Having have a camera with you at all times, is the best way to improve your photography.
Even if you’re not using the camera, just playing around with settings and taking a picture can be very illuminating.
DSLRs today are so complicated I still find features I have not used so anytime I find myself waiting around, I often dig out the owners manual to see what a button does.
Those technical writers of camera manufacturers don’t always explain the ins-and-outs of their hardware very well unfortunately.
So it can take even season users a while to truly get how a feature works.
Sorry smartphone users, my biggest beef with them is there is no reliable way to control the depth-of-field so until such time they give you aperture control, I can’t consider using it beyond documentation purposes.
If all the time you have to devote to photography is your weekends , then try the following:
- change the time of the day you go outside
- use a fixed focal length lens
- take the 10-second shutter speed challenge
- exclude peoples’ faces intentionally either by cropping their heads out or silhouetting them.
- go outside with your camera when it rains or snows
1.Time of the day
Think of your favorite haunt where you go with your camera.
If it’s a park, keep in mind the vistas and the direction of the sun.
Sometimes, it can be just a matter of a few minutes when the light is perfect so arrive with plenty time.
The most wonderful aspect about ‘digital’ photography is the EXIF information that is embedded in every picture i.e if your camera’s clock is set properly.
With no effort you can easily figure out what the best time is by looking at the EXIF information.
2. Use a fixed focal length lens
My favorite walkaround lens is my 50 mm lens.
It isn’t as intimidating when you hold it up especially to strangers.
Also, using a 50mm lens and “zooming with your feet” or moving closer to your subject has 2 distinct advantages.
If light levels drop, you still have those extra f-stops, to allow you to shoot with a high shutter speed.
The minimum focusing distance for 50mm is a lot closer than those 18-135 kit lenses, so pictures taken at the same distance will no doubt have nicer bokeh and background and foregrounds will disappear into a nice blur.
Lastly a fixed focal length lens will help you improve your composition because you are forced to keep your eye in the viewfinder and examine your subject while walking around it.
3. 10-Second Shutter Speed Challenge
To break the monotony, set up your camera on a tripod and its shutterspeed to 10 full seconds.
Try and find subjects that you can capture at 10 seconds.
Needless to say, you will be in low light but does that mean nothing will be sharp?
If you have people in your pictures, better tell the important ones to keep still. The others in the scene will register as a blur so don’t worry about them. 😉
4. Exclude people’s faces
As long as you have a recognizable human form and you are clear about what you want to emphasize, try to exclude faces.
It’s perfectly ok not to show a person’s face.
A silhouette can be just as arresting and interesting.
This is a great device if you want to emphasize an object that is flowing and colorful like the veils in the picture below.
5. Head outside when it rains or snows
One of the joys about being a news photographer for me was this: my office was anywhere.
I simply had to go and find situations that would generate fun pictures.
I didn’t have to be told where to go or what to photograph.
Granted there were days on end when I wouldn’t have any dry pairs of shoes especially here in southern California when it hardly rains.
Whenever it rained, that inevitably was the ‘story’ of the day so I was always sent outdoors to find pictures of people in the elements.