Photography is a beautiful journey, filled with adventure, and an occasional killer photo. Regardless of where you are on that journey—just starting or embarking on a professional career—these 20 quick little tips will help you and your images stay in focus.
1. No matter how pro you get, it’s still a passion play
Don’t lose the spark that got you into photography. Your passion for creating beautiful images of things that interest you is the underlying motivating force behind every shot you take. When that spark goes out, it also leaves your images. So, treat your inspiration and creativity as the most vital skill you have. Honor it, cultivate it, and nurture it.
2. Lighting is everything
3. Establish your own composition rules
Whether it’s an adherence to the rule of thirds, a love of circles, filling the frame, dramatic lines, or repeating patterns, your choices in how you frame a shot defines your photography.
4. Shoot like a pro, think like a student
As good as your photos get, there’s always room to learn and improve. When you keep a student mentality, it keeps you curious and focused.
5. Zen and the art of Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO
Here’s what you need to know about the big three: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Each is designed to give more light with a payoff. Understand what each element takes away as it increases light:
- A larger aperture gives more light but takes away the length of your depth of field (blurrier backgrounds)
- Slower shutter speeds give more light but make your images blurry with camera motion or subject movement
- Higher ISO offer more light but adds noise to your image
When shooting in manual, know what the controls take away as well as what they give you.
6. Leading your viewer
As lines recede in space, they converge. We know it as perspective. Photographers use leading lines to engage the viewer by drawing their attention into and through an image and to create a dynamic feel. Experiment with the height of your camera, how you position it to look down a road or meandering stream, and where the lines all lead. Kneeling down can dramatically change the way a photo will feel. Likewise, looking down from a high point will alter the perspective. And don’t forget to turn around. A stellar shot may be behind you.
7. Move closer
As the legendary photographer, Robert Capa used to say, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” To get the composition you need, sometimes you need to get close—really close. Moving in close to foreground subjects adds incredible depth to a photo. In most cases, you’ll want to shoot at a small aperture to maximize the depth of field in the resulting image.
8. Always have your camera with you
Put your camera in an unassuming backpack or another option, and keep it near at hand—just in case. You can’t take a photo if you don’t have your camera handy.
9. There won’t be a next time
I’m sure I’m not the only one who says “That’s a great scene, but I’m just too tired, or I’m in a hurry. I’ll return later when there’s improved quality of light or come back another day.” There’s rarely a next time—and if there is, conditions have changed.
10. Learn by adjusting
In the beginning, you go out and shoot, and some images look good and some don’t. Then you adjust and get a higher percentage of good images. As you move on from there, never stop those little adjustments. That one step closer to the subject, a slightly steadier hand, experimenting with leading lines—these little things will improve your photography one small adjustment at a time.
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Once the amateur’s naive approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur.