Tips and tutorials

15 tips to Improve your Photography

Tips to improve photography for beginners

Are you taking the same photos repeatedly? Do you think your photos are mediocre? It is very easy to take ‘okay’ photographs, but it takes much more to take stunning images. Here are some tips that will improve your photography and will make your images stand out.

girl with butterflies

Photo Credits: Photoflake/500px

 15 Tips to Improve Your Photography

  1.  Know your equipment
  2. Get your basics straight
  3. Study the work of professional photographers
  4. Join photography forums and groups
  5. Interact with professional photographers
  6. Showcase only your best works
  7. Be open to change
  8. Experiment, experiment, and experiment
  9. Learn to process your photos
  10. Avoid ‘blind’ criticizers
  11. Practice taking ‘mental pictures’
  12. Keep it simple
  13. Change your perspective
  14. Be persistent
  15. Shoot in various focal lengths

You should simultaneously apply these tips while learning photography. These tips will help you to focus on each aspect which will help you to gauge the improvement of your photography.

Let’s dive in

#1. Know your equipment

Have you ever bothered to use the manual that comes with your camera?

It’s highly unlikely that you would read the manual. Well, if you want to improve your photography, you’d better ‘study’ your camera’s manual.

I have always seen people scratching their heads when I ask them about the specifics of their camera. Mostly I get a response, “I don’t know, I have just bought it”. If you don’t use your camera’s manual, you take photos using the most easily usable settings on your camera (like the program mode). And the result will not come out as you expected, and you blame the camera.

a squirrel looking inside a DSLR lens
Photo Credits: Simon Phillpotts/500px

I repeat, read your camera’s manual. Read it again and again until you know everything about your camera. A camera has several features that will help you to take good photographs. And, ofcourse, not all cameras have the same features. But if you know what your camera can do, you can take the best pictures your camera can give you.

For example, in most DSLR cameras, there are several focal points (small squares in the viewfinder) you can choose. By choosing these focal points you can focus on a specific region on your subject– say, eyes. But, by default, the camera selects all the focal points. So, when you try to focus, the camera focuses on the subject with a focus point that is closer to the camera. This is the reason you would get focus on unwanted regions. However, you can manually select the focal points which help you to compose your shots in different ways.

So, to unlock the true potential of your gear, dust off your camera’s manual. Practice the different settings of the camera using your manual.

#2. Get your photography basics straight

Learn different technical aspects of photography — aperture, exposure triangle, ISO, shutter speed etc. Learn composition (the placement of the subject within the frame), post-processing, lighting etc. Understanding the technical side of photography might be the most boring or difficult part, but it will help you to improve your photography.

Unless you know the basics, your camera’s manual doesn’t make any sense to you. Learn the basics along with your camera’s manual. Suppose you want to know how to change the aperture of your lens, you can do that using the manual mode or the aperture priority mode of a DSLR. So unless you know how to use those settings, it would be difficult to learn the basics.

Buddhist monk reading a book and smiling
Photo Credits: Malcolm Fackender/500px

 

#3. Study the work of the master photographers

You might be wondering why I am suggesting this. Trust me, it will transmogrify the way you take photographs. It worked for me, and it will work for anyone.

Don’t mistake masters of photography with professional photographers. Professional photographers get paid for their photography services. It doesn’t make them masters. Master photographers’ work has an essence in them. They don’t just photographers for magazines or for money. Magazines publish them because of their quality of work and how they use photography for something beyond their life.  Some of the masters of photography I follow are Henri Cartier-Bresson and Steve McCurry .

When you see photographs of masters regularly, you will develop a ‘sense of framing’. However, just going through their work might not help you. You need to analyze, and study them — how they compose, why they are composing the images to tell a story.

if a photographer’s work intrigues you, study the work. Search for your favorite type of photography and keep yourself motivated. Follow your favorite photographers (I don’t mean stalking them) first, and you will develop your own style in photography. You can imitate their style to learn photography.

 #4. Join photography forums and groups

The more people you interact with, the more you learn. Find photography forums on the internet, join, and be active. Take part in discussions that you find interesting. In forums, some photographers share their experience, knowledge, which you can adopt in your photography. Find photography clubs in your place and join them. Go for photo walks and interact with fellow photographers.

 

old man looking through a magnifying glass
Photo Credits: Coltrane Koh/500px

#5. Interact with professional photographers

Send your work to professional photographers and ask them to review it. By doing so, make sure you send it to the right person: if you send some of your landscape photographs to a professional fashion photographer, he could not help you much. So, ask the experts in the particular genre of photography. Most of the time you may get no response from them, but do not worry about it. It’s not because they don’t like your work or they don’t find it as worth reviewing. Professional photographers are busy people.

 

a man begging
Photo Credits: Simon Nicoletti

#6. Showcase only your best works

The difference between a professional photographer and a rookie is that a professional knows which photographs are good, and which ones are bad. Even a professional makes mistakes. But he only shows the best photographs to the outside world. So always showcase your best work..

#7. Be open to change

Develop a habit of learning more and more. Kill your ego and learn from others. If you find someone using a particular post processing technique, ask him/her to share it with you; try it out in your workflow. Photography is an art and let it evolve inside you.

#8. Experiment, experiment, and experiment

I consider this as one of the most important practices to improve one’s photography. Take photos every day. Apply your theoretical knowledge in the field. Transfer the images to your computer and analyze them – what went wrong, how can you improve the images etc.? Make sure you will not make the same mistakes next time. Practice makes you perfect. But practicing mistakes will get you nowhere.

a rusty shack in a field
Photo Credits: Lurie Belegurschi/500px

#9. Learn to process your photos

Although most people think processing is not a part of photography, learning it would do no harm than good. It’s a controversial topic. I am not getting into that – right now. But I can tell you that, when you learn some aspects of post processing, it will help you to do better in the field. You will understand what are tones? Who to read histogram? Whether a scene is good for black and white photography or not, what is contrast? etc.  But there are some dos and don’ts in post processing – over vignette, over contrast, over saturation, artificial lens flare etc. are some of them. Make sure you are within the limits.

fighter jets flying in different directions
Photo Credits: Jinsoo Park/500px

 

#10. Avoid ‘blind’ criticizers

Yes, The criticizers. They are everywhere. They are mostly one of the first people who comment on your photographs. Interestingly, most of them hardly take photographs.  Although a positive criticism improves your photography, sometimes it demoralize you too. If ,you think, criticism is affecting you in a bad way, avoid it until you can handle it. Ignore those who try to bring you down and have no good photographs to show.

 

#1 1.Practice taking ‘mental pictures’

‘Taking mental pictures’ is a metaphor for visualization. Practice visualizing a scene will help you to take good photographs. If you are a beginner, you take lots of photos, and while reviewing them in the computer, you might find some good photographs. It is usually a few among hundreds of photographs. Visualization helps you to increase the number of good photographs you take. Here is how you can develop the skill: Go out without a camera, and observe. If you find it difficult, cut out a rectangle in a card board, which will simulate the viewfinder (or LCD) of your camera, and look through that. Another method is to make a rectangle shape using your palms. Practise this method and you will start observing the world as a photographer.

Dragon fly covered in dew
Photo Credits: Ondrej Pakan/500px

#12 Keep it simple Never keep too many things in frame. Take simple photographs. Simple photographs will help you to convey your message (if there is any) easily. Avoid unwanted elements in your photographs. Frame your photographs in such a way that every element will make some sense in the photograph.

Read: Minimalism in photography with some examples

Black and white photo of three boats
Photo Credits: Keith Aggett/500px

#13. Change your perspective

When you are out with your camera and you saw a flower. How would you take the photography? Most people just take the photograph from where they are standing. Take photographs from different angles, and see how it is it. Surprisingly, in most of the times, you find all photographs are different, even though the subject is the same.

Unusual angle of man playing cello
Photo Credits: David Alquezar

#14. Be persistent

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any improvement in a few days. No one can take great photographs overnight. Change is always gradual. Be persistent and soon you will start taking awesome pictures

Man pulling lumber
Photo Credits: Caras Lonut/500px

#15. Shoot in various focal lengths

Take photos using various focal lengths. For DSLR users this might be difficult to do since they have to own several lenses, which is not economical. Do not stick with using one particular type of lens just because you own only that one.  Borrow lenses from your friends or from local shops and see what kinds of pictures various focal lengths give. Point and shoot cameras offer a range of focal length which makes it easy to try various kinds of photography. Go through all realms of photography — take landscape, macro, street, portrait photographs.

So, are you ready to try these out?

 

 

 

 

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Vidhu Soman

Hi, I am Vidhu Soman, Editor of Shutterstoppers. I have been doing photography since 2010, and I co-founded shutterstoppers community in 2012. I love photography, writing, travelling, and reading. If you wish to contact me, send a mail using our contact form.

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