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How to Get Good Pictures With a Budget DSLR: 8 Tips

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In your early days as a photographer, you're probably not going to have an enormous budget. As a result, you'll need to think more wisely about how you use your resources—which might mean settling for a less expensive camera in the beginning.

Although gear does matter up to a certain point, it's not the be-all-and-end-all of photography. Plenty of other factors, such as lighting and composition, come into the equation when taking good pictures.

So, how can you take good photos with a budget DSLR? Let's take a look at eight things you can do.

1. Plan Your Photoshoots

Picture of a photographer inside

When it comes to photography, knowing what you'd like to take pictures of before you go out will help you narrow down your focus. By adopting this essentialist mindset, you'll waste less energy stressing about what to capture—and your day will have more structure.

Before you pick up your camera, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What story am I trying to tell?
  • Which lenses will help me get the results I want?
  • Where will I be taking these photos?

If you're struggling for inspiration, check out these creative ideas for beginner photographers to get your brain thinking.

2. Understand Your Camera's Strengths

Photo of a Nikon camera

Some of your favorite photographers probably started their journey without the expensive gear they've now got. However, they didn't use that as an excuse; instead, they learned how to maximize their camera's capabilities and limit its weaknesses.

Even if you've gone for the cheapest possible camera, it's probably still good for at least one thing—and the same goes for your lenses. It's up to you to find out where its strongest points are, and the only way you can do this is by trying and failing.

Learning what your camera is good and not good at will also help you make a better decision when you're ready to upgrade to a better one in the future.

Related: Nikon vs. FujiFilm: Which Camera Should You Get?

3. Tweak Your In-Camera Settings

Photographer reviewing his pictures

Have you ever tried to emulate another photographer's work, setting your ISO, shutter speed, and F-stop to the exact same as theirs? When you clicked the button on your camera, were you disappointed that the picture didn't look similar?

In such cases, the creator might have used different in-camera settings than you did.

Many camera menus will let you tweak specific parts of images before you capture them. You can change colors, sharpness, shadows, and more.

Some cameras, such as FujiFilm, will also let you add filters—though these will generally be for JPEGs instead of RAW.

It's worth experimenting with your in-camera settings and seeing if you can get better results than you would have with the default ones.

4. Adopt a Student Mindset

Man Working on Computer

If you're unsure how to take better pictures with a budget camera, adopt a student mindset to help get you on your way. As a budding photographer, you should seek to absorb as much information as possible in your early days.

These days, you can take a deep dive into photography without needing to pay for a college degree. YouTube is an excellent free resource, and you'll also find plenty of articles online with tips for taking better pictures.

Once you've learned a particular skill, put it into practice and focus on honing it until you're satisfied. If you keep repeating this process, your results will compound, and you'll improve significantly over time.

Related: Follow These Amazing Photography YouTubers and Grow Your Skills

5. Consider the Time of Day You're Photographing

Photo of a city at golden hour

Even if you have the best camera on the planet, you're not guaranteed to take incredible photos. Photography involves several aspects, and lighting is the most important of them all.

If you use a budget camera, the time of day you go out and shoot can dramatically enhance your results. The golden hour might be a little cliché these days, but it's popular for a reason—the lighting makes shadows less harsh and can make your subject look more flattering if you're into portrait photography.

You don't have to limit yourself to the golden hour alone, but taking pictures at certain times of the day—such as midday—will make things a little trickier.

6. Use Your Surroundings to Your Advantage

Photo of a photographer taking a picture toward someone else

As you become a more experienced photographer, you'll notice that getting the results you want is easier if you look for opportunities in every situation. If you haven't got the best camera, using your surroundings to your benefit can help you take better photos without trying too hard.

Whenever you're about to capture a specific scene, stop for a moment and look around. You probably know what you want to include in your picture, but noting what you don't want is arguably more important.

Another good practice is to think about finding more unique angles. Try crouching down, turning your camera upside down, looking for reflections, and so on.

7. Stabilize the Camera

Photo of a photographer's lens

Regardless of the camera you use, your photos aren't going to look great if they're blurry. One of the simplest ways to improve your photography is by stabilizing your device as much as possible.

Some cameras have built-in stabilization; if yours does, turning this on is a good idea. Also, try to get off auto mode and control your shutter speed manually to limit blur.

If you need to stabilize your camera, using a tripod will help. If you don't have one, use a flat and stable surface—such as a park bench.

8. Enhance Your Photos With Editing Software

Image showing the Lightroom logo on a Mac

Many photographers will use editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop to enhance how their images look. It's popular with both beginners and seasoned professionals, and you should strongly consider picking a platform to do likewise.

Post-production isn't going to save a bad photo, but if you've got the technical aspects right, it can help you express yourself in a way that your camera might not have allowed on its own.

Budget Cameras Can Take Great Photos Too

If you stick with photography for the long run, you'll almost certainly upgrade to a better camera. But in the beginning, your options will be much more limited—and you'll need to think about how you can use things to your advantage.

Taking a good picture is about much more than the gear on its own. Learning the ins and outs of your craft, playing to your camera's strengths, and practicing will all help you become a better photographer.

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