So you’ve just gotten your first Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera. You’ve read the manual and surfed the web, and now you’re ready to start taking photos you’ll be proud to frame on your wall in a stunning black picture frame. Right? Sure! But before you hit the pavement with your camera in-hand and film rolls in your bag, take a moment to read over these five tips that can help push your work from great to amazing.
1. Dump the Flash
While it’s true that professional photographers often do use a flash or complicated light rigs, you shouldn’t need a flash in most lighting conditions. Subjects shot without a flash often look more natural, and you’ll get much greater detail and depth by using natural light. Additionally, getting rid of the flash during your first week will make you a lot more familiar with how your camera works with light- giving you an invaluable skill as a beginning photographer.
2. Turn Off Auto Focus
There’s no arguing that a camera that auto-focuses is infinitely handy and easy to use. However, focusing on the fly is an important tool in any photographer’s toolbox. Considering the sad fact that cameras do not understand your intent, it’s up to you to make sure you’re focused on the right thing at the right time. It is incredible how unique and interesting an image can be when you allow the focus to move out of the direct center of the frame, so set this one to manual for a while.
3. Take a Photo Class
You can buy all the books in the world and browse the internet for days, but the absolute best way to learn about photography is in a hands on environment. Find a class at a local college or adult school and see how understanding the basics will improve your photos for the better. As a bonus, your teacher will likely give you assignments based on individual elements of photography you may have never considered.
4. Say Farewell to Color
Before you dive into color, buy a few rolls of T-Max 400 (great B&W film) and see if taking it back to the basics changes your interpretation of the world around you. You know it’s time to upgrade to taking color images when you can print a black and white image that has pure black, pure white and every tone in between. Taking photos in black and white will force your mind to think less about the “image” and more about the importance of how light interacts with the objects in the frame.
5. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot
This may seem obvious, but if you’re interested in becoming a “great” photographer, you’ll need to shoot lots and lots of photos. The more pictures you take, the better you will get. Photography is often as much about timing and luck as it is skill and equipment. Even “great” photographers only average three or four good shots at a time, so don’t worry about taking a lot of pictures. It’s far worse to miss a shot than take too many! Besides, you’ll only display the really good ones in a picture frame anyways.
There is no great secret to being an amazing photographer. The more you challenge yourself, the better you will become. If you start with a strong understanding of how your camera works and what it takes to take a good photo, the rest will come with practice. Your camera will never change- only your ability to manipulate it. So keep your SLR close and extra film or memory card on hand. Never be afraid of experimenting with new ideas because there will always be more film or memory cards! And remember, the best picture you’ll ever take is the one you’re about to take. And once you have that fantastic image, don’t forget to share it by displaying it on the wall in a hanging picture frame.