I frequently get the question “How can I capture decent images with what I have, without spending too much money on new cameras and lenses,” from friends and blog readers who are new to photography. There has been a surge in interest in photography among the general population ever since DSLRs and mirrorless cameras became more widely available and people began purchasing high-end “entry-level” equipment. One significant challenge that everyone faces from time to time is the perception that only pricey equipment can produce excellent shots while most skilled photographers display the tools they used. What happens next really depends on the person’s budget and level of commitment to photography; some buy expensive equipment in the belief that it will enable them to take better photos and advance their craft, while others decide to wait and stick with “point and shoot” DSLRs or mirrorless cameras after realizing they can’t get any better than what they already have.
It is possible to create stunning photographs without investing in pricey equipment. When someone buys their first DSLR camera, I always tell them, “An entry-level DSLR will get you 90% there.” Of course, the reason why anything is labeled “professional” is because it is better and faster than entry-level equipment. However, certain entry-level cameras, like the Nikon D5600, come extremely close to professional cameras, like the D500, or even beat them, according to some assessments, in terms of image quality.
Nowadays, a number of cutting-edge features, not just the caliber of the camera sensor, distinguish professional equipment from non-professional equipment. Professional cameras often have more options, more robust shutters and faster frame rates, the ability to endure unusual temperatures and humidity, faster processing speeds, superior auto-focus, and other advantages over entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless. “Top of the line” professional equipment, like the Nikon D850/Z7/D5, has a larger full-frame sensor, which results in lower noise levels, better dynamic range, and higher image quality. In contrast, all entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras on the market today feature “crop factor” sensors. Entry-level DSLRs from Canon have a 1.6x crop factor compared to 1.5x for Nikon models.
Who would produce a better painting—a master with a subpar brush or a novice with the most cutting-edge tool ever invented? The solution is clear… Just one tool in a photographer’s toolbox is a camera. Now, if you give the talented artist the same cutting-edge brush, he’ll produce even better artwork. Because they are skilled at making the most of it, professional photographers invest in the greatest equipment.
Anyhow, discussing camera equipment is not the focus of this post. Let’s move on to how you can use what you have right now and develop your photography skills.
1) Don’t Leave Your Camera at Home
The awkward truth is, how useful is your camera if you leave it at home? I’ve lost so many wonderful photo possibilities just because I neglected to bring my camera. Having a camera on hand could help you capture those uncommon, once-in-a-lifetime events, whether they are amusing or completely unique.
2) Take Lots of Pictures
It’s as easy as that: the more photographs you take, the more you learn. Whether it’s early in the morning or late at night, take advantage of every opportunity to take pictures. You will learn how to utilize your camera in various lighting situations and what works and what doesn’t by taking a lot of images. A solution to your problem may also be found by doing more study and reading articles, books, magazines, and internet forums when your photographs do not turn out as well. You’ll eventually learn from your errors and amass a wealth of knowledge about how to use your equipment efficiently.
3) Visit Local Zoos, Botanic Gardens, Butterfly Pavilions and Animal Sanctuaries
Wildlife photography can become highly expensive and even dangerous. You can look for excellent photo chances in your neighborhood zoo or animal sanctuary if you don’t have a long telephoto lens. Photographers love larger zoos with lots of space because fences and other man-made elements are less obvious. Some animals allow you to go really near and take wonderful pictures.
For macro/close-up photography, botanical gardens and butterfly pavilions are excellent locations. At various times of the day, you can play with flowers, butterflies, and other insects and not only learn a lot in the process, but also produce stunning photos. Everyone like butterflies and flowers!
4) Join Local and Online Photography Clubs and Shoot with the Pros
If you look online for photography groups in your area, you’ll probably come across at least a few. Many of such groups provide membership for nothing or for very little money each month. Joining one or more of those groups can provide you access to useful information on nearby events that might be worth attending and capturing, as well as the opportunity to learn from other photographers. Find experienced and highly skilled photographers and professionals, and see if you can help them with any of their tasks. Many of the photographers are surprisingly amiable and helpful, and you may learn a lot from them.
5) Consider Photography Workshops
Think about spending some extra cash on a photography workshop. The cost of a workshop might range from $20 to $50 for a session in a big auditorium to several thousand dollars for a small group with a well-known photographer. Workshops are beneficial for individuals who wish to swiftly study photography from true experts. Personally, I’ve never been to a workshop and don’t mind taking the time to read books and articles and pick the brains of other photographers, but if you want to quickly speed up your learning, look for a workshop that best meets your goals and sign up.
6) Get Down and Dirty
You should start experimenting with angles if you are still taking the majority of your photos while standing straight and at eye level. To see things from a fresh angle, try getting on your hands and knees or even lying on the ground. Getting low can produce excellent results, particularly when taking pictures of people and animals.
7) Learn How to Take Sharp Pictures
I recommend reading my post on how to take clear pictures and prevent image blur. If you struggle with taking sharp pictures, this article will be of great assistance to you. Soft and blurry shots can be really depressing.
8) Use a Circular Polarizer for Landscape Photography
You should read the essay I recently published about using a circular polarizer. Using a polarizer is something I strongly recommend doing if you have never done so before, especially for landscape photography, even if it kind of goes against what I have said above about shooting with what you have.
9) Use a Tripod
I suggest purchasing a tripod as soon as you can if you don’t already have one. Why? Because using a tripod will provide you additional chances for shooting in low light. You may play around with the lighting at night to get some very lovely pictures of items that come to life then. With the use of a tripod, you can take excellent pictures of stationary objects and distort moving ones, producing images that are incredibly dynamic and engaging.
10) Shoot During Golden Hours
Harsh direct sunlight can cast highly unpleasant shadows on people’s faces as well as on all other nearby objects, making for poor photography. Early mornings and late afternoons are ideal for taking photos since the light is the most lovely and delicate. In order to find your city’s dawn and sunset hours, simply search for “sunrise sunset times” on Google. In order to capture the first and last rays of light, you should arrive at the location for landscape photography before sunrise and after sunset. However, for portrait photography, two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset appear to be the optimal timings. It goes without saying that you must also consider the weather. Thin clouds are my favorite kind of sky to photograph portraits in because they may dilute the light and make it fall very softly on the skin. Try it out and see what works for you. On the other hand, really dense or stormy clouds can reduce the quantity of available light, making it rather challenging to shoot quickly moving subjects.
11) Shoot in RAW and use Lightroom for Post-Processing
It’s time to switch to RAW if you’re still taking photos in JPEG. Set your DSLR to RAW and don’t switch back to JPEG because today’s DSLRs are all capable of recording photographs in RAW format. An unprocessed image with many more colors to work with than a JPEG image, a RAW image is called “raw” for a reason. Because RAW can be converted to any desired color space, it offers far more flexibility and is favored for printing. RAW requires more storage than JPEG, but since memory is now so inexpensive, this is not a major issue. A high capacity hard drive for your PC can be purchased for less than $100, and you would need a lot of photographs to fill it up, so PC storage is also not an issue. There is no excuse not to shoot in RAW except from that.
I strongly advise getting Adobe Photoshop Lightroom if you are still manually organizing your photos into different folders on your hard disk. Before I started using Lightroom, I used to edit all of my photos in Adobe Photoshop + Camera Raw, which was a time-consuming procedure that left my files all over the place and was incredibly disorganized. After I began using Lightroom, I came to the conclusion that I should have started using it much earlier because it significantly improved my ability to store, edit, and organize my photos. By the way, if you love Camera Raw, you won’t be missing anything because Lightroom includes all of Camera Raw’s features included right into the Develop module. And yeah, I’ve used a lot of different image programs, but none of them compare to Lightroom in terms of quality.
12) Travel and Find Good Locations for Photography
Don’t anticipate beautiful photos by simply sitting at home. Look for prospective good photographic locations at nearby local, state, or perhaps even national parks (by close, I mean within a reasonable driving distance). You must develop an eye for what looks beautiful and what doesn’t in landscape photography. When the clouds, trees, and other items reflect on a still lake, for instance, it is an excellent technique to create a mirrored image that may appear especially stunning at sunrise or sunset. So, if you locate a reasonably sized still lake, attempt to visit it several times at sunrise and sunset to see what you can find (a tripod might be necessary to get a good picture). In order to identify sites that would look excellent in the background for portrait photography, you should drive around. Finding a fantastic background for portrait photography is great because it’s frequently simple to do it. All you need to do is look around for anything fascinating, such an old building, a painted fence, or an old tree. Use your imagination, and you’ll soon discover fantastic locations everywhere you look. Do as much traveling as you can if you can afford to, and always remember to have your camera, like I mentioned before!