Do you find yourself wanting to get better at photography, but not knowing where to start? Are you a beginner and feel like the other photographers are miles ahead of you? Believe me, we've all been there.
In this blog post, we will discuss 30 photography exercises for beginners that will help amateur's and more experienced photographers alike get better at their craft.
Think of these exercises as steps. Steps towards self improvement in an area that you truly enjoy! By the end of this article, you'll be armed with fun exercises that'll not only help you improve, but you'll enjoy!
Let's get started.
We all know of those people who read something on the internet, or watch a Youtube video and then never take action.
I'm not suggesting that you do these exercises every day, but they're all great to practice on your off days.
Definitely try each of them at least once and see which ones are fun for you!
If photography is something you love then it's worth investing in yourself. These exercises will help, greatly. So don't just read, take action.
This is the most simple and most effective way to improve your photography skills.
You don't need gear, you don't even have to be a certain age! All that's needed is something with potential for a great photo in front of it; then just start shooting, experimenting and trying new things.
Take pictures of anything - cars driving down the street or flowers blooming in your garden are both good subjects to shoot. Basically anything that interests you. The point is to start and then stay consistent.
The exposure triangle is a concept that every photographer needs to have in their mind when they are taking photos.
It's simply the idea of balancing three different settings on your camera lens or flash, which correspond with how light bounces off and records an image: ISO (film speed), Aperture (larger hole lets more light in) and Shutter Speed(slower shutter speeds let less light in).
Use the image to the right (or above on mobile devices) as a reference to how each elements affects one another - and how to get perfectly expsoded shots.
Photographing things you care about show through in the pictures. The more you care about your subject, the better it will come across in your photography and the better photos you'll take of it.
This is a good place to start if you're struggling for inspiration on what to photograph next. Think back on things that have made an impact - even if they were small - or revisit places where life-changing events happened. With so many amazing possibilities at hand, there's no need to feel stuck trying to find something new each time out with your camera!
Don't be afraid to experiment with different angles. This can really help you find what's interesting about a certain scene. You'll also learn how the angle affects your composition and where you should place objects in relation to one another for balance or symmetry.
Also, depending on the lens, you'll notice what lens distortion is and how you can use it to your advantage.
For example , tilting the lens up will create a distortion of converging lines to make buildings and other structures seem taller.
You'll also notice how light falls differently on surfaces from different angles, which can give an object or person more depth in their appearance.
Frame something in the foreground and background. With a natural frame, such as hedges or trees, it will be easier to isolate your subject from other distractions around them.
This also gives you more options when framing your shot - with an environmental frame there is always the chance of hiding what’s behind that object in favor of what’s in front if it's visually not much stronger than what's on either side.
Foreground frames are useful for isolating subjects against backgrounds which can have too many elements competing for attention at once (in this case they should line up). Frame shots work best when used creatively; there needs to be some thought put into where exactly the focal point should go: whether it’s placed
A self-portrait is a great way to experiment with the different photography techniques and skills on your own.
Take time to set up your camera, find the right angles, use natural light or reflectors if necessary (you can make one out of large white paper), and then take as many photos as you want.
When editing them afterwards in Photoshop/Lightroom/your editor of choice, it will be easier for you recognize what poses work best for you - from full length shots that show off all of your features well, or close ups of just certain parts like an eye or mouth.
By looking through these images after they're taken it may help give insight into which body shapes are most flattering.
Photograph someone you love. It could be a family member, or even your pet. This exercise is about capturing the moment and candid expressions of those who are important to us in our lives - it doesn't need to be anything fancy or complicated! Take photos over several days and see how they change from day-to-day... this can show the personality behind them while helping you improve your craft!
Exercise Tips: Use natural light for outdoor shots by finding good spots during sunrise/sunset hours. You'll get beautiful colors during those hours. OR, use windows lighting if you would rather shoot indoors. Artificial lighting (continuous or strobes) is another great option as well.
Here's a tip for photographing the sky at sunset. When shooting this type of scene, try to capture as much color in the foreground and background as possible before it gets dark (or just before needing to use ISO). This can be done by adjusting your camera settings, using filters or lens attachments like ND, Graduating Filters, or Polarizing Filters.
We will be releasing a full in-depth article on this in the near future. But, needless to say, the possibilities are endless (both in capturing the sunset and the post production)
Start by having your subject face away from the sunset. Increase your shutter speed until the background becomes the correct exposure. Record a series of images with the subject walking away from you or towards you and have them turn their body to face in different directions.
Tip: Make sure that your camera is on manual mode, so it can maintain the same shutter speed for all shots.
You can achieve this on a DSLR/mirrorless camera and on camera phones (like the new Iphones and Note 20 ultra).
This is a great way to add depth to a photo. This can be done by kneeling, lying on the ground or getting close to your subject and shooting upwards.
This is also an easy way to get children (who are often not keen on being photographed) more interested. Get down at their level and see what happens ;)
The image to the right (or below on mobile) was taken with the lens (135mm f/1.8) nearly touching the ground. There is depth and interest throughout this image.
One of the best ways to learn and become a better photographer is by understanding how patterns work in your environment. There are so many different scenes that you can find, all with their own set of patterns. Explore these and see what kind of pictures they create for you!
Leading lines are one of the most fundamental aspects of environmental photography. These are lines that lead the viewer’s eye into the photo. It is important to use these types of photography techniques as they can help guide your viewers through a frame and create much more compelling photos than if there were no leading lines at all.
The more you look for patters and leading lines - the more you will notice in your environment. If you are looking for some inspiration, try this leading line photography exercise:
Candid photos are some of the most fun to take and can make for some of the best photos in your portfolio.
We nearly built our entire photography business around candid photos. There's something about taking natural photos of people when they either don't know you're there (Do this only with people you know, in our opinion), or they have forgotten you're taking them.
We've also found great success in photographing parents as they are interacting with their children, while having fun (playground, hiking, running, etc.)
Some subjects can't pose for pictures because of disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, so we always take candid shots while others are playing sports or doing other activities.
I'm sure you always have a camera with you. This, obviously, being your cell phone. We recommend not to just 'take photos'. Think about the photos you're taking, the composition, lighting, and what the image is 'saying'.
We carry a Sony ZV-1 with us pretty much everywhere we go. It's small enough to fit in our pocket and it's a couple steps above a cell phone camera. But, cell phones have come a long way in terms of their capabilities (like the Samsung Note 20 Ultra) - and they're only going to get better. There is nothing wrong with cell phone pictures.
This is something we need to do more of as well. It's just a suggestion to go out and practice shooting in black and white, sepia, or other color modes.
We often lean towards the more colorful images when we are editing because they're so much fun--but that doesn't mean you should never shoot in b&w again! You'll get better at lighting with this kind of work too.
This is an exercise that will help photographers learn how to use light effectively while also giving their eyes time to adjust different colors on the fly without having to do it all manually during post-processing. If you don't know what I'm talking about look up "color theory" for some insight into why this might be important (or not).
Most modern cameras (including phones) have a monochrome setting that eliminates all color and still allows you to take pictures in RAW. This is not to be confused with taking pictures in black and white with a 'color profile' (which typically only outputs in .jpg)
The best way to improve your photography skills is to take pictures of things you find interesting. Animals and pets are perfect subjects for all levels of photography skill!. They make great subjects because they have lots of personality and usually move around the frame (which will keep you thinking!).
If you do not have pets, try going to the park or pet friendly beach. This is a great way to get out there and photograph pets and get to know people in your community (this isn't for everyone though).
If your pet is not camera friendly, try taking pictures of them while they are asleep on their bed. If you have a fish tank at home, take some shots with it too. They're perfect subjects because there isn't usually much movement and all the different shapes can add interest to an image.
This could be bugs, coins, flowers, basically anything that's small and interesting. Keep lighting and composition in mind.
You could even photograph miniature figurines within your home. Maybe even create a scene with correct lighting and composition to make your pictures super interesting.
The sky is the limit when photographing small objects as you need very little working space to do it, and you can do it anywhere. This is also great for those who aren't into taking photos of people or animals.
We used to tell our beginners to stay away from manual mode and editing software at the beginning so they wouldn't get overwhelmed (and to focus more on lighting and composition).
What we found was that if beginners stayed away from manual mode long enough - they wouldn't find it beneficial to learn manual and would be even more discouraged by it.
We now encourage beginners to learn manual mode within the first 2 weeks of being committed.
Manual mode is not hard - just learn how your specific camera works, the exposure triangle, and how to blend those aspects together to take full advantage of your camera and to obtain any look you desire straight from the camera itself (instead of editing).
*The series above is of a female witch teaching her daughter how to cast magic. We had a blast making it.**
A photo series has become very popular on Instagram since they implemented carousels. A photo series a group of photos that tell a story. It can be about anything from traveling to life at home, but should have a theme that unites the photos into one cohesive unit.
A great example of a photo series would be to document your recent vacation. Take a series of photos that tell the story of where you traveled to, what you did while there and how it made you feel.
Or it could be something as simple as making dinner or your morning routine.
It also encourages you to take photos continuously so that you have a full story for every moment, leading to better photography skills in general!
Getting into the habit of creating photos series early in your photography journey, will train yourself to take more pictures in the moment, and most importantly, have meaning behind those photos.
Photo series are great for social media content.
Shutter drag is an interesting, yet challenging technique that adds awesome effects right inside of your camera (instead of editing them in using photoshop).
This is achieved by setting the shutter speed low while tracking your subject.
This is a great technique for capturing light trails, moving cars/subjects, and the flowing of water.
Slow shutter speeds come with their own set of challenges, but are worth experimenting with as they can produce some truly awesome results.
An iconic example is of a moving car or motorcycle. You'll see the car or motorcycle in frame, completely sharp, but the background blurry with motion. This is done entirely in camera with lowering your shutter speed and tracking your subject as they are moving.
It's challenging, but once mastered, you can do it for any subject (people, planes, birds, etc.)
You can make this as simple or as complicated as you want. As you continue to learn and improve your craft, different aspects will tempt you to improve, naturally.
Choose a location and stick with that location for a couple weeks or more. Try and get out there everyday (or at least every 3 days). As you get out there and shoot, your eyes will become more attuned to the minute details, and natural light.
You'll start to notice how each day is different (even though you took them at the same time). You'll then get curious of how to improve your sunrise shots or even how to incorporate subjects in your photos.
But it's the time spent learning how to take the sunrise shot in the first place - that will give you the upper hand with adding subjects to the environment later.
The key here is to stay consistent - and always strive to learn more!
Photography exercises for beginners can be difficult to come up with, but this one offers so much value in both learning how to capture images and how light light effects your subject.
With this exercise, you'll take some of your favorite photos from the comfort and safety of your home or apartment.
To start, find a spot in your living room that has an unobstructed view outside through a window or large glass door. Often times these windows are filled with natural light which makes it easy to take pictures without needing any additional flash photography equipment.
Now, play around with angling your subject (or camera) to capture your subject with light hitting them in different ways. Angle them 45 degrees left then right. You can even have them turned completely to the side looking straight out the window.
All the while, snapping pictures and moving the camera to different angles and distances from the subject.
There isn't a better way to learn natural light (and how light works on a subject), and indoor photography. You can learn so much in just this one exercise.
Horizon - it's the line that separates sky and land in a landscape photo. A low horizon might cause your images to look like landscapes or seascapes, while a high horizon could make them feel more urban. But what if you never get it straight?
While straight horizon lines doesn't make or break your photo (you can straighten it when editing) - you want to keep the horizon in mind while shooting to lessen the amount of editing to your image in post production.
Straight horizons will come naturally to you the more you photograph but there are a couple things you can do with your camera that may save you, as a beginner.
Turn on 3x3 grid within your camera so you can see it while you're shooting. This is great on mirrorless cameras. You can line up the horizon with the bottom or top horizontal lines of the grid, depending on what perspective you want.
Most modern cameras come with some type of gyro as well. This will show you if you're level or not. This, again, is active within the viewfinder on mirrorless cameras.
Both tips are also available on most smart phones today as well.
Macro photography, or close-up photography is a method of capturing subjects from inches away to show the tiniest details. It can be done with any camera and doesn't require expensive equipment - just your creativity! Macro photos are great for nature shots, flowers, animals, insects and anything else you see as small and interesting. And remember: DON'T BE AFRAID TO GET CLOSE!
There are various macro lenses for DSLR and mirrorless cameras on the market.
If you have a DSLR or mirrorless - we recommend a very affordable macro lens by Laowa. We've used their lenses for years and couldn't be happier. Not only that - they're constructed entirely of metal (very durable).
If you have a smartphone - there are a few that allow for macro (like the Note 20 Ultra). If you aren't sure - do some research on your phone or get as close to an object you can and go from there.
The sky is the limit when it comes to macro photography and you'd be so amazed/surprised at what details you can't see, that the camera can!
This is a fantastic way to get some really cool photographs of the night sky. All you need is a tripod and a DSLR camera or phone capable of taking long exposures (most modern smartphones are now equipped with that capability).
Put your camera on manual mode, set it for 30 seconds exposure time at ISO 100 and then find something interesting in the foreground - this could be an object like architecture, trees, fences etc. Point your lens at it when you take the photo and use depth-of-field to blur out everything else around it.
The result will be so much better than what people usually think about when they see nighttime photos: just pitch black images containing no details whatsoever!
You can make this process as simple and as complicated as you want. But know, astrophotography is its own type of photography. This means, it may take some time and practice to get the results you desire. Be patient, learn from the photos you take, and continue to practice and improve. Eventually - you will have amazing astro photos like the ones you see online!
We're all guilty of taking a few too many shots. It's hard not to, when we see something amazing happen and don't know if it'll ever happen again.
But sometimes in those moments between clicks, the magic happens: you get an image that tells a story because there is some imperfection captured within it; you can feel what might have come before or after as though they were really happening right now.
Take your time with these pictures - they are meant for more than just being uploaded to Facebook so everyone can pat themselves on their backs about how awesome they look.
Remember, nothing in this world is perfect. Don't strive for perfect (even though I think most of us do, including myself) all the time. It's the imperfections that tell a story - and bring real life into an image.
I know we already talked about long exposure and astrophotography - but I wanted to drive this one home and talk about astrophotography and how patience is key!
Trying to capture the night sky is an exercise in patience. As you know, stars only come out at night and it's hard to get a good photo of them when they're hidden behind light pollution or clouds.
The key to getting that amazing shot of Orion with his belt shining brightly across the sky? Patience! You'll have to find a location far away from any city lights then wait for the perfect moment - which might be just after sunset, before sunrise, on a moonless evening, during twilight...
There are many ways but all involve waiting patiently while anticipating what will hopefully happen next: the beauty of nature revealed before your eyes!
A typical astrophotography session can take hours (or even days), so be patient!
Dawn, noon and dusk are the three times of day that have very different qualities. The time before sunrise has a very cool quality to it - while at sunset there is often a warm orange hue in the sky. Light at noon is very bright and harsh, while the shadows are very short. Shooting at dawn, noon and dusk can teach you about these different qualities in light that don't really happen during any other time of day.
Focusing on one quality for a series of shoots is an excellent way to learn more about it - as well as discover new ways to use it creatively.
You'll notice that all three have a very different look, feel, and quality to them. Learning these differences and learning how to use their advantages to work for you - will catapult your results for the better!
RAW is (or should be) the default file format for any camera. It stores all of the unprocessed data your camera captures, which means that it provides you with maximum amount of editing control when needed.
There are a lot of people who, when first starting out, shoot in jpg. This is usually what your camera defaults when it comes from the factory.
There is nothing wrong with jpg. But you are loosing and not utilizing a lot of what you paid for (if you're shooting on a DSLR or mirrorless camera). That's what sets a professional camera and something like a phone camera apart, RAW data. Utilize your equipment to its full potential. It's what you paid for.
Side note: Newer phones (like the Note 20 ultra) allow you to take photos in RAW format. While this isn't true RAW compared to a professional camera (like a Canon or Sony) - it still captures more data than a JPG which gives you more freedom when editing.
The reason we recommend Lightroom over Photoshop is because Lightroom is a much simpler editing software.
It's great for beginners, you don't have to learn about masks and layers like in photoshop - and it does what it's suppose to simply and easily.
I have included a couple links to Adobe Creative Cloud, student rates, and a few courses that we recommend. I have also included a couple great Youtube videos below to help those not interested in purchasing a course.
Shooting with film versus digital has great advantages when it comes to learning photography and light in general.
With digital you can preview the photo and adjust it to your liking. You shoot until everything is perfect in front of the lens, taking as many pictures as needed without wasting film.
The one major disadvantage with shooting on film is that there are only so many frames available for a single roll before they have to be developed (unless you're developing them yourself). This forces photographers to think about each shot carefully and not take bad ones - otherwise they'll end up regretting their decision later.
You'll be shooting what really counts. You'll be thinking before you shoot. This alone will help you become a better photographer.
So, what are you waiting for? Start shooting today and put these exercises to use. If there’s one thing we hope our blog post has shown you it is that with just a little practice, anyone can take better pictures.
It's also to tell you that it's easy to read this article. But if that's all you do with it - you won't improve (or at a much slower rate). You have to take the steps to improve your craft. You done the first (gather valuable information) - the next step is to actually do them.
Just start taking some photos now and figure out where your interests lie as you go along. The most important takeaway from this list of 30 photography exercises for beginners is, there are many forms, stlyes, and types of photography (we've only scratched the surface).
Finding what interests you the most, and running with it as hard as you can, will determine whether you're interested and still practicing a month, a year, 10 years from now. Take action and start the journey today!
We hope you have pulled a lot of value in this article that we wrote. It took quite some time with planning, drafts, and final edits - but as long as you got something out of it - that's all that matters.
You can also find other helpful articles like this one in our blog section.
Until next time everyone, keep learning, keep shooting, and stay safe!