Photography is an art that is accessible on a basic level to everyone with a camera. The widespread proliferation of quality digital imaging devices has seemingly blurred the line between professional and hobbyist. So how do you take better photos? Reading this post is a good first step; having the motivation to improve counts for a lot towards actually improving anything.
Here are three key components to taking (amazing) photos:
1. Technical skills. Learn about everything that your chosen camera platform can do and what it can’t. Every rig has different strengths, and an intimate familiarity with the equipment you are using will help you get the most out of it. Understanding how to set your camera settings appropriately for the lighting and circumstances is the goal. Another aspect of technical skills is utilizing photography and film theory when composing and taking pictures. These are established ways of thinking (or tools) to help you consciously make better images. There are tons of physical and digital resources dedicated to analyzing and creating photos, so use them! You don’t know what you don’t know (until you start researching). The more you know about cameras, images, and theory the closer you are to becoming an expert on the subject.
2. Awareness. Paying attention to your surroundings is not only a good way to improve your photography but it is a great life skill to practice as well. When you are taking photos think about what’s around you and what’s in front of the camera. Having an idea about what the photo you want to take looks like will help you figure out where to stand and shoot from. When you are going to take a photo ask yourself, ‘Where should I be standing to get the perspective I want?’ You should cultivate your ability to figure out where to stand and point your camera for the best results. This is really hard to do if you are spacing out and ignoring your surroundings; look at what people are doing around you and plan accordingly. Try moving yourself around a subject to adjust the composition of the photo and find that perfect angle. Be decisive and flexible so you can maximize your chances of getting the shot you want.
3. Opportunity. Networking and people skills are a huge part of being a professional photographer, and pragmatically it is a big part of being a professional anything. Pursuing opportunities to take interesting photos will help you become a better photographer. When you go places take your camera with you and look for opportunities to take interesting pictures. Additionally, when you’re photographing at events, talk is cheap so talk to everyone and hand out some business cards while you’re at it. People would rather work with a photographer that they like over a random stranger with a camera. As a bonus, who knows where these new relationships will lead? Having friends and knowing people affords you opportunities others might not have or be aware of. If you are looking for a place to start with all of this: Practice good hygiene, dress for the occasion, and read the room. Being clean and well dressed goes a long way towards positive first impressions. It can be tough initially as an introvert to reach out and create these opportunities but every time you do the next time gets a little easier. I highly recommend reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, or at least the Wikipedia article about it for an excellent resource on how to network and develop your people skills.
Vocabulary Word of the Moment:
- Perspicacity (Noun): the quality of having a ready insight into things; shrewdness.
[I love that there is a word for this quality. Possessing perspicacity definitely helps in recognizing potential photo opportunities!]