Five things you can do to improve your photos today

Sooo…Like I said in this post the other day, I’m in the process of working to improve my photography. I can’t afford to take classes, but I have plenty of time to practice right now! Here are some things that have been helpful for me.

Best of all, most of these are things that will only cost you time.

Go over your camera manual and learn what the basic settings are
I know this sounds like a lot, but you don’t have to do it all at once. My Canon’s manual is huge…I downloaded a copy and keep it on my phone, so I can refer to it when I’m out shooting without having to lug the actual booklet around. It’s been a great help, especially when I was shooting indoors one day and realized I didn’t know how to adjust the white balance setting. I just pulled out my phone and from there it was an easy fix.

If you don’t have a manual for your camera, Google your model and see if there is one available online to access or download. If you can’t find one that way, see if you can find a forum and ask others for advice.

Learn a bit about exposure
There are three main elements to exposure: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. It’s a lot to cover here, so I’m not going to go into great detail today. Respectively, they are how wide your shutter is open, how long it stays open, and how sensitive your camera sensor is to available light sources. By manipulating the way these three elements interact with one another, you can control how bright or dark an image is, how much noise is present, motion and blur, and all kinds of things. I’m sure I will write a post just on exposure one day, but in the meantime there are loads of tutorials online that will give you an idea of how this works.

Depending on your camera model and preferred shooting mode, you may have more or less control over each of these elements. Shooting in manual should give you complete control over your exposure, although finding the correct balance every time can be tricky.

Practice mindfully composing photos
Instead of just mindlessly snapping away and hoping for the best, lately I’ve been focusing a lot on composition. Whether it’s during the shooting process itself or afterward when I’m editing, I’m trying to expand my horizons a bit in this area. The rule of thirds is especially difficult for me; a typical photo for me used to be as tight as I could get, with my subject dead in the center. I’m trying to get away from that, although I probably won’t stop shooting that way completely. Sometimes those are the images that just speak to me.

Here’s an example of a mindless photo. I just took it, without thinking about the lighting or composition. That reflection off the sign is awful, isn’t it?
A couple steps to the left got me a much better shot of this exhibit. Granted, it’s not the most interesting subject, but it’s what I had to work with that day.

Another thing I’m trying to do is shoot in such a way that the picture will evoke an emotional response in the viewer, or maybe tell a story. I don’t feel like I have it down to the point that I can explain it very well yet, but I will be sure to post about it when I do.

Study other photographers
This is something I love to do–look at other people’s photos, consider what I like about them, and try to figure out how I might achieve similar effects in my own work. It’s not that I’m trying to duplicate their picture, just that I want to understand their use of light and patterns, focal points, and composition.

Use a tripod
So…This is the only suggestion I’m going to have today of extra equipment that you may want to purchase. It doesn’t have to be expensive, either; I see tripods at Goodwill and other resale shops all the time for $5 and under. Using a tripod can make a huge difference in the quality of your work, especially if you have a slow shutter speed, poor light, or your hands are a bit shaky. If you want to take that a step further, consider getting a shutter remote as well.

Waterfall
I shot this without a tripod, and you can see it’s a little blurry.
I used a tripod for this shot. It’s much clearer, and I was able to set a lower shutter speed and capture the motion of the water.

 

Most importantly, have fun while you’re practicing and learning. Some of this–like going over your manual and studying exposure–can get a little dull, but keep in mind that you’ll probably like your photos a lot better after you have a stronger idea of how the technical details work. Photography as a hobby doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and if it feels like a chore you might want to consider trying something different. Learning the basics on whatever equipment you currently have on hand will help you get your best photos yet, and it will also give you a better idea of what you might want to look for if or when you choose to upgrade.

Phew, that sure felt like a lot. I hope it was helpful for you! Any questions? Suggestions? Leave me a comment below! If you enjoyed my post, please give it a like and share it with your friends. Thank you!