Ever get tired of shooting the same things over and over again? Do you get creatively stuck while shooting?
It’s crucial to continue to grow as a photographer. The more skills you learn and perfect, the more valuable of a creative you will become. I’m not saying that if you don’t follow these tips that you won’t be a good photographer, BUT these tips will help and you WILL see improvement.
Here are 5 tips that will ACTUALLY make you a better photographer.
Shooting on a film camera is one of the quickest ways to become a better photographer. The reason is rather simple. You are limited to the number of pictures you can take in a short period of time. A roll of film consists of 36 images, (sometimes 28 depending on the brand) once you press the shutter button, the image is taken, not to be revealed until it gets processed. This forces you to really slow down, think about, and compose your shots more carefully. Unlike DSLR’s where you can take pictures in rapid succession and see the results immediately, film makes you wait for the right moment to take the picture. Shooting on film, I found, helps my intuition in what makes a better picture. Another unique trait of film is that is nearly impossible to get the exact same shot twice due to the emulsion layers in film. Shooting film is also relatively inexpensive, contrary to public thoughts. You can buy a point and shoot film camera or even an SLR film camera for under $100 sometimes even under $20 if you look hard enough. Film costs about $6 per roll, after filling up the roll, you then have to develop it. This is where costs can add up or you can really save money. It costs about $5 to develop a roll of film then about $5-$10 to scan it to make it a digital image. You can really save costs on this by learning how to develop your own film and buying a scanner. Try shooting film along with your digital captures and see how much your photography will improve. I saw drastic progress after only shooting film for a month. My compositions got better, my shot selection got better, and I nailed the shots in-camera way quicker.
Shoot Black and White
Shooting in Black and White is another quick and easy way to improve your photography. This one is rather straight forward as well. Our eyes are bombarded with color all the time, and we are particularly watchful on a photoshoot about colors, as that is one of the easiest ways to add interest into a picture or to add contrast to it.
Take away this step and push yourself as a creator. When you switch to black and white, you’ll learn to look at colors as shades of black and white rather than their true colors. Leading lines and patterns really take over in black and white photos. Without color, you really have to focus not only on composition but how everything works together in a frame to draw attention to whatever the subject is. If you are shooting people in black and white then you’ll notice instantly that the focus of the picture is on the subject more than any colors around it. This means you’ll have to focus more on posing and expression which translates HUGELY into color pictures.
I’ve noticed as a trend that more people tend to buy Black and White prints, as they are also the most timeless. So for artists selling prints, I highly recommend trying to shoot and sell black and white images. There are also many different types of Black and White shooting, we’ll save that for another day though. Our camera’s see-through RGB so there is never a “TRUE BLACK”, just shades of it. This makes editing fun though, play around with adding and subtracting blue, green, and red values from your B&W pictures and notice how you can completely change the feeling or vibe of a photo, just by something so little. Some pictures just are more emotional and tell more of a story in Black and White.
Use negative spacing
The 3rd and one of the most underutilized techniques that will improve your photography is the correct use of negative spacing. What is “Negative Spacing”? Negative spacing is the use of space to draw attention to a subject. This is a really good way to help your photos stand out in a busy and saturated environment.
“Positive Spacing” is the space in which the subject takes up. Having a composition of negative space can really emphasize the importance of a subject, or can add a vibe to a picture. Think of what scenarios you might be alone in life and photography and show that through negative spacing. Your composition will also improve drastically because your eye will start to pick out lone subjects in a busy world and bring attention to something that might otherwise not get attention.
Negative Spacing is one of my favorite ways to test my skills because there isn’t too much editing you can do since there is a lot of space, usually being the same color. Really test your composition with negative spacing and see how your eye interacts with the picture. What is the main subject and how are you drawing attention to it?
shoot from multiple angles
Shooting from multiple angles is the SINGLE biggest technique that you can use to improve your photography. Camera position directly correlates with feeling in a composition. This is where your creativity can really thrive if you are willing to get a bit uncomfortable, crouching, laying down, sticking the camera high in the area, etc. I find the swivel screen on my canon 80d works perfectly to help me get these unique shots. Since we are talking about camera angles and the mood they project, let’s look at the examples below.
The very first image I got about even with his height and stood at a distance that was comfortable for both of us. Shooting pictures at eye level are the most common because of how simple it is. It tells the viewers that we are all on the same level and have the same understanding, whereas the second picture is a little bit more distant, giving off the impression of looking into a distance and admiring the subject from far away, the angles are also looking down slightly, giving off a softer overall vibe, whereas the third and final image is by far one of the most challenging angles. I say challenging in the fact that it is relatively challenging to take a picture from a low angle that is still flattering to the subject. The lower angle, however, can pay off, as it did here by giving the subject the appearance of confidence, superiority, and importance. The reason this is felt is that you are literally “looking up to the subject”. We look up to powerful people and figures, so take that in mind next time you are looking to spice up a location or a shoot.
Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty, the model is willing to take chances to get a shot and so should you.
show depth in your pictures
Showing Depth in your pictures will really bring your image to life, as it makes the viewer feel as if they are actually there due to the line of sight is slightly obstructed, keyword is SLIGHTLY, I see a lot of images online that are great compositions, and why they are great compositions, I feel like sometimes, there is just something, that one little thing that is missing to really immerse me in the environment around the photo. There are three ways to add depth to your photo.
The First method is to put something at close proximity in front of the lens and literally shoot through it. That is what I did in the picture below, I simply found some leaves and branches, set my model in the middle and I held on to the branches and leaves so that I can manipulate it in the frame and not have to worry about the wind. This to me is the easiest way of adding some depth to a photo, it adds 3 dimensions to the image: the foreground, subject, background.
The second method is to frame your subject in between foreground and background, something like some trees, or using the sun. The leaves are out of the frame but the shadows on the face of the subject makes the photo, immersive like you were actually there. Sometimes use the shadows and what is naturally occurring in front of you to make the best of a situation or to add a creative flair to an otherwise basic shot.
The third tip for getting depth in your pictures, is to simply shoot at a lower aperture. (f1.8, 2.4, etc.)
Shooting at a lower aperture means more depth of field, in this case, you still need a comparison object to point out and make sharp, while everything else behind it is blurry (which is called bokeh) this works well when there are not a lot of colors clashing together and the composition is rather simple. There is sooooo much you can do shooting at a lower aperture and being able to seperate the subject from the background.