1. Learn fixed lenses.
Fixed lenses are popular for a reason. You might be thinking that it’s worthwhile to go for a lens with some range in focusing distance, like a 24–70mm, but you shouldn’t. My first lens was the 50mm f/1.8, and it’s a lens that taught me a lot about creativity.
2. Look at other photographers.
This isn’t a world dominated by science. New ideas still exist. No matter how many people want to simplify the art of photo-taking to a few numerical components involving shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, they’re wrong. You don’t need to believe me, look at some of these:
3. Get a functional camera
People look at the flagship camera a company produces and think that is the best. Canon released the EOS R in their mirrorless line-up recently.
- It’s cheaper than the 5D Mark IV
- It’s lighter than the Mark IV
- It has the same or better detail
- It can fit all the lenses with an adapter from the EF line-up (You can also put filters into the actual adapter now instead of the front of the glass)
- It has a flip-out screen (after you use it enough, you’ll understand)
- An Electronic view-finder is a blessing
- Since it’s cheaper than the Mark IV, you can spend money on lenses (this is the most important thing)
If you find yourself on a budget, always push your camera down and buy better lenses. Camera systems degrade with time relatively quickly. The glass stays at value for long periods of time. They’re designed to be interchangeable with the cameras. Also, don’t always go for the sharpest aperture fixed lens available. The 50mm f/1.2 is not that much better than the f/1.4, and that one is hardly better than the 50mm f/1.8. Only upgrade if it will actually save you time for your projects.
5. Don’t be afraid
I can sit here and give you a million tips, but at the end of the day, you need to go out and take photos. Who cares if they’re going to be terrible. That’s how everyone starts. Professionals still take terrible photos today. Everybody messes around until they feel something right. Learn about certain settings. Play in different light. Focus on different things; lengths short and long. Cascade the same shot at different lenses to see what happens to the image.
Those photos at the top that look magical? They’re heavily edited. Post-production is making waves today, and a lot of talented individuals are breaking out on social media because of democratization in photography. Realize that there is no excuse for you not to be learning something about how to modify things in a photograph. Every piece of software is available to everyone now. A professional camera is at a competitive price-point these days. Those people learned things like Photoshop, Lightroom, VSCO, etc, on their own. You don’t need to. There are a million videos all over the internet documenting how to do cool things. Learn those things and then make them you’re own.
7. Angles and volume
Nothing reduces a great shot. Thankfully, a great shot is worth more than a thousand okay shots and a hundred good shots. Take as many shots as you can of your subject at every angle you can creatively imagine with as many easily changeable settings that you can. If you do this enough, at enough angles, with enough of a volume, you’ll have your shot. Post-production might make it slightly better, but you need to start on something already great.
8. Rule of thirds
I never know how seriously to take this one. Sometimes, it’s a good thing just to give you a start on composition. The point of this is to push your subject off center, like this
to create a more aesthetically pleasing picture. There are a lot of pictures that have strange compositions to pull you in. This one isn’t special for the rule, but it is special to get you thinking about how to compose your subject, and perhaps how to crop a subject to give the photograph a better story.
9. Camera shake
You could be scanning your photos as you take them, and you wouldn’t think that your photos are blurry. You then go home, and pull them up on Lightroom, and you see that they all have a slight blur to them. Holding the camera correctly is deceiving. Getting into the habit of shooting completely still can be tricky to people who only know how to take photos on a phone.
A lot of photographers will tell you to place your one hand on the actual lens and the other on the camera grip, but I think you can go one step further. If you have a viewfinder that’s accurate or electronic, use your face as the third stabilizing point for your photos. Look through your viewfinder, but give it a bit of pressure so that it sits flush.
Some will tell you that you shouldn’t use a shutter speed slower than your focal length to minimize this problem:
I don’t like telling people to place a minimizing value on shutter speeds. You can also use tri-pods, mounting points, etc. Canon has a mobile app that lets you access your camera remotely. You can change all the settings through the app. It’s a game-changer.
10. Learn about what you’re losing when you increase or decrease shutter speed, aperture, ISO, or artificial light relative to each other.
Know what you can compensate for. Know if you can take a darker shot and then expose it in post.
Find those perceived limits and then push them. Figure out the color palette that looks the best. Figure out what colors contrast the best.
Read up on color theory. You’d be amazed how many people are drawn to certain shades and hues.
There is probably a lot more I can’t capture in a single post. My best advice would be to look at this list as a starting point, and then grow or throw away some of my advice as you see fit. Or find new things not mentioned here.