How To Boost Your Photo Hit Rate

By Geoff Harris

Increase Your Photography Success Rate

One of the biggest blessings of digital is also one of its biggest curses – with no film costs to worry about it’s easy to just blast away and repeat the same old mistakes, rather than being forced to take fewer shots and think more mindfully about your photographic technique, and how it could be improved. While even the most accomplished pros take a lot of duds for every really amazing shot, there is no doubt that they tend to have a higher hit rate than the average amateur. If you want to make more of your shots ‘keepers’, read on for some useful tips.

Light is everything

Framing, Hit Rate, Boost, Exposure, Focus, manual, lenses, Move, Light, keepers
One of the best things you can do to improve your success rate is to be more choosy about when you shoot. As a keen travel photographer I am often amazed how many people I see taking pictures with quite expensive SLRs in the middle of the day in very hot countries. The hard, direct sunlight bleaches out all nice detail and creates really strong shadows, and you are a far better off returning to the same spots at sunrise or sunset. Obviously it might not always be possible – maybe you are on a day trip for instance – but being more picky about WHEN you shoot can make a big difference to all your photography. If you like dusk and night photography, try shooting when there is still a bit of light left in the sky too, rather than waiting until it’s pitch black.

What are you allowing in the frame?

Windmill reflection, Framing, Hit Rate, Boost, Exposure, Focus, manual, lenses, Move, Light, keepers

With good light found, the next thing to think about is being more mindful about what you allow in the frame before you take the picture. It’s so easy to just gun away with digital, but all you end up with is a ton of mediocre images to wade through. Instead, rigorously check what you are allowing in your composition, being particularly mindful about distractions and annoyances like telegraph wires, parked vehicles or other kinds of clutter. While rule of thirds and golden mean is important, just being more picky about what you allow in the frame will also make a big difference.

Move around

Palio parade, Framing, Hit Rate, Boost, Exposure, Focus, manual, lenses, Move, Light, keepers
Another good tip is to keep exploring a scene from different vantage points. Many less experienced photographers tend to stay rooted to the spot once they have found a good position, but you end up with lots of variations on the same theme. Move around more!

Check exposure settings

Boxer, dog, Framing, Hit Rate, Boost, Exposure, Focus, manual, lenses, Move, Light, keepers
You need to check that you are using the best exposure mode before you take the picture. Don’t try and be macho and use Manual if it’s not working out for you; you would be better off using Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority (Tv) and adjusting exposure compensation as necessary. Really make the most of the camera’s ISO capabilities too. Don’t be afraid to increase it to cope with poorer light or for when you need a faster shutter speed, but don’t keep it cranked up to plus 1600 even when the light is good. You will just end up with noisy shots.

Take over the focus

Framing, Hit Rate, Boost, Exposure, Focus, manual, lenses, Move, Light, keepers
Another key tip to boost your hit rate is to make sure that YOU are telling the camera where to focus, rather than allowing it to make all the decisions. Manually selecting AF points – via single point AF for still subjects, continuous/or AI Servo AF mode for moving subjects – means you can specify exactly where you need the focus to be.

Finally, invest in lenses

The beach near Bamburgh, Northumberland, England, Late on a summer's evening, Framing, Hit Rate, Boost, Exposure, Focus, manual, lenses, Move, Light, keepers

Forget that fancy tripod or expensive software, the best thing you can do for your photography is to invest in the best lenses you can afford. There is no point paying top dollar for a high end SLR or compact system camera and then putting a basic kit lens on it. Get a good quality wide angle lens if you are a landscape fan, a fast (at least f/2.8 fixed aperture) prime lens for portraits, and so on. You won’t regret it.

Further Study

Michael Freeman’s Photography Foundation Course

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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