I really hate to say the phrase “my photography.” I feel so clueless still when it comes to photography and editing that I never want to imply that I actually know what I’m doing. With that said however, I do know my skill has improved, mostly due to the simple act of practicing by taking lots and lots of pictures, but there are few things that I think really turned my photography around for the better.
Tell A Story (also known as composition)
I had a friend a while back who was an experienced photographer and offered a low key informal class at her house to go over photography basics. By that point I already knew most of what she went over, but one thing that stuck with me was the concept of telling a story with each photo you take.
If you are flipping through photos, what photos actually catch your attention? It’s not typically the ones taken of a room full of people, or random scenes with no real focal point. The eye needs a place to focus on, and your pictures need a purpose for being taken.
A good example, and the one my friend used, is photographing a kid’s birthday party. Instead of taking large scale photos of everyone there, tell a story with your photos. Catch a close up of the baby’s hand in the cake, their face when they first taste the cake, Mom and Dad helping open the presents, and intimate shots with the guest of honor and their various loved ones (like baby with Grandma and Grandpa).
Giving your photos a purpose builds in interest and later on helps to recreate whatever event it was, highlighting some of the best moments.
Have An End Use In Mind BEFORE You Snap The Picture
That same friend also posed the questions – how many of us had a memory card full of pictures just sitting around collecting dust, or piles of printed photos with no use in mind, or tons of files on your computer using up all of your storage???
The point is, there is no point in taking a picture unless you have an end use in mind. If you blog, think about how you want to lay out your content in the post – and take pictures to complement that content. If you to use your pictures to create family photo albums, pause to think about what you will truly want to look back and see, then take meaningful photos you will enjoy years later. If you want to take photos to blow up and frame for your house, consider the rest of your decor and focus your photos on things that will add a positive design element.
Get Out Of Program/Auto/Flash Mode
I’ll admit I still can’t use manual mode well. That is a goal to work towards, but in the interim I have learned to use less automatic modes such as Aperture Priority (which is pretty much what I use exclusively). Flashes often put odd lighting in your photos and completely change the look and quality. Aperture priority will help you create a great background blur (called bokeh), and capitalize on the natural light you have available. It will also force you to learn more about how your camera works so you can start capturing better photos.
Post Processing and Editing Are Important
Even the best photographers need to tweak their straight out of the camera photos. Because cameras compensate for a variety of factors when they capture a shot, what the camera sees is not going to be what you see. Post processing helps bring out the colors and features that your camera may have lost. It also helps sharpen and clean up the images. The level of editing you do depends on your personal taste, but in general you want your photos to represent the moment in the best way possible. Think of post processing as helping your photo reach its full potential.
A note here, some people are very against editing out things others view as flaws, and what they personally view as reality. There is a fine line to this of course. For me it all depends on if the “flaw” is distracting to the quality of the picture. When I’m photographing Aubrey, I’m doing it because I want to be able to look back and remember my baby girl at whatever age she is in the photo. I tend to leave some things like a scrape she got from trying to climb up her toy shelf, because to me that is a big part of her and her life at that moment, but I almost always edit out uneven skin tones and blemishes like baby acne. I do the same for my friends and family. I don’t know anyone that wants to remember the zit that popped up on their nose the morning they were getting their picture taken.