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There are things that I wish I knew before starting photography. These little tidbits can save you time and money if you’re just getting started, and they can help you get better results faster.
Of course, if you’ve been in photography for a long time, it’s too late for you.
Before Starting Photography, Pay Attention!
There’s an old saying, and it’s very annoying.
You don’t know what you don’t know.Unknown
It’s annoying because it’s true, but it offers little help when you want to know something. Yet it’s a reminder to be aware that there are things you don’t know.
So that’s why I’m going to tell you 5 things I wish I knew before starting photography. Had I known, these issues would have saved me a lot of wasted time and money.
1: Know Your Audience
We start taking photos because we want the photos for ourselves. Family photos. Travel photos. You name it.
Sooner or later, we share those photos. It doesn’t matter if you keep them in the family, share them online, or start finding a market to sell your photos. You develop an audience.
Be mindful of the audience you develop.
Whatever you share, it’s going to attract someone who has their own interest. Some folks enjoy it. Some folks take it. Some folks comment.
I started with portrait photography years ago and I enjoy it, but there’s a bit of a trap. For example, there’s an entire market of amateur models who think the way to get photographed is to show more than they would wear to the grocery store.
Likewise, there are a lot of photographers who get caught up in this notion of glamour photography.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do this, but what I want to warn you about is what kind of audience you may attract based upon your subject matter.
This is a path I’ve decided that I don’t want to travel. I’m a family man with a wife and daughter. Having seen some of the comments that glamour photos attract from their audience, I just don’t want any part of it. That’s the sort of thing that would upset my family and that reflects upon me.
As a single man, I didn’t worry about it so much. As a married man, I have a different perspective.
Your audience doesn’t have to be about glamour photography. Maybe you like fast cars. You’re going to get that kind of audience. If you like sports, you’ll get that sort of audience.
Pay attention to your audience. Help them evoke an emotion that’s based upon your photos. Just be aware of how the audience you attract may affect you.
2: Pay Attention to Your Background
In the early days of Instagram, there were a lot of people who decided that it was a good way to get famous. It was, but there was also a lot of humor from the folks who didn’t watch their background.
Before starting photography, pay attention to your entire scene. We like to say that you need to pay attention to your subject, light, and background.
Well, a lot of folks miss that part about the background.
That’s why we see photos of attractive women on Instagram with all sorts of things in the background.
You get the idea. Whether it’s a photobomber, a stray dog, or used underwear, keep distractions out of your photographs.
Never let something in your photograph that you didn’t intend to have there.
3: Understand the Language of Light
Not sure if he invented that phrase, but I think it’s a brilliant way to help photographers understand that there’s more to light and lighting than turning it on or off with a switch.
Light has four characteristics that impact everything in your photos.
At the risk of being redundant, I encourage people to concentrate on their subject, light, and background.
We just spoke about the background. Don’t forget about the light hitting your subject. Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking there’s nothing you can do about the light.
There’s an entire world of lighting modifiers. You can modify any light, but you have to think about it.
4: Learn How Color Affects Emotion
Part of being an artist is evoking emotions. Color is one of your most powerful tools in that mission.
You can have colorful lights, colorful subjects, and colorful backgrounds.
Just remember that there are variations of colors. You can have tints and shades of colors for darker or lighter variations.
You can match colors that work to complement each other, or show analogous colors that are just slightly apart on the color wheel.
Use the same color on different elements in your photo to show they belong together.
Put a color cast over the photo in post-processing to blend them together.
Start looking at photos and art that you like. Notice how they use color. Try thinking about the colors you want before you click the shutter.
5: Concentrate on Results Instead of Gear
I can’t tell you how much stuff I’ve bought from Adorama. I have LOTS of gear. So much that I can’t possibly use it all on the same photo session.
There are lenses I knew that I HAD to buy because people on forums or group photo sessions told me how much they would improve my photography.
Those folks were well-intentioned, but they didn’t know what they were talking about.
Stop buying gear based on the promise of how it will magically transform your photography. A new lens won’t make you a better photographer any more than a new guitar will make you a better player.
Work with what you have.
When you find a problem that you can’t resolve with your gear, then figure out what you need to solve that problem.
Concentrate on the results that you want, and how you can get them with the gear you have. Trust me, solving problems with limitations does more to help you see how to overcome them than anything else.
Decide for yourself. Are you a photographer interested in art, or a photography gear collector.
Learn to Organize Your Photos in Lightroom Classic
I have a course for Lightroom Classic users. It’s called Where’s My Photo, and it’s about something every photographer should know.
Organizing your photos is easier than you thought, but you need to know how to use the tools inside of Lightroom Classic that helps you out.
Stop wasting time creating arcane folder structures. Lightroom Classic has better ways to organize your folders so you can easily find and share them.
The course is inexpensive at $27 because I think every photographer deserves to know how to get organized.
Click the button to check out the course.
If you're just starting photography or maybe, you know somebody who is just starting photography, there are a lot of common mistakes. And that's what this episode is about. How to avoid beginner mistakes in photography. I'm William Beem. Welcome to I Like Your Picture. The show that helps you improve your photography with visual storytelling. What is visual storytelling? It's the method of approaching your photography with a knowledge of who you're trying to serve with your photos and what emotion you want to make them feel.
We encourage you to concentrate on your subject, light, and background to create a photo your audience loves. I'm glad you found us. Hi, my name is William Beem. My name is Lee Beem. Everybody gets a little confused when they start photography. And there are things that you wish you knew when you're starting, that you ended up learning later.
So I'm going to tell you what I wish I knew. Hopefully, that will help you to avoid some mistakes and get to the results that matter the most. That's what we want you to take away from this is what really matters in photography. Don't beat yourself up for making mistakes. I can promise you that everybody made mistakes when they started. And there are professional photographers that still make mistakes.
The difference is they don't show them to you. Finally, remember photography is a journey, not a destination. It's not like you say, okay, I get to this point, I'm done. I don't learn anything else. That's not the way it works. Photography is an art. Art is evolving and your knowledge and understanding and experience with art is going to evolve and change with it.
That's true. Before we even get to our five points, I wanted to ask you about that because you've got the different background with artists. How are you still learning and evolving with your art? Not just your photography, but you know, any kind of art. You do a lot of arts. You do a lot of crafts. What changes?
Everybody's colors and styles change. And sometimes it's just the case of maturing. And sometimes you kind of tone things down as you get older, and we need to do the same thing with clothing. You do the same thing with hairstyles, your home decor. It's just the natural process. You know, other times people are just more adventurous, but styles change. Tastes change.
Your color preferences may change. You may never like the color orange, but you're going to go for different kind of color palettes. And that is a normal evolution. So I think that is a big part of it. And I, I think a lot in colors because I'm drawn to colors, but even in terms of my style, I used to go for a very crazy,
almost kind of think about things arranged almost graffiti style, collage style. That was my style when I was, you know, earlier on into my creative journey. Then I went through a very simplistic style. And now I'm kind of blending the two together. I guess if you look at it, you can see that I'm getting older because you learn something new
every time you change styles. There's a new technique. There's new setting up. There's new ways of combining the colors or clashing them or whatever you want to do. So you're always learning whether you admit it or not. And I think that you're going to go through different changes as far as what kind of subjects you want to shoot, how you want to present them.
But what really drives people to change is this first point, not understanding, who's going to view your photos and what they want to feel. And this comes back to what we always talk about with visual storytelling. It's like, you know, create photos that your audience loves and makes them feel something. It evokes an emotion. There's a part of yourself in here.
Some people are never going to be interested in portraits. Some people are never going to be interested in landscapes. You're going to shoot what you want to shoot. Yeah. But the way you go about it is because you want to take those photos, not just for yourself in most cases, but also to share them with other people. And you want people to like your photographs.
That's true. You've got to understand, who is your audience? Who's going to be looking at these photographs and what do they want to feel? Right now when Lee's doing some of her craftwork she's gotten into, I would call it kind of like farmhouse, rustic stuff. Yeah. And some of that is for you because that's what you are interested in, what you want to do.
But that's where you're putting a bit of yourself into it. I am. And also it's something new. I get bored after I've done the same old thing. I want to try something new. So this is my new, And it's the same thing with me. I really loved travel photography for a while. And then I got to the point where I wanted to do portrait photography.
I wanted to start working with people to get some emotion out. And that's a different challenge. How do I get emotion out of a travel scene? How do I get emotion out of a person? Particularly if the person doesn't know how to show emotion. There are a lot of models who have this kind of, I call it a dead fish expression.
And I'm trying to find a nice way to say, okay, we got that one in the bank. Now let's make somebody feel something. It's a bit of a challenge, but you got to think about, who's going to look at your stuff. Do you want that audience? Another thing I've noticed is a lot of portrait photographers who are getting into it are looking for lovely young women in bikinis or scantily clad stuff.
And I thought, I don't want the audience that's looking for that. That's true. I mean, look, I'm a family, man. I've got a wife, I have a daughter. I don't want them, you know, feeling uncomfortable by the people that I'm photographing. And the more than that, some of the people who are commenting on those photographs,
that's not who I am. And that's not where I want to go. That doesn't say that this is wrong. I'm just saying, you got to understand, who's looking at your photos. What are they going to feel? You can do this with any subject. You can do this with still life. You can do this with portraits or lifestyle photography.
You can do it with travel or food photo. Trust me. If you have some good food photo, I'm going to feel something. Yeah, I'm going to feel hungry. I want to say, I want that brownie or whatever it is that you photograph. You See, I don't have the same problem with dealing with people. I mean, everyone's got their preference and there are reasons why. I'm a very social person,
more so than you are, yet when I'm taking photos or working on my art. That is me-time, that is personal space. Whereas for you, it's an opportunity to engage and it's kind of social. And as a team sometimes, and you're looking for something different in it. So I would say, identify what it is that you want. And you know,
you don't always want the same thing. You know, every time that you go and take photos, but I've learned, I don't want to be bothered when I'm taking photos. I don't want subjects that I have to explain things to. And I don't want subjects that argue with me. I want to pick things up and move them and turn them upside down.
Whatever I need to do. You cannot do that with people. You could try, But I, I guess you're right, but I've brought this up as number one, because a lot of photographers get into it because they're interested and excited about photography and they have no idea what they want to shoot and they go shoot everything. And that's understandable. But the sooner that you come to the realization of what you want to take photographs of and who your audience is that you're gonna serve,
I think you'll get to a point of satisfaction much sooner. I would actually always encourage somebody when they start out to try everything for a little while, at least because you will quickly find the things that you absolutely don't like, and you can eliminate them. Yeah. An example is I thought I would really love concert photography. And at the moment, taking the photos of concerts,
I really do like it. What I don't like is having to drive down to a bar at night, you know, go through the hassle of getting set up, having somebody screaming behind me because I'm in their way. And, and then leaving after three songs and driving back home. That's not that part isn't fun. And I decided,
you know what? It isn't worth the joy of the concert photography itself for all the rest of that hassle compared with all the other things that I need to do in my life. So that's why as much as I enjoyed concert photography as a trial of things, it's ultimately not my calling. See, I bought my camera purely for portrait photography. Yeah.
I didn't want to know about any other kinds of photography. I wanted family photos. They were only to share with the family. I wanted to get better because I wanted to understand what I was doing and eliminate frustration. But I was really trying to preserve family memories. Next to landscapes, portrait photography is my least favorite. I think you don't always know until you've tried something and it might not.
It's possibly not that I liked the portrait photography less than I did. It's just that I've found things by experimenting that I love more. Yeah. I think that's a good point. All right. The second point that we have in this hits almost everyone is not checking distractions in your background, and there's nothing more frustrating than taking a photo thinking,
I nailed it. And then you look at it and you see a photo bomb where there's a dog peeing on a bush or something that you just didn't pay attention to when you were taking the photograph. This is one of my favorites. Go ahead, Lee. Tell us tell your favorite story. Do you know checking for distractions in the background? My dad is not a photographer. Yet,
My dad has an eye for detail and my parents were absolutely fantastic at documenting family. I mean, we were not kids who grew up with a shortage of family photos. There are just, there were more than you could possibly imagine. And they were snapshots, but they're there. And my mother would grab the camera and all she was looking at was her kids.
My dad was, you know, he'd go and get the roll of film developed and you'd be flicking through the wallet. My dad, I look at it. Why do you stand everyone in front of that overflowing trash can? Oh my goodness. Look at this stuff next to it. Am I like listening to them was so interesting. My mom was,
well, I'm not looking at that. I'm looking at my kids. I learned that. She's really concentrating on her kids. She doesn't care what was in the background. And this is one of my favorite things when Instagram was fairly new. And you'd see these again, young women who wanted to be Instagram famous, taking pictures of themselves, using the bathroom mirror and not paying attention to what was behind them.
You know, where their underwear hanging off of the line. Yeah. Actually we were watching, we, we looked at, there were some photos posted in a review of a really nice hotel the other day. And these people took the photos and posted them up. They've got their dirty clothes lying on the floor. They've got dirty towels lying down there.
And the first thing I thought is like, man, I've been, I hope I didn't get your room. And the lesson is, if you're trying to showcase something, don't leave something in the background. That's going to undermine your message. Yeah. And let's say, it's not always the background and that's a distraction. But usually that's the thing that I see that that really gets me.
It's like, you didn't pay attention to what was behind your subject. Yeah. You didn't blur it out or you, you know, maybe you've got too much depth of field and you can see everything clearly. And my favorite still is, you know, seeing a portrait with a dog in the background, peeing on a bush. See, I'd kinda like that.
Like doggy photo bomb character, All right. Our third one is failing to understand the language of light. And if you haven't heard of this before, I got the language of light from Joe McNally. He's got a video course on this and he's talked about this before, but there are four characteristics of lighting that you want to understand. There is the direction of light.
So is it coming top-down, left, right, behind? I can't tell you how many times, you know, like my parents wanted to take pictures, especially my mother. She would be the one to take pictures. And she heard the advice like, well, don't take pictures with the sun in the background cause you won't see their face. Well, so she'd have us face the sun and we're squinting.
We've got our hands over our forehead and it's like, and we're not happy. You know, you can tell from the look of our expressions, like, you know, the sun is in my eyes. That's how she was taught to do photography. So you need to think about that as far as where's the direction of light, you know, maybe just put the kids in the shade And nobody ever considered it.
I used, you know, once I had my own kid, I realized all you have to do is turn her slightly sideways. Yeah. It's like, why did my parents not know this? They smarter than me. I'm sure. Maybe not The advice they heard. They said, don't put the sun behind the kids. So clearly it must go in front of them.
So you can light up their faces. As far as that, there is the direction of light. There is the quantity of light. In other words, is it from flat dark to really so bright that you've got nothing but white? How much light is on there? Are you getting specular highlights? Are you getting hot spots? You know, is there a dappled light?
Cause maybe the sun is coming through a tree and you see light and shade. So take a look at the quantity of light and that kind of shadows and stuff that's falling. There is the quality of light, which is, are you going to have harsh shadows? Like you're in direct sunlight or are you going to have soft shadows? Like maybe if you're standing in the shade? And finally there's going to be the color of light.
Our previous episode, 268, we talked about sunrise and sunset photos. One of the things we liked about it is the beautiful color that comes in with that morning or late, you know, sunset time. And you can find other things that affect the color of light. You know, neon lights. You can put gels on a flash, but the whole thing is look at the light and you can work with the light because you have to work with the light.
If you don't have any light and you don't have a photograph. That's true. Play with the light. Learn what light you like. And that's going to change from one situation to the next. Some people can take hard light. If you've got a basketball player, who's charging up to shoot, hard light on, you know, a sweaty body works great. Yeah.
or silhouettes straighten into the sun. If you're trying to show that it's the heat of the day or make a statement with sharp edges, that works. Your lighting works with the mood. And that's what we want to talk about next is not understanding how color affects emotion. So there's not only color, but also light affects the emotion of how your photograph is going to affect the people who are looking at it.
So let's start off with color. Lee loves colors. What do you think about as far as do you try to make anybody feel something with the colors that you're choosing? Do you know I don't consciously sit there and go, this is what I want people to feel, but I am very tuned into what I feel and I'm trying to capture what I feel.
So I guess that kind of translates itself. So it's almost, I guess it's a backwards thing. I would not do very well at marketing because I'm not thinking so much about what the people want, but I'm going, this is what I feel. And I'm inviting them to join me rather than saying, this is how I want you to feel. And I don't think either is wrong.
I think one of the mistakes, a lot of photographers make with color is not understanding that it's not just the flat color. So for example, you can find pastels that make you feel nice and happy and people smile in front of that. You can find some moodier colors. People think that blue causes you to trust them. But one of the things I've learned watching Lee work with her art is that you can tone down and mute those colors.
You can distress those colors. Yeah. And it's not just the color, but also the shades and tints. In other words, is it darker or brighter or faded that affects emotion? Yeah, that's something I do quite a lot. Actually. I love the color, but it's too harsh. And then I just kind of do it very light white wash
or dry brush over it. Or why do you do that? Because sometimes I have the right color and the wrong intensity to go with everything else that I have. That's the perfect Word. The intensity of color also affects the emotions. So in other words, you can have the right color, but if it's too strong or too bold or it's, if it's taking away attention from your subjects,
you need to tone down the intensity of that color. Maybe amp it up. If it's supposed to be, you know, a 1980s thing, Do you know what? Or even if it's just to your taste, it can work both ways. I love color and I do love bold color. I use bold color in my photos. You don't want to overdo it.
I think it's so easy to overdo it. And a little goes a long way with bold colors. And It really comes down to your intent. What do you intend the photo convey to convey to your audience? All right. The last one is number five and I put this one on here because I am completely guilty of this. Concentrating on gear instead of the results.
When I started photography, I wanted all the things. We all started there because that's what we got told on the forums. It's like, there's a thing called lens lust. Oh, you must have this lens. These lenses will change your photography. To an extent. That's true. Lee and I were just talking this morning about a time that she went to Disney World
just with a prime lens on her camera. The cheap nifty 50, I mean the cheap, the old Version and the Disney photographer was saying, why in the world would you come here with just with just that lens? It was just one day. By the way, I didn't make a trip with only one lens, but that was my challenge. Pick a lens.
I'd literally just stick my hand in the bag in the day and see what I came out with and go, okay, let's see what I can do with one lens today. When she was making these trips, you know, she had two to three weeks or something that you were spending on your vacation. So you had time to get all the photos you wanted and you had time to play and experiment with,
with the lenses. Yeah. I don't think you need to have all the lenses. You don't need to have all the lights. You don't need to have all the soft boxes. I didn't go that way. I started off because people said, oh, you got to have the 85 millimeter lens. It is just the most beautiful portrait lens. It's a lovely and wonderful portrait lens,
but you know what? My 70-200, I can rack up to 200 millimeters and I can get the same beautiful kind of glowy bokeh in the background. And you find that you can work with the tools that you have. And instead of concentrating on the gear, you need to look at, am I actually getting photos that are worth taking? Yeah.
That 85 is quite expensive too. Isn't it? I feel bad that you spent all that money. So I might make that my next project they'll grab your 85 make you feel better by seeing what it can do. The only thing I bought that wasn't expensive was that 50-millimeter lens that I never used, but you do. It's my favorite. I would not go off and buy a lot of gear now.
I mean, I did in the past, but I would say don't buy it now until you run into a problem, you cannot solve with your existing gear. If you come out with your kit lens and it's what 16 millimeters to 50 millimeters, I'm just bringing that up because I've got a Nikon Z50 looking at me, that's my video camera. And that's the kit lens
that's on it. You know, for the video that I want to do, it solves my problem. I don't need to go get another lens to put on this thing, just to do a video for YouTube. If I were out someplace else, maybe I wouldn't be as pleased with the bokeh. And then I'll say, okay, what lens is going to give me the results that I want?
Yeah. The idea of going off and buying things because of people on forums telling you how wonderful they are, if you're not experiencing a problem that requires a different solution than the gear that you have, don't buy it. I also cut a lot of slack to people who start out or maybe people who have just never moved on from that. Because if you're doing really is the responsible thing to do,
you start out with something new, you know, nothing. So what do you do instead of being an idiot, you go and ask people who are doing it. And the advice that you get is, if you get this lens, it will solve your problems. Oh, now you need the filter. Now you need this. Now you need the remote shutters release. Oh, but that's on the wrong side.
So you need the infrared or you need the cable thing. And next thing you know, even if you're buying cheap stuff, you have racked up such a load of gear. Well, no it's a pain in the butt to go and try and take a photo. Yeah. But here's, here's my whole point with this. Not about how much you spend,
you know, cause some people got the money to spend. And at the time I did. I wasn't married so I could go spend all that money just because I want to, but were my photos any better for having done that? Maybe in some cases, maybe not. But the idea is if I had spent time with the gear that I had learning what I could do,
learning how to overcome the limitations, I think I would be a better photographer for having worked within the limitations to get the results that I wanted. I would be concentrating more on the results than I would be on the gear that solved a problem that still didn't yield the result. You know what I mean? I did. I did. We actually had a look cause your camera is way more expensive than mine.
Your lenses are way more expensive than mine. Your tripod is more, like everything, you've got cost more. And I got as much as I could afford at the time, which was not pushing it too far. And we've taken fireworks photos and looked at them and gone, you couldn't actually tell which camera took, which from looking at them. Now, your post-processing skills are way superior to mine.
So you could probably do more with them. But as far as out of the camera images, we couldn't really tell. And It depends upon the subject and what results you want to get. For something like that, your camera does a wonderful job. So does mine and you saved money on your camera compared to mine, It was free. And they gave me 200 bucks back. Lee's the only person I know who can get some Nikon paid me.
They didn't know this, That that's a story for another day. Was it D7000? And I've got, it's old. Now it's a D800, you know, it's a full frame camera. I've got, you know, the modern lenses on for DSLR. I can do things that she can't, but for taking shots of fireworks, it doesn't matter.
I'm not going for that shallow depth of field. I'm going to stop down my aperture a little bit and I'll get the same result that she got. I would say the lens is more important than the camera. If it comes down to that. I would agree with that. And most of it really comes down to your imagination and skill a skill is there and you cannot ignore it,
you know, experience. But I think it just comes down to being willing to try something. That's really what happens. I think a lot of photographers get excited about having the gear rather than taking nice photos. And that's something that I wish I had known before. You know, it's a beginner mistake. I think. Really concentrate on working with the gear that you have before you start adding to it,
because you're going to find out, as I did, you're going to buy things that you never use. Like my 24 millimeter prime lens. It's 24 millimeter F/1.4. I have very few photos I've taken with that. Yeah, it's a wonderful lens, but I'm not taking photos that really take advantage of it. And because I put on my 24 to 70 zoom lens and use that most of the time,
I've got a lot of photos at 24 millimeter, not many with that prime because are you going to carry all that gear with you if you're out and about? Yep. And I've done it that way, I've gone like the pack mule. And so have I. I've had people laugh at me cause I was carrying so much gear. And one more thing to keep in mind.
Once you take all those photographs with whether you buy a lot of gear or not, you end up with a lot of photographs, you can need to organize it. And if you're working with Lightroom, I've got a course that will help you out. It's called Where's My Photo. Go to Williambeem.com/courses. And you'll see Where's My Photo is very inexpensive.
It's $27. It'll teach you everything you need to know to make sure that you have your photos organized inside of Lightroom Classic. And I hope you enjoy it. Thank you so much for joining us on I Like Your Picture. I had fun. I hope you did too. This is episode 269. So you're going to find show notes available williambeem.com/episode269. Please go there. Let us know. Are there other beginner mistakes that you wish you knew or you would like to warn other people about? Are there questions you have as a beginner to see if you're making a mistake? Who knows? Leave us a comment. We'll see you again in the next episode.