Ten photo tips that can change the way you shoot

Now, more that ever, digital cameras have reduced the technical limits to producing high-quality images. Almost everyone who has a camera and a small amount of training can make satisfactory photographs. Yet, despite the ever-growing popularity of the medium, and the billions of photographs created all over the world on a daily basis, very few images reveal the unique personal style of the photographer. Finding your own voice and identity in the photographs that you make is possibly the most challenging aspect of your photographic journey, and remains one of the most difficult tasks even to the very experienced photographer.

I believe that photography is a language, and if you want to be able to express yourself in this language you must learn its rules. You cannot say that your B&W print that came out gray is a style unless you know how to produce the perfect B&W print. You need to know the rules to break the rules. Learning the rules is important in your formative years, and often helps to create very pleasing photographs. Nevertheless, you will never create anything new if you always do what is expected of you.

Ten photo tips that can change the way you shoot

I have discussed the three sources of knowledge in a previous post and I will try to enhance on this theme in this post, and give a few tips that will help you explore your own creative process.

I have been a student of photography for more than twenty years and these are tips that worked for me. Some are quick to implement while others will take more time to develop and learn from. Some will have immediate results and others will have a slow and accumulating effect on your style of work.

Use rear-curtain flash sync

Use rear-curtain flash sync

1. Start working on a long term project. I think that every photographer must be engaged in a long term personal project. When you work on a long term project the subject stays the same and you can slowly start noticing how your style changes around it.

2. Choose a subject that is close to your heart. Concentrate on something that you like and is accessible. If you are not a volcanologist don’t start a project about volcanoes. Your family can be a great subject to start with. Decide what you want to say and start shooting regularly, at least once week. Keep your mind open to see how the project develops beyond your initial ideas. A personal project could be a three-month-long project that will result in a series of 8-12 images, or a much longer one that might even become a book.

3. Study the work of other artists. Watch movies about the masters of photography and how they work. Study the history of photography and the techniques that were used before the digital age. Study Ansel Adam’s zone system. Start going to book stores and sit with books to get inspiration.

4. Try shooting with both eyes open. this will give you the ability to see beyond your frame and be prepared for changes. This might prove a bit strange at first but you will get used to it very fast.

5. Shoot from the hip / shoot without looking. Break the way you see the frame and let yourself be surprised by what you shoot. This will also enable you to shoot people form up close without making them look into the lens. Don’t be afraid to get bad results. If you don’t take risks you will never get great images.

6. Pattern plus. Look for patterns and break them. This is a simple exercise but will help you open your eyes to patters around you. A mountain of green apples and one is red is a simple example. Try to find others.

A+B=C

A+B=C

7. A+B=C. is a technique of using an ironic juxtaposition of two elements in the composition (A+B) and the relations between them to tell a story and lead the viewer to understand the subtle statement (C).

8. Frame inside a frame. Create frames inside your composition and position your subject inside it. Open a window into another world that lies beyond the two dimension of the photograph and emphasize your statement.

photo tip that can change the way you shoot

Frame inside a frame

9. Change the settings in your camera menu to use two separate buttons for the AF and shutter release so that you focus with your thumb and release the shutter with your shooting finger. This is a simple trick that will help you frame better and prevent your focus from changing when you shoot.

10. Use rear-curtain flash sync

11. I know, I said ten 🙂 Smile and have fun. A smile will get you out of almost any tight spot, especially while shooting in foreign countries where you do not speak the local language.

If you like what you read please leave a comment and share this post with others.

  • Josh Sailor

    Good stuff, man! Short, sweet and fun. : )

  • Josh Sailor

    Good stuff, man! Short, sweet and fun. : )

  • Thanks for your tips!
    I’ll give some a try…

  • Thanks for your tips!
    I’ll give some a try…

  • lifeguardliz01

    long term project. got it!

  • lifeguardliz01

    long term project. got it!

  • Alex

    Good suggestions i will try to keep them in mind!

  • Alex

    Good suggestions i will try to keep them in mind!

  • Good stuff! Nothing like a little poke to stoke the creative juices!!

  • Good stuff! Nothing like a little poke to stoke the creative juices!!

  • Thanks heaps!
    Really helpful!

  • Thanks heaps!
    Really helpful!

  • Great tips. I especially appreciate what you said about finding our own voice in photography. It’s so true. I was even discussing that same idea with a friend just yesterday.

  • Great tips. I especially appreciate what you said about finding our own voice in photography. It’s so true. I was even discussing that same idea with a friend just yesterday.

  • Being creative is a discipline. “Inspiration” is a misunderstood and abused word that is most oft used as an excuse, as in, “I can’t get inspired”. You need to get out there and shoot in all conditions (personal and climatic).

    It’s all just capturing the light reflected. A good photographer can photograph any subject decently, because they know the technical aspects of capturing light. Most of us have a valency for some subject types or genres of photography, but stepping out of your safety zone will sharpen your vision and abilities far quicker than replicating rather than creating.

    You have to give yourself permission to make mistakes. Push the limits. Try stuff that just shouldn’t work, because it may teach you about what does work. Learn the rules, so you know when to break them.

    Don’t surround yourself with either sycophants who tell you everything you do is fabulous because that suits their agenda, or negative people who tell you that “no-one in this family is artistic or creative”, or worse, passive-aggressively prevent you from shooting.

    Seek influences everywhere. Film, traditional art, books, conversations, current affairs.. everywhere.

    Always walk around and look at the world as a photographer. Look for images where ever you go. Put on telephoto eyes, wide angle eyes, selective DoF eyes. Take “shots” even when you don’t have a camera in your hands.

    Don’t go anywhere without a camera and at least a basic prime or standard tele zoom lens.

    Shoot LOTS. Then shoot more. Make mistakes. Learn. Grow.

  • Being creative is a discipline. “Inspiration” is a misunderstood and abused word that is most oft used as an excuse, as in, “I can’t get inspired”. You need to get out there and shoot in all conditions (personal and climatic).

    It’s all just capturing the light reflected. A good photographer can photograph any subject decently, because they know the technical aspects of capturing light. Most of us have a valency for some subject types or genres of photography, but stepping out of your safety zone will sharpen your vision and abilities far quicker than replicating rather than creating.

    You have to give yourself permission to make mistakes. Push the limits. Try stuff that just shouldn’t work, because it may teach you about what does work. Learn the rules, so you know when to break them.

    Don’t surround yourself with either sycophants who tell you everything you do is fabulous because that suits their agenda, or negative people who tell you that “no-one in this family is artistic or creative”, or worse, passive-aggressively prevent you from shooting.

    Seek influences everywhere. Film, traditional art, books, conversations, current affairs.. everywhere.

    Always walk around and look at the world as a photographer. Look for images where ever you go. Put on telephoto eyes, wide angle eyes, selective DoF eyes. Take “shots” even when you don’t have a camera in your hands.

    Don’t go anywhere without a camera and at least a basic prime or standard tele zoom lens.

    Shoot LOTS. Then shoot more. Make mistakes. Learn. Grow.

  • Wow! This is awesome! Thanks so much!

  • Wow! This is awesome! Thanks so much!

  • thanks for the tips!! really good…

  • thanks for the tips!! really good…

  • wow 🙂 this is really inspiring 🙂 i’ll pass it on to others 🙂

  • wow 🙂 this is really inspiring 🙂 i’ll pass it on to others 🙂

  • mig

    great. ill give it a try then!

  • mig

    great. ill give it a try then!

  • Thanks for the list. It’s a nice array of tips that I know, but forget, at times, to use. Numbers 2 and 4 are what I try to begin and work in some of the others. #11 is what’s most important. It shows in the work.

  • Thanks for the list. It’s a nice array of tips that I know, but forget, at times, to use. Numbers 2 and 4 are what I try to begin and work in some of the others. #11 is what’s most important. It shows in the work.

  • Marsha Woods

    Very stimulating suggestions. Well written and easily understood. Great reminders for all levels.

  • Marsha Woods

    Very stimulating suggestions. Well written and easily understood. Great reminders for all levels.

  • Great list. One more to think about:

    Patience:
    When you can, wait for the right light – better to have one killer shot in perfect light, than a handful of shots in sub-par light.

  • Great list. One more to think about:

    Patience:
    When you can, wait for the right light – better to have one killer shot in perfect light, than a handful of shots in sub-par light.

  • groovigyrl

    Interesting. I’ll definitely try some of them!

  • groovigyrl

    Interesting. I’ll definitely try some of them!

  • Bobby Hasan

    I really liked the idea of shooting from the hip. I saw you doing that at Nishant and smitis wedding.I will surely give it a try. I really get inspired each time i go through your photographs.

  • Bobby Hasan

    I really liked the idea of shooting from the hip. I saw you doing that at Nishant and smitis wedding.I will surely give it a try. I really get inspired each time i go through your photographs.

  • Great Tips – however, sometimes knowing the rules inhibits you – I love it when someone who doesn’t know their limitations exceeds them. Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull taught himself to play the flute and invented ways to play that he wouldn’t have if he “knew the rules”.

  • Great Tips – however, sometimes knowing the rules inhibits you – I love it when someone who doesn’t know their limitations exceeds them. Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull taught himself to play the flute and invented ways to play that he wouldn’t have if he “knew the rules”.

  • Very interesting tips. I am going to try #4 & 5 this weekend. Thanks for sharing.

  • Very interesting tips. I am going to try #4 & 5 this weekend. Thanks for sharing.

  • awesome..i loved your work n tips…
    i have just completed my masters in professional photography from light and life academy , ooty, tamil nadu
    n got specialized in product, architecture and fine art

    am looking for some work or to assist some photographer.
    kindly help
    regards
    shruti

  • awesome..i loved your work n tips…
    i have just completed my masters in professional photography from light and life academy , ooty, tamil nadu
    n got specialized in product, architecture and fine art

    am looking for some work or to assist some photographer.
    kindly help
    regards
    shruti

  • Simple and great tips to keep in mind! Thanks for this!

  • Simple and great tips to keep in mind! Thanks for this!