Not that I can consider myself much of an expert. Just the other day I was out with my camera and a couple with a fellow Nikon asked me to take their photo. Obviously assuming I would take a decent photo. Nope, it was too shadowy and I wanted to explain that I am still a novice. Always experimenting, always learning.
But that’s the beauty of any hobby or art form- it’s always a learning curve. And below are a few tips for fellow amateurs who are keen to improve their photography.
Know Your Camera
Read up on the manual, learn what all the buttons mean, understand its functions and how it behaves. DSLRs in particular can be confusing, and take time to understand, but it’s worth it to dedicate the time to learning and becoming the master. Because once the camera is your oyster, the whole world is your oyster.
Read Up on Photography
There are loads of magazines, online blogs and articles readily available to provide you with insight into photography: from the technical details to the composition of photographs. I underwent a photography course and it was worth it, because I finally understand manual mode! Examine other photographers in the fields of photography you are interested in, to see their style and what inspires them. Once you have bigger background knowledge you become more aware of your own goals in photography.
Walk Around Slowly
Get your inner flaneur on. Even if you’re heading to a particular destination you know is full of photo opportunities, still take the time to observe all your surroundings. For example if you’re in a new city, take your time in the small streets. Often these better represent the city then its most famous landmarks. I’m a bit of a lone wolf at times, but I find it helps to explore a place with my camera on my own. When I am with others, even if they are interested in taking photos, they still have different interests to yourself and you may feel pressured to move on from a scene before you’re ready.
Take Everything In
Before you take a shot, observe everything that is within your viewfinder and beyond. You might find you’re not noticing a small detail that will blemish your photograph. Be aware of around the edges, every person that might enter the frame, and even a solitary bird crossing the sky. Try to pause before you take the shot.
Sometimes there may be a person or vehicle in the way, and you have to wait before they move. Or a change in the light might work wonders. Waiting can be the key to a perfect photo, rather than hurrying along to the next scene.
Restrict Your Shots
All professionals recommend you to not snap away completely at liberty, in the hope that one or two photos might turn out well. Instead they recommend you carefully construct your shot, and plan what a single photo will entail. Hence why many love instant photography – the limits that film provide ensure that the photographer is careful about their work. Personally with my DSLR I aim between 1 and three shots of the same thing. Sometimes the first shot allows me to see what I need to correct, but I always consider carefully what is going to be captured.
Consider All Angles and Viewpoints
Don’t just go for the obvious. Maybe a slight change in angle or viewpoint will be what makes your photo interesting, and makes it have something to say. Especially for famous locations, which everyone has seen photos of before. Be creative!
Apparently morning or before sunset are prime times of the day for photography. So maybe revisiting a place at a different time will mean the elements work in your favour, or sunset will create polar opposite mood to a photo of the same place in the afternoon. Or in different weather, because not all photos have to be about sunny days. Or sometimes, you know what you would do differently for a photo, and so re shooting the scene will make significant improvements.
Be Self Critical
I find it can be so hard to judge your own work: one day a photo might impress you and you marvel at your own photography skills, the next day you see nothing but flaws. But if you start to become more aware of common mistakes you commit, you become more aware of how to avoid them.
It’s what teachers and professionals always say: practice makes perfect! There is no better way to develop a skill, and if its something you enjoy then it’s not really much of a chore to practice. Have your camera on you as much as possible, as you ever know when an opportunity might arise!