Everyone else does a list of photography tips, so why shouldn’t I? No reason at all, so here goes :-
#0: Do It Slower
Digital photography makes making an image so quick and easy that it is too tempting to just shoot and worry about what is good later. Not much room for carefully planning and taking your time.
A good half of the bad images I make are because I didn’t slow down.
#1: Rules Are There For A Reason
“Rules are made to be broken” goes the facile saying. And there’s an element of truth to it, but the rules of composition are there for a reason.
For tens of thousands of years, artists have been coming up the rules of composition – the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, leading lines and curves, negative space, etc. There’s a reason why they exist – they work.
And don’t imagine that because photography is different that the rules don’t apply – it isn’t that different.
That is not to say rules should not be broken, but that every time you break the rules, you should be able to say why. And preferably with something better than “just because”.
#2: Gear is Good; Gear is Bad
There is a kind of photographer who buys the very latest gear all of the time; there is a kind of photographer who sticks to the camera they bought 10 years ago.
Neither is right nor wrong. New gear can make technical improvements to the produced image but will never improve the artistic quality.
#3: Shoot RAW
There is of course a temptation to just shoot jpeg especially as that is how all our images end up; why not let the camera do all the hard work? But there are a whole rafter of reasons why you should shoot raw :-
You can change your mind with raw – I mostly shoot black and white, and I can’t add colour back in afterwards. You can “fix” the exposure far more with raw than with jpeg.
Because the process of developing raw into jpeg takes time, you are free to spend extra time improving the final image. That time often makes the difference between a casual snapshot and something that goes beyond that.
#4: Criticism Is Good And Bad
We often seek confirmation that some of our images are good and that we aren’t wasting our time. Nothing wrong with that, and any constructive criticism can be good.
But we need to be wary of what is being judged, because it is rarely purely about whether an image is good or bad. For example, I often upload my better images to EyeEm where there are essentially two different “criticisms” :-
- Likes. People click that like button because they like the image; a lack of likes doesn’t necessarily show that an image is bad. Popular photographers get more likes than unpopular photographers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their images are better.
- Being added to the market. That means your picture is sell-able not that it is good. And if an image doesn’t get added, it means that it isn’t sell-able. Just that.
In the end, an image is only good if it sings to you. And if it sings to you, then it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks.
Unless of course you are not aiming for “good” but “sell-able” or “likeable”.
Musicians practice every day for hours; and photographers have to practice too. Learning the technical aspect of the camera is the least of it.
Practice with the camera; practice without it – practice looking for images on your daily commute. Get your eye into the habit of looking for compositions even in the most boring sights that you see every day.