Hands up if you’d like to be a better photographer than you already are? I’ve got my hands up because I know I would. Practise is obviously important in this quest, after all practise makes perfect. But aside from practise are there any techniques that can have an immediate effect? Well, today’s your lucky day! Here are ten things you can do right now to improve your photography.
Find a different viewpoint
Shooting at eye-level is natural, but it can be a bit, well, dull as a viewpoint. Try shooting from ground level, or from above. Shoot at the same level as your subject, looking at the world from their height. (Something that’s particularly effective when shooting children or animals.)
Start a project
Creating and completing a photography project is a good way to get enthused about your photography. It doesn’t matter what the subject is as long as it’s interesting to you, and has a definite beginning and end. (Though it’s possible to get so engrossed in a project that you just keep on going…) The number of possible themes are almost infinite. One simple project is to shoot subjects that are mainly one colour, red for example.
View your photos upside down
Bizarrely, viewing a photo upside down can help you see whether it’s an effective composition or not. It’s a more objective way of looking at and assessing the worth (or otherwise) of a created image, and it’s a technique that’s been used by artists for centuries.
Leave your comfort zone
It’s all too easy to shoot the same thing, over and over again. However, that won’t do much for your creative fulfilment. Mixing things up will do wonders for your photography, and may even send your photography in a new and interesting direction. If you generally shoot landscapes try portraiture for a spell, for instance.
Shoot both vertical and horizontal
It’s only a convention that landscape shots are typically shot horizontally and portraits vertically. (Admittedly for good reason! Landscape tend to be more horizontal than vertical, and the opposite is true for people.) However, there’s no reason to follow this convention if it results in a better shot. When composing a photo, try it in the opposite orientation that most people would expect. It may not result in a better photo, but you’d be surprised how often it does.
Look round the edges of the viewfinder
We’ve all done it at some point: looked only at the centre of the viewfinder and not taken notice of what’s around the edges, to the detriment of the resulting photo. A photo should work as a composition across the entire frame. Before you shoot, it’s worth taking a few seconds to run you eye around all four edges of the viewfinder. Look for things that are creeping into the picture that don’t add to the photo. If there are, either adjust your position or zoom in to remove the offending item.
Tripods are a pain. They’re awkward and time-consuming to set up, to name just two things. Strangely enough however, they’re both good arguments for using one. Using a tripod, with all the frustration it can sometimes cause, slows you down and is more likely to make you think about what you’re trying to achieve with a photo.
Pretend your memory card is almost full
Some photographers think that if you shoot enough photos at least one will be good. And, okay, it sometimes works but it’s an odd way to go about photography. A better method is to shoot sparely, aiming for quality over quantity. The key is to take your time and assess a shot before you press the shutter button. If it’s not working then don’t take the shot. This is made easier if you can convince yourself that you only have room for a few photos on your memory card.
Get in close to your subject
A common compositional error is to shoot at some distance to your subject. (This is a particularly common when using a wide-angle lens.) The result is a photo with lots of empty space around your subject that doesn’t add too, or even detracts from, the composition. Try taking a step forward (or zoom in a touch) before you take the shot. Does that improve matters? If so, would another step forward help even more?
Ask for constructive criticism
The ear-burning sensation you experience when you’re unfairly criticised for something isn’t pleasant. However, too much praise is equally unwelcome and can lead to complacency. This happens a lot on social media, where photos either have uncritical praise heaped upon them or are disparaged mercilessly. Ideally, what you need is to find someone who is able to give you fair and objective assessment of your photography. This assessment should point out both the good points of your photos as well as those areas that could benefit from improvement. (Hopefully, with a few ideas on how those improvements could be made.) Camera clubs are a good place to find knowledgeable people with these qualities.
You can put your hands down now.
David Taylor is a British award-winning landscape and travel photographer, who was born and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne and now lives in the ancient market town of Hexham, Northumberland. He took his first photograph at the age of 14, when his parents gave him a Kodak Instamatic for Christmas, and he has been taking photographs ever since.
His landscape photos have been used in publicity materials by local businesses, councils and tourism organisations, such as the Northumberland National Park Authority. He has also supplied images and articles to both regional and national magazines including Living North, Countryfile, Black & White Photography and Outdoor Photography.