If you were to sit down and learn how to use everything on your camera in one sitting, you'd be completely lost by the end of it. Cameras are pretty complicated and take time to fully understand, so take my advice and start with these 10 easy steps and you'll soon pick the rest up along the way. Start taking better photos today.
1 – Learn Manual Mode
Like most people, I struggled to see the point in this when I bought my first digital camera, why couldn't I just leave it on a priority mode? Manual mode is much like using an old film SLR from the 1960's when they didn't have buttons you could press that would just do it all for you. This forced you to learn in manual, because that was the only option, and in doing so, you would fully learn how a camera works. Once you know how to properly use your camera, it becomes a whole lot easier to see where you're going wrong and fixing it. Priority modes are good for some situations, but once you know how to properly shoot on manual, you'll find there's no need for them and you can better results on your own.
2 – Learn Basic Composition Techniques, and then Forget Them
This one might seem a little bit funny, but let me explain… Once you've learned basic composition techniques such as the rule of thirds and use of lines, you start to look at everything a little bit differently and see how you might frame a photo, even when you've not got a camera on you. This knowledge sticks with you and subtly helps your photos become a whole load better. Well then, why forget them? Simple. As a photographer, this becomes too obvious to be interesting and you'll start to get bored of your photos so it challenges to to keep your photos fresh and interesting by pushing the 'rules' of photography.
3 – No On Camera Flash!
Can't really stress this enough to be honest, on camera flash (pop-up especially) is incredibly unflattering to your subject and really flattens your image. When the light comes from the same angle as the lens, you're left without the natural shadows that you would usually find on a persons face. Photos with on camera flash might as well have been taken on your phone. When I first started out, I hated the pop-up flash so much so that I didn't really consider myself a 'flash' person until a friend talked me into buying an external flash unit and I finally saw what I was missing. Buy one now!
4 – Find a Fresh Perspective
As a tall person, I'm always finding myself adjusting my height when taking photos of people so that I'm not looking down on them, but I try to take this a little further when I can and find new ways of looking at photos. Instead of taking a having the camera on a tripod, why not the floor or through a crowd? Keeping a fresh perspective maintains fresh photos!
5 – Get Closer
I am my own telephoto lens, and you are too! Instead of zooming in, get involved in the photo and see things from a different angle, and at the same time; a different perspective. Search for the finer details in a scene that everyone else is over looking, and make that the subject if you really want your photos to stand out from the crowd. Think before you shoot or you'll forget to think at all.
6 – Clean up your Background
The background is as much of your photo as any
other part so make sure it's not cluttered and messy. Just moving your camera a few degrees to the side may make all the difference when it comes to cleaning up your shot. Think about what's in your viewfinder or on your screen and ask yourself if it adds anything to the photo? If the answer is no, then it's taking away from the photos. Branches, sky, other people are just a few things to look out for. The branch in this shot below really bugs me.
7 – Frame your Subject
Look for a way of putting a frame within a frame, like a doorway or a window, or like in the photo below; a bluebell flower. All of this adds context to your photos and tells the viewer a little more about whats going on and where the photo was taken. Not only does this add a sense of depth to a photo, but it also adds another interesting element that the photo didn't have before.
8 – Get your White Balance Right!
This one is so vitally important to getting good photos, that i've actually written a whole post on it here and I strongly suggest you read it. The WB is all about the colour cast of your photos and if you shoot indoors a lot without a flash, you'll probably find that a lot of the people in your photos come out with a nasty orange coloured skin. Getting this right really sets you apart from other people who aren't even aware of the problem and it will dramatically improve the end result of your photos.
9 – Use the Histogram
The LCD display on digital cameras are getting better these days, but they're still subject to the environment that they're used in. If you're out and about on a really sunny day, you'll find that shading it with your hand isn't quite doing the job when it comes to looking a photos. The histogram is a mathematical way of seeing how well exposed an image is and is a great basis for improving your photography (don't worry, it's not as complicated as it sounds). After all, it's no use waiting until you get home to find that the photos are no good! Read more about it here.
10 – Practice Practice Practice!
Rome wasn't built in a day, if you want to get good at anything in life, you have to try hard at it – it's not just going to come to you. The fortunate thing about photography though is that it's a lot of fun to play around with and even though you still think you suck from time to time, with just a little bit of practice, you begin to see results in your photos. Take the steps listed above, and read some of the tutorials on this website and you'll be an expert in no time.