If you're new to photography, here are five tips to help you learn the basic skills you need to establish a strong photography foundation.
So you've just gotten your first Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera. You've read the manual and surfed the web, and now you're ready to start taking some Pulitzer- grade photography. Right? Sure! But before you hit the pavement with your camera in-hand and film rolls in your bag, take a moment to read over these five tips that can help push your work from great to amazing.
1. Dump the Flash:
While it’s true that professional photographers often do use a flash or complicated light rigs, you shouldn't need a flash in most lighting conditions. Subjects shot without a flash often look more natural, and you’ll get much greater detail and depth by using natural light. Additionally, ditching the flash for the first week or so will make you intimately familiar with how your camera works with light – an invaluable skill for the beginning photographer.
2. Turn Off Auto Focus:
There's no arguing that a camera that auto-focuses is infinitely handy and easy to use. However, focusing on the fly is an important tool in any photographer's toolbox. Since cameras don't understand your intent, it's up to you to make sure you're focused on the right thing at the right moment. It is incredible how unique and interesting an image can be when you allow the focus to move out of the direct center of the frame, so set this one to manual for a while.
3. Take a Photo Class:
You can buy all the books in the world and browse the internet for days, but the absolute best way to learn about photography is in a hands on environment. Find a class at a local college or adult school and see how understanding the basics will improve your photos for the better. As a bonus, your photo teacher will likely give you assignments based on individual elements of photography that you probably never considered.
4. Say Farewell to Color:
Before you dive into color, buy a few rolls of T-Max 400 (great B&W film) and see if taking it back to the basics changes your interpretation of the world around you. You'll know it’s time to upgrade to color when you can shoot and print a black and white image that has pure black, pure white, and every shade in between. Taking photos in black and white will force your mind to think less about the "image" and more about the importance of how light interacts with the objects in the frame.
5. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot:
This may seem obvious, but if you're interested in becoming a "great" photographer, you'll need to shoot lots and lots of photos. The more pictures you take, the better you will get. Photography is often as much about luck and timing as it is technology and skill. Even "great" photographers only average 3-4 good photos at a time, so don't worry about taking a lot of images. It's far worse to miss a photo opportunity than to take too many pictures!
There is no secret trick to being an amazing photographer. The more you challenge yourself, the better you will become. If you start with a firm understanding of how your camera works and what it takes to make a good photograph, the rest will come in time. Your camera will never change- only your ability to manipulate it. So keep your camera close and extra film (or a memory card) on-hand. Never be afraid to experiment with new ideas! And remember: The most important photograph in the world is the one you are about to take.
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