How to improve your photography

By Geoff Harris

landscape with stormy skyIf you believe the ads from camera manufacturers, the only thing you need to do in order to be able to take fantastic photographs is purchase their equipment – once you have that in your bag, every shot will be a winner!

Needless to say, this is not the case. Yes, good quality gear will enable you to produce good quality images – but the camera can’t produce a great photograph on its own, it needs a good photographer behind it!

Happily, there are ways to improve your photography without spending any money at all. Here are a few thoughts:

cosmos with border

Study the technical stuff: these long, dark winter evenings are an excellent time to make sure you really understand how your camera works. Go through your camera manual to see what is in all the different menus. Read books or browse articles on the internet to become really familiar with things like aperture and shutter speed settings, depth of field, ISO settings, exposure, and so on. Then when you go out with your camera, you’ll be more confident with the technical stuff, and so freer to concentrate on aesthetic considerations like composition.

Study the visual stuff: I spend a lot of time looking at other photographers’ work, not to copy it, but to analyse what I think works and what doesn’t – and why. Why does the composition feel so right in one photograph, and not in another? How has the photographer used light and colour in his image? How has the depth of field affected the impact of the picture? And I look at images in other media too – paintings for instance – where a lot of the same aesthetic considerations apply.

skyros door

Analyse your own photos: when you look at your own photos after a day’s photography, you’ll almost certainly like some more than others. Try to analyse why this is – assuming it’s not an obvious technical fault like incorrect exposure or focus, what it is that makes one picture more or less successful than another?

Practise: like any other artistic pursuit, photography needs practise! Getting out there regularly with your camera means that you don’t get rusty on any of the technical bits, and “keeps your eye in” as far as composition is concerned. I think that regular practise also helps you to “see” an image in ways that you might not do otherwise. You could even set yourself a goal, such as setting aside an hour each week for taking photographs – no matter what!

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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