Taking good photos is hard, though it may not seem like that from afar. When they actually agree that a photographer’s work is good, people are either saying “Oh gosh, look at that photographer, they have are so talented”, as if that elusive quality of talent has been magically bestowed upon the photographer by a well-meaning fairy godmother, or they are simply explaining it through the semi-professional equipment. I’m sure you’ve seen both these kinds of reactions, the latter kind also including the enthusiasm of a clueless person about investing in a camera way above their skills, expecting to somehow take pro-level pictures immediately after the said acquisition.
But all of us here probably know that becoming a photographer does not happen overnight and it takes work and learning. To that effect, here are 5 small tips you may not already know about how to improve your skills even if you’re still at the beginning of that journey from amateur to pro. As a disclaimer, we should probably mention that this post is for the beginners among us, so bear with it if you feel yourself too advanced for such meager small tips.
1. Look at other photographer’s works and even ask questions.
Don’t underestimate the value of being humble enough to ask for advice even if you’re not very sure what to ask. Also, even without asking anything, browsing as many photographic works as possible is the sole thing which can train your eye to detect what makes a picture good or bad, better or worse, or to notice when a professional is using a technique you might be interested in yourself. When you see something like this, ask away: you’d be surprised of how friendly people can be, and getting a few small tips from an established photographer can really make a difference.
2. Ask an untrained eye which version they prefer out of 2 or 3.
But don’t neglect the feedback you could get from a pair of well-meaning untrained eyes. Oftentimes, they see the same kind of things which your potential clients may see and you should take it into account if you want to seem like a good idea. So whenever you’re editing photos and would like some feedback, save some intermediary versions and ask a good non-photographer friend or one of your parents what they think about them.
3. Try Picasa or a basic contrast editor to train your hand at photo editing.
Speaking of photo editing, you should be careful not to overdo it. It’s true that most raw photos need a little fixing, but one of the best small tips you will ever hear is that less is more. To make sure you learn to do it moderately, start with an editing tool for beginners, like Picasa.
4. Avoid putting the focus/subject in the center of the photo.
Pictures which put the focus or the subject of their portrait right in the center have a decisively amateur air about them. Whatever you do and no matter how much of a beginner you really are or not, try to avoid this mistake. Of course, there’s no need to do the opposite and put the subject of the photo in a corner of it as that would be pretty annoying (unless it’s occasional and for artistic reasons). To get it right, look for an online tutorial about proper photo framing and focusing, you can find a lot of small tips on how to avoid the center in a non-obvious way.
5. Play with the settings as much as possible.
This is another piece of advice which may seem like a cliché to our more advanced users, but keep going out of your comfort zones and play with the settings on your camera as much as possible. There’s a common tendency among many beginner photographers, to finally find a configuration that works for them, save it and use it on every occasion thereafter. Remember what works, of course, but keep searching and trying, and you will soon understand your camera and your settings much better than you thought you did. This way, you will eventually come to a point where you can easily adjust them to the present situation and take the most mind-blowing photos possible. You’ll soon be in the position to offer some small tips to others on how to improve themselves, you’ll see.