5 Things New Photographers Need to Master - CB Friedland

New Photographers: Want to seriously improve your photography? Here are five fundamental ways to do it. Take the time to master each of these concepts. They are the building blocks to creating evocative images that tell a story ~CB

5 Things New Photographers Need to Master

Your Camera

It all starts with the camera. Understanding ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture are the fundamental mechanics of taking an image. Knowing how these three settings interact with each other is referred to as the Exposure Triangle. Master this concept first. It is the base for everything else to come.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to know your camera and its features well. Far too often I see both new and experienced photographers at my events that spend more time figuring out how to use the settings on their cameras instead of shooting images. Practice how to set your camera settings until it becomes second nature. Knowing this frees your mind to think about the other four items on this list.

Your Lenses

Following very closely to understanding your camera in importance for new photographers, is knowing your lenses. Understanding your lens features will allow you to use an appropriate lens to match what you are shooting.

While there are no hard and fast rules, use lenses with small focal lengths (18-35 mm) for landscape photography. For portrait, street and general photos the medium focal lengths (35-85mm). Telephoto lenses (> 85mm) are the zoom lenses that allow you closer access to your subject. The larger “mm” lenses get you closest to your subject. Use these lenses for portrait, wildlife, and sports photography.

Each lens has its strengths and weaknesses. They vary across both the tiers of lenses mentioned above, as well as by manufacturer.

Unless you are using a prime lens (it offers a single fixed focal length, i.e. 50mm), your lens allows you to shoot at a range of focal lengths. In this range, there is a “sweet spot,” where it produces the sharpest image. Take the time to determine where the sweet spot is on your lenses.

Others Work

One of the things that drew me to the world of photography was the beautiful pictures that were everywhere around me. Between social media, museum exhibits, magazines, and even the mass marketing we experience every day, we have so much access to incredible images.

One way that beginning photographers can improve the quality of their images is to study others work. Look at the placement of the subject in the frame. The light on and around the subject. Determine what your “eye” likes, and what it doesn’t.

Are you drawn to a particular type of photography, such as macro shots of flowers, or do expansive sweeping landscape photos steal your breath away?

Look at the images. Study them. Then try and shoot them. Figure out what works, and more importantly what doesn’t. There is no better way to dramatically improve your photography than to shoot with purpose.


One of the keys to every great image starts with the photographer’s choice of subject. I am sure by now as a new photographer you have been given the advice that “If you want to take beautiful pictures, point your camera at something beautiful.” For the most part, I agree with this, as you must have an interesting subject. I say for the most part because I can’t tell you how many images I took when I was starting out that had a great subject, but that the composition I chose kept them from being a great image. 

Composition, or where you place the elements in your frame is the tool you use to present your subject to your viewers. It helps determine the story that you intend to tell. It is almost as important as your subject in my opinion.

Composition adds energy and emotion to your images. It also is the difference between a flat 2-D image and a 3-D image that draws your viewer deep into the frame. Too often beginning photographers will place the subject of their image squarely in the center of the frame. I mean what better way to signal what your subject is, right? While there are times that this works, you can achieve a much more dynamic image by placing your subject off-center.

Basic Editing

The last item on my list of “5 Things New Photographers Need to Master” is basic photo editing. The world of photography has reached a much wider audience in the past decade as digital photography has made image making much more accessible. There is no shortage of images being created every day, whether it is selfies, food porn, or family memories. Most of these pictures are snapped, then shared without any additional processing. We call images that have no editing applied “straight out of camera” (SOOC).

SOOC images are typically starting points, and additional processing is needed to represent better what we actually saw when we pressed the shutter release. It is necessary because our camera sensors do not see as many stops of light as our eyes can. We see the world in a much more vivid color and depth than the current sensors can capture. Because of this, additional processing is needed to improve the “flat” images that the camera produces. (It is the reason why your photos look better when you apply a built-in filter to them. Hipstamatic anyone?)

This is especially true if you are shooting in RAW mode instead of JPEG mode with your camera.

What’s Next?

Mastered these concepts? You are now ready to explore additional concepts and tools that will help you discover your creative voice. To not only discover your own unique way to see the world, but also how to share it with everyone through the images you make.

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