Whether you’ve just bought your first DSLR camera, or have owned one for a while but never understood all of the settings, you’re not alone. Below are some steps you can take to begin to better understand your camera, along with some basic photography rules and ideas, which will go a long way to help you improve your skills – whether as a hobbyist or budding professional, if you put them into practice.
Think about the light
One of the most important aspects of photography is the light, and what it is doing. The direction and brightness of the light will have a massive impact on whether your photos turn out amazing, or just okay. It’s also something that’s easy to forget to think about when you’re first starting out. The way the light falls on your subject, whether it be a landscape, or a portrait or something else entirely, will have a massive eﬀect on how your subject will look in your photo. What the light is doing can dramatically change the way your subject looks; so it’s really important to remember to think about it, and incorporate it into your image. If you’re shooting portraiture, light can make your subject look terrible,or it can be incredibly flattering – it all depends on how you use it.
Try a different perspective
So often, newer photographers only take photos at eye level – the perspective they always see. And I’m not saying that those photos are bad. Often they are really good! But one thing you can do to make your images more interesting to look at is to try taking photos from a different perspective. Try different angles; looking down on your
subject, or get low and look up. Showing oﬀ the way your subject looks from a completely new angle can bring so much more interest, because it’s not the every day that people are used to looking at.
Another thing you can try is adding layers – look for foregrounds and backgrounds that can add depth,and make a photo look more interesting. Look at your subject through something different; a bike wheel, with the spokes blurred; a cool looking leaf that’s curled around on itself; even just something simple like long grass. Whatever you’re doing, get creative with it! Change things up every now and then; try that new angle, or look for layers. Trying this will add new interest to your photos which in turn will improve them, along with your skill.
One thing that a lot of newer photographers often do is just snap away like crazy, without really thinking about the image they want to capture, and how to go about getting it. It’s almost like they’re just snapping and hoping something will turn out nicely! Now don’t get me wrong, taking a large quantity of photos can be a good thing sometimes – especially if you’re just learning, and are actually thinking about what you’re taking. But if you’re just mindlessly snapping away, hoping for something good, but not really thinking about what you’re trying to take, that’s not going to help you improve at all. And yes, I have been guilty of this in the past, too.
Instead, try taking a few deep breaths, and looking at scene in front of you – whatever it may be. Really think about how you want to portray your subject(s); how you want to capture the scene. If this is something that you really struggle with, then using a tripod can be helpful sometimes – because you can’t just quickly move the camera to where you want it; you’ve got to rearrange the tripod each time (assuming you’re wanting to change up your perspective), and since adjusting can take so much time, it can really help you think more about what you’re wanting to capture.
Don’t forget to edit!
Since the digital age began, editing has become a very important part of photography. Sure, you can take amazing photos, that look great without any editing, and that’s awesome! But even those great photos can look even better with a few tweaks here and there; or you can
easily change the whole feel of an image through different presets in programs like Lightroom. Personally, I like to capture images that require the least amount of editing possible; but I’ll usually still edit a little – just subtly. If you really want to take your photography to the next level, I would highly recommend learning and using a photo editing program. There are several great ones out there that are free, like Gimp (free version of Photoshop – big learning curve), and iPhoto if you have a mac. There are also a lot of really great programs out there that you can choose to pay for – Lightroom and Photoshop are particularly popular, and for good reason.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
I know you’ve probably heard this loads of times before, but as with anything new, the best way for you to learn and improve is literally to just get out there and practice. The more you shoot, and review your images, the more you’ll learn what works and
what doesn’t, and also what kind of style you like. So get out there regularly, find some interesting things to take photos of, and practice. Better yet, find mundane things to take photos of, and try to capture them in a way that looks interesting. If it doesn’t work out, try to figure out why.
Get out of Auto Mode
A sure fire way to improve your skills is to update your knowledge of how your camera works, and use that knowledge to get out of auto mode. Yes, auto can take some pretty amazing photos, but the problem photographers often find is that their photos are just not consistent. Basically, what you are doing when you shoot in auto is giving your camera full control over how your image is going to look. Sure, this works out fine sometimes, but the camera can’t read your mind; therefore it’s not always going to capture the images in the way that you want. Which can be really frustrating. Understanding the basics of how a camera’s settings work in general will vastly improve your photography skills, simply because you’ll know what your camera is doing in order to achieve a certain “look” in any given photo. You’ll then be able to manipulate what’s happening by changing the settings manually to achieve the “look” that you want, which may often be completely different from what the camera was capturing on auto.