Learning photography doesn’t happen overnight. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can’t fit into the span of a busy day to help you improve your images. In fact, taking pictures every day is a great way to steadily improve the images you take. But what do you take pictures of? What things can you do every day that will really improve your photographs?
We’ve compiled a list of eight things you can accomplish in fifteen minutes or less, so you can fit learning about photography into each and every day.
Take pictures of the same item in different ways.
When you take pictures of the same item every day, you’ll have to get creative to get different shots. Photographing the same object every day is a great way to get you thinking about different ways to shoot. But, photographing the same thing on a different day also teaches you how to work under a variety of conditions; under bright sun or clouds, by a window, in the rain, in a crowded area or in an empty one.
Many photographers try this exercise by shooting a stationary object that’s small enough to carry with them wherever they go, like a doll or stuffed animal. But you don’t have to photograph a stationary object every day. You could snap of photo of your child or pet every day too, for example. The key is to use something (or someone) that you see every day and that can travel with you.
Randomise your subject.
Photographing the same item every day is a good way to start thinking about different ways to photograph. But what about items that you may have never thought to photograph before? Like a ketchup bottle, or that old house you see every day on your way to work. When you are forced to photograph something that doesn’t initially inspire you, you start getting creative about making a simple subject beautiful. Or, instead of randomising your subject, choose a more abstract idea to focus on every day, like empty space, depth or lines and get creative with how you incorporate that idea into a photograph.
There’s a number of different ways you can try this exercise. Write down a bunch of words and draw one from a hat every day. Steal some cards out of Pictionary or some other game. Use an online random word generator. Whatever it is, try to shoot subjects you normally would have never thought to photograph.
Examine your inspiration.
You probably see images that inspire you all the time, and maybe even save some on your Pinterest. But don’t just stop at thinking hey, cool photo. Taking a harder look at images you like is a great way to improve your own photography. Start by saving images that inspire you. Clip them out of magazines and newspapers or bookmark them online.
Take a few minutes with each photo to try to pinpoint why you like that image. Perhaps it’s the colors. Maybe it’s the composition and the shape the objects in the photo create. The photographer could have used leading lines or a great depth of field or one of hundreds of other techniques. The key is to go beyond just the quick glance to try and really grasp why that photo inspires you.
Look for light.
If there’s one thing that will make you a better photographer, it’s learning how to work with light. Light is essential not only for getting a clear shot that doesn’t lose detail in the shadows, but for getting creative and creating a mood too.
You don’t have to have a camera in your hand to look for great light. Keep an eye out as you drive to work. Take a walk and look for light. When you watch TV, look at how the show’s creators used light and how it falls across the actors’ faces. Watch for light that’s coming in from a good direction as well as light that’s hard or soft, and the different colors of light.
Shoot a photo in manual mode.
Aperture and shutter priority modes are great tools both for learning manual and for even experienced photographers to shoot quickly. But, manual mode is invaluable in many instances, especially if you fully understand it.
Take one image every day that’s in manual mode. Take the time to use the exposure meter built into your camera. Think about shutter speed and whether you want to freeze motion or blur it. Think about aperture and whether you want a sharp background or a soft one. Then use ISO and exposure compensation to get a good exposure with those settings. Do this every day, and you’ll soon be able to pick the settings quickly and efficiently without so many test shots.
Examine your histogram.
The histogram is a chart that maps out where all the pixels in your images are in the photo. The peaks of a histogram may be all over the place, but a good histogram won’t have any of those peaks cut off at one end or the other. If you do, that means either the light or dark areas of your image are too light or too dark. (If the histogram is cut off at the left, the shot is too dark; if it’s cut of on the right, it’s too light).
When you take that daily shot, take a quick peek at the histogram. Are any of the peaks cut off? If so, try adjusting your exposure a bit until you get a histogram that just touches each side of the chart. Don’t worry about how big the peaks in the middle are. If you have a lot of one color in the image, like green foliage, you’ll get a big peak there and that doesn’t necessarily mean your exposure is off. Look instead to the edges to make sure none of those peaks are cut off.
Limit your shots.
It’s all too easy for a beginner to snap hundreds of photos of one thing with the mentality that there has to be a good one in there somewhere. While digital is great for allowing us to take more than one shot to get it perfect, simply firing away stops the thinking process and limits your creativity. Instead, when you get your camera out every day, pretend you are shooting with a roll of film.
Limit yourself to 36, 24 or 12 shots. By limiting the number of shots you can take, you’ll put more time and thought into each photo, working to get the composition, exposure and focus perfect before each shot. Limits force you to stop and think about each shot which is a great way to improve your photography.
Put the camera down.
Maybe it seems weird to put the camera down to improve your photography. But sometimes, photographers get so caught up in what they see through the viewfinder that they miss another great photo opportunity entirely.
Take a few minutes to observe the scene without your camera. Turn, look around, up and down for different subjects or different backgrounds for the subject you brought along with you. Observe for more than a minute or two, and you may also notice patterns, or the speed that potential subjects are moving and what shutter speed might work best to capture them.
Improving your photography is an ongoing process, but one that you’ll have much more success with if you put it into practice every day. Take photos every day, either of the same subject or something new. Look for great light, shoot in manual mode, then take a look at your histogram. But don’t just shoot continuously hoping you’ll get a great photo in there somewhere. Limit your shots and think about each one, and don’t forget to put the camera down for a few minutes to just observe your surroundings.
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