18 Creative Photography Ideas for Beginners to Improve Their Skills

Philip Bates 01-12-2017

As a beginning photographer with a brand new kit of essential photography gear and a few lessons in basic photography, it can be hard to come up with photography ideas. What should you take pictures of? It seems like such a simple question, but figuring out where to point your camera or smartphone can be surprisingly difficult.


These 18 photography ideas for beginners will have you snapping away in no time. From toys to animals to the night sky, cool photography ideas abound. All you need to do is start snapping!

1. A Rubik’s Cube

Let’s start with something simple. Many of us have a Rubik’s cube lying around somewhere, probably in your basement or attic as a lost memory of the 1970s. If not, they’re cheap!

Rubik's cube
Image Credit: Sonny Abesamis/Flickr

Art lessons often begin with renderings of cubes or spheres with one or two sources of light casting shadows that need immortalizing. A Rubik’s cube gives photographers a similar challenge, albeit also showing off your camera’s ability to capture startling colors.

Its crisp lines will also introduce you to the concept of leading lines How to Compose a Photograph: 5 Essential Rules to Follow If you want to get really good at photography, there are some vital rules around image composition that you should consider. Here are five of the most important. Read More , which will come in handy later.


2. Still Life

Once you’ve mastered one object, it’s time to throw more into the mix. And again, we can take inspiration from art courses (speaking of which, there are valuable online photography courses for beginners The Best Online Photography Courses for Beginners Are you searching for online photography classes to join? Then take your pick from these excellent lessons. Read More , too).

A still life is simply a collection of items, typically against a plain backdrop. Fruit is a reliable example, but you could try books, old electronic hardware, or busts. For painters, it might take days to get these onto canvas. For photographers, it takes minutes.

Still life glass canisters
Image Credit: Marketa/Flickr

Experiment with different lighting. Adjust the proximity of a lamp; how do the shadows change? Which objects are highlighted, and which are hidden? How would the piece look with the lamp as part of the still life?


Looking beyond composition, the items you’ve chosen to shoot says a lot about you. Paul Cézanne’s interest in skulls spoke of his fascination with mortality. Steve McCurry’s broken sculptures speak of lost societies. Vincent van Gogh’s obsession with sunflowers was perhaps best explained in Doctor Who: “I find them complex, always somewhere between living and dying. Half-human as they turn to the sun.”

Maybe skulls are too morbid, but what do your still life shots tell the viewers about you?

3. Yourself

All forms of art are reflections: of their creators, of their consumers, of their civilizations. And that extends to self-portraits. So we’ll take a moment here to tackle one of the most common (and controversial) photography subjects of modern life. We’re talking, of course, about the selfie.

You may hate them and consider there to be very little skill in portraying yourself. Yet a vast wealth of talented folk have used self-portraits to uncover a hidden side to themselves.


Self-portrait with coffee
Image Credit: Nicole Canstanheira/Flickr

What expression are you making? What’s in the background? What’s the focus of your piece? There are the questions you’ll need to ask when figuring out how to take creative photos of yourself. Taking a selfie might appear basic, but there are many artistic choices to make 7 Selfie Styles That Will Make Your Photo Go Viral If you're already taking selfies, why not go the extra mile and spice them up a bit? With our creative tips, your pictures are practically guaranteed to go viral. Read More .

In addition to more artistic endeavors, this will also help you get to grips with your camera’s timer or selfie mode.

4. Your Own Children

You’ve taken a self-portrait you’re finally happy with. So how do you apply those skills to other people?


Your own kids are perfect subjects. If you haven’t got children, ask a relative if they’d mind you taking some photos of their kids. Children differ drastically — not just in age, but in temperament and energy too.

You’ll naturally want to capture your kids having fun. But what about those more intimate moments when they’re worried, reading a book, or listening to music? These are perfect times to practice some of your creative photography at home.

Do get their consent though. Seriously, do.

5. Crowds

You’ve mastered taking a portrait of one or two people. Now try a crowd of them.

Crowd in arena
Image Credit: Jason Persse/Flickr

People are unruly beings. Even in a straight line, we stop and start at strange intervals. We suddenly change direction, begin conversations or break off from them, and if given direction, we often deviate.

Because of this, you’ll find an infinite supply of photography ideas in any crowd. Capture the movement of the crowd itself. Look for interesting shots of individuals within the crowd. How do people behave? What makes people stand out? How does a large mass of humanity differ from a single person?

You’re capturing people in their natural habitat: together. There’s something quite special about that.

6. Moving Vehicles

Vehicles offer a wide color palette, interesting lines, reflections, textures, and many other facets that photographers love.

But moving cars are another thing entirely.

Moving vehicles
Image Credit: Ben/Flickr

Consider how you show velocity. How do you capture it? What’s the main point of interest? Does an entirely blurred composition demonstrate what you’re trying to achieve? Or does having one aspect in focus make the rest of the image “speed up?”

Capturing moving objects will also make you experiment with shutter speeds 4 Common Shutter Speed Mistakes That'll Ruin Your Photos When learning photography, you need to understand the essential rules of exposure. Here are some common shutter speed mistakes and how to overcome them. Read More , which will come in handy.

7. Carnivals

Fun fairs are always more fun in the gloomy evenings — and they’re more challenging to photographers too. That’s because you have to think about shutter speeds and composition, and add ISO into the mix.

ISO is the sensor’s sensitivity to light. The higher the ISO, the better your camera will be at shooting in the dark. But higher ISO results in more “noise,” grains that pockmark an image.

man at a carnival ride
Image Credit: Matt Perich/Flickr

With lots going on all around you, you’ll want to be ambitious. Restrain yourself. Remember: there’s beauty in simplicity.

8. Animals

You’ve mastered people. Now try animals.

If you’re looking for fun photography ideas, you can’t go wrong with photographing your pets. Candid shots, especially of something funny, are ideal. Trying to direct your animals to obtain a particular composition is equally challenging.

Get onto the same level as your pet. Aim to capture eyes. They always provide great focal points for humans and animals alike.

The best results come from extremes. Get up close or stand a way back: the former gives unusually intimate insight into the animal world, and the latter gives viewers some context and can show playfulness.

9. Cobwebs

This is one of the most difficult photography assignments you’ll attempt. Why? Because you’re trying to capture a virtually intangible object.

Spider web with dew
Image Credit: Matt Hance/Flickr

Often, we can’t see cobwebs with the naked eye, so how can your camera do it?

The obvious answer is moisture in the air. That means early mornings or late evenings when a mist is settling on the land. Don’t spray water onto them: let nature take its course.

You’ll need to factor in light. Where should a light source be to illuminate your subject? Low morning sunlight will look stunning.

10. Sunrise and Sunset

Here’s the natural progression. If you’re trying to shoot cobwebs in the morning and nights, there’s a perfect subject in the sky: the sun.

It’s dazzling. What’s more, it leaves gorgeous colors streaking across the roof of the world, especially as it rises and sets. In fact, if you’re ever struggling for motivation, look up. That’s your challenge. Show us how wonderful the sky is. (Just don’t look at or point your camera directly at the sun when it’s high in the sky.)

Have patience. A “second sunset” occurs 20–30 minutes after the sun goes below the horizon, and will produce great results.

And don’t be afraid to take lots of images. You may only be happy with one in 50, but that’s one of the great things about digital photography.

11. Reflections

Have you ever seen or read the Marvel character Doctor Strange? The omniverse he occupies is a bizarre but beautiful one, and the film in particular makes use of mirror realms. Take a look at how ILM plays with perspective and angles to create unsettling images:

Playing with reflections in your pictures might not elicit such trippy results. Nonetheless, they do offer an opportunity for presenting some unique perspectives.

Combine reflection photography experiments with the sunrise or sunset and you can create numerous points of interest and end up with a bright, rich final product. Use mirrors for every other situation on this list and you might carve out an interesting niche.

12. Fountains

When it comes to creative photography ideas, it’s hard to beat water. It contains infinite, changing, flowing lines. It reflects and reflects light in interesting ways. It’s found in an infinite variety of contexts.

beautiful stone fountain sculpture
Image Credit: star5112/Flickr

Fountains are always a good place to start. If you miss one freeze-frame, you’ll get the chance again imminently. This allows you time to prepare yourself and your camera. Start with a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second and a lower ISO: you’ll capture enough detail without detracting from the overall effect.

A lower aperture will typically give you a deeper depth of field, which will be great in natural light, but less so under artificial illumination.

13. Fire

Let’s turn our attentions to another of the elements: fire, arguably even more unpredictable than water.

campfire crackle embers
Image Credit: Stephen Dann/Flickr

Of course, you need to take some safety precautions. Make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area and can put out the flames easily if anything doesn’t go according to plan. Don’t mess around. Better yet, simply take pictures of a candle or your home’s fireplace.

Begin with a shutter speed of at least 1/250 for capturing individual flames or smoke. A slower speed will help if you want to show the full impression — the glow, for instance. See what happens when fire is the sole light source in a room.

14. Weather Extremes

Any extremes are great to photograph: the light and the dark, anger and happiness, construction and destruction, etc. And few things are as extreme as the weather.

Snow-covered cityscape
Image Credit: Anthony Quintano/Flickr

You don’t have to live in hurricane territory to show the ferocity of nature. There are loads of photography ideas in more mundane weather, too. A deluge of rainfall is just as interesting as a monsoon. So too the signs of a drought. Photography is about documenting the world around us, and if there’s one thing that unites us, it’s the weather.

Obviously, most conditions don’t last very long and come without much warning… so be ready! Snow, for example, may stick around for days, but its fall can come and go intermittently in minutes.

15. Graffiti

This is a divisive choice. For some, it’s art. For others, it’s vandalism. Either way, it’s a perfect photography assignment for beginners.

No matter how you view graffiti, you can get a point across. Should you crop up close? Do you give it a wider context? Do you consider a background or foreground? This is about storytelling. Artists tell stories, and as a photographer, that’s your job too.

There’s no sure-fire method of capturing graffiti, because pieces can be found anywhere. Your equipment and specifications change will change to suit the situation.

If you intend to profit from your photos, however, do brush up on your copyright laws 5 Legal Issues No Photographer Can Afford to Ignore As fun as it is to take photos, there are important laws to obey. Ignorance is not an excuse, so stay up-to-date before it's too late. Read More . Some graffiti artists attempt to trademark their work, and things can get messy. If this is a hobby, though, don’t worry!

16. Cityscapes

A lot of what we’ve covered is about getting up close with a subject, but a wide-angle cityscape can be just as impressive.

Night harbor cityscape
Image Credit: vikwaters/Flickr

The skylines of New York, London, and Paris are endlessly compelling, evocative, and nostalgic. Which is why they’ve provided photography inspiration for so many photographers. If you’ve got the time, take up a position and stay there for much of the day. See how the light changes the composition ahead of you and think about which you want to retain on film for the future.

How do you find a good vantage point? It depends on what you want to achieve. Get low to portray incredible scale or intimidation. Overlook an intersection to show how busy or empty something is. Search for leading lines or patterns that draw the eye.

Everyone might try to capture a cityscape, but you can make your images unique, especially with our tips for better architecture photography 10 Tips for Better Architecture Photography Using a Smartphone Here are some practical tips to capture stunning architecture photography with your smartphone camera. Read More .

17. Woodland

Here you get to experiment with intimacy and panoramic shots.

Capturing woods and forests seems incredibly simple. Many take quick photos as they trek through such lovely surroundings. Yet it remains an environment that’s chock full of photography ideas for beginners and professionals alike.

Woods are a perfect microcosm of life! There’s the grand scope of mighty trunks, the rough textured bark, the branches delicately twisting to the sky, and the veins of leaves. Daylight or twilight are excellent times to attempt a shoot, but using a good enough flash or some other artificial source of light at night might give you unusual pics. Just don’t get lost!

18. Astrological Events

At night, go outside. Look up. Isn’t it just the most amazing thing you’ve seen?

So how do you photograph stars and natural satellites? It’s certainly not something your average beginner attempts. Start with a tripod. You’ll need different ISO and aperture settings depending on what you’re trying to photograph.

Night sky with trees
Image Credit: Mike Deal/Flickr

For starters, look to the moon. Set your DSLR to its base ISO — likely either 100 or 200. If it’s the former, you’ll require a shutter speed of 1/125. For the latter, 1/250. Both should be accompanied by an aperture of f/11.

There’s far too much to go into here, but as long as you’re feeling inspired, you’re doing it right. Check out our guide to night sky photography Take Better Night Sky Photographs By Getting The Basics Right Tired of taking night-time photos that come out dark, empty, and boring? Read More , then go try a few things! Experiment and see what works.

Capturing the true infinite wonder of space? Now, there’s a challenge.

Discover Your Own Photography Ideas

If you’ve experimented with all these situations, you’re not a beginner anymore. You’re an experienced photographer. Doesn’t that feel great?

The world’s full of fun and creative photography ideas. Now that you have the basics down, you can start developing your own photographic style. Find different ways to photograph the same things. Choose subjects other people are ignoring. Experiment with light trail photos and new gadgets like 360-degree cameras. The world is full of great photos just waiting to be discovered!

And if you also use your smartphone camera to capture shots on the spot, consider using VCSO to display those photos What Is VSCO and Why Do Smartphone Photographers Use It? You've probably seen the name, but what is VSCO and why do serious smartphone photographers use it? Read More .

Want to take it to the next level? Look into buying a photography drone What's the Best Drone for Photography? Here are some of the best drones for photography you can buy, as well as the situations they suit the most. Read More .

Related topics: Photography, Smartphone Photography.

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  1. Patt Fisher
    February 5, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    Thank you so much for these suggestions. I am a beginner in the photography field and I was feeling stuck before i even started. Now i can go out and get in touch with my creativity.

  2. Devour
    April 14, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    I think these tips were very helpful although I am taking photos on my phone so it would be a little bit different because a lot of people do it on their camera so things like the glad wrap one I couldn't do on my phone so maybe next time suggest things if you cant do it on your device like say what else you could do if you are doing it on your phone just to help the people like me that tend to do majority of their photos on their phones.

  3. Phil Venditti
    December 20, 2017 at 5:19 am

    I think the article might be improved by suggesting HOW to photograph the 18 categories of people and things, rather than simply listing and describing the subject matter. Also, it' should be "astronomical events" rather than "astrological events" for #18. Thank you for considering these observations.

  4. astro
    December 1, 2017 at 8:26 pm