A common question that every great photographer has asked is: “How do I become a better photographer?” A desire to improve and master a craft is an undeniable asset. So if you’re a budding photographer and searched all over for the answer, you’re already ahead of your peers.
To celebrate World Photography Day, let’s revisit some of the best tips all seasoned photographers and budding photographers should stand by:
1. Read the manual
There’s no need to read the entire manual. Flip through the pages and read the chapters you think might benefit you. Because different camera brands and models have distinct features and mechanics, switching from Nikon to Fujifilm or vice versa might feel completely foreign.
Cameras can be highly complex, and you might find turning on the flash option challenging. Great photographers only think about what they’re shooting, not so much about the correct settings the camera should have to shoot a subject.
Don’t miss a great photo opportunity by fumbling around with the camera, trying to figure out how it works.
In the case where the manual is too sleep-inducing to read, there are many great camera reviewers out there.
2. Understand light and exposure
Unless you’re a complete beginner and just got your first camera, terms such as ISO, aperture, and shutter speed should not be foreign to you. Here’s a quick recap if you’re new to these terms.
The ISO is the setting that will brighten or darken your photo. A lower ISO creates a darker image, while a higher ISO means a brighter image. So raising your ISO in a dark environment will help increase the brightness, but a higher ISO will also increase the graininess and noise in an image.
An aperture is a hole that controls the amount of light allowed to enter the camera. It’s expressed in f-numbers like f/22, f/2.8, f/16, etc. Aperture also affects the level of clarity and blurriness within a photo, also known as the depth of field.
Shutter speed is the speed at which the shutter of the camera closes. The faster the shutter speed, the shorter the exposure time and, therefore, the less light the camera takes in. A slow shutter speed gives a longer exposure time and more light.
3. Framing and composition
A little framing and composition go a long way. Some people naturally have an eye for great photos, while others who don’t, have to work for it.
Some of the basic rules of composition that every photographer should try out are:
Fill the frame: To fill the frame means giving your subject the space of the entire image. This means you must get close to your subject or zoom in.
Don’t cut off any limbs: Avoid cropping out a subject’s limbs as it makes the photo look awkward and disruptive to the viewer.
Rule of thirds: Instead of putting your subject right smack dab in the middle of an image, place them in the left or third right of an image to make a more compelling shot.
Leading lines: This draws the viewer’s eyes towards a specific point in the image.
Isolate the subject: To isolate the subject means emphasizing the main focus on your subject by crowding it.
Watch the background: This means paying attention to what is behind the subject to not distract the viewer.
4. Learn to connect with your subjects
Great photographs tell stories. For that to happen, learning to connect with our subjects is an underrated skill. Technical skills are important, but we can’t forget that nurturing relationships with our subjects is most important.
Getting close takes time and commitment. Often, the most incredible work by photographers you admire took years to build a relationship with their subject. Be open and friendly. Make eye contact with someone you’d like to photograph with a warm, friendly smile. Know who you are photographing, and study your subject well.
Be mindful of the subject’s body language to see how they feel. Take extra time to feel out a situation and observe. Connecting like that takes practice.
5. Double-check your gear
How disheartening it is to get hyped for an entire day of shooting, only to find that there’s no SD card in your camera. Or, realize that your batteries are empty!
You’d be surprised by the sheer number of photographers who have had their fair share of gear mishaps. Double-check and triple-check all the necessary devices and equipment you’ll need for a successful shoot before leaving the house.
6. Shoot every day
Pick up your camera every single day. No excuses. To truly master a skill, you'll need to put at least 10,000 hours into it. It doesn't matter what you shoot; the key is to practice, practice and practice. Even on days when you don't have a professional camera with you, snap some pictures with your phone!
Through the sheer quantity of photographs that come out of you, you'll have a clearer picture of your voice and style. Having a distinct understanding of who you are as a photographer, the subjects you gravitate towards, and what it is about photography thrills you.
With everyday practice, your technical skills will inevitably improve. And by default, so will your ability to tell stories through photography.
7. Learn to edit
Taking a picture is the first step of a great photo. But, half of the magic comes from editing. Professional photographers absolutely edit their photos. By editing your photos, you can also stylize them in the way you prefer. Shooting digital but love how grainy film photography can be? You can mimic that in post-production.
There’s a clear difference between enhancing and changing the image, though. Most photographers out there don’t add any new elements to their photos but merely correct the color tones, do some crop work, and have their idea of what a perfect edit looks like.
World Photography Day
A photograph conveys a feeling like no other medium with its ability to capture a place, emotion, an experience and immortalize a moment in time.