- Get Out of Full Auto
- Learn to Use the Camera’s Histogram
- Learn How to Use Artificial Light
- Streamline Your Post-Processing Workflow
- Use a Circular Polarizer
- Aperture priority mode (A or Av on the camera dial, shown above) gives you control over the aperture and ISO while the camera controls shutter speed. This is a great mode to shoot in for things like portraiture or other scenes in which you want to control depth of field.
- Shutter priority mode (S or Tv on the camera dial) gives you control over the shutter speed and ISO while the camera controls the aperture. Use this setting if you want to control how motion appears in the shot.
- Program mode (P on the camera dial) allows you to set the ISO and the camera sets the aperture and shutter speed for you. This is advantageous in challenging light conditions in which you want a high ISO (in low light) or a low ISO (in bright light).
- It reduces glare off non-metallic surfaces like water, wet plants and rocks, and even skin.
- It boosts contrast and saturation in the sky, making the blue atmosphere deeper and richer and the clouds a brighter white.
- It minimizes atmospheric haze, so distant features appear crisper.
photo by Lyndon Stratford via iStock
Let’s face it…
The road to mastering photography is a long one. In fact, it’s a journey that never ends! There is always something new to learn and existing skills that can be improved.
If you ask me, the most difficult part of learning photography isn’t getting started, but transitioning from being a beginner to a more advanced photographer.
The tips I’ve outlined below address this very period in your development and will help you get over the hump to become more skilled.
Table of Contents
Get Out of Full Auto
photo by Photographer and videographer via iStock
I’ve said before that using full auto mode when you’re a beginner can actually be a good thing. After all, without having to worry about exposure settings, you can concentrate more fully on things like composition and framing.
But now that you’re ready to become more of an enthusiast photographer, it’s time to leave full auto behind.
I think everyone should learn manual mode, but you don’t have to jump right to the big, scary M on your camera’s dial just yet.
photo by eROMAZe via iStock
A great way to exert more control over the camera settings is to shoot in aperture priority, shutter priority, or program mode:
Getting familiar with these semi-automatic modes is a great way to take baby steps away from full auto without being overwhelmed by having to control all the exposure settings yourself.
Learn to Use the Camera’s Histogram
When I was a beginner photographer, I relied on the camera’s LCD to determine if the shot I just took was well-exposed.
The problem with doing that is that the LCD is not at all an accurate representation of the lightness or darkness of the photos you take.
Instead, if you want to become a better photographer with images that are better-exposed, you need to learn how to use the camera’s histogram.
Looking at the graph above, you can see why the histogram is so beneficial - it gives you a graphical representation of how many pixels are shadows, midtones, and highlights.
If the histogram is skewed to the left, you know that the image is too dark and that you need to brighten it up. If it’s skewed to the right, the opposite problem is at hand - the image is too bright and it needs to be darkened.
Take a deep-dive into how to read a histogram to get all the details on this very handy tool.
Learn How to Use Artificial Light
There are tons of natural light photographers out there that make masterful images. But there are also quite a few photographers that only use natural light because they don’t know how to harness the power of artificial lights.
Light is obviously the most critical aspect of photography, so understanding how to manipulate light is a critical skill you need to learn if you’re going to become a better photographer.
Unfortunately, when many beginners think of artificial light, they think of the pop-up flash on their camera.
The problem with the light emitted from pop-up flashes is that it’s intensely bright, which creates harsh shadows behind a very bright subject. That’s just not a flattering look.
A better option is to use an off-camera light to shape the light in a way that adds interest to the shot. You can see this concept in action in the image above.
The different colors of light add visual punch to the photo while also helping separate the subject from his surroundings.
And you don’t have to invest in expensive speedlights, light stands, and modifiers to do it, either.
A perfect light for photographers that wish to advance their skills is the little guy shown below, the Hakutatz Pocket Size RGB+AW LED Light.
Editor's Note: The Hakutatz Kickstarter campaign was a huge success! Their Amazon store will be open and ready for orders in early December.
Being such a small light, it’s easily portable and maneuverable, so you can experiment with light placement to get different effects in your photos.
What’s more, this light offers RGB light, which allows you to produce all the colors of the spectrum. There are also separate LEDs that produce white light and amber light, which can help you achieve the precise white balance you want in your images.
As shown above, you can manipulate the color emitted by the light using the companion smartphone app. How easy is that?!
Another aspect of mastering artificial light is learning how to use multiple lights at the same time.
Hakutatz makes this task super easy because you can use two, three, or more of these lights together to combine different kinds of light and different effects, allowing you to create an intricate lighting scheme without all the fuss.
Best of all, since this light has adjustable brightness, saturation, and color temperature, you don’t need light modifiers like softboxes or diffusers. Instead, you have all the tools you need wrapped up in this one awesome little light.
Learn more about the Hakutatz Pocket Size RGB+AW LED Light and see how it can help you elevate the quality of your photos.
Streamline Your Post-Processing Workflow
photo by photoguns via iStock
When I look back on how I edited photos when I was a beginner, I can’t help but shutter. It was bad. Really bad.
But back in the day, processing images was a much more complex and laborious task than it is today. There are all kinds of tools that help you tap into your creativity while at the same time making it an easier, less time-consuming task.
One of the best ways to make photo editing an easier process is to use presets that allow you to change the look and feel of your photos with a click of your mouse.
In Exposure, for example, there are over 500 presets from which to choose, including beautiful film presets that harken back to the days of film photography.
But these presets aren’t just applied in one way - you can customize how each one looks and save it for use on future images for a consistent look.
Another way to make editing your photos easier is to use non-destructive layers.
What this means is that you add effects and make adjustments to layers on top of the original image, so the original is left unchanged.
You can add presets, make adjustments to color and saturation, manipulate the exposure, and make many other changes quickly and easily to get the precise look you want in the photo.
And if you’re a bit of a disorganized mess like I am, you’ll appreciate editing programs that also offer tools for organizing your photos.
As shown in the video above, Exposure ticks that box as well, with the ability to create smart collections of photos based on specific criteria like image ratings, flags, or color labels. You can also organize images based on the camera use, when the photo was taken, when it was edited, and even the camera settings that were used.
Learning how to edit your photos and do so in a way that enhances their beauty is a crucial part of advancing from being a beginner to an enthusiast photographer. And with editing programs like Exposure, you can do that in a much more efficient manner.
See Exposure in action in the video above. To get your free trial, click here.
Use a Circular Polarizer
One of the best - and easiest - things you can do to improve your photos is to start using a circular polarizing filter.
These filters offer too many benefits to not have one in your camera bag. Take a look at what a polarizer can do:
And the best part is that Marumi makes a magnetic filter system that makes using filters a veritable breeze.
Just attach the M100 filter holder (shown above) to your lens, pop the circular polarizer in place, and you're ready to rock!
And since the system is magnetic, it makes it super quick and easy to swap out filters when needed.
Part of becoming a better photographer is knowing what gear to use and when, and having a circular polarizer in your kit is certainly a piece of gear you should have if landscape photography is your vibe!