Want to improve your photography? Yes, of course you do, we all do. Well, as we all know photography is a challenge. Firstly, there is the technical side of photography with depth of field, shutter speed, ISO etc all requiring consideration. Then of course there is the artistic and creative process to think about and it is here that photos are truly made.
It is this creative side of photography that is really interesting. We may all look at the same thing but we will all see it somewhat differently. This is what helps to make our imagery unique and special.
Whilst you want to improve your photography and have your images totally appreciated you must accept that the personal taste and opinion of the viewer makes this highly unlikely. Once we start thinking of photography as art then it becomes much more subjective and we need to be sufficiently broad shouldered to accept constructive criticism with an open mind.
So here is my list of some of the things that I consider may help to improve your photography.
1. Let go, forget the compositional rules
There are a number of compositional rules, for example the Rule of Thirds and the Golden Mean. Fortunately, they are not rules and there is no compositional police force waiting just round the corner. Although they are tried and tested guidelines that have stood the test of time and we should still use them to create our image.
However, once you have created a composition using the classical approach there is nothing to stop you from exploring others way of composing the shot. Carefully study the subject or scene until you can visualise other potential photo opportunities in your mind.
Only by avoiding compositional rigidity can you be free from any constraints within the composition. For example, why not place that lonely twisted tree bang in the centre of the frame. Whilst many will say it is too evenly balanced or not dynamic enough that is fine, after all it is their opinion, but unless you try it for yourself you will never know.
2. Use different focal length lenses
Whilst there are some obvious lens choices, for example wide angle for landscape photography or long telephoto for bird photography we should not adhere to rigidly to this mindset. The first thing is to ensure you get the image you want, but do not stop there, try a different focal length.
Try a longer lens for landscape photography, for example take a 400mm lens to compose your landscape image as this will compress distance to bring the background closer which can add a sense of drama to the composition. You can also use the longer focal length to photograph a small area of the view thereby plucking an ‘inner landscape’ from the bigger scene.
Alternatively, you could try a wide angle lens to photograph wildlife. This creates a different kind of nature image, rather than the close in head shot it shows the nature subject within the context of its environment.
3. We all have a point of view
As I am six feet tall I see the world from a little less than that. This is the obvious point of view, so if it is obvious we should try and avoid it.
Try a lower or higher viewpoint! I often try a higher viewpoint in landscape work then tip the camera down slightly to accentuate the foreground. There should be no limit to breaking away from the obvious in an attempt to create photos with an extra dimension. Don’t remain static, move around as much as possible, left, right, up and down, to get the best viewpoint to adequately convey your vision.
For example in nature photography work I would try to photograph from the same eye level as the subject even if this means shooting from ground level, yes it is often uncomfortable but eye level photography provides a far better perspective.
4. Why not use portrait format?
It is well known that more photos are taken in the landscape format than the portrait format.
Why should this be? Maybe because we see the world in this way, we see more width than height due to the placement of our eyes which makes us ‘see‘ the world as horizontal.
However, try to make a conscious effort to take a portrait composition of every subject that you photograph horizontally. Sometimes this will not work too well, but it is a challenging exercise that will make you look harder at the scene and think about the alternatives.
From a commercial point of view shooting images in both portrait and landscape formats will increase your potential for selling your images. There is clearly a huge market for vertical format imagery as can be seen from all the magazine front covers on display at any high street newsagent.
5. Look beyond the obvious
Sometime an image is just there waiting to be photographed. If this opportunity arises then do it without hesitation, but don’t stop there, keep looking. It is only by looking closely can we see the extra opportunities that may lie within any scene.
To be different you could also try knocking the camera slightly whilst taking the picture on a tripod to create some impressions of nature effects (as image left).
It is easy to become complacent with all that is around us but it really only requires a little time and an inquisitive mind to fully appreciate. Do not let familiarity dull your senses, try to see things as a child would see them. Often satisfaction and contentment can come from the simplest of things.
Improve your photography – Your suggestions
Finally, I hope this proves helpful. It is by no way definitive but the suggestions work for me. You may have your own ideas on how to improve your photography, if so it would be good to hear your suggestions.