6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

General How-To

6 Insightful Photography Tips for Beginners

Photography Tips For Beginners

When I was first starting out in photography – I mean the very beginning when I wasn’t even sure which end of the camera to look through – it was difficult to find information about learning photography. It was difficult to get good information, I should say. And now, while there are photographers all over the Internet willing to teach you how to take photos in different places and media, there is very little in the way of just good, solid advice for those who know next to nothing. So after some thoughtful consideration, here are my top 6 photography tips for beginners. 

#1 No Camera, No Problem

If you’re just starting out in photography, it’s obviously useful to own a working camera with which to practice, especially one with manual control over exposure. But given the cost of even an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera these days, you can still get started with even the most basic of tools – your phone, for instance – while you save up for sometime with more control and options.

You can effectively use your phone to help in learning composition and image frames (what to include and exclude from the photo) to get a head start with one skill that even many advanced photographers struggle with. Ideally you would have a real camera with more control over the final image but in reality, a smartphone camera is better than no camera at all.

#2 Invest in Good Glass

When you do get to the point where you’re ready to invest some money in photo equipment, please take the following advice. Invest in good glass (hipster photography lingo for “lenses”) and less in the camera itself. You should almost treat digital cameras as disposable. Just as a car has a limited number of miles in it before it gives up the ghost, so does a camera with regard to the number shutter actuations before it dies. Also, the sensor technology in your brand-new digital camera will be obsolete in a couple of years. Lenses, however, can last a lifetime, as long as they are maintained properly and your camera manufacturer doesn’t change the lens mount. Bottom line, if your funds are limited, the better investment is in lenses, not cameras.

#3 Your Photos Will Suck

The French documentary and street photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson mused that your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. This is true of photography and most other things you try to learn as well. Your first 10,000 steps as a toddler were probably your most wobbly and unsteady too. Yes, your photos will suck at first and that’s ok. In fact, they might not be very good for many years. The important thing to remember is that you’re striving for improvement, not perfection. Improvement, not perfection. One day you’ll look back on the photos you took during your first year and find them absolutely revolting. And that will be the best feeling because you will know you made improvements along the way.

#4 Follow Your Passion

Ask yourself this question. What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning or the last thing that crosses your mind as you drift off asleep at night? I guess you can say this is a rhetorical question since what I really want is for you to realize is what makes you tick. What are your passions? If they are flowers, then photograph flowers. Wildlife? Photograph wildlife. Cars, beaches, people, pets? Find out what your passions are and train your lens on those things. I would advise against investing too much time on subjects that you are ambivalent about. What a waste! Share your passions! I talk more about this in my recent Twitter AMA.

#5 Experiment and Have Fun

Learn and absorb all you can about photography from books, classes, blogs, online tutorials, and social media. Learn, learn, and learn some more. But in addition to all that learning, make sure you make time to have fun too. Play with your camera. Choose the wrong lens purposefully just to see what you can make of the photo opportunity. Play with different settings and filters so you develop an intuitive understanding of how your camera works and what photography is all about. Your formal learning will be even more powerful when coupled with and intuitive feel for photography.

#6 Take Care Of Your Health

Take good care of your health. Eat well, sleep well, and take care of your body by exercising it regularly. Meditate if you are into that sort of thing. I sure am. If you’re not healthy, it will be difficult to be productive or to have any fun. If you’re not mobile, you will miss shots and opportunities which is frustrating. If you’re tired and exhausted all the time, it’s nearly impossible to be creative. Take that one to the bank.

Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly Lens Review

Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly Lens Review


Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly Lens Review

The Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly Lens

Back in January of this year, the good people at Irix USA sent me a new 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly lens to try out, use, and review. I’ve photographed with it a handful of times over the past few months and I’m just now getting around to offering some opinions. My opinions are POSITIVE! In fact, I couldn’t find one thing I didn’t like about the lens. Honest.

Here’s a summary of what I liked about the newest Irix lens: It’s manual focus, which all macro lenses should be. There is no practical need for autofocus with a macro lens. The highly rubberized focusing ring is smooth and adequately damped for fine-tuning the focus. In fact, everything about the lens says “solid” and “quality” to me. It’s the perfect focal length for a macro lens as well. At 150mm, the angle-of-view is narrow enough to easily control the background, which is really important when doing macro photography. Even though the lens is relatively small and compact, Irix has added a lens collar so transitioning from horizontal to vertical and back is quick and easy. And there’s a Arca Swiss mount built into the lens foot! I hope this catches on and becomes standard practice.

Image quality is superb, which is what I’ve come to expect from Irix. My experience with the Irix wide-angle primes (11mm and 15mm) prepared me for this result. It’s incredibly sharp and contrasty. The bokeh, something pretty important when it comes to macro photography, is smooth and creamy at large apertures, even at 1:1 true macro reproductions. The large f/2.8 maximum aperture on the lens allows a lot of light for focusing, especially in live view.

The Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly lens can be ordered with the Canon EF (pictured here), Nikon F, or Pentax K mounts. Let’s hope it’s updated later for the new mirrorless mounts. The lens barrel is composed of metal alloys with a polished, satin anodized metal finish and it’s packaged with a very stylish molded case that protects the lens well when transporting. Everything about how the lens looks and performs is first class.

Get yours here on Amazon: Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly Lens

The Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly Lens Specs

I just received the new Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly Lens from Irix USA. I’ll do an in-depth review once I have the time to actually use this telephoto macro lens, but my first impressions are the following: The lens is solidly built. It feels cool, heavy, and dense in my hand. 150mm is the perfect focal length for a macro lens, in my opinion. The telephoto perspective really allows you to control the background much better than shorter focal lengths. I absolutely love the fact that the lens has a detachable tripod collar (to make it much easier to go from horizontal to vertical and back) with a built-in Arca Swiss mount. Why don’t other lens manufacturers do this as well considering this is the industry standard?


  • Covers full 35mm frame, for Nikon F, Canon EF, Pentax K mounts
  • Manual focus
  • Weather-sealed construction (Dragonfly finish)
  • 12 elements in 9 groups, 3 ED, 4 HR elements
  • f/2.8 to f/32, 11-blade diaphragm
  • 77mm filter ring
  • 12” (0.345m) minimum focus, 1:1 maximum magnification ratio, focus lock ring
  • 3.9” (135mm) long, 4.5” (87mm) diameter
  • 20.5 ounces (840g) weight
  • Detachable tripod collar with Arca Swiss mount; includes lens hood
  • Black
  • USD$ 595
  • Announced by Irix September 24, 2018

Get yours here on Amazon: Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly Lens

Photo Equipment: What’s In The Bag?

Photo Equipment: What’s In The Bag?

Gear Reviews

Photo Equipment: What’s In The Bag?

It’s the most frequently-asked question and perhaps the least important. “What’s in the bag?”

I say it’s the least important since it’s usually the first (and easiest) avenue beginning photographers take to try and improve their photography work. They believe that better and more expensive gear will create a better photographer but more often than not, it only leads to disappointment. A better investment would be in time – time spent practicing their technique and honing their personal vision. Still, photo equipment is not unimportant either. if you’re not convinced, just try doing photography without it!

So with that said, let’s have a look into my photo bag (all links to Amazon):

Photo Equipment

Camera Bag: One of several MindShift Gear bags, depending on the trip or assignment. Moose Peterson MP-1 V2.0, FirstLight 40L, or Backlight Elite 45L

Currently, my favorite photo backpack is the MindShift Backlight Elite 45L Camera Backpack. Just Superb in every way!

In addition to the actual bag that I choose for a particular trip, the contents in the bag also depend on where I am going, what I will be shooting, how remote the area, and how much hiking there will be. Here is some of my basic photo equipment:

Canon EOS R5
Canon EOS R

Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM (when weight is an issue or for bird-in-flight images)
Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM

Canon Extender EF 1.4X III
Canon Drop-in Filter Mount Adapter EF-EOS R
Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite Flash (2)
MagMod 2 Basic Flash Modifier Kit
Lee Filter Holder with polarizing filter
Breakthrough Photography’s ND Filters (no color cast)
Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Tripod
Really Right Stuff TQC-14 Tripod
Really Right Stuff BH40 ball head (2)
Really Right Stuff BH35 ball head

Wimberley WH-200 Gimbal Head II
Lexar digital media
Mac Book Pro 15.4″ Computer with Retina Display, Touch Bar, 2.9GHz Intel Core i7 Quad Core…
LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C 4TB Portable Hard Drive

* Post includes affiliate link*

Essential Photography: Telephoto Landscapes

Essential Photography: Telephoto Landscapes

General How-To

Essential Photography: Telephoto Landscapes

Most photographers, particularly beginners, believe only wide-angle lenses are used for landscape photography. In fact, I’ve seen and heard some of my workshops students pull the wide-angle lens from their bag and exclaim, “I’ve got my landscape lens!” That’s a partially true statement since wide-angle lenses are indeed used for landscapes, especially near-far compositions where there is a compelling foreground to anchor the composition. But experienced landscape photographers know that a telephoto lens is every bit as important as a wide-angle when pursuing landscape images on a photography trip.

When it comes to creating telephoto landscapes, here are a few things to consider.

Telephoto Lenses Compress Perspective

Different focal lengths create different perspectives. The first image was captured with a 100mm focal length. The second image was captured at 400mm after backing up some distance. Although the foreground rocks are the same size in both examples, their relationship in size to the background mountain has changed dramatically.

While wide-angle lenses create spatial separation between foreground and background elements, making near objects disproportionally larger and distant objects much smaller than normal (this is exaggerating the visual effects of diminishing scale), telephoto lenses do the opposite – they compress perspective. Telephoto landscapes, such as a layered mountain scene you see above, can appear flat or two dimensional, even though the actual physical distance between the ridges is significant. To accentuate the mountain ridges, the telephoto lens can not only omits any unwanted foreground or excessive sky, but it flattens the perspective, amplifying the progression of repeating ridge patterns. What’s actually happening is that diminishing scale is nearly eliminated. 

The Art of Exclusion

By eliminating the many distractions near this tree (other nearby trees, a messy foreground, a bright overpowering sky) I am able to use the tree’s graceful shape as the backbone of the image and simplify my visual message.

Telephoto landscapes can isolate a small portion of the world in front of you. By paring away the unimportant and distracting visual elements to reveal only the most essential parts of the scene, you are practicing the fine art of exclusion. Visually distracting foregrounds and boring skies can be edited out of the image frame by simply zooming into what’s important. As a result, telephoto landscapes tend to “speak” with more clarity then wide-angle compositions that contain more visual information. 

A strong composition is vitally important when creating telephoto landscapes. Where wide-angle scenes tend to communicate a sense of place, telephoto interpretations do so to a much lesser extent. Refer to the example above. The image says nearly nothing about where this might have been captured. It literally could be almost anyplace where there are trees and a river. Telephoto landscapes say more about the photographer’s personal vision than sense of place. 

Lenses For Telephoto Landscapes

I suppose we could start a lively debate as to which focal lengths constitute a telephoto lens. A 70-200mm zoom is too short for most wildlife photography applications (and would probably be referred to as a “short” telephoto at best by wildlife shooters) but this focal range is nearly perfect for landscapes. For a photo trip that i know will be exclusively landscapes, I will pack a 70-200mm f/4 model rather than the heavier and more expensive f/2.8 version. Super large apertures and fast f/stops are rarely needed when doing landscape photography. Here are some superb options (all links to Amazon).

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L is II USM Lens
Nikon 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Nikkor Zoom Lens
Sony FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS Interchangeable Lens

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer is the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.

Essential Photography: Teleconverters for Wildlife

Essential Photography: Teleconverters for Wildlife

Gear Reviews

Essential Photography: Teleconverters for Wildlife

What are Teleconverters?

A teleconverter is a magnifying lens that fits between the camera body and the effective photography lens. Teleconverters multiply the focal length of the lens giving it essential reach for small wildlife and subjects that are at a considerable distance. For example, a 1.4X teleconverter (also referred to as a tele-extender) multiplies the focal length by 1.4 so a 300mm lens now becomes a 420mm lens. A 2.0X teleconverter would make that same 300mm lens a 600mm. The teleconverter adds a little extra zoom or reach to your lens, without having to crop pixels to get the same effect. Is this awesome or what?

Now The Bad

But there are two fairly significant downsides to using teleconverters. First, using one will come at the cost of overall lens sharpness. The more glass that sits between the imaging sensor and your subject, the less sharpness and resolution you’re going to experience. The 2.0X will be less sharp than the 1.4X (Nikon makes a 1.7X teleconverter, which is a nice compromise).  

A teleconverter can be an essential piece of photography equipment if you shoot small birds on a regular basis. This ringed plover required a 500mm lens plus a 2.0X teleconverter for an effective focal length of 1000mm.

Because the teleconverter extends the lens mount away from the image sensor, it also decreases the amount of light that enters the camera. A 1.4X teleconverter will reduce the maximum aperture of the lens by one full stop while the 2.0X will cost you two stops. So a 300mm f/2.8 lens will become a 420mm f/4 with the 1.4X and a 600mm f/5,6 with the 2.0X. That’s something to consider when you are working in low light environments. You must also consider that not all lenses work with teleconverters and some camera bodies will lose autofocus if your teleconverter pushes your maximum aperture to f/8 and beyond. Check your camera’s manual to be sure. Here are some helpful online guides:

Nikon AF-S Teleconverter Compatibility Chart
Canon Teleconverter Compatibility Guide (scroll down to near the bottom of the page)
Sigma Teleconverter Compatibility Page
Sony 1.4X Teleconverter Compatibility (scroll to bottom)
Sony 2X Teleconverter Compatibility (scroll to bottom)

Where to get yours?

(All links to Amazon)

Canon EF 1.4X Teleconverter
Canon EF 2.0X Teleconverter
Nikon AF-S FX TC-14E III (1.4x) Teleconverter
Nikon AF-S FX TC-17E II (1.7x) Teleconverter
Nikon Auto Focus-S FX TC-20E III (2.0x) Teleconverter
Sony FE 1.4x Teleconverter
Sony FE 2.0x Teleconverter

There is good and bad when it comes to using teleconverters but I believe they are still a vital piece of gear for the serious wildlife photographer. Experience and the specific situation will determine when and when not to use them.

Richard Bernabe is a professional photographer specializing in travel, wildlife, and nature as well as an author of books, magazine articles, and travel essays published world-wide. Richard is a global influencer is the fields of photography, travel, and wildlife conservation with more than one million followers on social media platforms. He leads several photography tours and workshops all over the world and is invited to speak to photography and conservation groups all across the globe. For more great information on new images, gear reviews, book projects, and photography workshops and tours, Sign Up For Our Newsletter.