We all want to improve our photography. However, sometimes the technical stuff can feel overwhelming. Fortunately there are many ways to improve as a photographer without going anywhere near a camera manual. Here are ten of my top tips for doing just that…
Tip no. 1: Run your eye around the four sides of the camera viewfinder just before you press the shutter button
Every part of a composition is important. Anything that shouldn’t be in a shot will detract from the overall effect.
A common mistake when composing a photo is to concentrate on the centre and not think about the edges of the frame. A photo that’s a considered whole is more likely to be successful than one that isn’t. Running your eye around the edge of the viewfinder (or LCD) means you’ll be more likely to notice things that are creeping into the picture space that shouldn’t be there. You’ll need to recompose, but that extra bit of effort will be worth it. Promise.
Tip no. 2: Support your lens when handholding to avoid camera shake
Lenses can be heavy pieces of equipment, particularly telephotos. If you don’t support the lens with one hand it will have a tendency to tip forwards. This will increase the likelihood of camera shake ruining your images.
Tip no. 3: Turn your camera upside down
If an image still works upside down you can feel more confident that it’s successful.
Well, perhaps not when you’re shooting. But reviewing an image upside down is a surprisingly effective way to see whether a composition has worked. You see the relationships of shape and colour more objectively than when the image is the right way up.
Tip no. 4: Change your viewpoint
Don’t just shoot at eye-level. That’s boring. Try shooting at ground level, from above, looking up, looking down; don’t get stuck shooting at same height that we see the world day after day.
Tip no. 5: Get out of your comfort zone
I prefer shooting landscapes, but know that shooting different subjects helps to improve my understanding of photography.
Being stuck in a rut doesn’t do much for your creativity. If you mainly shoot landscapes try shooting portraits and vice versa. Travelling is inspirational because everything is new and fresh. However, we can’t always be travelling. Try shooting in unfamiliar locations in your local neighbourhood. To mix things up still further start shooting in black and white if you’ve never done so before.
Tip no. 6: Invite constructive criticism
Being criticised can be a toe-curling experience. However, valid criticism is always good for you. How else are you likely to improve if you don’t know where you’re going wrong? Family and friends generally aren’t the right people to turn to for this. You’ll find they spare punches in order to avoid hurting your feelings (even if you’re brave enough to take it on the chin). A camera club is a good source of knowledgeable people who will generally be more than willing to offer friendly, but objective, criticism.
Tip no. 7: Set yourself a project
I enjoy shooting projects. This image is one from a sequence shot along a long-distance trail.
It’s all too easy to run out of ideas after a while. Setting yourself a project for a certain period of time is a good way to get going again. Project themes you could try include colour, action, new growth, time. Opening a dictionary at random and basing a project on the first word you see is an effective, if sometimes challenging, way to start.
Tip no. 8: Pretend there’s space for only one image on your memory card
We’ve all done it, shot hundreds and hundreds of shots in the hope that one or two will be okay. However, this reduces photographic success to mere chance. Set yourself the challenge of shooting just one image during a photography session. Don’t rush into pressing the shutter button but spend time thinking about that one shot. Carefully consider how the shot should be composed as well as what you need to do in terms of exposure to achieve the effect you’re after.
Tip no. 9: Get in closer
Filling the frame with this sculpture of a cat head meant I cropped out irrelevant details in the immediate surroundings.
Compose a shot. Now get in closer. Does this improve the shot? Filling the frame with your subject will make an image more dramatic. Don’t overdo it though. If your camera can no longer focus you may be too close!
Tip no. 10: Shoot both vertical and horizontal
Landscape shots should be shot horizontally and portraits vertically. Right? Not necessarily. Try shooting a horizontal and vertical version of a composition. Surprisingly often shooting in the ‘wrong’ orientation for a subject is just as, if not more, effective than shooting in the ‘right’ orientation.