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The Best 3 Photography Tips I Was Given

Self Portrait, Ottawa, Spring 2011

When I first got into photography, I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t read any book, didn’t take any classes. I simply listened to my instinct, trying to capture moments, more or less successfully. Most of what I learned was by trial and error. I trained with a small Kodak Easyshare and eventually allowed myself to graduate to a DSLR when photography became a true passion.

And of course, when I bought the DSLR, I had to learn a lot of things from scratch because these cameras can be complicated at first—so many settings, so many options! I took me over a year to master the basics and I’m still learning new tricks every day.

Of all the tips I received, three stuck with me. Now it’s my turn to share them with you.

Buy a filter

When I mentioned to a photographer friend that I had finally bought a DSLR (my beloved Nikon D60), he gave me a tip I never forgot: “take five minutes to run to the photo shop and buy a filter”. I followed his advice and this $15 investment probably saved my lens from a thousand of scratches.

Funny thing is, I knew that I had to buy a camera bag in the future, and I was already saving for a tripod and more lenses, but I never thought of buying a filter.

Neutral UV filters are usually pretty cheap and don’t affect the colour of your images. You just have to screw the filter on the lens. Some photographers argue that the cheap glass can degrade the result of your photography but honestly, I never noticed it. I don’t like the idea of my lenses being exposed to the elements (blowing sand, salt, water, dust…) and replacing a scratched filter is much cheaper than replacing a lens. For instance, Gail recently dropped her camera but apparently only the filter was damaged. Note that leaving the hood on is also a good way to protect your lens, especially when you shoot in a crowd and the camera gets bumped a bit.

Take pictures of strangers

I used to have this stupid rule to only take pictures of people I knew, friends and family. Hey, why would I want to take pictures of perfect strangers? I’m not a stalker!

But one day, I was introduced to street photography. Suddenly, people around me weren’t strangers anymore, they were subjects for candid shots. I started the People of Ottawa project, a set dedicated to candid shots taken around the city and this keeps me endlessly busy.

And when traveling, I make a point of taking candid shots as well. These pictures often end up being the ones I look at fondly when I go back home, because give such vivid snapshots of the country I visited. These two guys chatting on their day off in Little India (Singapore), this monk or this woman unloading a very packed truck in Bangkok, these Australian teens messing around with each other, this guy reading in the street in London… these snapshots of life mean more than twenty pictures of me in front of some local monument.

Cherry-pick your pictures

I used to take hundreds of pictures, upload them when the memory card was full and leave them forever in a folder. But when I started blogging, I was forced to be more selective—can’t upload twenty pictures of the same thing from a slightly different angle or you guys will be bored to death. Worse, the picture loses its meaning.

I started sorting out my pictures regularly and this simple decision really helped me improve my photography skills. Suddenly, I learned to recognize the original shots, the ones that would stand out from the boring ones. The more I selected the few good shots from the bunch of pictures I would inevitably take, the more I realized that sometimes, less was more. Picking the meaningful shots taught me that quality over quantity always wins.

How about you? What are your favourite photography tips?

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