10 Common Beginner Photography Questions - and Answers!

When you first start out in photography it seems like you have a million questions buzzing around in your head! So, in this post, I've tried to take the most common questions I've been asked from beginners and give you the answers - and in most cases, link to a post here on the blog which goes into more detail for you too! Yay!

 How do I get a those blurred backgrounds?

It's actually pretty easy to get those blurry backgrounds! It's mainly due to using a large aperture (smaller F number) as this throws the background out of focus, and making sure your subject is a good distance away from the background. Read my step by step guide to getting a blurred background for more tips (there's a free cheat sheet on it for you too!). 

Why is my subject slightly out of focus?

Having your subject out of focus can be due to a number of things, but the usual culprits are too slow a shutter speed, resulting in a "soft" image due to motion blur, or using too small an aperture which gives you a very small area in focus.  Make sure you use at least 1/125 for pictures of people, and much higher for activities where there is motion.  If you are photographing children, the higher the better, even when they are relatively still. 

As for aperture, read this guide to using a Depth of Field calculator- it's really useful for beginning to understand how much of an area you can expect to be in focus at a particular aperture - you'll often find that you just simply did not have enough "depth of field" to get everything you want in focus. 

Which lens should I Invest in first?

Such a tricky question! The most common "starter" lens after the kit lens is the 50mm F1.8 (either the Canon or the Nikon version depending on your camera model) However, if you have a cropped frame and mainly shoot indoors, or you would prefer a zoom, then there are a few more options for you! Read this guide to starter lenses to find out more. 

Do I need to shoot in RAW?

This is generally personal choice, but my recommendation is that you should switch to RAW when starting out. My reason for this advice is that you are far more likely to make exposure or white balance mistakes when you are still learning, and both of those are much easier to fix in RAW than in JPEG.  I personally believe you should only use JPEG when you have mastered your basic photography skills, when sometimes it does make sense to shoot in JPEG, for example if you are on holiday and taking lots of "snapshots"  just the sheer number of images makes JPEG a better choice!  The downside is that you have to edit your images a little, but all you need to do is add some contrast, saturation and sharpness to get a similar image that you would get in a JPEG. 

Why do my photos have a strange colour tint?

Any strange yellow or blue colour tints on your images will be due to an incorrect white balance. Auto White Balance tends to get it very wrong on occasion (and wonderfully right other times - it's a gamble!)  so if you want to be sure of getting images with natural tones, then I suggest setting your white balance in camera. Here is 6 ways to do it, and some examples of the different methods in action. 

I want my subject's eye to pop and sparkle! Why can't I get this? 

This is due to a mix of correct lighting and a little bit of editing magic. I take you step by step through both of these in a free ebook that is available to Live Snap Love Subscribers! (along with a whole bunch of other cool stuff in our FREE photography resource library!)

Why is my subject underexposed?

Your camera's default metering mode is evaluative, which attempts to "even out" the light in the image.  This can often result in a perfectly exposed background but an underexposed subject!  It is best to spot meter on your subject and then set your exposure in manual mode, that way you can ensure that your subject is perfectly lit. However, you can also adjust using exposure compensation - adding more exposure to the image so that your subject is exposed correctly, even if that makes the background too bright.  

Why pictures look grainy! Why is this?

Pictures that were taken with high ISO's will result in noise or grain in the images - that speckled look over an image which makes it less sharp and clear.. The higher the ISO, the more noise there is likely to be. Here is my guide on how to reduce the noise in your images, either in camera, or in post processing. 

Do I really need to shoot in Manual Mode? 

It's not essential, but it is preferable.  My suggestion would be to spend at least a couple of weeks practising on manual mode, as I really think once you have done it, you will not want to change back!  But even if you do, you have that knowledge of shooting in manual mode, which actually helps you shoot in ANY mode.  It's scary at first, but we cover this step by step in Auto to Awesome so that you make the change gradually, taking over one element at a time. (In fact by the end of week 2 of the course you'll be shooting in manual mode!) Take it one element at a time and you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner :) 

How can I capture natural images of my children?

That's the million dollar question!  I love lifestyle and documentary photography, where there is no posing, and I find that is the best way to capture images of children - just letting them be who they are.  Try to interact with your children as much as possible too: I know that's hard when you are fiddling about with settings, but eventually that will become second nature to you, and you will then find that you become more attuned to capturing those moments since you are not so focused on your settings. Here is a guide to capturing lifestyle images of your own children, and also some 8 Tips and Tricks for Photographing Children

My photos still don't look like the images I see in my head! What am I doing wrong?

Once you have mastered the basics such as exposure and so on, it is quite common to then feel discouraged because your images still aren't quite hitting the mark (or at least that's how I felt!)  This is usually due to composition, which is how you arrange the items of interest within the frame to make your images more compelling.  Start off with something simple like the rule of thirds then build up to different compositions.

If you want a FREE course that will get you started with some tutorials for getting better images, then sign up for my 7 day Beginners Bootcamp, where you get an actionable lesson delivered straight to your inbox every day for a week! You can learn more about the Beginners Bootcamp here