10 Ways to Improve Your Photography

July 11, 2016

New Year’s Resolutions can be pretty useless. By January 3rd, chances are we’ve forgotten all about them. By January 15th, chances are we’ve failed and consumed more than our share of sugars, fats or tobacco. But photography need not be like that. Here are ten relatively easy ways you can improve your photography this year.

1: Plan Ahead
While the ease of digital photography means many photographers are more likely to fire off hundreds of shots in the blink of an eye, there’s much to be said for planning and thinking ahead. For example, check to see where the sun will be at a given time usingGoogle Earth or apps such as PhotoPills. Scout out potential photo locations prior to arriving to ensure you have the best viewpoint.

PhotoPills (right) allows you to calculate sunrise, sunsets, golden hour and shadow angles and is available for iOS



2: Be Aware
Instead of burying your head in an engrossing game of Angry Birds or checking to see if someone likes your latest witticism on Facebook, keep an eye out for interesting scenes that unfold before your eyes. Many great photographic moments, especially on the street, last for but the briefest of moments. Being aware of what is going on around you will help the quality of your photography immensely.

3: Use a Notebook
Photographic inspiration can strike at the oddest moments. You can record these ideas, before they disappear from your mind forever with a notebook. For the more visually minded, storyboard notebooks, such as those made by Moleskine allow you to sketch out what’s in your mind’s eye. Perfect for when you spot a perfect location you wish to return to later.


4: Take Your Camera With You…
The ubiquity of the camera phone often means we avoid taking our “proper” camera with us when we leave this house. However, the awesome quality available to us in both large sensor compact cameras and mirrorless cameras renders the old “it’s too big and heavy” argument null and void. No matter how good the 6mp sensor is in your phone, it probably can’t measure up to the 20MP 1" CMOS sensor in the Sony RX100 or the 16mp 4/3 sensor of the Panasonic GM1. Your future prints will thank you!

5: …and Be Not Afraid to Use It
But taking the camera when you leave the house is only half the battle. You actually need to use it. If street photograph is your thing, don’t be afraid to pull your camera out and use it in public.

You don't have to be like Bruce Gilden (right), blinding unknown subjects with your flash and Leica rangefinder, but with practice you need not be afraid of getting your camera out and using it in front of people. The great photographers such as Cartier-BressonElliot Erwitt or Robert Frank didn't make their iconic images by keeping their cameras in the bag.

If you’re driving along and see a scene you think would make a great photograph, don’t speed by thinking you’ll come back and take it later. Seize the moment, apply the brakes (safely!) and go back and grab your photo.


6: Look at Others’ Work and Learn From It
The Internet is both a fantastic resource for photographers. It allows access to an amazingly wide range of photography and photographers, from the world-renowned to the adept amateur. Find photographic styles that appeal to you, understand what you like about them and try and craft similar images in your own photography.

Take a look at Flickr Explore or Lensblr for ideas.

Similarly, visit the photography section (Dewey Decimal 779) of your local library, or better yet, a university library and view photo books in the flesh. A well-printed photo book gives a better idea of tones and colour than a computer monitor.


7: Don’t Be Afraid of the Computer
The latest incarnations of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop offer a variety of tools that are indispensable to the modern photographer. From basic colour corrections to more complex Raw processing, these programmes allow you to easily achieve your creative vision. One of the more interesting new features is the auto-straighten tool built into both programmes which corrects crooked horizon lines and other visual imperfections. If you wish to learn more about this software, michaels Media Schoolconducts courses to improve your Adobe knowledge.

8: Share Your Photographs
We aren’t all going to be famous photographic artists, and neither do we want to be. But if you don’t share your photographs, they will likely stay as unseen digital bits and bytes on your computer. Expose your photos to the world! Start a photo blog, share your images on Flickr, make a book or share your prints with family and friends. A popular online trend is to send physical prints to like-minded photographers around the world, receiving their prints in kind. Not a bad way to get your photos seen and to make new friends at the same time.

9: Print, Backup and Print Again
Probably the most important part of photography is one that is largely forgotten about today: the physical print. Prints are an easy way to share and make a physical backup of your most treasured images. They are also the best way to see your hard work, far better than a computer monitor. Why not get a fine art print done to hang on your wall? Don’t forget to backup your digital files too. With external hard drives never cheaper, there’s no excuse for losing your precious memories to a “crash”.

 


 

10: Ignore Stupid, Arbitrary Lists
Lists have boundaries and are usually fraught with problems: why is something on a list and other things not? Why are there only 10 tips and not 11? How are these tips supposed to improve my photography?

Lists are only intended to be a guide and not all the tips will work for everyone. The only way to really improve your photography is to stop reading the Internet and get shooting! What are you waiting for!?

 

by Richard Plumridge