So You Were Gifted a Camera. Now What? These Six Simple Photo Shoots Will Teach You How to Navigate a New Camera.

As technology gets easier, more and more people see the value in picking up a camera to capture their own personal or professional images. But while professional photographers may make it look simple, it is easy to get discouraged. There are still many factors that go into capturing a good photo and if you don’t learn the intricacies of your camera, you may be quick to put it away.

But there are a few simple ways to learn how to navigate the complexities of your new camera. The most important tool is hands-on practice, especially hands-on practice in a variety of settings and conditions. You will quickly learn how finicky a camera can be and how to take control in order to capture a good image.

1. Play with the light. Play with the light. Play with the light.

If you haven’t noticed already from our blog, light is the most important factor in photography. Watch this video to see how color and shadows completely transform a subject’s face. As soon as you get your camera, practice shooting in various lighting conditions. Visit abandoned buildings, warehouses, buildings with divided windowpanes that create interesting shadows, buildings with expansive foyers and narrow hallways. Shoot from beneath bridges, shoot down on your subject from a tree and up on your subject while lying on the sidewalk. Organize a photography walk with friends. It’s a great way to, literally, see your neighborhood in a different light.

2. Learn the color wheel and practice with outfit changes.

One of the first things a new photographer learns is the color wheel; specifically complimentary colors. Complimentary colors are opposite colors on the wheel and when they appear in the same photograph, they will make the opposing color pop. Purple and yellow are complimentary colors as well as orange and blue.

It is also important to remember that colors do not appear the same to the human eye as they do to the camera lens. The human eye will pick up colors that aren’t actually there, that the camera will not capture.  Check out this illusion that our eyes play on us to understand. Learning the color wheel will help you to decipher the difference between what you see when entering a room and what your camera will ultimately see.

3. Get candid shots while learning about movement.

Both novice and experienced photographers love the candid shot. Take your camera to a sporting event. Find some kids playing soccer or attend a professional basketball game. Shoot frequently. Make adjustments and check your viewfinder to see how various aperture and f-stop settings change your image. Determine which shots appear the most in focus and write down the settings and the conditions of your subject. Was the person standing still? Running down the court? Jumping to catch a ball? Movement will force you to practice with a wide range of settings that will shift your brain towards thinking about photography through the camera lens instead of through your eyes.

PHOTO:  Seth Doyle

PHOTO: Seth Doyle

4. Setup surreal product displays in unsuspecting places.

If you got your camera in hopes of capturing compelling images for an existing business, Etsy shop or ecommerce site, practice shooting unique product displays. Simply draping your handmade scarves around a subject would work, but setting up a unique shoot, displaying the scarves wrapped around a tree branch or reflective outdoor statue will encourage you to learn about the intricacy of still photography. It will show you ways to make your product eye-catching and compelling, which is ultimately what you want.  Check out some of these product displays that will have you thinking differently about product placement and creativity in photo shoots.

5.  Get outside.

There are settings outside that you won’t encounter shooting indoors. You will encounter more ephemeral images outdoors like cigarette smoke, a person’s cold breath and laundry vapor. Shooting these fleeting moments will teach you how to think quicker when adjusting your camera. You might also come across unique light like sparks from power tools or reflective construction vests. When you capture a good image, remember to record your camera settings and the shooting conditions so you can replicate it later.

6.  Practice reducing blur.

One of the most discouraging things for a new photographer is figuring out how to reduce blur. Start by reading the manual. Some cameras come programed with default settings, which may not be the optimum setting for your shooting condition. Sometimes just turning on and off a given setting can reduce the blur. Practice shooting with your arm resting against a wall or on top of a stack of books and notice the difference. You will notice that even though you thought you were holding your arm perfectly still, nice cameras are much more sensitive than many people imagine. Here’s a great article for more ways to manually reduce blur in photos.