I started my photography journey when I was 16 so I know there are tons of tips for being a better photographer. All I ever did was take photos, arming myself with disposable cameras like they were going out of style. Turns out, they WERE, but I digress.
At the time, I knew NOTHING about ISO or lenses or focal length or even working with people, for that matter. I simply loved taking pictures! Almost a decade later, I decided to get serious.
In the past 7 years, I have grovelled and scraped and stayed up way too late learning everything I could to make myself a better photographer. I’ve learned what matters and what doesn't, and feel that I’ve amassed enough practical experience to share some tips with you! So here are my best tips for being a better photographer.
Table of contents:
- 1. Equipment Means Nothing
- 2. Learn the HOW
- 3. ACQUAINT Yourself with Lighting
- 4. Positivity is Key
- 5. Practice, Practice, Practice
- 6. Learn How to Shoot People
- 7. Posing
- 8. Candid Shots
- 9. Go Raw
- 10. Editing
- 11. Be You
- 12. Organize
- 13. Always Carry Your Camera
- 14. Share
- 15. Learn to Let Go
- 16. Contracts
- 17. Laws
- 18. Experiment
1 Equipment Means Nothing
Whether you’re shooting with a full frame Canon or an Iphone, you can capture amazing shots! This is one of my best tips for being a better photographer.
2 Learn the HOW
Terms like ISO, F-stop, Focal Length & Aperture (to name a few) are all very technical and important terms pertaining to photography. You can skate through shooting on Auto forever, but the heavens will open once you learn how it all works.
3 ACQUAINT Yourself with Lighting
Lighting can make or break your photo. Think of all the times you grimaced when shown a pic with WAY too much flash.
4 Positivity is Key
Overall, positivity is a fantastic thing, but it is especially important while shooting people. Do: “Susan, you’re gorgeous!” Don’t: “Gosh, Susan, can’t you just stop blinking?” Always make your clients feel fabulous, confident and welcome in your presence. They will remember the experience before they will remember the photo.
5 Practice, Practice, Practice
Never be afraid to do free photos for family and friends to really get a feel for hands on sessions. Additionally, if you treat these casual shoots as if they were professional, you will feel more comfortable when you do start taking on clients. These can be shoots where you relax and have a bit more fun than you might on a slightly uncomfortable shoot with people you don’t know. I advocate free sessions, even once you start getting paid. Experience is experience, and often, these are your best advertisers. Bonus: I always ask permission to use these photos in my portfolio, and haven't been told no once.
6 Learn How to Shoot People
There are several things that either always look good or always look bad when shooting people. Raise your hand if you’ve seen the “This is how I look when I open the Front Facing Camera ” memes on Facebook.
Or, as I prefer to call it - guiding! Almost nobody likes to be posed, but almost everybody needs to be guided. As you learn to shoot people, you'll get better at guiding them.
8 Candid Shots
A great way to broaden your abilities is to practice making your candids as good as your formal shots. Your goal should be frame-able candids. A bonus to this is that you tend to capture more genuine moments between people while shooting candids.
9 Go Raw
Except for very few circumstances, I always choose raw format over Jpeg. Jpeg has it’s uses, but for my style and for editing purposes, I like raw better.
Learn how to use a quality editing software, such as Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop. I used to think I could shoot without editing. Then I sucked it up and gave it a try, and it took my photos leaps and bounds further than I ever imagined
11 Be You
Learning from those who have gone before you is fabulous, but avoid trying to be the same photographer. You see the world with different eyes.
I have close to 20,000 photos between two separate hard drives, but I know where every single picture I ever took is located. Holy moly, the organization that I am forced to keep! It’s necessary, trust me. You want to be able to access your work quickly and efficiently.
13 Always Carry Your Camera
Take your camera everywhere. Practice the techniques you’ve learned and make daily challenges for yourself. For August 2017, I did ring shots every single day to keep my photo brain going.
Share your photos wherever you can! Give your hobby a name and start a Facebook page devoted only to your photography. Share it on Instagram. The positive feedback you will receive will encourage you to keep going.
15 Learn to Let Go
This is one of the hardest things to do. I urge you to start this habit early. Sure, it happens where four shots of the wedding dress are all awesome, but 99% of the time, you only need one full length shot of the dress. Delete redundant photos.
Contract everything, even if it’s free or trade. You need everything in writing in a straightforward and professional way. Make it a standard procedure to have one for every shoot. It is recommended that you consult a lawyer and have one drawn up if you go pro.
Know the laws and your rights. They may vary by state, but learn who/what/where you legally can and can’t shoot, and how you can legally use the photos.
Try everything, including detail shots, macro, long exposure, funky angles and close ups, and anything else that you’re inspired to do!
Photographing people and places is an amazing life experience. It is more than simply a job or a business. I have never thought a career could be so rewarding as this. I am truly honored for the personal and pivotal moments that I am allowed access to through my camera. It is an amazing journey! Happy Pic-ing!
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