Ask any photographer what’s the most common question the get asked,
You can be guaranteed that they will have the same response!
“How do I take better photos?”
I have been extremely lucky to have met many talented and generous photographers who have offered me advice. Without their valuable advice there is no way I would have become the photographer I am today.
So along with some tips that I’ve picked up over the years, I’ve asked other photographers to share their own secret techniques about how they take their photos to the next level.
1. Get in close
If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough. If you feel like your images aren’t ‘popping’, take a step or two closer to your subject. Fill the frame with your subject and see how much better your photo will look without so much wasted space. The closer you are to the subject, the better you can see their facial expressions too.
2. Shoot every day
The best way to hone your skills is to practice. A lot. Shoot as much as you can – it doesn’t really matter what. Spend hours and hours behind your camera. As your technical skills improve over time, your ability to harness them to tell stories and should too. Don’t worry too much about shooting a certain way to begin with. Experiment. Your style – your ‘voice’ – will emerge in time. And it will be more authentic when it does.
3. See the light
Before you raise your camera, see where the light is coming from, and use it to your advantage. Whether it is natural light coming from the sun, or an artificial source like a lamp; how can you use it to make your photos better? How is the light interacting with the scene and the subject? Is it highlighting an area or casting interesting shadows? These are all things you can utilise to make an ordinary photo extraordinary.
4. Ask permission
When photographing people, especially while in countries with different cultures and languages, it can be hard to communicate. In certain countries if you photograph someone you are not ‘supposed’ to photograph, it can get ugly and rough very quickly if you are not careful. So out of respect you should always ask permission.
On my travels I have started shooting a series of school children. These are all posed portraits and they are looking down the lens. My interpreter helps me with the language and I limit myself to smiling, shaking hands, giving ‘hi-five’ and showing them the image on the back of my camera once it is done. You would be amazed how quickly people open up
5. Use flash during the day
You might think that you should only use flash at night time or indoors, but that’s not the case at all. If it is an extremely bright day outside and the sun is creating harsh shadows on your subject, switch on your flash. By forcing extra light onto your subject, you will be able to fill in those ugly shadows and create an even exposure.
There are questions to ask yourself when deciding what ISO to use:
What time of day are you shooting? If you are shooting outside during the middle of the day you will need to use a lower ISO such as 100 or 200. If you are shooting at night time without a tripod you will have to increase the ISO to a higher number to be able to record the light on the camera’s sensor.
Will the subject be well lit? If your subject or scene is too dark you will need to use a higher ISO such as 800 or 1600.
Do you want a sharp image or an image with more movement in it? Using a high shutter speed to capture fast movement might mean that you need to use a high ISO to compensate. Likewise, if you’re using a slow shutter speed to capture blur you will need a low ISO to compensate.
Don’t forget, increasing your ISO increases the grain or pixel size in your photo. So don’t use an ISO of 3200 or 6400 if you don’t want a photo with a lot of ‘digital noise’.
f/4 is my ‘go to’ aperture. If you use a wide aperture with a long lens (200mm-400mm) you’re able to separate the subject from the background. This helps them stand out. Works every time.
8. Read your camera’s manual
The best way to know what to do with your camera is to actually read the manual. So many people miss this really important step on their photographic journey. Every camera is different, so by reading the manual you’ll get to know all the funky things it’s capable of.
9. Shutter speed
Being aware of your shutter speed means the difference between taking a blurry photo and a sharp photo. It all depends on what you are after. If you are shooting a sporting event or children running around in the backyard, you probably want your subjects to be in focus. To capture fast action you will have to use a shutter speed over 1/500th of a second, if not 1/1000th to 1/2000th. On the opposite end of the scale, you might want to capture the long streaks of a car’s tail lights running through your shot. Therefore you would change your camera’s shutter speed to a long exposure. This could be one second, ten seconds, or even longer.
10. Focal length
Keep it simple. I shoot with two prime lenses and one camera; A 28mm and a 35mm. For everything. I use the 35mm lens 70% and the 28mm lens 30% of time. It takes some time to get used to it, but once you work it out, shooting primes is the only way to go. It means you have to work with what you have and you can’t be lazy. Basically, this means more pictures and less fiddling around with zooming and maybe missing moments. It also helps for consistency. If you’re working on a project or a series, keeping the same focal lengths is a great way to maintain a powerful sense of consistency