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How 10 Minutes a Day with Your Camera Will Help Make You a Better Photographer

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How to make sure that the camera is your tool, so taking photos can be your passion.

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Spend 10 minutes with your camera every day

Have you ever found yourself standing in front of an awesome moment trying to decide which camera setting to choose?
Try the following tips for just 10 minutes a day with your camera, and soon enough you will forget it’s even there. The camera will become a natural extension of your eye and hand, and will not be an issue when you see a photo you want to take.

This self-tutoring plan is based on natural human curiosity, and on the fact that muscle memory can do a better job than brain memory in performing manual tasks, such as setting the desired shutter speed. Once you have created a link between your vision, and the finger that turns a dial, or presses a button on your camera, it will stay in that finger’s muscle memory for good. Then, next time you think about that function, it will happen magically by itself.
Here are some examples for 10 minute exercises to do with your camera. Take them as inspiration for making some of your own.

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Explore your camera like a toddler

A toddler is crawling and exploring, seeing new bits and pieces of the world, then stands up and making a new step every day, walking while seeing things from a higher vantage point. You can do the same with your camera if you allow yourself to touch and turn dials, push buttons, or change menu settings without a specific goal. Do that on a daily basis, not in a moment before you need to capture an exciting event. Practice this until you feel safe to take a wrong turn on your camera’s menu, and remember there is always a way back in, by using “Reset Menu”.

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One Day, One Button

The secret for fast learning is in keeping it simple. The human brain is really good at learning and performing one process at a time. So if you choose one variable, and focus your attention on it for the whole 10 minutes, it will burn into your brain and stay there.

The place to start is the shutter release button. For 10 minutes, work on different ways to half press it, then fully depress it, and then retrieve your finger tip back to half press. This is better done in front of a mirror, so you can look at your index finger while it’s working. Start at a fast shutter speed and adjust it slower after each shot. When your photos become blurry, try again until the movement of your finger tip is unnoticeable. You’ll start to see that you can shoot hand-held using slower shutter speeds with every minute of practice do you. This will help you discover your lower limit for shooting hand-held.

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Repeat

Even an experienced professional musician plays repeating scales for few hours a day, before the real work begins. If you repeat your camera’s operation in a simple, yet systematic way, you will feel the difference from day one. Unlike the musician, it will only take you 10 minutes a day to create a change.

For example try standing on a busy street corner following passing cars with your camera (panning), taking some shots with a slow shutter speed. Try to blur the surroundings and keep the car as sharp as possible. For 10 minutes do just that, and explore different ways to hold and move your camera along with the passing car. Shoot at different shutter speeds every time, building your eye-arm-finger connection to work together for the simple task over and over again. Do only that, and nothing else on those 10 minutes.

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Take your camera everywhere with you

Your body language tell everyone around you about your feelings. The moment you feel uncomfortable, others around you can tell, and then they will feel the same.

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The way you are perceived by others, reflects your confidence with your camera. Try taking the camera on your shoulder while going to the supermarket or post office for errands. After about 10 minutes of being out doing daily chores with your camera, you will forget it’s even there, and will project that to others around you. Then you can start taking photos everywhere.

Summary

If you let yourself play with your camera for just 10 minutes a day, you’ll feel different and see the results right from day one. Remember that you learn your camera in order to forget it’s there, so you can focus on your photos.

Do you have any other ideas or tips for using your 10 minutes a day? Please put them in the comments section below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Ouria Tadmor 's art and message to the world is street photography. He uses his art to deliver the message of tolerance and acceptance, by teaching it to other photographers. Ouria lives in, and is inspired by the city of Jerusalem, where he also works as a photojournalist and teaches in several art schools. Read more about Ouria's work on his website or Facebook group.

  • Mark

    Great advice! I’m going to try doing that for 10 minutes a day with my new camera.

  • Ouria Tadmor

    Thank you Mark!
    I’d love to hear about your experience after two or three weeks of doing that!

  • Great advice. I am new to photography and I am definitely going to give this a try.

  • Gisela

    Thank you for sharing, I love taking photos. The last couple of photos for the holidays were blurred and I lost some great memories.

  • Great tips, It definitely will help me improve my photography skill

    Akane
    http://www.humancat.co

  • Ouria Tadmor

    Thank you Teresa, I’m sure that if you follow some of the tips for 10 minutes every day you will create great photographic habits. good luck.

  • Ouria Tadmor

    Try to stick with the shutter speed, find out where is your hand-held shutter speed limit and try to find ways to break through that limit, but remember, just 10 minutes a day! 🙂

  • Ouria Tadmor

    Thanks Akane,
    Good luck with your move to Tokyo 🙂 it’s a great city!

  • Geert Lesage

    This is great advice, I am now planning 2 sessions a day. The first one being to get to know my camera and in my second session, I try to recreate some shots made by professional photographers so I can understand their creative process while practicing

  • Ouria Tadmor

    Hi Geert,
    Sounds great, you’re on the fast lane to becoming a better photographer! please share with me some of your recreated photos, I’m interested to see your progress.
    Ouria

  • Hanve

    Thank you! Now I can take the next step. I bought a camera because I really love the art of photo and love the way I can express my self and others. But the technic did me afraid… Now I hope to be friends with my camera. 🙂

  • Bharat Atos

    Thank you Ouria Tadmor
    Nice tips

  • Jacqui Dixon

    This is great! Just what I needed. Off to find a busy street corner 🙂

  • Ouria Tadmor

    Thank you Hanve,try focus on the toddler tip, that’s a good one for making friends with the technical side of your camera.
    🙂

  • Ouria Tadmor

    🙂

  • Ouria Tadmor

    I’m glad to hear, feel free to share your findings with me.

  • Jacqui Dixon

    Thanks Ouria.

  • Terri Valkyrie

    Manual focus – might be a good one to try for 10 minutes a day. Focus on various things manually, move, refocus. While AF is the most common mode, I’ve left my camera in MF and missed shots because I didn’t figure it out in time, and then I wasn’t fast enough at making the motion to turn the lens to focus. Once you change to back button focus too, it takes awhile to get used to it. Changing your aperture or shutter speed without taking your eye from the viewfinder (on my camera, in manual, it will take two buttons for aperture). And possibly the most useful – spend 10 minutes putting your camera on and taking it off your tripod. Once you’ve done that, there are a good hour’s worth of adjustments to practice.

  • Brian Wadley

    Ouria, thank you for the article. It was clear, engaging and helpful. I’m going through a weekly photography challenge this year and while having assignments each week is super helpful, I think this will be a great addition to my independent study of my camera and early growth as a photography enthusiast. Yasher Koach

  • Ravindra Kathale

    Dear Terri — Could you please expand on the last sentence in your comment “….there are a good hour’s worth of adjustments to practice.” I request you to share these adjustments with s as at least I do not know them. Thanks. And your inclusion of manual focus in the daily exercise is absolutely correct. I’ve done this and with good results.

  • Ravindra Kathale

    Dear Ouria, this is a wonderful article. I liked it. Repeatedly doing something commits that act to muscle memory and it remains available for long, is true. It works. Practicing these steps and inventing a few others to add to them, will certainly make one very comfortable with the camera as also adept at changing settings resulting in better photographs, less missed opportunities and more confidence. But one thing about the article. The content under the sub-heading Take your Camera Everywhere with you is not clear. It would be great if you’d write a few lines about that. Thanks once again.

  • Terri Valkyrie

    I mean for your tripod – I don’t even know what most of the parts of a tripod are called but I can use them to set up my shot because I’ve practiced, I know which dial to turn if I want to adjust the pitch, I know how to turn my camera to portrait mode on the tripod, I know which dial to turn if I need to turn my camera to the right or left when it’s on the tripod, I know how to raise it and lower it in three or four different ways. Tripods, though similar, have different designs so they aren’t standard and my tripod may be very different than yours, but you learn by playing with it, but turning the dials or pressing the levers to find out what they do and if you spent 10 minutes each day for about a week, you’ll be able to set it up any which way you want quickly – instead of fumbling with it when you’re trying to get a shot. Tripods have a lot of moving parts and they usually don’t come with directions, so the only way to know how it works is to play with it and practice.

  • Ravindra Kathale

    Oh! I see. Mine is, as you said, not like yours. It is quite simple a thing. No dials. One leveling tube. Of course there are levers to turn and adjust the camera as also to turn it into the ‘portrait’ mode. That’s why I was confused. However, your premise stands. Even this simple a thing takes a good amount of used to so that you don’t fumble and lose time. Thanks.

  • Terri Valkyrie

    Yes, exactly – being able to do it by memory instead of actually having to think about it could be important. Most of the time when using a tripod you have time to set up your shot, but if you need to do it quickly then you can. Once I was trying to catch a lightning storm and by the time I got the tripod set up, it had pretty much passed over. When I got my new one I made sure I opened it up and set it up several times in different configurations, now I can do it much more quickly.

  • Ravindra Kathale

    I did the same thing after I bought one. Unfolded and folded it up several times in quick succession, turned the levers to point in different directions etc. Gave me a good grip over it and I can set it up pretty quickly now. And also loosened up the rigid joints of the tripod and made operations smoother. Thanks.

  • Ouria Tadmor

    Hi Terri,
    Manual focus is indeed a setting that requires mastering in order not to miss action shots, I too missed some great shots while trying to focus. I do think that manual focus adds to the act of creating the photo because it add another interaction between the photographer and the camera, it is a thing of muscle memory.
    Thanks

  • Ouria Tadmor

    Thanks Brian, a weekly challenge is a great way to expand your horizon as a creative person. I think that once you’ll know your camera well enough to forget that it’s in your hand then you’ll really start developing your photographic language. Do share! 🙂

  • Terri Valkyrie

    My daughter took a photography (media actually) course in school and her teacher insisted they use MF, I think he was an old school film guy. So, every time she picked up my camera, she’d switch it, and then when I went to use it – I had no AF! Uh oh! So that’s why I had to learn, I was missing too many shots because she never switched it back to AF. The two lenses I use the most (50mm and 90mm macro) both require MF – macro photography it’s pretty much a necessity (especially when you realize that focus stacking is how those awesome macro shots are taken and processed) and with the cheap 50mm, it hunts so much in AF that it’s just easier and quicker to manually focus. AF is still really useful, but I do believe it’s worth it for every photographer to learn how to and become good at manually focusing.

  • Terri Valkyrie

    Yes! That’s another good reason why people should always do that when they get a new tripod, it loosens it all up.

  • Rob

    I couldn’t agree more. Mine is almost glued to me. and there is nothing sadder than being there for that ‘once in a lifetime’ surprise event or scene when you don’t have the camera with you. the “if only”s where you smack yourself on the head can give you headaches after a while.

  • Debidas Banerjee

    Nice grammar for the beginers. Thanks.

  • Thothar Ningshen

    Thanks for the article which was very inspiring for a beginner like me. I agree that the manual focus is the real way of enjoying photography because that is where the ultimate creativity comes in. But at the same for a beginner like me I found that the AF is a good way to start with. It shows the student what the aperture or shutter speed should be kept at in those given situations. Its almost like a constant teacher by your side.

  • Maria R

    Great idea! Get to know your camera and how different settings work.

  • Ouria Tadmor

    Thanks Maria. Get to know it in order to forget about it.

  • Geert Lesage

    I apologise for the slow response, here is a link to my 500Px page: https://500px.com/geertlesage

  • Ouria Tadmor

    Great stuff Greet! Thanks for sharing. My favorite photo is Bridge by Night, great work.

    Ouria

  • Geert Lesage

    Thank you, all these images have been taken recently as i am in the process of taking an online course called “Photography basics and beyond: From smartphone to DSLR”. It thought me that i still have loads to learn, but it shows me that i am actually improving.

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