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I am writing to y'all for advice for my 29 yo daughter who is a budding/hobbyist photographer.  She seems to like taking photos of sunsets and flowers the best.  If you could sit down with her and give her one or two pieces of advice, what would it be?

I have included some photos and I think all were taken with a cell phone.  We do have a better dslr camera but these were taken on spur of the moment.

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Hi Cindy -

I want to thank you for posting this discussion because it gives me my first opportunity to actually contribute to the forum, as opposed to just asking all of you my newbie questions. :) Not knowing your daughter's level of experience, my advice is tailored to someone just starting out, but whether new to photography or experienced and just trying to continue to improve, to me there are two major areas to focus on:  the Technical and the Artistic.

Getting better technically means you get a deeper understanding of how to control the settings on your camera/lenses/filters, or of how to manipulate your lighting/environment, and understanding how the choices you select are going to affect the image that you capture. You often need to be able to move off of the automatic modes on the camera in order to realize your artistic vision. Initially people most often struggle technically with Exposure or with Focusing.  A beginner might first want to focus on learning the "Exposure Triangle" of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity.  The book "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson is a good resource for this. Strategies for nailing focus can differ based on your camera/lens, but some general internet searching should at least give ideas that she could then practice against her specific equipment. The good news is for her preference of shooting flowers and sunsets (stationary objects) it will be much easier to nail focus than, say, sports, night scenes, or birds in flight!

Getting better artistically means you produce images that are more compelling and produce your intended emotional effect, or tell your intended story to the viewer. It's the composition of everything from how you emphasize/isolate the subject, to what you include or cut out of the frame, to what angle you shoot from, to how you use things like light, shadows, colors, textures, lines, curves, etc. to visually draw the viewer in. This takes a lot of time, practice, trial & error.  Luckily if she's shooting digitally there's not a very high cost to the trial & error! There are of course rules of composition that can be handy to keep in mind as a beginner - you'll find those all over the web - but experience will teach her when to break them. :) To improve artistically I've found it most helpful to browse others' work; identify what draws me in or turns me off about it, and evaluate how that might apply to my own work.  It's also incredibly helpful to meet up with other photographers and request their critique of my work, and observe critiques of others' work.  She could look for a local photography club for this purpose, or if one doesn't exist there are plenty of online forums for the same.  Just keep in mind that as with any art, there's a strong element of personal preference in these critiques, so she's better off accepting advice from people whose style she admires than from someone random.

So that's my advice; take it with a grain of salt.  I know a lot of other photographers would list two additional categories:  gear and post-processing software.  To me these are the least important things. Someday she may find that her artistic expression is limited by gear and maybe at that point she upgrades camera or acquires a new lens or whatever, but do that when she knows what she wants/needs, not up front. And post processing can definitely improve almost any image - especially if she shoots in RAW format - but it can't fix all sins and it's best to learn the basics to get as close as she can in-camera first.  Once she's got that technical mastery then she can work on adding even more "wow" in post.

Hope this helps and that we'll be seeing more of your daughter's work here someday soon!



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