August 30, 2020 | 3320 Views | By Dylan Kotecki

Tips for Taking Better Photographs

Photography is a fun and rewarding experience for anyone at any age. Here are tips to make the photography journey easier.

Learn the Most Important Tool, the Camera

Knowing the camera is often an overlooked aspect to beginners in photography. The camera is the single most-used tool in photography, why not learn the ins and outs of it? The manual is a perfect place to start the journey into never using a camera’s Auto Exposure again.

For most DSLR and film cameras that are purchased these days, there is a manual that houses every detail about how that camera works and functions. Camera companies also have manuals on their websites online. The menu systems and layouts are different in all cameras, so this is an essential navigational tool to learn. In fast-paced situations, thumbing through the menu system trying to figure out how to change something isn’t going to be ideal. Knowing the complete manual isn’t crucial, but the basics of the camera are. Most cameras have functions and abilities that often get unused because the photographers don’t know they exist. Dials, knobs, and buttons do certain things on individual cameras that aren’t universal across photography. These may modify aperture, exposure, ISO, and a handful of other fundamental photographic elements that can break an image if not taken into consideration.

The functionalities within the camera that pertain to specific instances of photography are also important. For example, capturing wildlife is more pleasant when using the auto-focus capabilities within a camera. Not knowing how to modify the basic AF settings within a camera may result in soft images. For advancing photography skills, especially with digital photography, diving into the camera’s manual and knowing the camera is one of the first places to begin.

Shoot with a Goal in Mind

The ability to shoot freely and for pure fun is why photography is such a fantastic art-form and creative tool. Yet, sometimes we don’t create further beyond what we already know, making images seem similar and stagnant. Getting inspired with other photographs and imagery can invoke passion and creativity, fueling a photographic process that can often drive photographers away from their comfort zones and into new artistic territories. Even something a broad topic or genre can be of benefit to a photography session. Words like “warm”, “texture”, or even “landscape” will steer a photo session into a particular direction and stir creative ideas.

Try emulating a photograph or recreating a breathtaking shot from a social media site. Recreating an image exactly how it was photographed is impossible. Still, the journey along the way will provide insightful answers to many questions about how that image was made. As long as the resulting image is pure individuality and self-expression, the reference image is merely a tool. Visualizing and executing will become incredibly useful down the road heading into the more difficult niches of photography (astrophotography, commercial, product, etc.). Going out to photograph with a vision or rough idea will help focus a shoot and creatively channel thoughts into imagery.

Always Consider Lighting

Lighting plays a vital role in the making of marvelous imagery. Great photographers know how to utilize and manipulate light to create. This skill comes with lots of practice and time behind the camera. Light will dictate a variety of things in a photo session. Portraits, for example, when shot on a bright and sunny day will have harsh contrast from the sun unless taken with a diffuser or in the shade somewhere. This light is called “hard light.” Portraits taken on an overcast day will even the light on the subject(s) and create “soft light.” Incorporating lighting into the pre-planning aspect of shooting is helpful in the execution aspect of photography. Knowing the lighting conditions can also help to steer a shoot in a particular direction.

Overcast Lighting
Bright, Sunny Lighting

Look for Unique Angles

Angles are everything in photography. Angles are what separate different photographers from the same subject. Only photographing a mountain from one angle will produce a lot of similar images. Different angles create different feelings within frames. Most subjects, especially people, benefit from various angles and viewpoints. When photographing next, try capturing five different and unique angles of the same subject. Simple subjects work best for this, such as a flower or a pet (if they are still enough!) Thinking of unique angles on basic subjects will immensely help in more stressful photographic situations in the future. Angles can be monumental when conveying stories or moods with imagery. Some DSLR cameras can process hundreds of shots a minute; think of all the possible angles that can be captured using that amount of ammunition.

Angle #2 of Mt. Hood
Angle #1 of Mt. Hood

Take All the Pressure Off

Photography seems to be apart of everyone’s life with how accessible cameras have become. With this, the quality and quantity of content are continually increasing. Because content is in such high demand, breathtaking images are everywhere in the media. A constant feed of stunning photographs can be inspiring; however, this can become daunting for some photographers. When feeling discouraged about going out to shoot, try to keep things simple, and seek inspiration. Grabbing the camera and snapping a few pictures in the backyard or of a pet may be enough to spark creativity and passion. Go to a favorite shooting spot or bring a camera out to dinner. The camera being there may be the catalyst needed for creating and visualizing. Situations like this may be the perfect time to ditch tip #2 altogether and alleviate any stress from the what, when, and hows of photography. Often stress disbands the creative process and may hinder a photographer’s ability to create better images. If feeling stressed when shooting, remember that the first photograph was taken almost two centuries ago. Trillions and trillions of images have been captured since then, and it’s all been done before.


3 comments on “Tips for Taking Better Photographs”

  1. On August 31, 2020 at 4:40 am Chris Taylor wrote:

    Some other ideas;

    Take a course. People like Hudson Henry and Scott Davenport have some wonderful videos in ON1 Plus that can get creative juices flowing. Ben Long has a ton of YouTube videos that cover the gamut of gear and aesthetics. Jamie Windsor has YouTube videos that lean heavily towards the art of photography and they always inspire me.

    Join a photo club, especially one that has outings you can participate in. Just talking with others about how they approach a scene you are all looking at can be inspiring.

    Pick a photographer whose photographs speak to you. Try to figure out what makes them compelling to you. Pick up some books on photography so you can easily study the images at your leisure and a moment’s notice.

    Although I don’t think gear is the answer to better photography, sometimes a new bit of kit can make you look at things differently or spur you to get out and take images.

  2. On September 23, 2020 at 5:37 pm JASMINE WRIGHT wrote:

    wow. this is way better than the tips I use to get from other photographers who claim to be professionals

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