- Going Pro : How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer
- Bryan Peterson's Understanding Photography Field Guide : How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
- Bryan Peterson's Understanding Composition Field Guide: How to See and Photograph Images with Impact
Various circumstances have led me to meet a lot of beginning photographers in the past few years. Some of them were taking on a new hobby, while others were seriously considering becoming pros. Some of them have actually made it and are now making a living by taking photos. But all of them were very passionate about photography and they all wanted to be good at it. I guess that's why the question I got asked most often was "how do I take better photos"? There is no simple answer to it. However here are 41 tips that I believe are very useful for anyone looking to improve their photography skills, regardless of camera or shooting style.
1. Be there
One of the most important things for any photographer is to be involved in what he or she is shooting. That means you have to put the camera aside for a minute and communicate with your subject or observe whatever it is you are about to photograph.
2. Master exposure
This is photography 101 . Without knowing how to expose correctly, there's really no point in talking about anything else. (Hands down the best book on Understanding Exposure here)
(Success Tip #1: 52 ways to learn photography when you have little time to spare )
3. Use a frame
You remember how directors would use their hands to create a frame in old movies? That wasn't just for fun. It is a great way to help you decide on the composition. You can use your hands or an empty photo frame.
4. Stay powered
Always have your batteries charged and never leave the house without at least a few spares.
5. Hold the camera correctly
Surprisingly enough, many photographers hold their cameras wrong. Amateurs moving to DSLRs from compacts often have a tendency to hold the camera like it were smaller, with both hands on the sides. If you do that, there will be nothing supporting the lens and motion blur is likely to appear in your images. Hold the camera with one hand, and the lens with the other.
6. Stay connected
Photographers can be very competitive, but being part of a photography community can be very rewarding. You get to make new friends with the same interests, but you can also expand your professional network.
7. Get permission
When photographing people, especially in foreign countries, you should get their permission. It is common sense, but it can also save you some legal trouble.
8. Be grateful
Many photographers don't realize it, but when they travel and someone poses for them , they're actually doing them a favor. It's good to be grateful and return the favor. A print and an envelope won't cause any holes in your budget.
9. Be bold
Breaking the rules is one of the best ways to see what your true potential is. Just don't do it before you master them completely.
(Success Tip #2:How even the hobbyist photographer can make money with their photography )
10. Use the golden hour
They don't call it that for nothing. It's the time of day when the light looks best.
11. Don't let a day go by
Without shooting that is. It takes at least 10,000 hours of doing something to become good at it. How are going to become good at photography if you just take pictures in the weekend?
12 Color theory
Learn how use color. Go to an art class if you have to and don't think it's easy business. Proper use of color is borderline science.
13. Study light
Light is the essence of our craft. Without it there would be no photography. Before clicking the shutter, take a moment to observe the light, its intensity, direction and how it changes the way your subject looks.
14. Use f4
This is probably the most universal aperture value. It works great with long and short lenses, it is bright and still good enough for sharpness and detail.
15. Use the shade
When shooting outside in tough lighting conditions, always look for shade because it's probably your only chance of having an even light on your subject, without any other modifiers.
16. Fill the frame
There are two ways of doing that. You either zoom in or get closer to your subject physically. The obvious choice should be the second.
17. Be careful with watermarks
A lot of amateurs kill their work with watermarks. Once you add it to the photo, it's the only thing the viewer will look at. In real life, there are very few chances of your image being stolen.
18. Don't get too focused on retouching
While it is crucial for the final outcome, post processing should never be overdone.
19. Know your camera
Just like a race driver knows his car to the last bolt, the photographer has to know every possible setting on his camera.
Be smart when buying a lens. Get only what you need and will be using. Most photographers work with only three focal lengths, and often you can find them in a single lens.
21. Don't be obsessed with gear
There are photographers and there are gear freaks. You can identify the later by the three or four cameras strapped to their neck and shoulders, and enough lenses to cover stories for National Geographic. Most photographers don't need that much gear to get the job done professionally.
22. Read the manual
Yes, I know, everybody hates that part. But in reality it is one of best things you can do for your new camera. It will also save you a lot of time in learning how to use it, despite everyone else believing the contrary.
23. Stay inspired
Inspiration can come from everything around you, not just photography. Don't settle for looking at other portfolios. Watch movies, read books and keep your eyes open everywhere you go.
24. Patience is a virtue
Be patient in everything you do. There is no such thing as overnight success.
25. Take a camera everywhere
Ideally it should be something more powerful than your phone camera, but if there's nothing else available, that will do just fine.
26. Master the rule of thirds
I know everybody is telling you about it, but the rule of thirds is one of the first things you need to master if you want good composition in your photography.
27. The K.I.S.S principle
It stands for keep-it-simple-stupid! A lot of rookies try to impress and take better shots by filling the frame with all kinds of elements and subjects. In reality, the simpler the shot, the more powerful it will be.
28. Change perspectives
Always look for the more interesting perspective when framing a subject. Don't ever settle for shooting from eye level standing up.
29. Take shots with your mind
Even when you don't have a camera with you, which is hard to believe given today's smartphones, you can still take pictures with your mind. Do this creative exercise for a while and you will see its benefits every time you use the camera .
30. Master flash
Even if the only flash you own pops out of your camera, you need to know how to use it properly. It can be very helpful, especially on days with harsh sunlight and ugly shadows. (Understanding Flash Photography)
31. Use a tripod
Even if you're not taking long exposures, a tripod will help you with a lot of stuff like framing correctly and slowing down.
32. Mind the background
This is a very common mistake with new photographers. They get overexcited about a subject and forget to check if the background is helping or not.
33. Know a few good jokes
Seriously. Every photographer should be able to tell a few good jokes. You never know when the situation could use it.
So why did the chicken cross the road?
34. Prioritize education
If you have a starting budget, take some if the money from whatever gear you were going to buy and buy a few good books on photography instead. The long term rewards will be far more beneficial.
35. Be good with people
The people you photograph, be they celebrities or regular folks need to be relaxed when standing in front of your camera. Being good with people is a vital skill for any photographer looking to run a business in portrait photography.
36. Take deep breathes
You should do that as part of a slowing down process. Don't get overexcited about something because your next likely move will be to hurry and take as many shots as possible, without really concentrating on making them look good. The result? Tens or hundreds of ruined pictures of a promising subject. Slow down and focus.
37. No chimping
Check your LCD after firing the first shots to make sure everything is correct. After that focus on shooting. You'll have plenty of time later to look at the pictures.
38. Master shutter speed
Take a while to understand how the shutter on your camera works. It is one of the three elements that modify exposure, but it is the number one setting in numerous conditions. (Understanding Shutter Speed)
39. Use shadows
Amateurs often believe shadows are bad. In reality , light and shadow cannot exist without each other. Learn how to use shadows because they will add the weight to your photography.
40. Master ISO
This is not just about boosting it when there isn't enough light. You also need to know how different ISO values influence sharpness, detail and color.
41. Filter the feedback
The feedback you get from family and friends might boost your confidence in the first weeks after buying a new camera. After that, it's best to turn to someone with real education in photography. It might sting a little but it's the only way to evolve.
Good luck !