Starting photography as a beginner is hard. It's a very fun hobby, but when you are first starting out it can be hard to look around you and compare your work to artists who have been in the game for twenty years. If you're a newbie who has been looking for ways to get better without spending thousands on a new camera, you have come to the right place!
Start shooting in manual. Even if you don't know how, just start.
I put this one first because it is absolutely the most important, and the easiest to accomplish. Once you get a handle on manual settings, a whole new world opens up in front of you. When I was learning photography, shooting in manual seemed like a mystical impossibility, something only professional photographers could do. But the reality is that shooting in manual is very easy once you learn the basics.
I'm not good at numbers, so hearing someone describe what the f-stop is and what changing your ISO does didn't help me to learn. The only way I was able to learn was to get out and do it myself. Put the camera into manual, start trying to change around the numbers, and see what they do to your photos. Make a note about what changes what, what number seemed to do what in the photo you took. Once you get an idea of what changing everything around does, then go back and look at all the blog posts and videos claiming to explain manual settings easily. Once you've actually gotten your hands on the settings, you will be able to find out how manual works for you.
Find photography blogs & videos.
Odds are, whatever question you have about photography and videography somebody has already answered. There are countless incredible artists out there who want to share their knowledge with you and help you get better. My preferred method is videos, so here are two of the YouTube channels that I have watched to help grow my skills.
Mango Street, a husband and wife couple that does awesome videos answer user questions, doing photography challenges, and giving editing tips.
Peter McKinnon, a channel full of both video and photo tips and tricks. He goes over everything from camera basics to tips on how even advanced photographers can improve. He goes over good products photographers can use to get better.
Test out a new editing style.
One danger photographers face is getting stuck in one editing style. I have been a victim of this myself, and eventually got bored of editing photos the same way. Testing out new styles, modeling after other styles you have seen and liked, or even trying some editing styles you don't like, can expose you to colors you didn't know you enjoyed so much or features of your editing software you didn't use before, or even just reinforce the fact that you enjoy how your editing style works.
Try imitating photos you love taken by other photographers.
This is not about changing up your style. That is uniquely yours and you won't build a career or even a satisfying hobby just trying to imitate what others have done. What this does is puts you in the place of a photographer you enjoy, and enables you to learn how they do what they do by actually doing it yourself.
Experiment with interesting foregrounds, not just backgrounds.
Obviously interesting backgrounds make for good pictures, but something else that can make a photo more interesting is putting something in front of your subject. This can be as simple as placing a flower or leaf, as in the photo above, in front of your lens but focusing on your subject. You can also use something like a CD or photography prism to create a rainbow effect in front of your subject or on their face. It makes the photo more interesting.
Think beyond obviously beautiful locations and go somewhere new.
Of course, a picture you take in front of the beautiful scenery is going to be pretty. The background is doing most of the work for you. A good way to flex your photography muscle is to go somewhere strange, somewhere you wouldn't ordinarily want to do a photo shoot, and find the beauty where someone else can't see it. Find it in the smiles on your model's faces, or in the crack on the sidewalk you shoot from a new, strange angle.
The photo above was taken on a broken concrete structure off the side of the road, in an undeveloped field of dirt. Doesn't sound too cool does it? The photos ended up turning out so amazing, and we had lots of fun playing with the area and seeing what was cool.
picture : Chris & Alyssa's homecoming photos
Invest in a new lens.
So you can't afford to upgrade your entire camera body, but you do have some money you're looking to invest in your photography. Lenses can make an incredible difference in the photos you are able to take.
Now, if you're wondering what lens to get, let me make a whole-hearted suggestion: start out with a 50mm, 1.8 lens. This was the first lens I invested in after using my kit lenses for a while. It was the best photography purchase I could have made. If you want to get photos and videos with an amazing blurred background, the 50mm is the way to go. Depending on which company you buy it from, they are usually only around $100. I tracked down links to a starter 50mm from three of today's most popular camera companies, and the links are below.
Now get out there and take some pictures!