Looking back over my blog posts to date I decided to offer advice from just a few of the parts of my brain that still lets me remember why I enjoy photography. These are just a few things that I hope you’ll find interesting; so here goes.
1. Read as many photography books / magazines as you can.
Remember that you don’t always have to have brand new copies of books. Take a ‘stroll’ through Ebay and Amazon and don’t forget Amazon Kindle. I’ve purchased many old photography magazines through Ebay and occasionally in charity shops; remember you can always resell them when you’re finished.
2. Look at a range of YouTube videos and remember to subscribe.
f you haven’t already done so ask YouTube for photography videos…..say no more!
3. Read and reread your camera manual.
If you’re a man the correct thing to do with the instruction manuals is to throw it in the bin right?...WRONG. So many questions can remain unanswered by not reading the manual. I would also recommend downloading a copy of your manual to your phone or tablet; that way you can bore people at parties, no not really. It can be very useful in the early days of ownership whilst you’re ‘in the field’.
4. Visit photography exhibitions.
Check out either your local church hall or the National Gallery in London for instance. Look out for the ‘early’ photographers as well as the more contemporary as they all have many values and merits.
5. Take only one lens with the next time.
If it’s a zoom that you have try and stay at one focal length and see how things change by moving your feet rather than the lens. Having a fixed focal lens is the way to go when learning as the quality is almost always noticeable. Don’t be tempted to rush into buying all the gear that the advertisers say you need; exhaust what you have before dipping into your pocket.
6. Imagine that you only have 24 or 36 exposures in the Camera.
In the days of film photography that’s all you had. ISO, or ASA as it was, remained fixed so did the amount of shots you had. It’s good practice as it slows you down and helps you to consider each angle, exposure etc. and its better than a ‘spray and pray’ approach to picture taking. The only exception I’ve found is if you are snapping sports.
7. Study the work of someone you admire.
For each genre I am sure you will take a shine to someone who has mastered it. If you can afford it, look out for photography workshops held in fabulous locations. Often only taking small groups they can range from a single day in the countryside to 7+ days in South America. If not you can still check out their work through more passive means such as books and videos. Try Udemy you may find something you like.
8. Attend a training day.
‘Light & Land’ offer very good training days etc. as do camera manufacturers. Many of the bigger camera stores now offer training days free or for a small fee. There’s nothing like learning first hand from someone who has been there and done it.
9. Concentrate on one photographic genre at a time.
When I started using a camera it was because I was, and still are, rubbish at painting and drawing. With my first love being landscapes I have over time grown to love street photography as well and also creating composites.
10. Go take lots of pictures as often as possible.
A great way to increase your skills is to find a quite corner of your house (either inside or out) and practice taking the same shot with as many varying exposures as your memory card can handle. Then take time to go through them and remember best settings.
11. Remove ‘gear’ envy.
If you have used a word processor you will remember being hassled by the software giants when a new version hits the street…..do you rush out and buy it? very often NO. The same goes with camera gear. When you are comfortable with your gear the best thing is to add to your kit rather that keep replacing. If I have version (1) of the thing I am using I’ll hold until version (3) hits the market…..that makes version (2) a bargain.
12. Get to grips with Depth of Field.
While close to tip 10 on the list, I would suggest taking a range of shots in a controlled set up. In particular, line up a row of containers in a straight line away from you and focus on various points in the row. By using a range of aperture settings it will help you to get to grips with ‘depth of field’. This is really useful landscape practice.
13. Join a local camera club / society.
I feel sure that in an area close to you you’ll find a photography club of some sort. Remember that being able to say “I don’t know’ is a gift and not a burden. Some camera clubs offer a ‘buddy’ system for brand new members which is great if just starting out and many have local exhibitions which can help increase your skills and confidence.
14. Sign up to a range of online forums.
Generally speaking these tend to be brand related but the good thing is they are not local based and they offer help and advice from members around the World; just remember the code of conduct / rules for each forum before jumping in.
15. Enter into competitions both online and locally.
Again ranging from the local school fete to online clubs like Viewbug. Always take a look at the other entries if possible before entering to help gauge the standard you’ll be up against but don’t be put off.
16. Use a ‘fast’ speed memory card.
It’s taken me a while to realize the value of paying that bit extra for memory cards. When you want to keep shooting at social gatherings for instance you don’t want to be held back by your camera taking ages to record images. It can often be the case that it’s the cards speed and not the camera that’s slowing you down. Always go for a Class 10 at least and use a ‘well know’ brand; that way you’ll get the best from your camera and the cards will last longer.
17. Cut down on ‘Chipping”.
‘Chipping” is the process seen almost all the time by professional photographers directly after taking a shot. It refers to the practice of constantly looking at the rear screen and taking another shoot and then looking at the rear screen and then taking another shot and then….you get the idea. To me is shows an uncertainty in your skills; try doing that with a film camera.
18. Storing your shots.
The quickest way to get to grip with this is to loose some valuable images. Don’t rely on storing images just on a memory card. There must be very few people who do not have access to the Internet now so there’s no reason not back up your work. I work with the hard drive on an Imac plus two external 1TB portable hard drives. If you shot with a phone or Ipad only its time to look at online storage. Use something like Google Drive. It’s free to set up and you get 15GB of storage free. 100GB is only around £2 per month so don’t delay in setting something up. The other benefit is you can allow others to login into your account and marvel at your creations; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
19. Invest in a camera support.
This doesn’t have to be a full blown tripod; there are some great mini table top tripods out there which help no end when you would like to be included in a family photo.
20. Don’t buy a printer.
I’ve stopped trying to keep up with the cost printer ink etc. and instead I’ve found some brilliant online services. It makes you really consider the value of a print provided by a professional service; after all, many pictures end up in a cupboard or a draw never to be seen again.
21. Have a yearly calendar made.
This is a great way to set yourself targets. Each year I plan to produce 13 images that I feel confident to show to family and friends. Vista print is well worth a try as are many others. When the year is up you can always take the 10”x8” images and frame the best; gives you a boost when other see your images on the wall.
22. Look after you gear.
Make sure your lens is always protected with a filter and keep your camera in a bag when not in use. Sensor cleaning can become an issue if you change your lens often. Keep out of dust etc. when changing them over and don’t leave them to roll around in your bag. Remember there may come a time when you wont to trade in your gear and poor condition will have a bearing on resale value; always keep a cleaning cloth in your bag.
23. Carry an extra battery.
Not a good idea to rely on the manufactures advice as to how many shots you’ll get from a battery. As with memory cards, its always a better prospect to spend as much as you can on a battery as the cheaper version may let you down…try that when you are half way up a mountain.
24. Check out camera insurance.
When planning a trip abroad, check out your home insurance before spending out as you may well be covered.
25. Aim towards your own web site.
Don’t be put off by thinking that’s not for me. Set yourself targets both short and long term and enjoy the milestones along the way. Remember its not about hard work its about getting personal enjoyment from your hobby.
Well there we are, 25 snippets from my experience. I hope you find them useful and that you can spend as many years as me enjoying a personal hobby. Thanks for reading
Terence Jones ARPS
A photography enthusiast with a long and varied interest in taking pictures.
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