April 30, 2020 | 2802 Views | By Dylan Kotecki
Photography is incredibly fun, it’s also a very rewarding hobby or profession. Capturing moments with a camera is a great way to create and can be enjoyed by anyone at any age. Here are some tips for keeping yourself creative and enhancing your photography skills at home.
Learn Your Camera
Knowing your tools, regardless of your profession or hobby, is incredibly useful. In photography, it’s essential. Even running your mobile phone camera takes some knowledge of the technology at hand. When you begin to learn how to operate your camera, the photos immediately start to feel more comfortable to shoot and adjust. That way you’re not thumbing through a pile of settings trying to switch your aperture for a darker scene, you know exactly where to go to open up your f-stop. Learning your camera can take some time, especially if you’re using a high-end camera.
The hardest learning curve that I’ve found is adapting to a camera’s menu dialogs and settings. Most cameras vary in where they implement buttons, knobs, slots, gears; you name it. I recommend doing some research on your camera and how to use it. Perusing the handbook is always the best way to get the exact information you need. It is, however, a comprehensive book about camera settings, so if you’re looking for something more exciting, look to the internet. There is an abundance of camera videos and articles online detailing how to get the most out of your camera. YouTubing or Googling “my camera best practices or my camera’s settings explained” or anything similar should lead the way to blog posts and instructional videos. Don’t stress about learning all the settings in one read; you’ll pick up most of the tricks you need by actually using your camera. I would recommend that you get the hang of the basics first.
“The basics” on your camera are the things that are necessary to take the photo, changing your camera’s aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and focus. These things are crucial to understand and learn if you want to graduate from using Auto capture settings and dive into using custom settings. Learn about the importance of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO in photography in this video from a long-time professional photographer and ON1 Guru Hudson Henry.
Understanding your camera’s focusing is important because you will find that each camera, especially newer cameras, have very in-depth autofocus menus now. Get acquainted with your focus settings right away. These will help you create tack-sharp photos. The camera handbook will explain your camera’s autofocus menu, or there are plenty of online resources about that as well. I would recommend playing around with your auto-focus settings before capturing your images rather than on the fly, if possible. If you configure your settings beforehand, there’s less chance of you missing that awesome bird photo because you had the auto-focus set wrong. Most cameras produced now have excellent auto-focus capabilities and make it relatively easy to photograph any subject. Using manual focus and autofocus interchangeably will help you learn your lenses. Manual focus is a great way to create an aesthetic with blur and sharpness, try using prime lenses with manual focus as they typically have a shallower depth of field.
Once you’ve mastered these elements of your camera, try venturing into more technical areas of your camera’s tool bag. Try shooting in-camera HDR or using built-in styles and looks, attempt double-exposures, film a video.
Don’t worry about learning all of it the first day; the best way to learn your camera and become a better photographer is to practice.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Having a basic knowledge of your camera is a solid foundation. Utilizing and applying that experience in the field is where you will begin to build upon that foundation. Practicing your photography is simply the best way to become a better photographer.
Everyone practices in different ways. Some use a hands-on approach and may carry small cameras with them at all times so that they can always be photographing. Others practice by attending workshops or from instructional courses. However feels right for you to practice, just practice. Try making 15-20 minutes of the day your photography time. Come up with a theme each day or week that will help you focus your creative energy. One day could be “textures,” and the next could be “plants.” Capturing images will help you train your eye, and over time you’ll notice that the photographs become more complex and composed.
Think of your home as your studio. The windows in your home are great for incorporating natural light into a scene. If it’s an overcast day, the light will be soft. Soft light is excellent for portraits, textures, food, really anything you have in your home. If it’s a bright and sunny day, try capturing photographs that incorporate harsh shadows into your scene. Whenever it’s a sunny day, I typically enjoy shooting black and white because it turns colors into textures and shadows. The backyard is also a superb place to practice.
Whether you have a small deck as your yard or an acre, you’re bound to have something interesting to photograph. If you think your backyard is boring, try using a Macro lens. You’ll find whole new worlds in the smallest places. If you like birds, put up a few bird feeders and try capturing bird images. If you feel your equipment is holding you back, look at renting lenses or cameras online. BorrowLenses is a great place to rent lenses, and they ship promptly.
Online Training & Workshops
Online courses and tutorials are an excellent way to see tips and instructions from professional photographers. We have a vast library of tutorials, courses, ebooks, pdf guides, and critique sessions that will help you hone in your photography skills.
If you’re looking for a specific genre of photography like astrophotography or macro-photography, YouTube has a vast array of camera setup videos. These are perfect practice for enhancing your camera knowledge.
Some photographers offer one-on-one digital camera training or courses online. These are great for learning how a particular pro would handle their workflow. If you’re an Instagram user, a lot of the top photographers have courses and tutorials available.
Mobile Phone Photography
Your phone is a great way to practice photography and editing. The newer phone cameras now use powerful technology to produce images. ON1 Mobile, available late June, will house several exciting photography features and an array of editing functions for your mobile device.
I would recommend going into your phone’s camera settings and enabling the grid view when you’re shooting. The rule of thirds grid will help you keep your images straight and your compositions appealing.
I’ve also found that placing your phone on things like a table or a wall is a great way to straighten your frame up. Having the phone on an object is also a great stabilizer. Photographing dark scenes on a mobile phone is also pretty tricky without flash, to combat this, set your phone on something like a rock or a book to act as your tripod. If you have a self-timer on your phone for capturing, use it, and this will ensure you don’t have light trails.
Don’t avoid using flash, however. Mobile phones are a great way to get creative with flash photography. In a dark scene with movement, flash can incorporate motion and softness into your photograph. It’s also just an excellent way to light a quick family portrait!
Feedback from a Contest or Peers
Receiving feedback sometimes may feel like an attack on your art, but constructive criticism and suggestions are a helpful tool. When other people view your images, they will notice subtle things that you may not have. Everyone perceives and interprets imagery differently, so by listening to different opinions, you can gather a lot of new information about your photograph that you hadn’t even considered.
Share your work with your friends and family and ask their opinion of it. You’ll probably get a lot of “this is amazing!” but there may be some honest opinions, those are the comments you need to absorb. Do, however, avoid the haters. If someone is degrading and talking trash on your work, don’t listen to them. Your photography will only get better by learning and improving upon your mistakes and feedback.
In ON1 Plus, there is a monthly photo critique where you can submit your images and have them reviewed by professional photographers. Rather than attacking your pictures, they will offer helpful advice about composing, capturing, and editing.
We also have a weekly photo contest where you can submit your photos to be voted on by the participants and the public. We’ll then discuss the images and announce the winners a live webinar. The winners will win gift cards, software, and creative assets. If you’re looking for something a bit larger in scale, search for photo contests online or on Instagram. There’s a limitless amount of contests online involving any photography there is.
Our ON1 Photo Community is also a perfect way to receive constructive comments or to share photos you’ve taken. It’s our Facebook Group and there are currently over 13,000 members. You can let people know you would like constructive criticism by putting “CC’s welcome” on your image that you post into the group.