How To Become A Radically Better Photographer Right Now

It doesn’t matter whether you take photos for your own enjoyment or shoot the odd wedding or get paid for all your work. All of us can become radically better photographers and here’s how to do it almost instantly!

Here’s the secret:

Shoot more images!

All of us regardless of our level of experience can improve our images simply by shooting more shots. The first thing that I guarantee will improve will be your ability to get the most out of your camera. (When we begin shooting most of the cameras out there can shoot better images on auto than we can on our own. It’s true. The capability of some of the cameras out there for amateurs and pros is amazing.)

Back in the day (I’m talking late 60s and early 70s almost all cameras had only three controls: focusing, aperture and shutter speed. That was it. (You changed your ISO by purchasing film of different speeds. When Kodachrome first came out in 1935 it had an ASA of 16. We now routinely shoot at ISO speeds which equal ASA numbers of 1,600.) (ISO/ASA affects your camera’s ability to shoot in lower light.)

I had an M-4 Leica I used for newspaper work which didn’t even have a built-in light meter but was considered as “the” camera of war photojournalist. Everything was manual including focusing!

Almost any camera you can buy today has more complicated controls and, trust me, there are days when I appreciate the ability to put the camera into automatic and let it do its thing. But getting off automatic yields amazing photographic possibilities which weren’t readily available in the past. For example, many point and shoot cameras have scene or art filter modes which can create really interesting effects and help you out when you’re shooting panoramic, portrait, landscape,  fireworks and so many more types of shots.

Advanced point and shoots and DSLRs have in addition to automatic (and pro-level DSLRs forgo the auto mode entirely) have program, aperture and shutter speed modes which allow you advanced control over your camera.

If you’re new to photography I hate to tell you this but I recommend reading your manual at least once.

I’d also recommend Scott Kelby’s series on digital photography. I think he’s up to four volumes now in this excellent hands-on series of how-to-do instructions for everything from how to hold your camera and why you should use a lens hood to what software to consider when shooting RAW images instead of JPGs (both of which he explains).

Look I’ve been shooting for almost 40 years and I’ve got a set of his books and I learned a few things 🙂 and you will too.

Next secret to becoming a radically better photographer won’t cost you a thing.

It’s you’re public library.

Once a month (when the new magazines arrive) I suggest taking a few hours and reading all the photography magazines and scanning through all the popular magazines to get ideas about how their photographers shot the published images.

When I was just new into newspaper photography the three primary photographers (who were all self-taught) I worked with would pour over the images in the new People magazine to improve our own people shots.

We figured out when to use and not use flash.

It was obvious that we needed to get much closer to our subjects and fill the frame.

My favourite was if you shoot kids or dogs get down to their eye-level and shoot from their perspective not from my own five foot 10 inches above them.

Final secret is go join your local photography club.

Trust we you’ll be as welcomed as the flowers in spring (and if not go find another club in your area) and there will be photographers who are at your level, not quite so good and some really great ones. The best photographers IMHO share everything they know and lots of clubs offer shooting expeditions right in your own neighbourhood.

This will be the best money you spend on photography and it’s cheaper than a new lens.

Once you get to the point that you’re shooting with a DSLR and maybe you’ve got a second or third lens and a flash, then it’s time to take some of the workshops that come to town. The Joe McNally (Joe used to shoot for National Geographic) One Light Two Light workshop that came to Toronto a week ago was first class. Aimed at advanced amateurs and emerging pros there were over 500 photographers in the room who ate up Joe’s every word.

I recommend Joe and David Ziser (the wedding photographer often does a workshop in Buffalo which is less than an hours drive) and Sandy Puc (the Littleton Colorado baby photographer’s workshops are first class and anything by the Scott Kelby group (that’s who arranged Joe McNally’s workshop) as you won’t find a better organized, more understandable and cheaper workshop anywhere on all aspects of photography and Photoshop (the high-end image software for pros).

Anyway it’s Friday.

The sun’s out. It’s going to be a hot day.

Why not go for a stroll this evening and don’t forget to bring your camera because you never know what you’ll see just walking around the block.

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