More Tips for Improving Your Photography

Keep an open mind

I have to remind myself to take my own advice on this on occasion.

Just because I don’t use a certain technique like HDR, it doesn’t mean I should’t learn how to use it.

I usually photograph people and HDR is mostly for subjects that don’t move since you’ll be bracketing.

That’s not to say the next time I’m on vacation, I won’t come across a scene that is so majestic that it begs to be shot with HDR.

Rent a new piece of equipment

lens rental
It’s always good to find new ways to capture our world.

That might mean renting an exotic lens like a super long telephoto or a super wide angle, or even a lighting kit like a battery operated flash.

Rental places like Borrow don’t even need you to leave the house, only when you return the equipment.

Read photo books even older ones

Just because a book is outdated, that doesn’t mean you can’t glean something useful.

In today’s world of fast changing versions of software and digital camera bodies we sometimes loose track of what makes a good picture.

I just bought a Photoshop CS2 book for $7.

It’s ancient in photoshop version years but the shooting tips from the photographer is still relevant because light and the very principles of how the camera record it have remained the same.

Foster positive vibes amongst your peers

A photo of the photographers at the Press-Enterprise where I worked. Can you spot me?

When I was at the newspapers during its heydays, there were as many as 20 photographers on staff.

We were all extremely competitive individuals, always trying to outdo one another.

But the key thing was we were also encouraging and this created camaraderie.

Sure there was a lot of teasing and bantering about ‘styles’ like. “Oh… there’s another one of ( insert name) pictures, you can always tell because he hasn’t taken off his silhouette filter in years…”

This may also mean showing support by showing up when they have a show or just leaving a nice comment on their pictures when you see it online.

A positive vibe benefits everyone.

Pay attention to lighting

Where I live in southern California, thanks to our practice of ‘daylight savings’ an hour in the fall especially this time of the year can dramatically change the look of a location.

If you primarily shoot with just available light, then I don’t need to elaborate, do I?
This is especially useful if you are a portrait photographer and you are working on location.

Use your photos in projects

The Latika Roy calendar created by Jo McGowan Chopra is a wonderful example of using your photos as an inspiring project so that you motivate yourself to get better year after year.

It’s easier to visualize your blood, sweat and tears in the form of a finished project.

A simple project like a calendar is easy.

My online friend Jo creates wonderful  annual calendars from the pictures her staff and her takes throughout the year.

Anyone can come up with 12 pictures of their kids taken over the course of the year.

Grandparents will adore these very personal gifts.

Make at least one print a month

When was the last time you made a print?

Recently I asked my students when was the last time they made a print.

Even though some of them have taken almost all the photography classes offered at the junior college where I teach part time, quite a few said they had never made a print from their digital photos.

That is baffling at the same thing mind boggling.

How else can they tell if their photoshop work is not over the top or that there is such a thing as out-of-gamut issues when it comes to printing what you see on the screen.

Without ever making an 8 x 10 print, they are going to be in for a shock when they make their very first enlargement.

Use a fixed focal length lens

If you have a zoom lens especially a kit lens, set it to the 50mm focal length and learn to zoom with your feet.

Zoom lenses have their place but they make you lazy.

Walking closer or stepping back can give a perspective you don’t get by turning the zoom ring on your lens.

Set your camera to display in BW


Canon camera menu showing BW or Monochrome display option

All digital cameras capture in color but you can make your LCD monitor display in BW.

Don’t do this if you only shoot jpegs because if you  change your mind afterwards, you won’t be able to change the image back  to color.

Shooting raw captures all 3 color channels,red, green and blue.

If you’re already shooting raw, doing this will allow you to train your eyes to concentrate on the lighting without being distracted by colors.

Shoot tight in the viewfinder

Compose your image exactly as you want to see it framed and hanging on the wall.

You’ve paid for the megapixels, so use all of it.

Sure it may be harder to find picture frames that are 8″ x 12″ but that aspect ratio is becoming more and more common.

If you shoot loose and then routinely crop in post production, you won’t develop the knack of watching the edges of your frame for distractions and end up having to crop them out.

Ask for feedback from a mentor you respect

If you want to improve, learn to accept criticism without taking it personally.

I have had students who appear to take very good pictures but they don’t take any criticism well even constructive ones.

Perhaps it’s a case of them not finding my own photography skills good, so they can’t accept anything I say as good advice.

It’s like a certain basketball coach who was recently fired by the Lakers.

He had no credentials like his predecessor so when push came to shove, they didn’t respect him.

Also remember, if you ask for advice, don’t be a fragile artist.

I’m sure you have other suggestions, so let me know via comments.

Peter Phun Photography

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4 thoughts on “More Tips for Improving Your Photography”

  1. @DeeAnn,
    I don’t recall exactly when that staff photo was taken but it was in the dusty super unhealthy studio. Needless to say, the original was shot on transparency.

    It must have been 1996 or 1995 I think.

  2. Hi Sabe,
    I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your pictures because you’ll be paying attention to the quality of the light. Like I said, if you change your mind, you can always process it as a color image in post. Thank you for taking the time to comment.May I ask where you’re from and what kind of photography you do?


  3. I like your suggestion about setting the display to black and white….I’m going to do it for a month and see what the results look like,
    Thanks for this idea

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