The Most Essential Photography Skills to LEVEL UP your photos!

Let’s unpack it together in this photography tutorial.

featured image showing essential photography skill mistakes and compositions

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Essential Photography Skills For Beginners

The top 5 essential photography skills that you NEED to Know!

After learning the basics of photography, the learning doesn’t stop there!

Even if you think you know it all, it’s still a great idea to keep learning and getting all the tips you can. That’s why these 5 essential skills are going to help you with your photography.

Whether you are just getting started as a beginner or you have been photographing for a long time, you might not have these particular skills. You could go your whole career or creative journey never knowing these, but if you apply them they will change your photography forever!

Essential Photography Skills – Make Sure you Know These!

You may be a master of the camera, or you want to get knowledge of the skills you need to boost your photography – either way, you’re in the right place! 

Read on to learn the top five skills you should know to better yourself as a photographer.

Photography Must-Have Skill #1: Know your camera settings inside and out

You might not have the most expensive and newest camera – but that isn’t the most important part of being good at photography. Instead of needing to have the best gear – it will boost your photography quality if you have a wide range of knowledge about the camera you do have.

Take the time to learn your camera, all of it’s settings, buttons, and abilities in order to save yourself so much time and get the shots you want easily. Master things like:

  • Knowing how to adjust and set your exposure bracketing settings – quickly!
  • Knowing how to view the exposure histogram on your camera to get your exposure set fast
  • Knowing how to set an exposure delay, the timer setting for the camera (and know how to mute the camera delay beep – in case this is annoying )

Camera settings skills

Essential Skill #2: Use your photo failures to learn what you can do better

Do you try to take the most perfect photos all of the time? You can actually learn so much more from supposed ‘failures’. Don’t delete photos that you find to be ugly or failures! And don’t get discouraged when you see other photographers’ photos that look ‘better’ than yours.

Note what you like about their photos. Note what you want to change about your supposed failures and use these notes to improve!

Experiment and try shooting many different compositions and see what works and what doesn’t. Use trial and error with your camera settings. For example, take photos of the same setting and try out different exposure settings to see what you like.

Shutter settings skills

Level-Up Photography Skill #3: Keep returning to and taking photos at locations you like

A good skill to have in your set is getting to know locations that you enjoy shooting, and to continue to come back to those locations over and over.

Taking photos of locations can become a repertoire or growing list of good locations for photography – even if you don’t love the photo you took. Returning to a location that you know is a good setting for taking photos, you won’t have to worry about getting a good composition.

If you can keep going back to the same location over time, you will be able to see the progression of your skills between photos.

Ben Horne is a good example of this skill, he returns to Zion National Park and takes video and photo journals and over the course of ten years captured iconic shots of the park to more hidden gems that no one else really sees. 

The patience to return to locations often and get to know them is a good skill you should develop.

Ben Horne photography

Essential Photography Skill #4: Knowing what lens to use when

You probably know that when you’re starting out as a photographer there’s a large learning curve. One of the most important things to learn is what lens to use in which situation. (The lens being the piece of gear added onto the scope of your camera.

There are different lengths of lenses you can choose from which will have different effects on your photo.

The good rule of thumb for this skill is to only include in the scene what is going to benefit the composition.

A wide angle lens (16mm, 24mm, 35mm etc) will include more of the scene; while longer telephoto lenses (70mm, 85mm, 105mm, 200mm etc) will tighten the image around the object.

The wider the lens, the further the objects in the composition are going to appear and more horizon will be visible. The more zoomed in the lens, the more close up objects will appear. This is called “depth compression” and can be very useful when you want to bring a distant mountain or background closer to your subject.

Really think about what the scene is, what you want to capture, and make an intentional lens choice.

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Must-Know Essential Photography Skill #5: Researching your locations, weather, and lighting

Take the time to research before you head out on a wild adventure to a new location. Get inspired by where others have taken photos for some not-so-known-about spots and do some research.

Use apps and maps to find out where the sun will be positioned at different times of the day, what the weather patterns are typically. 

  • Will there be wind, how much and from what direction? 
  • Will there be cloud cover, how much and when? 
  • You can even look up the topography (height and depth of natural features in an area)! 

(how great is the internet?)

Researching all of this ahead of time will ensure that by the time you get to the location and set up, you will be able to get the shot you want. For example, you don’t want the surprise of crazy weather or cloud cover when you want to capture a beautiful sunset!

Location research for photography

You don’t have to have these essential photography skills; but if you do, your photography game will change for the better! 

These skills will come in handy in your photography journey, so make sure you are following the tips to master them!

Comment below which skill will you start applying to your photography NOW?

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