No matter how long you’ve been carrying a camera, it’s the drive to capture and preserve life’s profound moments that keep us picking it up again and again. It’s always a challenge to fully enter a moment, to see all that it holds, and translate that 3D experience into something you can keep—something evocative that transports you with clarity and beauty. Here are 10 photography tips to help you hone your skills:
Photography Tip #1: Keep a list: Get that shot
When you see an image you like or one that inspires you, save it! When an idea for an image comes to you, write it down. When you find extra time to take photos or you’re feeling creatively spent, go back to your list for an inspired start.
Photography Tip #2: Take charge
Seeing the perfect composition in the wild is extremely rare. Good photography shots often require adjustments and posing. Don’t hesitate to rearrange objects, have someone step into the right light, or change your own vantage point. The extra steps are worth it.
Photography Tip #3: Always carry a camera
Great shots don’t wait for you to have your camera ready. They happen all the time, you just have to catch them! Whether you get a smaller setup or you use your phone, have a camera with you constantly so you don’t miss a shot.
Photography Tip #4: Compose carefully
When you find a scene, pause for a moment to compose. Remember the Rule of Thirds, look for leading lines, find the light, remove distractions. Beyond the Rule of Thirds, remember to consider giving your subject negative space to breathe. There are a lot of things that can be fixed in post-processing, but creating meaningful compositions is best done in-camera.
Photography Tip #5: Learn and refresh the basics, then experiment
Learn the Exposure Triangle (Balancing the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture to get the correct exposure). The goal is to get comfortable with your camera in Manual mode. Some creative possibilities only exist when you can override defaults and play with the exposure. Also try manual focus for more creative possibilities for blur.
Photography Tip #6: Get close to your subject
This requires a lot of confidence, but the more you do it, the better you’ll be at it. This is especially true when taking pictures of people. While it’s tempting to use a telephoto lens to create a comfortable distance, you’ll lose impact. One trick is to hold the camera and look above it, so you’re making eye contact with your subject. You’ll get more interaction when they can forget there’s a camera between you, and it’ll be more intimate and natural.
Photography Tip #7: Hunt for good lighting
Light is just as much your subject as anything else that compels you to take a photo. It offers a thousand different ways to shoot the same scene or setup. Remember, if you look for it, there is almost always enough light to take a photo. Manipulating light and shadow is what creates feeling and mood. To do this, you’ll almost certainly need to be in manual mode or spot-metering depending on your composition. Watch for the way light moves, look for light coming from surprising sources to illuminate your subject. Some of the best photographs have significant parts that were underexposed, which only highlights the subject more. Just watch to be sure you don’t blow out highlights or clip your blacks. That’s data you can’t recover in post-processing.
Photography Tip #8: Focus on the eyes, then double check
When taking pictures of people, your critical focus, the crispest part of your photo, should be the eyes of your subject. While you’re taking the photo, be sure to stop and zoom in to 100% to make sure this is the case. If your focus is off, even just a little, then the rest of the photo doesn’t matter. It’s easy for the face to look like it’s in focus, but small screens can be deceiving. Stop often to zoom all the way in and check the eyes.
Photography Tip #9: Shoot for how the moment feels, not how it looks
Your best work will come from entering deeply in the moment and trying to catch all of it in its authenticity. The effects of the constant social media feed means that we’re often shooting with how it will appeal to our online audience, rather than shooting the moment for what it is. Forget your online audience. The way to make meaningful, original work is to shoot the moment for what it is, not what it “should be”. You can make a profound, touching, arresting photo without perfect light, without perfect styling, and in something other than a square frame if you look closely and shoot for what you find.
Photography Tip #10: Explore different viewpoints
Go beyond your first impression of a shot. Take photos of the same subject from multiple vantage points, multiple exposures, multiple apertures for varying depths of field. In a digital era, where you’re not paying to process each exposure, this is very easy to do. Sometimes the first shot you take may be the one you wanted all along, but often, really working a subject reveals better ways to capture it. Also, if you’re shooting with a narrow depth of field, don’t forget to open up and take more in focus in case you miss something, or too much is out of focus.
Practice every day. The more you shoot, the better you train your eye to see light and meaningful moments in the most ordinary things. The more familiar you are with your camera’s settings, and the more closely connected it becomes to your eye and your body. You’ll get more familiar with the technical aspects of photography, so you can plan your shots and come closer to capturing the scene as you remembered it.
Have any photography tips you’ve learned along the way? Share them in the comments below!