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A while back I wrote an article that was quite popular: 10 photography tips to take your photography up a level. In this article, I bring you 10 extra tips from all aspects of photography. Enjoy!
Let me ask you something, what would you do? You meet someone attractive, you are head over heels, and you finally start talking to them. You then uncover the most superficial person you have ever met. That person is all looks and not much else. You would lose interest, right? Because looks by themselves are good enough to make you interested, but if there is nothing sustaining that interest, you’re gone.
This is the same thing in photography. A beautiful composition is nice, but what is in your image that is designed to keep the viewer’s attention? What is it about your image that is more than meets the eye? Is it saying something deeper? Is it making a point? Showing a concept? Add meaning to your images to keep the viewer engaged.
I believe there are only four times when you control the image. The first is at the moment of exposure (when you shoot), the second is in post-processing, the third is in sequencing and editing, and the fourth is while printing. So, when shooting have these things in mind in order to shoot with clarity.
For example, you shoot an image and it’s overexposed. But it doesn’t end there, you have another opportunity in the post-processing phase to fix it. Or you shoot something with a nice texture but it doesn’t have the effect you want. It doesn’t end there, you know if you print and enlarge it you’ll get a different effect. Or you shoot an image that won’t work on its own. Once again it doesn’t end there, you know you have another similar image that can work alongside it to create a diptych.
Making an image is only the first step. There’s a whole process to create the effect you desire after you take a photo. So it’s important to know that what you have in the camera is the starting point and not the end.
In the first 10 tips article, I suggested that you pay attention to the background first. Now I would like to add another thing to pay attention to – the corners of your image. You see there is a strong dynamic with the corners, they draw you into the frame, towards the dead center and if you can align some lines there, it’s like surfing a big wave, it just draws your eye even more!
In the image above we have the guy’s hands, the shape of the tree and the shadow on the bottom right corner just pulling you into the image. So, pay attention to your background, watch your corners, and then look at your subject.
Let’s face it, it’s hard to get attention in this ever increasing attention deficit world. For example, Dennis Rodman had been in the NBA for years, but he was receiving few endorsement contracts. He was a good player but didn’t shine enough. Then came the new Rodman with the crazy hair and style, even as a kid I knew his name because he simply looked different.
That brings us to photography, you are probably doing something a certain way, so can you Dennis Rodman-ize it? Shoot in a different way that makes your work pop above and beyond what you normally do? For example, landscapes are usually shot with a wide angle, what if you shot landscape abstracts with a telephoto? Or used a special processing technique on your images that gave them a certain look?
You probably know the wine experiment, where they gave people wine to drink and told one was expensive and the other was cheap. Everyone, of course, preferred the expensive wine over the cheap one, even if it was the same wine. Here’s the REAL KICKER, when they scanned the brains of the people who drank the wine, their brain actually made them believe they were drinking expensive wine, and it literally tasted better. Their perception altered their reality.
With that in mind, work on your images but also on your name or brand. Try to get as much recognition as you can, it will alter people’s perception of your work. I remember a photographer who had decent work, and then that person got famous literally overnight. Let me tell you, even I, knowing all that I know about psychology, now see his work in a better light.
It’s crazy, and probably a bit sad, but that’s just the way it is. The story of Joshua Bell also illustrates this point well. This guy makes $1000 per minute playing on a million dollar violin, yet he got a meager $32 and a few cents when they had him play anonymously in a metro. Same guy, same skill – different context, different result.
Let’s not mince words here, luck plays a big role in photography. That Cartier-Bresson shot of the man jumping? That was 100% luck because he couldn’t even see what he was shooting through a hole.
Why is luck such a big deal? Because you DO have to be there at the right moment, and so does your subject, the light, etc. Truth be told, you need the skill and the eye to seize the moment, but if you are not there, the shot won’t be yours.
So taking into account the luck factor, shoot more often. You’ll get luckier and luckier every time you do. By making more photo opportunities, you’ll be making more images. So if you used to go out once, go out twice, etc.
I mean, who do you think will have a better chance at getting a job? The one that applies for one job, or the one that applies for 10? Skill and creativity are multiplying forces, but it doesn’t matter how skillful you are if you are a couch potato. Sharpen your skills and get out there to get lucky.
There was this cool experiment where they gave this guy upside down glasses, so everything was inverted. They wanted to pour him a drink, and he turned the cup upside down (because he believed it was upside down). Imagine the world upside down and how hard it would be to live like that. After 10 days he adapted to the upside down vision, and could even ride a bike!
Sometimes we just get used to how we shoot, we get complacent, that’s normal. So scramble things up. If you normally shoot color, try black and white. If you like portraits try street photography, if you are a film shooter, try digital. It’s like the “Dennis Rodman-ize” tip, but it will shake you out of complacency rather than to bring attention to your work.
Two photographers can look at the same scene, and yet see two different things. The difference is their knowledge about photography. You probably have some hidden gems in your images that you’ll probably never uncover if you do not revisit your images. You made them, but when you revisit them you do so with new eyes, and you will see them differently.
You will be amazed at what you find. Images that you believed were boring and/or ruined will be seen in a new light. You may ask yourself, “How did I miss that?!? There are quite a few images that I have overlooked, that’s why I have a no-delete policy. Maybe I can’t see what my future self will see or what my future self will be into.
I receive emails daily from photographers around the world. The one thing many seem to struggle with is that they don’t live in a big city. It is understandable, but just because you can’t find the images you have in your mind doesn’t mean they are not there. You just need to let go of your preconceived ideas and be more open to what is in front of you.
Some people tell me they wish they had more money to travel. Evidently, the image in their mind is of travel, but an image doesn’t need to be travel photography to be good, does it? It’s good to have a general idea of what you want, but also to be open to the possibilities.
Some people get hung up on relationship breakups, passing by great, if not better opportunities in front of them. Likewise, seeing what is possible right in front of us allows us to maximize our opportunities as photographers.
It’s a hard concept to grasp, especially as a beginner, but remember that photography is plastic. Exposure? Plastic. Colors? Plastic. White Balance? Plastic. Sharpness. Who said every image needed to be averagely exposed, with white balance set perfectly by grey card, and super sharp? The first thing I do as a photographer in Lightroom is to clip my blacks. I LOVE clipping my blacks. I never set my white balance with a grey card, I just look at the image and hear what it creatively calls for, then do that.
Photo of a bride and groom? Probably needs to be on the warmer side so that the viewer can get some emotional cues from that. Shot these plastic surgeons? I’ll put my white balance on the cool side to reinforce the surgical cleanliness. Whatever you are doing right now, remember all of it is plastic. Who said images needed to be in a square or rectangle? Who said portraits have to contain faces? Who said colors had to be realistic (see above)? Who said paper and canvas was the only printing options…..you get the gist!
There you have it, 10 more photography tips to help you in your photography journey. I hope you resonate with some of them. Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.