I just completed a photography course, one of my June goals, in which I learned so much about how to improve my photos. I consider this just the beginning, and I plan to take more classes, including one on editing. But I wanted to pass along some of what I learned in case any of you are struggling with taking photos. This is more geared toward beginners such as myself, because I do not claim to be an expert in photography. I do know that all of the tips listed below have helped me become a better photographer and understand my camera better, though I have a long way to go.
1. Angle and composition. So many of us take the camera, bring it to eye level and take the photo. But if you get down low or stand up on a higher surface, you change the entire perspective and can often get a much more interesting photo. Making the subject be off center can also do this, as can changing the depth of field. Also, simply changing the direction of where you’re shooting changes everything. For example, my instructor asked me to take a photo of a flower, and I went for the closest one, but he suggested one that was being hit by the sunset light on the completely other side of the tree, and the photo turned out 1,000 times better. You may not consider things such as positioning as a beginner, but they make all the difference.
2. Light. Moving the object or subject to a location with better natural light will instantly yield better photos, but you can also do things like moving a lamp closer or using reflectors. Even better is learning to manually use your camera so you know how to adjust your shutter speed, for example, to allow more light into your camera. When you’re on manual, you can also use metering, which is an indicator in your viewfinder that tells you the correct exposure.
3. ISO. The lower your ISO is, the better. Higher ISOs will yield a grainier/noisey photo that isn’t great for printing purposes. I still am trying to learn more about ISO, because out of all photography concepts, that trips me up the most.
4. Lens and proper camera usage. Different lenses allow you to do more things. I have a certain Nikon lens that goes from f1.4 vs. the f3.5 of my kit lens. That means I can take images at lower light situations than I would with my first lens. I also have 200mm and 300mm lenses that are great for capturing greater detail and objects that are a little farther away, among other things. Along with that, changing up my camera settings has helped immensely. For instance, I had no idea I could use flash compensation to change the brightness of the flash on my camera. I rarely use flash because I prefer natural lighting, but now that I know how to adjust it, I can use it to look more natural when needed. I also know that changing my output setting to RAW images helps me in the editing process, because I can edit the larger RAW image and then save it as a JPG and edit further in Photoshop or Lightroom.
5. Tripod. If you’re getting a lot of camera shake, one potential reason is that you’re not keeping your camera still, and a tripod has helped me with that. I’ve been using mine a lot more after neglecting it for more than a year.
Lastly, practicing and experimenting with different settings on my camera has greatly improved my photos this past month. When taking a photo, I give myself more time to sit and change setting as needed until I like the photo I am getting. Taking a class has inspired me to keep learning more about photography and keep practicing. I’ve had my camera in my hand a lot more frequently this past month, and I love it!
Have you taken photography class? What tips would you share with others?