6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

General How-To

6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

Photography Tips For Beginners

When I was first starting out in photography – I mean the very beginning when I wasn’t even sure which end of the camera to look through – it was difficult to find information about learning photography. It was difficult to get good information, I should say. And now, while there are photographers all over the Internet willing to teach you how to take photos in different places and media, there is very little in the way of just good, solid advice for those who know next to nothing. So after some thoughtful consideration, here are my top 6 photography tips for beginners. 

#1 No Camera, No Problem

If you’re just starting out in photography, it’s obviously useful to own a working camera with which to practice, especially one with manual control over exposure. But given the cost of even an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera these days, you can still get started with even the most basic of tools – your phone, for instance – while you save up for sometime with more control and options.

You can effectively use your phone to help in learning composition and image frames (what to include and exclude from the photo) to get a head start with one skill that even many advanced photographers struggle with. Ideally you would have a real camera with more control over the final image but in reality, a smartphone camera is better than no camera at all.

#2 Invest in Good Glass

When you do get to the point where you’re ready to invest some money in photo equipment, please take the following advice. Invest in good glass (hipster photography lingo for “lenses”) and less in the camera itself. You should almost treat digital cameras as disposable. Just as a car has a limited number of miles in it before it gives up the ghost, so does a camera with regard to the number shutter actuations before it dies. Also, the sensor technology in your brand-new digital camera will be obsolete in a couple of years. Lenses, however, can last a lifetime, as long as they are maintained properly and your camera manufacturer doesn’t change the lens mount. Bottom line, if your funds are limited, the better investment is in lenses, not cameras.

#3 Your Photos Will Suck

The French documentary and street photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson mused that your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. This is true of photography and most other things you try to learn as well. Your first 10,000 steps as a toddler were probably your most wobbly and unsteady too. Yes, your photos will suck at first and that’s ok. In fact, they might not be very good for many years. The important thing to remember is that you’re striving for improvement, not perfection. Improvement, not perfection. One day you’ll look back on the photos you took during your first year and find them absolutely revolting. And that will be the best feeling because you will know you made improvements along the way.

#4 Follow Your Passion

Ask yourself this question. What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning or the last thing that crosses your mind as you drift off asleep at night? I guess you can say this is a rhetorical question since what I really want is for you to realize is what makes you tick. What are your passions? If they are flowers, then photograph flowers. Wildlife? Photograph wildlife. Cars, beaches, people, pets? Find out what your passions are and train your lens on those things. I would advise against investing too much time on subjects that you are ambivalent about. What a waste! Share your passions! I talk more about this in my recent Twitter AMA.

#5 Experiment and Have Fun

Learn and absorb all you can about photography from books, classes, blogs, online tutorials, and social media. Learn, learn, and learn some more. But in addition to all that learning, make sure you make time to have fun too. Play with your camera. Choose the wrong lens purposefully just to see what you can make of the photo opportunity. Play with different settings and filters so you develop an intuitive understanding of how your camera works and what photography is all about. Your formal learning will be even more powerful when coupled with and intuitive feel for photography.

#6 Take Care Of Your Health

Take good care of your health. Eat well, sleep well, and take care of your body by exercising it regularly. Meditate if you are into that sort of thing. I sure am. If you’re not healthy, it will be difficult to be productive or to have any fun. If you’re not mobile, you will miss shots and opportunities which is frustrating. If you’re tired and exhausted all the time, it’s nearly impossible to be creative. Take that one to the bank.

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

My Favorite American National Parks For Photography

My Favorite American National Parks For Photography

Bucket List

My Favorite American National Parks For Photography

National Parks for Photography

My recent travels have taken me to some amazing places around the world (Iceland, Patagonia, Myanmar, Tanzania, and others) but many of my all-time favorite photography locations are the National Parks of the United States. Most of these parks are beyond beautiful, easily accessible for recreational activities, and are preserved as sanctuaries for pristine mountains, deserts, forests, seashores, tundra, and the wild creatures that inhabit them.

The writer, historian, and environmentalist Wallace Stegner is credited with coined the phrase America’s Best Idea when referring to the National Park System. Here’s what he said in 1983: “National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.”

At the time of this writing, there are 59 National Parks in the United States. By my last count, I have photographed in 32 of them. Here – in no particular order – are my 5 favorite National Parks for photography, with a few honorable mentions thrown in as well. If you have a favorite that American National Park that didn’t make my list, let me know which is your favorite in the comment section, including why.

Yosemite National Park

No other place in the world inspires photographers quite like Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Iconic landmarks such as El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls are burned into the psyche of landscape photographers in both name and visage. Spring, particularly the month of May when the waterfalls have the highest flows and the dogwoods along the Merced River are in bloom, is the most popular season for photographers. The summer months, with bumper-to-bumper traffic in Yosemite Valley, should probably be avoided but any season will produce fantastic images, including winter. Regardless of the month, Yosemite is always a good idea!

National Parks for Photography
National Parks for Photography

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It’s the most visited of all the national parks in the United States as well as one of the most ecologically diverse. Often dubbed “Wildflower National Park” because of the profuse blooms each spring (mid to late April is best) the Smokies have so much more to offer than flowers. There is spectacular autumn colors in late October, stacked mountain ridges, and wildlife too, including the highest density of black bears in the world. The Smoky Mountains National Park is also my “home park” and the place where I honed my skills many years ago. For sentimental reasons alone, it’s one of my all-time favorite national parks for photography.

National Parks for Photography
National Parks for Photography

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park in Maine is one of the few places in the US where you can capture both deciduous autumn color (second to third week in October) and dramatic seascapes in the same frame. Favorite photography locations within the first national park east of the Mississippi River include Jordan Pond, Jordan Stream, Otter Cliffs, Monument Cove, Cadillac Mountain, Duck Brook, and Hunter Beach Cove. Nearby Bass Head Lighthouse can be crowded with other photographers at sunrise or sunset but it’s certainly worth a visit anyway.

National Parks for Photography
National Parks for Photography

Arches National Park

Delicate Arch is the most famous landmark in Arches National Park (it’s featured on Utah’s license plate) but it’s certainly not the only shooting location. All in all, there are more than 2000 sandstone arches in the park as well as many other geological formations, windows and fins that make superb photo subjects. With Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park nearby, the town of Moab, Utah makes a great location for a week or two of landscape photography and you still won’t scratch the surface of the available locations.

National Parks for Photography
National Parks for Photography

Yellowstone National Park

As America’s first national park established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is best known by photographers for its wildlife and the many geothermal features found within its 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 km2). I’ve been traveling to Yellowstone for wildlife for more than 20 years and it never disappoints for the wildlife opportunities or the geysers, mud pots and fumaroles. Lamar Valley is often referred to as “America’s Serengeti” because of the sheer abundance of wild animals and is one of those places no wildlife photographer should miss during their lifetime. My favorite seasons for visiting for photography are spring, autumn, and winter while summer is a bit too crowded for my personal taste.

National Parks for Photography
National Parks for Photography

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Bernabe Answers Twitter AMA (Ask me Anything)

Bernabe Answers Twitter AMA (Ask me Anything)

Creativity

Bernabe Answers Twitter AMA (Ask me Anything)

Bernabe Twitter AMA

Go Ahead. Ask Me Anything

If you feel 2020 has been like a strangely dystopian episode from The Twilight Zone, you’re not alone. To borrow and paraphrase a colorfully descriptive lyric from the pen of musician Gordon Summer, it’s been one humiliating kick in the crotch after another for humanity. It began in January – as most years do – with Kobe’s tragic death and limped into February with the persistently hellish brushfires in Australia, where 40 percent of the koala population perished. It’s estimated that the total area of torched land there, when the fires were finally contained, was equal to the size of Portugal. March smirked, said hold my beer, and unleashed a global pandemic on the world that forced almost every human being into a self-isolating lockdown with nightly rolling death counts and frightening toilet paper shortages. April conceived a vision of what a 1930s-style Great Depression might feel like and gifted us a flying demon called the murder hornet. And if all that doesn’t Sting enough, we’re not even halfway through May.

So, at the urging of some Twitter followers, I sheepishly offered an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session with the hashtag #BernabeAMA on April 28 and 29, as a modest distraction from all the above. I chose some of my favorites and gave my answers here. I’ll try to address as many of the others as I can, but most were fairly redundant so an answer to one is an answer to many. I also tried to avoid most of the technical gear questions because….well, I think gear is boring, at least for what I wanted to accomplish here. I’ll get back to you personally about your camera gear and lenses. Hey, I do have the time.

So here we go. Thanks to everyone who participated!

What was your biggest photographic challenge? @IamnotMarilyn

My good friend Rick Sammon just completed a book titled Photo Quest: Discovering Your Photographic and Artistic Voice and I was honored to be asked to write the book’s foreword, which I happily did.  With regard to “finding your voice” I attempted to make two key points. First, it’s essential that you know yourself. Know your sources of happiness, your deepest fears, who you really are and what you’re not. Be honest since this is where the voice comes from. Second, as an artist, you need create for yourself. Be selfish. Don’t create to pacify the critics or impress your peers. Don’t create for the sake of “likes” on social media and don’t create for commercial success either, otherwise it’s not your voice. It’s the voice of someone else. By being selfish, paradoxically, you ultimately achieve perfect selflessness since there’s no greater gift you can give your audience than a piece of your authentic self.

Now I hear many of you shouting into your computer screen or phone.

“That’s sounds great, Bernabe, but how can you be a professional photographer or artist and make a solid living if you’re not listening to the market and what editors, collectors, and clients want from you and your work? How can you survive financially?”

The long answer to that question would make an excellent blog post or essay for another day. The short answer directly addresses your question as to my biggest challenge.

I have always admired your photos with symmetry of animals. And this is very different from a landscape. So, what happens first: luck or patience in getting the shot right? @40GRAUSS

Luck plays a much larger role in wildlife photography than any of us would care to admit but it still runs both ways. I’ve been in situations where I’ve done everything right and prepared for every possible contingency and it didn’t work out because of something completely out of my control. Conversely, there were times when I couldn’t be more inept if I’d forgotten to remove the lens cap yet still managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat. You take the good with the bad but good luck does tend to correlate positively with the amount of time invested in the field. Patience certainly helps but preparation and research are even better.

Can nature and landscape photographs be “too pretty”? @gregerts

I don’t believe you can have too much beauty in your life, particularly during these dreary times. But instead of relying solely on superficial beauty to carry your image, why not make it meaningful too? Better yet, make the images all about what’s meaningful to you and the emotional responses to your experiences. The real subjects of your photographs should be raw emotion: awe, peacefulness, power, fragility, joy, melancholy rather than the shallow, self-indulgent sentimental beauty you might find in a Thomas Kincade painting or John Denver song. Your personal vision and interpretation of nature should be the shortest distance between your heart and your audience so they can feel what you feel, not what your camera coldly captures.

Did you do formal photography study such as at school/college? Did you do an internship or work with a more skilled photographer in the beginning of your career? @MelindaAlfred

No, I’m completely self-taught which only means I have so many bad habits to overcome that I now rationalize my flaws as giving my work “character.”

I have mixed feelings about formal training for artists. On the one hand, the more you learn about anything, the better as a general matter. On the other hand, an untrained, motivated, insanely curious person with a strong personal vision might have a more intuitive feel for creative expression, but that’s just my uneducated, unlettered opinion.

How did you know your style? @fanni40877378

I’m allergic to the whole concept of style to be honest, to which anyone who has seen how I dress can attest.

When someone sends an email to say they’ve seen one of my published magazine photos while in the dentist’s waiting room, it’s a nice gesture that never goes unappreciated. But when they go on to say they knew the photo was mine because they recognize my style, I die a little on the inside. By having a style, it means I’m using the same conceptual formula time after time for each experience even if the location, subject matter, and circumstances are different. It’s muscle memory. It’s easy. It’s lazy. It’s not being creative.

I try to approach each situation with a clear and open mind, completely in the present moment, with zero influence from the previous day, week or month. Have a look at David Bowie’s body of work through the years. I respect the hell out of Bowie. He was always re-making himself and his music as something different from what he did before while still being different from everyone else. That’s why even now, Bowie’s music still sounds so fresh to me.

What is the progression of questions/attributes that you use when evaluating a scene for its photographic potential? @firthermor

My process always starts with an emotional/intuitive/right-brained series of questions regarding how the scene or subject makes me feel. I’m searching for an emotional core around which I’ll build the image. The process then transitions into conceptual/technical/left-brain thinking about how I want to execute it. This is almost always the methodology I use.

You can only use one lens for the rest of your photography days. What will you choose, and why? The format is 35mm equivalent, and it must be a real existing lens. @awilliamsny

If you’re going to put me in that predicament, I’d hold my nose and go buy a Tamron 18-400mm “ALL-IN_ONE” lens. Honestly, I didn’t even know there was such a thing until 5 minutes before writing this piece. But in the real world, I would keep my Canon EF24-105mm F4L IS II USM (Soon to be the RF Version) since 24mm is wide enough for wide-angle, near-far landscapes and 105mm would allow me to do some wildlife in a pinch, with a bit of cropping. It is, of course, the perfect “walking around” lens and ideal for street photography and general travel.

Beyond photography, music and writing are there other creative art forms that interest you? @mauramullarkey

Are you saying there’s more to life than that? I mean, beyond food and the love of friends and family, is there anything else I need? I’m a fan of any type of creative expression – movies, music, art, even poetry – that has the ability to inspire or move me to tears.

After another long hard day at the office, travelling, or shooting in the field, what’s your go to drink? @life_with_louis

With the exception of an occasional signature exotic drinking experience tied explicitly to a particular place (aguardiente in Colombia, pulque in Mexico City, absinthe in Paris, etc.), I prefer to keep my libations pretty simple: water, a double espresso, or red wine, depending how good or bad a day it was.

What is your favorite Seinfeld episode and why? @themahoneyphoto

The Boyfriend. I grew up in the shadow of New York City and I’ve been a Mets fan since I was 4 years old. Keith Hernandez, Art Vandalay, did you sneak a peak?, the magic loogie. No need to go on. But I consider the very act of asking a Seinfeld question to be openly flirting… so I see you, Jason.

What is that one elusive goal you have yet to accomplish in your career? @KristaBower411

I’ve always wanted to get arrested and spend a night in jail, but that goal has been a spectacular failure. You’d think it wouldn’t be so difficult or “elusive” but it has, mainly because of the many caveats and pre-conditions I’ve demanded. For example, it must be a real arrest, not some phony stunt. It must be a victimless crime yet not petty and pointless like shoplifting or trespassing. I’d prefer to be arrested and incarcerated in the name of some righteous cause such as a protest or sit-in while battling a social or environmental injustice. I could actually be proud of that and wave my arrest record around in public like a badge of honor. Also, one night in jail. Just one, thank you very much.

Why? Curiosity mostly. That and my environmental activist friends tell me I can’t be taken seriously until I’ve been arrested at least once. But yeah, it’s mostly curiosity.

Hey, you asked!

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Photography at Home: Staying Creative and Exploring New Perspectives

Photography at Home: Staying Creative and Exploring New Perspectives

Creativity

Photography at Home: Staying Creative and Exploring New Perspectives

There’s no denying that times are particularly tough. And while the world has screeched to a halt, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop doing the things you love. We know it may be challenging to continue to work on your craft while remaining indoors but why not look at it as an added layer of challenge. Doing so will help you realize that restrictions only encourage more creativity and innovation with one’s craft. But if you need a little help getting started, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you stay creative by practicing photography at home.

Commit to a Personal Project

Photography At Home

Now is a better time than ever to start on a personal project. It can be something that you’ve been meaning to do or something born out of sheer inspiration. No project is too big or too small, as long as it’s contained within the four walls of your home.

A great place to start, especially if you live with other people, is to take daily portraits of them. A great example of this is Jonas Bendiksen’s portraits of his kids that were featured on the Telegraph, and the hijinks that they’ve gotten into as they grapple with staying at home for an extended period of time. If you live alone, take this added layer of difficulty as a challenge that can push you to be more creative and find beauty in everyday items.

Revisit Old Work

Photography At Home

If inspiration hasn’t struck and you can’t find yourself starting on any new projects, then why not revisit some of your old work and see how you can tweak it to make it new. For tweaking photos, there are two main options being Photoshop and Lightroom. Now, we’re not here to tell you which one is better so just choose the one that you’re already using or the one you prefer as they’re both perfectly good for editing photos.

However, what we can give you is a practical tip to make editing easier. This guide on the ideal home office set up by HP highlights how making use of an additional screen can help you be more efficient, as it saves you time by letting you run multiple applications at once. The time saved here can make the entire process a lot less tedious so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor without feeling burnt out.

Set Up a Home Studio

Photography At Home

Lastly, you may want to consider setting up a home studio seeing as you’ll be stuck indoors for quite some time. That’ll help you with that personal project that you’re starting and it’s also great for just messing around and enjoying the process of taking photos.

We understand that everyone will have a varying amount of resources. Luckily, there are ways to do this even if you’re on a tight budget. You can actually make a DIY lightbox by cutting windows on the side of a cardboard box and covering those windows with white fabric. Remember, the bigger the box the more varied the objects you can use.

If you need a little more inspiration, check out our Favorite Images of 2019. Hopefully, the photos get your creative juices going so you can start on your next home project!

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

CREATIVE COMPOSITION: Image Design Masterclass

CREATIVE COMPOSITION: Image Design Masterclass

Creativity

CREATIVE COMPOSITION: Image Design Masterclass

Creative Composition

Creative Composition: Image Design Masterclass

In Creative Composition, internationally renowned photographer Richard Bernabe takes you way beyond the “Rule of Thirds” and into the art and psychology of photographic composition and image design. Borrowing themes from music, art, and Gestalt Theory, Richard takes you on a journey through an image design masterclass, culminating with an extended commentary on the Creative Principle.

The 74 pages of Creative Composition, with photographs to illustrate the ideas and concepts in the book, will get your creative juices flowing again which will help power your way to greater creative expression with your camera.

CREATIVE COMPOSITION

Image Design Masterclass
by Richard Bernabe
$9.95 USD
74-page PDF E-book on photographic composition theory and practice by photographer Richard Bernabe.

Wildlife Book
*  Depending on your particular mobile device and software/apps, you might have a problem downloading this PDF directly to your phone or tablet. If that’s the case, download to a computer first and then transfer to your phone or tablet.

Sample Pages

Creative Composition
Creative Composition
Creative Composition
Creative Composition
Creative Composition
Creative Composition

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. 

Iceland: Our Amazing Planet. FREE e-book

Iceland: Our Amazing Planet. FREE e-book

Bucket List

Iceland: Our Amazing Planet. FREE e-book

Iceland, Our Amazing Planet, explores the pure magic that is this small country in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Here are two dozen photographs of Iceland’s mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, wildlife, and beautiful light captured by renowned nature, wildlife, and travel photographer, Richard Bernabe.This virtual tour of Iceland will visually demonstrate why Iceland truly is one of our planet’s most amazing places. Come join the adventure with this 32-page e-book!

*  Depending on your particular mobile device and software/apps, you might have a problem downloading this PDF directly to your phone or tablet. If that’s the case, download to a computer first and then transfer to your phone or tablet.

Sample Pages

Join The Adventure!

By subscribing to my monthly newsletter, you'll get timely updates on events, stories, my latest photos, and my favorite photography tips. Let me share this amazing world with you directly to your computer or phone. Come on, join the adventure!

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer in the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe.