8 Simple Ways Improve Your Photography as a Beginner

While the iPhones and Huaweis of this world let anyone just point and shoot without a whole lot of thought, the art of photography is more complex than that. Much more. Many people think that as long as you have an expensive camera, you're guaranteed incredible--or even just good--photos.

To be clear, expensive high-quality camera and lenses can make a world of difference to the quality of your images, but that's only if you already have the talent and the skills of a good photographer. If you don't, then you're probably just wasting a whole lot of cash for nothing.

Before you invest in pricey gear, invest in yourself first and hone your photography skills. Here are eight simple ways to get started.

Turn Off Full Auto

First and foremost, let's just take those training wheels off. You're a big boy/girl now; you don't have to be spoon-fed anymore and you shouldn't let anyone tell you what to do, least of all an image-recording piece of equipment.

Take your camera off Auto and switch to Aperture Mode (or Manual Mode, if you feel so inclined). Shooting in Auto not only makes you very dependent on your camera; but it also prevents you from thinking, which in turn prevents you from understanding how actual photography works, not to mention limits your creative process.

Remember, great photography is a combination of technicality and creativity, knowing how things work and utilizing them in a creative way to produce beautiful images. You can be the most creative person, but if you don't understand how things like aperture, shutter speed and ISO work (and work together), you can only go so far.

Watch Your Lines

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One of the most common mistakes people make when taking photos is a tilted horizon or misaligned lines. It's unnatural, and while many untrained eyes may not notice it immediately, they can still tell that there's something wrong with the photo.

Think of it this way: if you're on a beach to watch a sunset and that horizon line is askew, you're probably going to freak out. Same if you're looking at a building that's leaning at an angle (unless it's the Tower of Pisa).

Obviously, straightening your lines in your frame before you take that photo takes a bit of practice. Plus, many cameras offer built-in gridlines to help guide your framing.

Stop (Just)Taking Photos of Flowers

We get it; flowers are pretty and accessible and effortless subjects to photograph. You can just pop in at the nearest flower shop, get the prettiest bouquet, arrange them in a vase next to a window, and viola!

Yes, flower photography is a lovely and necessary stepping stone, but make sure to challenge yourself as a photographer and try other photography genres -- portraits of your friends and family, street photography in your town, landscapes on your way home from work. You don't need to go far.

Don't Cut Off Limbs in Weird Places

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Though when you do start capturing portraits, please make sure to NOT cut off their limbs at weird places. Just like crooked horizontal and vertical lines look and feel unnatural, so are limbs that are cut off at the joints (elbows, knees, fingers, toes, ankles, and wrists). Doing so makes for unflattering portraits. Whether you're shooting or cropping in post, always cut your subjects off mid-arm or mid-forearm, at the waist, below the knee, and mid-thigh.

Pay Attention to Every Detail

Not cutting your subjects off at the wrong places and making sure that your lines aren't crooked are just two of the many details you need to pay attention to in order to capture better compositions. You're a beginner so you might not be as adept at scrutinizing every detail in your frame within just a couple of seconds before you click that shutter. However, trust us when we say that with practice, you'll get so much better at it.

Pay attention to every single thing, from your backgrounds and foregrounds to things like a tiny strand of hair that has made its way across your subject's face or that piece of disembodied twig at the edge of your photo. Take your time, and really focus. Whether you're shooting digital or film, make every single shot count.

Practice With a Film Camera

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Speaking of shooting film, it's honestly one of the best ways to understand and master the exposure triangle and other rules of photography. Shooting film also forces you to slow down, have a bit of patience, and really pay attention to every single detail before you expose that frame. After all, film is getting rarer these days, developing and scanning them can be really expensive, and it's not like you can just preview your shots really quickly to see if you need to retake. You really have to make every single frame count.

Get to Know Your Camera

It isn't enough to just understand and master the rules, techniques, and technicalities of photography. Getting to know your camera's features will help you best utilize it to your advantage. Additionally, really knowing your way around its menu, dials, and buttons will also streamline your creative process when you're taking photos. So make sure to read your manual, watch videos about your specific model and, if you can afford it, taking a class hosted by a professional photographer that uses your brand.

Shoot During the Golden Hour

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You know that wonderful time of day where, as the sun sets towards the horizon, everything's warm and beautiful. Photographers and filmmakers call this time golden hour. Shooting during this time is perhaps one of the easiest ways to create flattering photos, whether you're doing portraits or capturing landscapes. The golden light that the setting sun casts simply makes everything look better, especially compared to the harsh, unattractive light of the midday sun.

Just don't forget about all the other tips above.