Alt title: How to rock the socks off of whatever you take pictures with.
Disclaimer: I can’t tell you how to be an instantly awesome photographer. It doesn’t happen overnight (unless your born with it, which some people naturally are). Just like any art form, you’ve got to learn it, study it, practice it. You can’t just expect to point your shutter at something and win ‘photo of the year’ on National Geographic.
I don’t have a super long history with photography (and am not a professional), I’ve just been working on my skills long enough to know there are little tricks you can use to help improve your photography instantly. Yes, instantly. You just need to know what they are and how to use them!
Nowadays, with the technology that’s out, just about anyone can be a photographer. But what makes photos so great? The time and consideration put into each shot so that it actually means something, and the viewer feels something from it.
You’re not here to read about how I feel about photography though, you want to know how to improve yours! Well, let’s get going.
1. Know your camera.
This is the first and foremost rule in improving your photography. Have no idea what your camera does? Well more than likely your pictures aren’t where they could be quality wise! Learn about shutter speed (tutorial on action photography coming soon), focal length, and ISO. Figure out what all those crazy symbols mean on your camera (this cheat sheet can be a gigantic help!). Once you do, your camera will seem less scary. Trust me!
2. Invest in quality camera equipment.
Sometimes we just don’t have the money laying around to buy top-of-the-line camera equipment. Hey, I get it. But if you’re seriously getting into photography, there are ways to work around the cost! Check out refurbished or used products, rent equipment to see if you like it, or buy the older model. I bought my Canon 5D Mark II right when the Mark III came out because it’s price plummeted. It works like a champ, and I know if it ever gives out I can use my lenses with a newer camera, thus the beauty of certain DSLRs. Camera equipment doesn’t really lose it’s value like other electronics…you’re more than capable creating beautiful images from a camera that’s 100 years old, just like you are with one that’s 2 years old!
3. Shoot in RAW.
If you want to get the most from your photos, PLEASE shoot in RAW. Not only will you have full editing capabilities, but when your camera converts an image to .jpeg, the file is compressed, and that limits what you can do with an image in photo-processing. I’m not going to take the time to fully explain the benefits of RAW on this post, but if you’re intrigued, Photography Concentrate writes a great article called ‘Ten Reasons Why You Should Be Shooting in RAW‘ that I would highly recommend reading!
4. Don’t be afraid to try things.
Itching to give night photography a try? Go out and do it. No one is going to care if it’s an absolute flop but yourself. If anything, it’ll be a learning experience for you. If you end up getting some good pictures and rocked your impromptu shoot? Share your images with the rest of us who love night photography! I’m always looking for creative ways to shoot at night.
5. Pick a good time of day.
Sometimes we don’t have the option to wait around until ‘golden hour’ or go out first thing in the morning to capture the Taj Mahal before everyone else gets there, but if you have the opportunity and the flexibility to? DO IT. Lighting and absence of random people in your shots can make all the difference in the world between something you’d hang on your wall and something you’d just keep around as a file on your computer.
6. Practice makes perfect.
Let’s get real: everyone takes crappy pictures. Yes, even you. Not every frame is going to look awesome, and sometimes you’ll have to experiment with shutter speeds, ISO, and white balance to get the look you are trying to go for. The other night I took pictures of the lunar eclipse, and it took me about 8 frames to get my focus right to where the moon looked crisp, bright, and in-detail. Good photography takes patience, learning from your mistakes, trying again and again to get the shot you were wanting.
7. Learn from the best.
One of my favorite things to do is to find experienced photographers and study their jaw-dropping work. I have so many favorites that have so many different styles I could spend all day sharing them with you. Is there a photographer you look up to? What intrigues you about their photos? Is it their artistic approach in a shot, the lenses they you, or their post-shoot editing? Try to learn how they do it. Use these photographers for inspiration and examples to bring your own work to a more professional level.
8. Value quality not quantity.
It’s easy as pie to go around and take a million pictures of one thing. As aspiring photographers we’re all guilty of it. I often look through my photos and have to shake my head. Why did I think it was necessary to take 350 pictures of the whale watching tour we did a few years ago in Hawaii? Yes, you want to make sure you the shot, I understand that. Here’s the problem though. As you go through those 350 pictures your mind is going to get more and more distracted clicking through each and every frame you may just pass up the 20 or 30 really good ones you took. 300 pictures of one thing is a lot to go through and mentally exhausting!
My point is, have patience lining up your frame, getting the lighting right, waiting for the right time to press that shutter button. If you do, you won’t have 300 pictures to go though, but maybe 100 (I mean it IS a whale watching tour) really good quality images to pick from to use how you wish.
9. Seek out tutorials.
Google is a goldmine, and so is Pinterest for any kind of photography tutorial you could possibly want (taking pictures on the beach, star photography, learning manual mode, editing tutorials, etc, etc). The benefits of being a photographer in our digital age is that you can learn just as much as you would going to a photography class in school 5 years ago. I only say that because I did go to a photography class 5 years ago, and I’ve learned more on the internet than I did in class.
However, if you do have the opportunity to enroll in a class, you probably should. Outside the textbook you will get invaluable practice using your camera, and fantastic coaching and feedback from your classmates and professor that you won’t get reading tutorials online.
10. Make yourself use ‘Manual Mode.’
The problem with DSLR’s nowadays is they make that ‘AUTO’ mode so simple to use and you can get some really great shots. Yes, that’s a problem, and here’s why: Using only ‘AUTO’ mode doesn’t force you to learn and grow with your camera at all. Your camera is doing 98% of the work, while you just have to find something to photograph and line up the frame. It does take some skill and a good eye to find those perfect shots, but to really learn how to capture it, you need to discover life beyond automatic mode.
‘Manual’ can give you amazing shots. You have the power to control every aspect of you picture: lighting, speed, and focus instead of letting your camera do all the work. There are certain details your eyes pick up on that the camera just won’t, and by flipping over to that ‘manual mode’ you can refine the camera’s sensors to capture those little details. This is what can make a shot extraordinary.
In summary, photography can be daunting. By learning how to master your camera, you can take gorgeous pictures! Just like any other art form, photography takes practice, patience, learning from your mistakes, and investment. Photography is one of my favorite hobbies, and I enjoy learning anything and everything I can about it!
Have a good tutorial or camera guide? Please share it with me in the comments, I’d love to read it!