I recently asked the following question on social media: “What was the most valuable photography tip you ever received?” Needless to say, I received a plethora of really useful tips from the audience. Some were spot on, others were debatable. I thought it would be fun to post a few here and expand on them briefly. Let’s get started with the most valuable photography tips ever.
The best zoom lens is your own feet
That is often true but please don’t try it if you are photographing a polar bear and her cubs or a bulky football player running for touch down. Get the right tool for the job! On the other hand, I must say that on any given photography workshop, the day my students do their best work is when they use a fixed focal length lens. I really believe in the power of limitations.
Look for the light
The day I understood how to see the light and how to harness it, is the day my photography took a leap forward. There is no bad light, learn to assess the quality and quantity of light and work with. It’s all about learning to use it to your advantage.
Get close. Then Get Closer
Okay, I had to smile because this one came from one of my former students. I could hear myself say that exact same sentence. Learn to see photographically and make stronger images. Photographers tend to leave too much ‘stuff’ around their subject. The viewer gets lost in the chaos and doesn’t know where to look. Less is often more. It’s important to learn to crop in camera and using a prime lens is a great way to learn to see photographically. Learning to remove distracting elements from your frame before your press the shutter is essential to improving your photography.
Stop thinking and shoot
Before you press that shutter you should know why you composed the way you did. Using the ‘spray and pray’ approach will certainly get you some lucky shots but not much satisfaction. You obviously stopped because you saw something that grabbed your attention, work the scene and follow your instinct. Don’t over analyze at the risk of making a technically perfect image with no story or feeling. Perfection is not always the goal.
Never stop practicing
There is no better way to improve your craft than by exercising those ‘visual push-ups’ daily. You don’t even need to leave the house. Experiment with anything, make an ordinary object look extraordinary. Go ahead and use your camera phone even. The tool doesn’t matter, your vision does.
Don’t use the flash
Okay, I have to use a ‘Sammonism‘* here and remind you to “Turn the darn flash off!” This tip applies to your camera or your phone.
After you’ve taken the shot, look behind you.
For sure! If you are photographing another sunset, the scene lit by the golden light behind you may be even more spectacular.
Shoot in manual mode
That may not always be your best choice. If you are shooting landscape then I would say yes, by all means, shoot in manual and take full control. If you are shooting street photography for example, shutter priority or aperture priority may be better choices. There is no coming back to get the shot again, so let the camera do some of the thinking for you or you’ll miss the moment.
Lighten your load and expand you creativity
A comfortable photographer is a happier photographer. Take one camera, one lens and let those creative juices flow. It will save your back too.
Shoot for yourself. Don’t try to get approval of others.
So true, unless you need to please a client, of course. If photography is a hobby, why should you care what other people think of your pictures, as long as you like them? That said, having a critique of your work in order to improve on it is one thing, and I would highly recommend it. But, the need for gratification via ‘likes’ on social media is something you should try to learn to live without. If that is the goal then I would recommend posting a daily kitten picture to get your fix. Then just shoot what you love (if it’s kittens, then it’s a win-win). In all seriousness, not every genre of photography will get ‘Oohs and Aahs’ on social media. For example, street photography is not understood and appreciated by the general public like landscape photography. Is that a reason to shoot landscape if your heart is in street photography? I hope not or you’re a photographer for the wrong reasons. Follow your heart and your work will shine!
Stop reading and start clicking
It’s good to read about photography and get inspiration online and in books but that should not replace your time behind the camera. You are not going to get instantly better after reading an article or watching a tutorial. You are only going to get better if you shoot often. Period.
Having unlimited shutter clicks without a cost factor attached is both good and bad. Good for the learning curve. Bad because it tends to make us lazy. Start shooting as if you were shooting film, make every shot count and you will have more keepers at the end of the day. Slow down and know why you are about to press the shutter.
Never pack your camera away until you are back home
You never know what is going to cross your path. Keep that camera handy, and always on.
Take the lens cap off
Better yet: Leave it at home.
Please share some tips that made a difference in your photography in the comment section below.
*In reference to our friend and photographer extraordinaire Rick Sammon