉
I started with a little Samsung nx500 which I still use today as my secondary camera! It’s a fantastic lightweight but powerful crop sensor camera. Now let’s talk about the lense.
If your camera came with a kit lens, that’s great, but we’re not going to be using this much, if at all, so put it away. What I am about to tell you my come as a shock, but we’re only going to spend maybe $50 (or less) on the lens!
Find a Used Lens
Get on eBay and look for a Pentax 50mm 1.7 lens. You can usually find a good used one for less then $20. Or, if you want to get real radical, you can get a Pentax 50mm 1.4 for less then $50! You’ll need to find an adapter unless you just happen to have or get a Pentax camera. You can find an adapter for just about any camera. Just go to eBay or Amazon and type in ‘Pentax to (insert model of camera) adapter’, you can usually find one for less then $30.
What is so great about this lens is the aperture range. Being able to open the aperture to 1.7 let’s in a lot of light and gives you that amazing blurred background that is so sought after, and will leave your friends awe struck when they see your photos. More about aperture later.
This is a great all in one lens. It’s pretty much universal, great for portraits, landscapes, stars… Hey, if you’re creative enough, you may never need another lens! I Still use mine! These are old manual focus lenses, but the quality you get from this lens for the price is stellar! Yes, you have to sacrifice autofocus but believe me, when you have no money but you want to create stunning photos, this is the way to go! I believe this is the best lens to use when you start to learn photography.
By the way, I still use all manual focus lenses! Click HERE to see a list of my gear.
Now let’s talk about how to use the camera.
The Exposure Triangle
Now that we have our camera and lens, here is the next thing I want you to do. Switch the mode knob on your camera from the auto position to manual. Sorry, we will not be using the auto mode to learn photography, EVER!! This is one of the things that separates the novices from the professionals. You can use the other priority modes later. Using manual mode we’ll be the quickest way to learn photography. What auto does, is it has an algorithm that decides what the best settings are for the photo. The problem is, the algorithm has absolutely no idea what kind of photo you want to take! This is why it’s so important for you to learn the exposure triangle.
Don’t freak out, but this is the most technical I’m going to get in this article! But I’m going to keep this as simple as possible.
1. Shutter Speed
First, shutter speed. Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter in the camera stays open. Basically, the faster the shutter speed is, the crisper moving objects in your photo will be. If you want to take a photo of a hummingbird and stop it’s wings from moving completely, set the shutter speed as fast as you can, something like 1/6000. Likewise, the slower the shutter speed is the more blurred moving objects in the photo will be. This is useful for special effects like blurring water. If there is moving water in your photo, you can set the camera on a tripod and set the shutter speed to something like 2 seconds to get a nice smooth blurred water effect.
Also, something to consider, any adjustments you make to any of the exposures is going to effect the amount of light that is allowed into the camera. The faster the shutter is, the less light that comes in. Whereas the slower the shutter speed is the more light that is let in. So if you’re trying to take photos of the stars, try setting up a tripod and leave the shutter open for like 15 to 20 seconds.
The aperture is part of the lens, it’s the iris inside of it. You can see it if you look through the lens. The aperture controls the depth of field. The wider the aperture is the more narrow the depth of field is. The more you close down the aperture, the wider the depth of field. Like the shutter speed, this also effects the light. The wider the aperture is, the more light that comes into the camera. The more closed down it is, the less light comes in.
Last is ISO. The ISO is basically the sensitivity of the cameras sensor. This is used if you run out of options with the other two exposures and you still need more light. I try to keep this as low as possible because depending on your camera, the higher you set the ISO, the more grain you will see in your photo. Just experiment and see how high you can go before you start seeing a lot of grain, that way you know when you’re out on a session that you probably don’t want to go above that point. On my Sony a7ii, I don’t like to go beyond ISO 800.
Shooting With a Lot of Light
So as you can see, this is a lot like solving a puzzle. Let’s say it’s midday and you want to take a portrait with a narrow depth of field. There is a lot of light, so it’s pretty easy. Keep the ISO about as low is it will go, open the aperture all the way and then start bringing up the shutter speed until you’re happy with the exposure.
Shooting in Low Light
Now let’s say it’s late in the evening and you have very little light left to deal with. First open the aperture all the way, then set the shutter speed as low as you can without it becoming blurry, usually whatever you focal length times two. For example, if you’re shooting with a 50mm lens, then set the shutter speed to 1/100, if you are shooting with an 85mm, then set the shutter speed to 1/600-1/800. After that, make the final adjustments with the ISO to get the rest of the light you need. Would probably be like ISO 400.
This might sound a little confusing at first, but as soon as you go out and start experimenting and applying this, it will all start to make perfect since pretty quick. Also, the more you do it, the faster you will get. It’s all part of learning photography.
If you are a visual learner like I am, (which you probably are since you are a photographer) I put together this cheat sheet that will make it more clear for you. You can print it out or save it to your phone, it’s my gift to you!
Click image to download
Tap and hold to save image to your phone
When you start to learn photography, just knowing the very basics of composition will improve your photos drastically! Let’s just go over the rule of thirds for now. Basically, the rule of thirds looks like a tic-tac-toe board, two lines horizontally and two lines vertically. You can turn this on in your camera to help and I suggest that you do. Where the lines cross is a third. Just put your subject on one of the thirds and the composition will be much more appealing. The goal is to capture the photo as good as possible straight out of the camera, that way there will be as little editing as possible in post. There’s a lot more to composition but let’s just practice this for now.
I use Photoshop and Lightroom. Obviously I have some free and paid videos here on the website on editing to help you, and I am adding to them often. You can sign up to the newsletter HERE so you can be notified when I make new ones. The way I learned to edit was YouTube. There is an unlimited amount of free resources on YouTube for editing, you just need to know where to look. I found the Phlearn channel to be the most helpful to me.
A few quick and final tips on how to learn photography before wrapping this up. Never force your subjects to try to do something that they just don’t do naturally, especially kids! Don’t get frustrated! This is a biggie! People can sense when you’re getting frustrated and it WILL show in the photos. Basically, just have fun with it! Play games with the kids, visit with the adults, be relaxed and have a good time, this doesn’t have to be stressful. If it is, then why do it?
I would love to know you’re thoughts and also, if you have something else you would like me to write about, just let me know in the comments below. Now go out, and make something epic!