As a photographer do you ever find yourself getting stuck in a rut? Have you fallen into the HDR hole, are you always shooting in Auto mode or are you always shooting the same subjects at the same time of day?
We all work hard at improving our photography and here are 10 tips you can try from today to improve your photography skills. You may already be doing these, so if you are, well done !… If not, then there may be one or two tips from here which may help you to improve your photography skills.
1. Bring a camera with you Everywhere you go
One of the biggest annoyances is seeing something and saying, “If only I had my camera”. It may be an amazing photo or it could simply be a way for you to record good locations for future shoots. I normally have a camera of some sort with me at all times.
At worst, it is my iPhone camera which I will use, but even those cameras can get you in the shooting frame of mind – the photo of Stonehenge below was taken with an iPhone, not bad for a phone camera!
2. Keep shooting, Keep improving
There is a correlation between how often you practice and how good you are. A good musician has to practice and likewise a good photographer will know how to capture a specific scene and will also be comfortable enough with their camera that they can adapt to new scenarios or difficult lighting situations. Keep taking photos even if you know that they will never be printed or shared.
There is a lot to photography… exposure, lighting, composition, framing, timing, preparation, as well as knowledge of your camera and accessories. So having your camera with you all the time will allow you to learn and ultimately master each of these.
Your camera, no matter how basic, is the tool through which your photos are captured. Try understand what each setting does on the camera and how changing one setting will affect the quality, tone and exposure of a photo.
3. Get Inspiration, Get Thinking
One of the best ways to improve your photography is to get inspiration either online or offline. Personally I often visit sites such as 500px and see what photos are in the popular, editors choice or upcoming categories. These photos get me thinking about how the photo was taken or even allow me to try similar shots. The shot below of Creating Custom Bokeh was something I tried because I had seen it done on Flickr.
You can also review others work in print, papers, magazines, books – did you loke how it was shot, would you do anything different, can you see how it was lit? Analyse the shots, you will be surprised how much you will learn.
4. Try something New
Don’t stay in your comfortable shoes, try something different. For example you could do one of the following – Try taking photos…
- Using only a prime lens
- Using low down angles (under 2 feet)
- Only during the blue hour
- Only using shutter speeds longer than .5 second
If you always do landscape shots, try a day where you only do portrait or street photograpy. You get the idea – don’t keep shooting the same shots as you need to extend yourself.
5. Seek Advice, Learn from the best
In a world where online networking is so easy, if you see a photo which you like, either on Flickr, 500px or Facebook, don’t be afraid to ask about the technique. Don’t expect to get all the details of the shot but a little advice should set you on the path.
Remember, when asked about the settings used on a photo, one photographer replied, “I used f/4, ISO 100 and 40 years experience”
For me, one of the first pieces of advice I got on Flickr was about those long exposures of Waterfalls, I couldn’t understand how they were done. So I left a comment on one excellent photo and asked how it was done and that’s when I learned about ND filters. The photo below is one of the ones I took after I learned about ND filters.
Photographers are on the whole a nice bunch of people, especially when you start with “I love your photo” before asking for advice. You may even be lucky enough to find a local photorapher who will allow you to help at a shoot or even (if you are luck enough) to be second shooter.
6. As much as possible use a Tripod
Personally, I always have the tripod in the car but a lot of the time I just start shooting without it. Obviously any dusk or night shots have to use a tripod but if you use a tripod for other shots you end up wth a lot of potential.
– You can ensure a level horizon.
– You can set and compose your image with the knowledge that you are actually taking the time to set the subject in the best way.
– You can achieve very low down shots which you would have to contort or lie down to get
– You can achieve portrait (i.e. camera tilted 90 degrees) shots which are stable and sharp
– When connected to the tripod you can use cable releases to take photos
Go out and take 10 images hand held, then immediately take 10 more on a tripod. See which set comes out better. I’m willing to bet it will be the latter.
7. Use Social Media to scout shooting opportunities
Somethimes events pass us by and we end up saying “If only I knew that it was taking place I would have been there with the camera”. This could be a local fireworks display, a local airshow, bike race or rally. Each event will have different requirements and will draw different skills from the photographer. Fireworks need good skills when using long exposures but an air show will require fast shutter speeds and anticipation of where the next aircraft will be heading to, as well as observing if something special might happen … perhaps overlapping aircraft etc..
Twitter and Facebook allows you to follow related media, contacts, photographers as well as searching live up-to-the minute feeds on what is going on. You may even be lucky enough to have your camera near a breaking news story or media opportunity.
The photo below is one which I took of the Stavros Tall Ship – I only found out that this ship was passing by thanks to a Tweet I observed mentioning it’s planned route. The photo was later picked up in the local press.
8. Look for opportunities to promote
If you have taken a nice photo of something interesting don’t be afraid to share it. You might have a nice photo of your local area, perhaps send it to your local paper – you may be luck enough that they will print it (see mine above). If you took photos at an event, share it on social media with the event organisers – they may share it to their network also, getting some extra promotion for you as a result.
Do something with your photos…
9. Enter Photo Contests and Competitions
Entering photo sompetitions will be a way for you to ensure that you are getting out there and taking photos. Most photo competitions have a theme, or a required photo topic. i.e. photos must be of buildings or photos must show our product being used etc. Keep your eye on Social Media, newspapers and by searching online for competition announcements.
The more you enter the more you will enjoy the process, you may also win one. In the past 2 years I have been successful in 4 competitions. The photo below was one of the most successful – Swans on the Lake.
10. Join a Local Camera Club
5 years ago I joined the Carrick Camera Club, in Carrick-On-Suir, Co. Tipperary and it has been a very enjoyable experience. Joining such a club allows you to network with other photographers. The club organises occasional events and photo shoots as well as bi-weekly meetings which have educational elements.
When I joined the club I had been shooting mainly in Auto but had been getting very good results. I though I knew a lot but on my first night at the club I heard about f-stops and apertures and I suddenly realised I didn’t know as much as I thought. Continued learning is always worthwhile and any source of knowledge will be always useful.
If you are attempting to improve your photography and your camera only gets used 3 times a year, then you are in a losing battle. Use your camera weekly or even better daily, seek inspiration, try something new and you will learn very quickly.
Even if you don’t want to be a commercial photographer, the art of photography brings a lot of joy. So get snapping and keep improving your skills.