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Five Tips For Beginning Photographers

shoot through umbrella
A $12 white shoot-through umbrella is an excellent light source for those on a budget

There are a lot of people with no desire to become professional photographers who would still like to improve their personal photography. In fact, according to the feedback I get from local photography instructors, the majority of people taking classes are hobbyists.

For most of you that means you’d really like tips that will yield better photos without breaking the bank. Here are some easy and inexpensive tips for making huge improvements in your photos.

It’s All About The Light

For a single light source, it’s hard to beat a shoot-through umbrella. If I had to pick just one piece of lighting equipment to use on a job, that’s what I would pick, even over the best softbox. The best part is they’re really inexpensive. Besides that you’ll need an umbrella bracket and light stand, but you can find all that for around $45. Easy to use and versatile, you can flip that umbrella around and bounce the flash off the inside for a different lighting effect.

That setup, a decent speedlite and an $11 reflector and you’ll have some really excellent lighting on a budget.

Shoot Raw

I used to shoot RAW+JPEG, but recently had to cut out the JPEG’s because of storage limitations. Almost any post-processing software will do a better job with the JPEG conversions than your camera, although cameras have gotten much better of late.

You can always make proof size JPEGs for pictures you want to post online or send around to friends.

Consider AfterShot Pro, DigiKam or Phocus For Post Processing

Corel’s AfterShot Pro ($99), DigiKam (free) or Hasselblad’s Phocus(free download with registration) will give you pro quality handling and cataloging of those RAW images without spending the extra money on Lightroom.

This shot was taken with the shoot-through umbrella mentioned here and processed with AfterShot Pro

Upgrade Your Camera Strap

You won’t believe what a difference a quality camera strap will make on your shoulders. Your camera will feel like it suddenly lost weight.

Some straps are $60-$70 dollars, but why spend that much when you can get a decent one for under $20?

That bright red Canon strap is not only uncomfortable, it’s a beacon that shouts “steal me!”

Get a Sensor Cleaning Kit

It will happen you some day, you’ll get a spec of oil or dust on your sensor that won’t come off with a gentle puff of air from an air blower. That’s when you’ll need a sensor cleaning kit and know how to use it.

Got to CopperHill Images and get a cleaning kit. There are extensive, detailed, step-by-step tutorials on their site for cleaning any camera sensor. Read the directions and take your time, you’ll do fine.

Avoid the temptation to skimp on the kit pieces and try to put one together yourself. You’ll need reagent grade methanol for the solvent and that’s not easy to find in small quantities.

cleaning kit
Spend the money on a good sensor cleaning kit, like this one from CopperHill Images

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