Everyone makes at least one great photo in their lifetime. You just grab your camera, click! and create a masterpiece – and usually, you have no idea why your photo looks so good.
Everyone makes a great photo at least once. The question is, how to make great photos more than once – and preferably, more than twice.
To be a great photographer you need to be consistent (read: have more than two good photos in your portfolio). So, what’s the secret of consistency?
Making a billion shots (one of them MUST be good)? Or just tons, tons of luck?
The truth is actually simpler and more difficult at the same time. Everything boils down to a shortlist of to-dos.
And here’s the list.
1. Be comfortable with your camera
It may sound crazy but some professional photographers don’t know what they’re doing. They have no idea how to control their camera and just let it do all the thinking.
They believe that this method may be faster and easier than learning about all these difficult tech features. Well, it IS easier but you won’t make more than two great photos this way. This “trick” of letting the camera think for you is actually holding you back.
You need to understand some fundamental things about your camera: lenses, how aperture works, how to set your shutter speed (and why), what ISO is, what white balance is, etc, etc…
It isn’t as bad as it sounds. Actually, you can learn it in just several hours.
2. Learn what exposure is
Once you’ve learned enough about shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and other fun things, it’s time to move on to exposure. Caution: googling it may scare you off from the art of photography – because its definitions sound super confusing. Example: exposure is the amount of light per unit area reaching a sensor, as determined by lens aperture and so on, and so forth… That’s not really helping if you’re a photo-newbie. If you’re not a newbie, that’s not helpful, either.
You don’t need all these confusing definitions. Just remember that exposure is how bright you want your photo to be. That’s all. Now, terms like ‘overexposed’ and ‘underexposed’ make sense as well, don’t they?
3. Understand light
Light is crucial. It’s alpha and omega, beginning and end, etc and etc. Because light is every photographer’s fickle master and god, it’s important to understand its many facets and subtleties.
Each photography enthusiast should be able to work with light under any circumstances, seek it, and create it. So, where to begin?
Start from the easiest part: taking photos outside. Once you step outdoors, there are plenty of lightning opportunities. Try your hand at shooting in the harsh midday sun, after the sun goes down, at night, and so on. Then you will be ready to shoot inside and use the light of windows. And then, create your own light.
Understanding light is a photographer’s lifelong adventure – and it will give a lot of great photos!
4. Master perspective
This topic is a tough nut to crack for many photographers and some even prefer to ignore it completely. Perspective is defined as spatial relationships between various objects in your frame. Their sizes and their placements may change the way people view your shot. Perspective can make it deeper or flatter, depending on your choice (or, if you don’t know anything about perspective, depending on sheer luck).
Positioning yourself and changing the perspective of your photo can magically take your image from boring to engaging, from flat to 3D.
Mastering perspective takes a lot of time, practice, and movements. Be ready for things getting a bit too physically demanding at times: climbing a ladder, climbing a rock, taking a step back, crouching… All these things can make your photo look different.
5. Get familiar with composition
This topic can be even trickier than perspective as it encompasses things like lines, light, textures, forms, colors, and many more.
There are several rules of composition that sound so scary they can alienate some people from photography (or at least ruin their day). Good news: these rules are not really rules but guidelines that are intended to help you, not to scare you. They may come in handy when you’re thinking on how to arrange elements in your photo to tell a convincing and engaging story.
Let’s have a look at that scary Rule of Thirds, for example. It suggests that placing important elements of your photograph along a 3×3 grid will automatically give you an awesome shot and emphasize the most important element. This easy trick can help you direct your viewer’s attention as you like!
And surprise, surprise, you can actually break these rules intentionally. Instead of following the rule of thirds, you can place your elements as you wish and perhaps, it will enhance the feeling your photo should induce. After all, it’s all up to you!
There are tons of things you can learn as a photographer but these 5 topics can serve as a good basis. Choose the one you find the most interesting and start practicing!