There are a lot of myths about photography, and a big one is that you need the latest, most expensive equipment to take the best photos. While using high-end gear does help your portfolio to stand out, there are plenty of ways to develop your photography skills without breaking the bank.
We asked the experts at Ted’s Cameras for their advice on photography on a budget.
- Use a camera with manual settings
Just like cars, cameras can be automatic or manual — and learning your way around manual settings will make you a better photographer in the long run. Plus, it means you can confidently pick up any camera while you’re working on a budget, such as a second-hand DSLR or an old film SLR, which is a great beginner photography camera.
The major settings to learn are shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Together, they make up the “exposure triangle,” which is key to taking crisp, balanced and well-exposed images.
Here’s the lowdown on each.
- Aperture refers to the size of the opening that lets light into your camera, and it affects your image’s depth of field. But it’s confusing because the smaller the number, the bigger the opening. If you’d like to keep the background and foreground of your scene in focus, choose a smaller aperture, like f/13. And if you want to blur out the background, go for a larger aperture, like f/2.8.
- Shutter speed is the amount of time your camera’s shutter stays open when you’re snapping a photo. A slow shutter speed suits most situations, and it prevents camera shake.
- ISO is your camera’s sensitivity to light. In most cases, you won’t need to tweak the ISO. But if you’re shooting in a dark space, you’ll want to raise it to avoid ending up with blurry images.
The ability to adjust these settings gives you the greatest control over your final images. While they can sound intimidating to the beginner, with a little practice they’ll soon become second nature.
- Experiment with different angles
When you’re working on a budget, focus on what you can do with the equipment you have. A big part of this is playing around with different angles and perspectives of your scene, which is one of the best photography exercises for beginners.
On your next shoot, try crouching down on the ground or finding a higher vantage point (like a staircase or roof) to see if that uncovers an interesting image. Most digital cameras have a tilting LCD screen, so you won’t need to use too much elbow grease!
While you’re at it, you could also go back to scenes you’ve shot and loved in the past to see if you can capture something new. For example, once you’ve shot The Three Sisters, keep wandering through the National Park with your camera at the ready. The options are endless!
- Set projects and tasks for yourself
A common stumbling block for beginners is not having anything to photograph, or struggling to find inspiration. Of course, this problem has been amplified with many of us being stuck at home due to COVID-19. If you’re in this situation, you’re not alone — every creative feels this way from time to time! It’s part of the process.
A good way to get around this is by thinking of tasks and themes that you want to focus your attention on, and then letting your creativity flow from there. For example, you could set yourself a goal of visiting three suburbs or national parks, and chances are you’ll find plenty of treasures to photograph. You could also challenge yourself to learn a new skill — like portrait photography or using a macro lens — and then apply it.
The more time you spend using your camera, the better!
- Study the work of your peers
Take advantage of the awesome community that makes up photography! Whether they’re people you follow on Instagram or masters whose work you’ve only seen in library books, spend time admiring your peers’ photographs. Aim to identify why you love the photos you love, and what it is that makes their photos so successful or impactful.
Once you know what you like about these photos, you can try to apply the same techniques or themes to your own work.
Here are some key features to look for:
- Lighting. Do they use natural or artificial lighting, like a flash?
- Mood. What emotions is the photographer trying to evoke?
- Composition. How do they frame their scene and the subjects in it?
Subject matter. Who — or what — is in your favourite photos?
- Add basic accessories to your kit
If it’s within your budget, there are a few simple and inexpensive accessories you can purchase to take your photos to the next level.
- A tripod. To avoid ending up with blurry images, prop your camera on the best affordable tripod. This will keep your camera steady and prevent camera shake. It’ll also help you to adjust the composition of your image — a little tilt here or there can elevate your image from good to great.
- An artificial light source. Lighting is king, and if you can manipulate it, you’ll be able to shoot anytime, anywhere. There are plenty of portable LED lighting options to choose from. This cheap photography lighting will illuminate your subject and diffuse light for a pleasing finish.
Learn how to get better at photography
Photography is an art, and every second you’re behind the viewfinder is you honing your craft. For more photography tips and tricks for beginners, check out Ted’s Cameras blog. And when you’re ready to invest in the best affordable camera, head to your local Ted’s Camera store and the team will help you out!