5 Not So Obvious Tips for Beginner Photographers


Pierce Codina

Apr 14, 2022

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I have a confession to make. Though the Gear Focus staff is stocked with legions of great photographers and producers, I am not one of them. As a musician first, my skills as a photographer have consisted of a thumb and an iPhone. When I set out to go on the road with my band, our CEO came up with a suggestion "Why don't you try to become a photographer on tour?" I have to admit, I was initially intimidated at the prospect of trying to pick up a new skill during what is usually a hectic four weeks. On the other hand, I thought about how special our Gear Focus community has become and how much better I could serve it if I finally took the plunge. Also, what better time to capture the magic than a 12,000-mile trek around the country? Along the many stumbles towards learning the ropes, I read (and watched) just about every beginner's guide to photography. And while there is a sea of great resources on techniques, the following five tips offer a different way to start your journey as a photographer.

1. Internet forums are great but have a conversation with an expert (like Gear Focus!)

Finding the perfect camera requires two-way communication, and sometimes the internet can give you choice paralysis. No camera may fit 100% of your needs, but there is surely a camera that will fit most of your needs. The other thing to consider is that your amateurishness could be preventing you from even knowing what you need. For example, our CEO promptly pointed out that if I was going to be recording audio of concerts, I’d probably need a camera that could support a good external microphone. Something I had never thought of. When I popped around on camera forums asking what the best DSLR camera was, the sheer volume of responses left me with more questions than answers. Talk to a few experts, pick a lane, and just drive. Everyone has to start somewhere, and just getting started is the key.

2. Focus On Substance Over Technique

In music, we call this “three chords and the truth.” In the same way writing a great song does not require you to be technically proficient, getting started as a photographer is more about the subject matter than it is about the technique needed to capture it. As the tour rolled on, I started to spend my photography time focused more on pockets of energy that would make for great shots rather than endless hours learning techniques (though there is room for that too!). The aftershow glow a musician gets when they come off stage, the early morning pre-van breakfast, the fan reaction during the loudest part of a set, these were all moments that even captured with the little skills I have could elicit some sort of emotional response from the viewer.

3. A/B Test Manual VS. Automatic

One of the most daunting tasks for me as a beginner was switching over to manual. In my mind, REAL photographers shoot with manual, beginner photographers shoot automatic. Of course, I've come to realize that just isn't always the case. Even still, I felt I'd never truly understood the mechanics of a camera until I took the plunge. Ultimately, I found switching back and forth between the two settings while shooting the same scene to be extremely helpful. I came to think of it as almost A/B testing as I learned the ropes. This really gave me a feel for what the automatic setting was actually doing as a baseline. From there, I was easily able to give a shot of my own flair by playing exposure, ISO, focus, etc.

4. Learn Photo Editing In Tandem

Midway through our tour, I realized just how big of a role photo editing can play in completing your creative vision. Shots I didn’t think would work, suddenly could pop in a very unique way I had not considered once I imported them into LightRoom. Take, for example, photo 5. I shot this on an Indian reservation in New Mexico off the highway. To my eyes when I previewed the shot it looked too dark, the moon was hardly viewable and the composition was ever so slightly skewed diagonally. Once imported to LightRoom, I was able to fix all those problems and turn it into one of my favorite photos from the tour.

5. Go To Where The Photographers Are

I was lucky enough to spend virtually every night on tour surrounded by professional photographers. I found myself exchanging ideas, asking questions about gear, sharing contact information and photos after shows. In music, there’s no better way to become a great musician than by surrounding yourself with an inspirational cast. The photography community, I’m learning, is cut from the same cloth.      

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