Whether you’re new to photography or have been honing your skills over a number of years, these 13 tips will help you to improve your photography!

13 things that are important to achieving great looking images and to keep growing as a photographer.

1. Hold your camera right.

Sounds simple… but holding your camera correctly is very important. Grip the camera with your right hand from behind with your fingers horizontal around the side, your indicator finger on top near the shutter button and your thumb steadying the whole thing from the back. Use your left hand to steady the camera from underneath, especially underneath the lens where it meets the camera bodies.

2. Stand & breathe right

Believe it to not, how you stand is also important, if you stand with your legs together you are more likely to sway than if you stand with them apart. Often one leg in front of the other works.

Another tips is to time your shots so that you push the shutter on the exhale. You move less during exhale.

holding the camera correctly
holding the camera correctlyLearn to focus manually and create a story at the same time

3. Learn to focus manually and create a story at the same time

If you shoot a person pointing at the camera and focus at their eyes, or if you shoot the same person pointing and focus on their finger you will get a completely different story from the same composition.

4. Learn to anticipate light and settings

This is an especially good practice for street and travel photography where you want to catch the spontaneity of the moment and not lose it while changing modes and fiddling with settings.

Set up your camera when you hit the street and see the general light condition, then do a few test shots and set your camera. Unless you or the sun move dramatically, just shoot for a half an hour focussing on your subjects.

Then review what you’ve got, look how the light has changed and tweak the setting before having another session of shooting.

zoom lenses
zoom lensesUnderstand how zoom can affect the compositions

5. Choose the right lens, for the right job.

Understand how zoom can affect the compositions. The longer the focal length the narrower the angle of view, the shorter the focal length the wider the picture meaning that those unflattering stretched pictures that give people untrue tuckshop arms were taken with a wide angle camera up too close.

6. Constantly check the other settings while shooting in one priority mode or auto

This will save disappointment when you pull your images up on a computer screen and notice grain because the ISO changed to bring in light when you decided to shoot on a fast shutter speed.

The settings are usually at the bottom of the viewfinder so get in the habit of glancing and understanding them.

action photography
action photographyGo crazy in continuous mode for action shots and sports8. Go crazy in continuous mode for action shots and sports

7. Go crazy in continuous mode for action shots and sports

For actions shots and sports set up the camera and then go crazy in continuous mode with a fast shutter speed (use shutter priority to set the speed fast). The main skill here will be positioning yourself with a clear view, following the subjects with some anticipation of where the subject will be in the next split second and clicking the shutter.

At the end of the day, many photos will be soft but a percentage will be good and a tiny percentage will be amazing.  The more shots you take the more chance you have having of finding that gem with that split second second expressions that made the moment unforgettable.

8. Try Panning for moving subjects

This is also for sports and moving objects but it requires more effort to get a single shot. Panning is when your subject is moving and your background is still, and yet the subject is sharp and the background is blurred (probably in artistic horizonaal lines). The way to get it is to follow the subject with the camera, while remaining as still as you can yourself.

Shutter speed ideally will be fairly slow but remember the slower you go the more camera shake you will have as you need to be handholding. Probably 1/30 is the slowest you want to go. Keep the camera to your face, your elbows tucked into your sides and pan from your waste only moving your upper body- like a tripod because camera shake will be an issue until you’ve got the method right. It takes practice but it’s fun.

9. Use Flash for Fill

A big misconception of amateur is that the flash is supposed to light up a dark space like a torch or candle. Now, we all know better than that! However, your flash can be handy in dull or lit situation when the light is behind the subject and there is shadow between you and the subject obscuring their features. Use your flash as fill light in even in daylight.

To create fill flash, adjust the aperture and shutter speed correctly to expose the background, use flash to lighten the foreground but still retain the qualities of the background.

golden light and ambient light
golden light and ambient light

10. Exploit the Golden Hour

The Golden Hour refers to the first hour the sun rises and the last hour the sun sets and it makes shots taking on auto or even with compact cameras look glorious. The golden light cast over the world in those hours adds interest and drama to almost any scene and your shots on auto will look as good as your shots in manual mode.

11. Harness ambient light before you start fiddling with camera settings.

Great street photographers can assess the light in seconds and make the most of it, whether that be moving themselves, moving the subject or quickly creating a make-shift reflector.

One great tip if you have hard light on one side of your subject and shadow on the other is to use a white sheet or a shiny windscreen shield or whatever you can find to reflect the light back on the subject from the other side. You’ll see fashion photographers with packs of specialised umbrellas to do this but great travel and street photographers think on their feet.

Once the ambient light is right, then tweak the camera settings to get the rest of the shot how you want.

12. Experiment with bokeh blur

Bokeh is that fancy fuzzy background when the subject is sharp and the background is soft. The effect is popular for portrait and wedding photography, but can also be great for shooting objects, focusing on a sharp flower details while blending out the background and other things artistically.

capture bokeh
capture bokeh

The easiest way to start doing this is to set your camera on aperture priority and set the aperture somewhere around 2.8, though it will depend on your tastes and goals.

Many basic DSLR cameras come with lenses that don’t go further down than about 4 F-stops so you might need to look at investing in a lens better suited to this if you don’t already have one.

13. Trust your eyes and instincts.

Nobody ever said ‘Look at the F-stop in that photograph, that’s a beautiful F-stop’.  But they do say look at the eyes or gestures of the unforgettable subject, or the majesty of the composition caught in frame.

One of the biggest mistakes a photographer can make is being distracted by camera settings while the perfect pictures appears and disappears in front of them.

Great photographers are present in the moment and observing real life and not caught up in the technology. Practice settings and techniques away from serious shooting opportunities, and use your eyes and instincts in the modes that your already know.

I hope you really enjoyed these 13 tips… If you have any further tips to add to this list please do by commenting below!

Cheers, Ben.


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