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11 Things I Wish I Knew About Photography When I First Started

Written by Sasha Bell

I am often asked what I wish I knew in the beginning when I first started photography, i. e. if I were to go back in time and tell myself what I know now, what would it be?

I couldn’t answer this straight away, I had to give it some time and after a lot of  thought I have come up with a list of the 11 Things I wish I knew About Photography When I Frist Started.

So here it is!

1. Use manual mode

Summer Slumber

Although it might seem harder to use Manual on your DSLR, it’s actually much easier being in control of your settings and by doing this you willl cut out a lot of the “bad photographs”, so don’t use anything but manual – it makes photography so much easier.

2. Delete bad photographs 

This might seem obvious, but you really must let go of bad photographs, don’t hold onto them, you will never need those bad photographs.

All that happens is, they take up space on your laptop so much so, that you have to have a big clear out. Which takes up a LOT of time and it won’t help you be a better photographer.

3. What to look for in a correctly exposed photograph.


In the beginning I found exposing my photographs correctly very difficult, as when I would look at the photographs on my camera, I would think they were exposed correctly, just to find that they were underexposed when I looked at them on my laptop.

I realised at the time I was looking at them fleetingly and therefore didn’t notice there was too many “blacks” in the photograph. Generally, they looked too dark! 

However, if your photographs are turning out to be overexposed then try to see if the “whites” in the photograph look blown out. Once you recegonise these signs then you can beign to fix them and start exposing your photographs correctly every time.

4. What settings to use to create beautiful photographs 

It’s vital to have the right settings on your camera so you can create beautiful, dreamy, unique photographs you will feel proud of.

In the beginning it can seem quite difficult to learn everything about your camera, as people make it so technicial… when it’s actually very simple if it’s explanined in “English”, rather than all this technicial jargon! That is why we have made easy to understand ebooks – we literally tell you what settings to use – when, why, and how. 

So you can improve and learn much faster.

5. Key points for good composition

Portrait in the Foxgloves - Day 274/365

I used to find it tricky knowing which was the “right” composition, I could never decide what was a good composition.

If the composition is bad, it can affect the whole photograph and part of making a photograph look beautiful is drawing the viewer into the photograph. i. e. good composition. So I had a lot of “trial and error”, learning to see what wasn’t good and correcting it next time I took photographs. 

6. Keep things short and sweet

I definitely wish I knew this when I first started photography, it’s so easy to drag each photoshoot out for too long and then feel deflated afterwards if I didn’t get the photograph I had in mind.

The best thing to do is to keep photoshoots “short and sweet” – try 20 minutes maximum, even if you don’t come back with the ideal shot, at least you won’t be exhausted, and then put off going out again. 

7. Start with a clear picture in your mind

Instead of going out with your camera and hoping you’re going to come back with some good photographs, you need to try and have a plan in mind BEFORE you go out. It doesn’t matter if the plan changes, but starting with a plan usually makes all the difference. 

8. How to process photographs

Girly Time - Day 154/365

I wish I could have known what ugly processing was and what good processing was… as now when I look back at my older photographs, I think “what was I thinking?!” I processed them with way too much vignette, blacks, desaturated, too dark etc… 

Each photograph was so different and I didn’t know how to process and flatter the colours in each photograph.

So if I could give you just 1 tip… I would say, use Lightroom Presets. These cut out the confusion, the time, and you’ll skip that ugly processing phase!

We have a range of different Lightroom Presets to suit your photographs and help YOU speed up your learning curve. 

9. Ignore The Critics

If you’re uploading photographs online, be prepared you may received bad feedback – this may come from friends, family or strangers. 

Whether they are right or not, it’s irrelevant. It’s important to realize that you are already trying to improve.

So bad feedback is actually not helpful, even if it appears to be, or is presented in a way as to be “helpful” – which is usually hardest form of criticism to ignore because of the way it is presented… 

But don’t be fooled by the “helpful” approach.

If you are receiving this feedback publicly, like on a Facebook page, then delete it. Don’t even question it.

Make it your policy to delete / hide the comment. 

There are many different ways to deal with bad feedback, such as ignoring it, answering, deleting etc, and I have done all of them. I have found the best method is deletion – as this leaves me to get on with my own goal, and continue to grow as a photographer.

If you spend time thinking about the criticism, and battling with it, you’re missing out on the time you could spend improving yourself and your photography. 

10. How to know when you’ve got the photograph

I’ve had this feeling a lot of times, in the past I would never know if I had “the” photograph, I would keep asking myself; “have I got it?” or “should I keep taking more photographs?”

Jumping In the Summer

If I was to go and back and tell myself then, what I know now… I would tell myself that it doesn’t matter if you haven’t got it, I’m just learning. So what if it’s not perfect?

So don’t worry if you come back without an amazing photograph – you will get there. It is a process!

11. Less is more

When you photograph food or still life, don’t make it look too messy by overcrowding the photograph – often it’s best to keep the photograph a little on the simple side. 

Take the First Step

Heart Jump - Day 336/365

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About the author

Sasha Bell


  • Excellent advice and encouragement! I really appreciate your approach to photography in keeping it simple. And, oh, your amazing presets!! I hope to purchase them in the near future. Are they instant downloads? I am from the U.S.
    Blessings to you!!

    • Thank you so much Emaily for your kind words and appreciation – our aim has always been to try and keep things simple and easy to understand. Yes the presets come through straight after you’ve checked out and you can also access them through your account. We send our blessings to you too! 😀

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