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How To Be a (Better) Photographer

How To Be a (Better) Photographer

For the inaugural how to post, I thought I’d start with a fairly obvious choice: how to be a (better) photographer.

 

Take a photograph.

And another one. And another one. And a million more. And you’re done! Look at you, you’re a photographer! Okay obviously it takes a bit more to be a photographer than just taking a photograph, which is why this is more about becoming a better photographer.

 

Learn about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are the holy trinity of photography. These days, with our easy point and shoot cameras, we have lost the basics of how photography mechanically works. If you have the chance to experiment with film, do it. Yes it’s hard. But if your grandma could do it, so can you. Not everyone might have a chance to work with film though. Even if you have a point and shoot camera, many have options for manual mode and other modes that give you more control, which is essential to learning about the photography trinity. Digital cameras make it easier than ever to compare what different settings do, and you don’t have to wait weeks to see what effect each setting has on your photograph. Now that we have the boring learning part aside, start taking photographs with this new, valuable knowledge.

 

Stop and take a look. Really look.

It’s so easy to take a million photographs of one random leaf you swore was pure poetry. Then you get home and have to sort through one hundred photographs of a moldy, lackluster leaf. Just because you CAN take hundreds of photographs, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. This is the part where you need to learn some fine art. Learn what makes a good composition (key words: rule of thirds, breaking the rule of thirds, symmetry, leading lines, gaze, color, SHARP FOCUS and where to focus, and blah blah blah). Look at other photographs and try to verbally quantify why exactly you like it, and then what you could change about it to make it better. Then when you go to take a photograph, pretend that you only have five exposures to get the perfect photograph. Slow down, and enjoy what you are doing.

 

Find new ways of looking at things.

Change your angle of looking at an object or an animal. Be that weird photographer guy/gal lying on the ground. Climbing up something tall. Get in close, uncomfortably close. Back away. Go crazy! Disclaimer, don’t be an idiot about this – be mindful of your surroundings (i.e. don’t go lie on a busy road or climb up something that you’re for sure going to fall off and break your camera and your pretty face.).

 

Go out in the rain. In the dark. In the parking lot. At dawn.

Take photographs in as many situations as possible. Learn how to cope with bad weather, poor lighting, and “boring” locations – some of the best photographs come out of these areas of adversity, where you have to push through. These photographs will be more creative, and you’ll know if you can take photographs in bad conditions, you’re a head above the rest who only go out on sunny, happy days where all the birds sing and your camera does all the work for you.

 

But seriously though, go out at dawn (and dusk).

If you haven’t heard about the golden hour, you may be living under a rock. Or you haven’t read photography blogs ad nauseam. At sunset and sunrise, the sunlight is like a magical unicorn gloriously lights the world with its splendor. Anything you take a photograph of will become award winning and a chorus of angels will sing when you hit the shutter button. Use the power of the golden light with great responsibility.

 

Take a photograph.

Coming full circle to where we started, photography is honestly very much a practical art. You won’t get better until you go out and take as many photographs as you can, with as many different settings, angles, lighting, and other situations as you can find. Henri Cartier-Bresson said “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst”, so get out there!

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