Want to take better photos?
Some groovy tips for getting you started in photography
For commercial business photography we’re always going to recommend hiring a professional and this is certainly the case for weddings! Any occasion photography which is a special one off or which involves working on businesses time requires someone with years of experience and knowledge in the field they are in. But what about those people who want to learn photography as a hobby or just want to take some good photos of family and friends?
Don’t give up on real cameras if your phone pics appear to be great!
So many people never get any further than the camera phone. Why? Because those images heavily processed look incredible on that small high resolution screen – of course they do! 🙂 Blow it up on the big screen and that shot of the your best friend’s first dance at a wedding looks worse than a mushy mush of mush. Camera sensors are tiny tiny affairs and therefore can’t handle low light as well as a proper camera with a much larger sensor. A lot of the time all the compromises in a phone are compensated for by heavy processing (ever seen how watery a camera phone pic looks zoomed in) but hey that Instagram shot will look good – even if your selfie face is stretched due to the wide angle lens used. The real problem with phones is that people never learn the key principals of photography or how they managed to get the photo in the first place. Sure you can learn composition and controlling light but your photos will lack depth and you won’t be able to combat bad photography situations.
Don’t bog yourself down in kit at first
Okay, so you’re convinced the phone isn’t that great beyond Instagram. So what kit should you start off with? Actually the best kit at this level tends to be DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras or Mirrorless (doesn’t have a flappy mirror inside). So basically cameras with detachable lenses. On a Mirrorless you get a preview of the image on-screen. Some Mirrorless cameras offer an electronic viewfinder (EVF) that simulates the optical viewfinder. A DSLR, by contrast, reflects the light into your eye, which is better than the camera sensor at low light although you can also see the image on a screen (Live View). Mirrorless cameras tend to be smaller though as they don’t need to accommodate a large pentaprism and mirror.
For starters I would always recommend a buying a camera with a detachable kit lens included as these end up being a lot cheaper. Kit lenses tend to be 24-70mm or equivalent. Learn your craft with just this to begin with, it’s all you need. Perhaps add a prime lens (one that doesn’t zoom but has a much wider aperture (lets more light in and provides the ability to blur the background nicely) and a telephoto lens so you can take flattering portraits or photograph things far away.
You don’t need a crazy expensive camera to take great photos
Time and time again I hear of luxury expensive camera gear being gifted to a partner who is only just starting in photography, yet the camera ends up never being used and eventually sold off cheap to people like me 😉 FACT: Even the cheapest ‘proper’ camera will be capable of taking images indistinguishable form a camera costing 5x as much in the right hands (note important “in the right hands”!). Some of my favourite photos were taken on ancient DSLRs that would cost a lot less than £100 now second hand now. Light. Composition and Timing are far more important.
Understand your equipment
First thing…take that camera off auto! Start using Program, Manual, Aperture of Shutter. These settings will confuse you at first and the learning curve is steep but once mastered you’ll pretty much know how to use the your camera. I would suggest a lot of practice and checking out youtube videos or even your camera manual to start off with. Learn then practice and see what impact each of the settings makes on your image. Learn the relationship between Aperture/Shutter Speed and ISO – work out how all those components affect each other.
It takes a long time to learn the art of photography, therefore practice is crucial. It IS NOT the camera that will take great photos, especially if it is set to auto all the time. If you are meeting friends or going to a gig take a camera with you and take photos or if you are travelling somewhere new try and capture the place as you see it. A great way to start is by photographing something you wouldn’t normally think would make a good photograph – a car park/train station or a town centre in the rain. Think about composition, lines and textures instead and try to find patterns – you’ll be surprised at how arty your photos can appear!
Check out photographer you admire.
It helps if you are already fascinated by photography and have an interest in art. Have a look at others work and try to emulate the essence of what they have photographed (copying maybe – but only for practice).
Understand the basic principals of photography light, timing and composition
This is one of the hardest things to understand and develop over time. The three principals of light, timing and composition will need to practiced and the area is far greater than can be covered in this blog. Think about the rule of thirds, leading lines in the image, patterns and repetition. Look at how a split second can change the image in terms of action shots and people. How can you use light more effectively, can it create interesting negative space in your image or an awesome lens flare in your portraits?
Create a narratives
Try and tell a story in your image. If it’s a portrait of someone you don’t know see if your image can intrigue the viewer and make them ask questions. Alternatively take a set of images to tell a story – anything from a daily routine to documenting something of social significance. But always treat your subject with respect and dignity, don’t just point your camera at someone sleeping rough and call it social documentary photography.
Always experiment with your camera and try new things.
Okay so you are out shooting and you know the light isn’t great and the shutter speed is too slow but how about embracing this and trying to hold the camera steady or even move the camera to create interesting light trails? Understand the rules in photography then try and break them!