A lot of you have been asking me questions about photography and how to achieve certain effects. While I’m by no means an expert, I’m an avid photographer and I had to chance to experiment a lot. I’m also always a teacher at heart and yes, I like talking about photography, because I’m sure I can give you some tips and learn from you as well.
In this 10 Photography Tips series, I tried my best to give you some insight on various aspects of photography. I wanted to close this series with five final tips for photographers. I hope you enjoyed it and learned something!
Learn to use your gear before upgrading — This is the article that started the series—It’s Not Your Camera. Indeed, you can end up with crappy pictures with the best professional digital camera and shoot an amazing picture with a camera phone. DSLRs are very rewarding to use because you have control on just about anything but it takes time to master them. So instead of eyeing a better camera (let’s face it, there is always a better camera coming out!) learn to use the one you already have. The results will surprise you.
Experiment and have fun — You read about the rule of third, the best lighting for portraits and other photography techniques. Good. Now forget about it and have fun. I’d rather see an unconventional shot than twenty perfectly balanced landscape pictures. Once in a while, do what you are not supposed to: take pictures facing the sun for interesting silhouette effect, set the focus differently, try shooting insignificant stuff… Just experiment and find your voice in photography.
Get feedback on your work — The feedback I get on my pictures really helped me to improve my skills. For instance, Flickr has a “popular” section which showcases 200 of your pictures people judge the most interesting. I noticed my French Pastries in Paris was among my most popular pictures, which surprised me at first considering I shoot it quickly without thinking much about it at the time. This led me to take more pictures of local food and to create the food tag on this blog. So feedback does bring inspiration and idea for new projects!
Be respectful but don’t be shy — This is a key advice for street photography and candid shots. Yes, taking pictures of complete strangers is hard at first but chances are they won’t notice you or if they do, they won’t mind. A couple of weekends ago, I stopped these zombie girls in the street to take a picture of them. They agreed and I emailed them a copy of the shot later in the week. One of them told me she loved the picture and her parents were considering having it framed! In most situations I try to be respectful. For instance, when I take pictures of homeless people as part of my People of Ottawa project, I also ask for permission first, chat a bit, bring a hot drink or give a couple of bucks. And I always show them the picture I took. “I look okay today”, this guy said when he saw his portrait shot. He seemed relieved and happy… and it made me happy too.
Aim for quality over quantity — Like I said many times, it’s just almost too easy to take hundreds of shots of the same thing from a slightly different angle with digital cameras. While this is good practice, remember to aim for quality over quantity. Force yourself to pause and think: which angle best captures the moment? Which picture would perfectly illustrate a situation? If you still want to take many shots, go ahead, go crazy. But remember to actually upload the pictures to your computer and force yourself to go through them. Delete the bad shots, the duplicate and pick the best. You’ll see, it feels great. Twenty quality shots are easier to share, print, show etc. than one hundred crappy pictures.