5 Last Photography Tips (X)

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Self Portrait in London, 2010

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.

So I decided to start the Saturday Series again, this time with a focus on photography. A new “lesson” will be published every Saturday, for a total or ten posts. Enjoy the “Ten Photography Tips“!

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.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. The weather over here is just like Vancouver-it rains a lot. But I’m glad it’s not too cold ’cause I’ve been told to suck it up because I’m Canadian :p

  2. As someone who has been enjoying your photos for some time I appreciate your series of excellent tips. I agree that expensive equipment is not required. The most valuable piece of equipment a photographer has is a good eye, the next is patience.

  3. I’ve really enjoyed your series of photo tips. I’ve found them quite helpful. Hopefully this post won’t be your absolute last ever tips.

  4. >Be respectful but don’t be shy

    Totally agree with you but sometimes I think that your objects tend to look more natural without being informed at first place. When you tell them that you’re going to shoot them – their smiles tend to be bigger! Ha ha… Only if you had a super long lens – get a telescope next time.


  5. Well, all those posts were interesting and I’ll try to follow some of your tips and will probably go back to them. It has inspired me to start “a pic a day” type of thing on my blog in order to practice. I took the decision two weeks ago and nothing yet! I’m too lazy (busy?), but hopefully I’ll get to it, even if it’s not everyday.

  6. I posted pictures to a Malaysian forum asking for feedback. But then I found out that it was a place where people ‘followed’ the so-called masters. If the masters said a picture was good, everybody else would compliment it; if the masters said a picture was bad, everybody else would criticized it. The masters themselves were pretty subjective and tend not to accept other people’s styles.

    These days I no longer bother to post to that forum… OK, I will learn more about Flickr’s Popular section.

  7. @micki – I’m glad you enjoyed the series! I often admire your photo-documentary skills.

    @Poem – I don’t like when the weather is damp though, it feels colder than it actually is.

    @Tulsa Gentleman – Thank you! I agree, your eye is your most valuable piece of equipment.

    @Yogi – No, I’m going to plan for another series soon. Photography is at the heart of this blog!

    @London Caller – I like candid shots too, like you said, people look best when they don’t act.

    @Em – I’m too lazy for “one pic per day”, but one pic per week should be manageable… I have to figure it out.

    @khengsiong – I think part of the lesson is to realize that not all feedback is objective! 🙂

  8. Yes being respectful is important and I remembered a tourmate shot a photo of local people in the Russian countryside and was hurled some vulgarity. Since witnessed that incident, I have always been very careful when I want to take photographs of strangers.

    Thanks for your tips Zhu 😀

  9. Hi Zhu,
    I have been reading your blog for a while now, I am finally taking time to comment 🙂 I really like your stories, and thank you for all your tips for photography, they are very helpful !

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