8 steps to improve your photo skills
1. Just do it!
We love the gadgets, the apps and the technology. But they can also be a burden and there are so many to choose from. American photographer and documentary filmmaker Robert Frank once said, “There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” Forget about ISO setting, shutter speed, camera app or which filter to use. Just snap away and try to capture the heat of the moment.
Think of your photo as your living room. If it looks messy, clean it up. Establish the frame, then fill it and simplify it. You cannot capture everything in the same photo. If certain objects are heavily emphasized on one side, consider incorporating another element to maintain more visual weight. It makes it easier for the viewer to know where to look.
3. Know light
In the words of George Eastman, the founder of Kodak and the handheld camera, “Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” There really is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ light, but learn the characteristics of natural light change due to the time of day, and you will find everything easier. And remember, the broader the light source, the softer the light.
4. All or nothing
Now that photography has gone super mobile and everybody’s taking snapshots of everything, we have lost something on the way. Make a choice! If there is a tree or a building in the horizon line, be conscious about whether you would like to have it in your photo or not. Half a tree, a cropped building or in the worst case – a headless person – can make a great shot look disorganized.
5. Get down!
Changing your point of view is one of the easiest tricks to add something to your image. In photography, perspective is an illusion you use to produce photographs of quality composition. What happens if you lie down on the ground, if you step up for some extra height, or if you just get down on your knees? Getting a bit lower is a brillliant trick if you want to quickly reduce a noisy (too much stuff) background.
6. Shoot first (in high quality)
Ask questions later. Shoot in a high quality format and then you will have more to work with later. Memory cards are cheap nowadays and it’s good to consider taking an extra one. You cannot go back and fix a bad JPEG file, but you might be able to with RAW. If you shoot with your smartphone, be aware that certain apps like Instagram only save a low quality image. It is better to take a high quality picture and then upload it to Instagram.
7. Flash attack, careful
It is no wonder that celebrities avoid the machine gun flash of the paparazzi. It is not very flattering. If you lack natural light, go for low shutter and blender. ISO can also be high, but note that too high will result in a grainy result. The one place you should go for the blitz is if you are at the beach with the sun behind your object. Then you can use the blitz for the ‘shadow’ to lighten the object.
8. Break the rules
Now that you have established a useful toolbox to improve your memories, it is time to think outside of the box! When you know where and what the rules are, you also know when to bend and break them (or how to use them to your advantage). Experiment with colors, contrast, perspective, light, and composition. There is only one rule that matters: if it is working, you can get away with it. Have fun!
Text: Øystein Tronstad
Published: June 8, 2015