New camera gear is an exciting investment, whether you’re a total beginner starting out with a mid-range digital camera or an avid amateur investing in a high-end camera or accessory. However long you’ve been shooting, there’s always something new to learn — and new images to create.
As you get ready to unleash this new gear, it’s a good time to learn some new skills or brush up on old knowledge. Here’s a quick rundown of photography tips, plus some hints for choosing and displaying photographs to show off your work.
Learn Your Camera
The first thing you should do is learn what your camera can do. If you bought the same brand as you’ve previously owned, some features may be similar. Still, you invested in a new camera for what it can do, so make sure you get the most out of it. Some people can happily sit down with the manual and read through it from front to back. Others prefer to alternate between reading the manual and trying out different features during a shooting session.
As a way to experiment with your new toy, veteran commercial photographer Chris Davis suggests venturing away from automatic settings. “First shoot a picture in automatic, taking note of the aperture and shutter settings,” says Davis. “Then experiment with changing the setting in manual mode, trying to keep the exposure consistent. This can lead to interesting effects and change the image in unexpected ways.”
Subject Choice and Composition
The best subjects for your photography are whatever you find interesting, and the more you shoot a particular type of subject, the better you’ll get at it. On the other hand, if you are feeling uninspired, look for something completely out of your comfort zone. This can give you a fresh perspective and wake up your “eye” for color and composition, and it can teach you some new tricks for visualizing and framing shots. You can also learn a lot by challenging yourself to shoot random items around your house or by walking around town to shoot whatever you find. Discovering an interesting aspect of an ordinary item or scene is in itself an art.
The most basic rule of composition is the “rule of three,” which instructs you to divide your frame up into thirds both horizontally and vertically, and take note of the places where the lines intersect. The eye naturally gravitates to those intersection points in a photograph, so try to put the most important element of your shot at one of them. This is a good guideline to follow for most shots, but you should never be afraid to break the “rule” and see what happens. Also pay attention to color, shadow and natural lines in your shots. Any of these elements can be used to emphasize or distract, depending on what you want your picture to capture and how.
Join a Photo Club
Whether you’re new to photography or a seasoned pro, photography clubs are a great way to enhance your skills while meeting people who share your interest. Because there’s typically a range of skill levels in a photo club, you can learn from those who are further down the road than you, and you can “give back” to lesser-experienced shooters.
There are two basic types of photography clubs: non-competitive and competitive. The former offers opportunities for members to improve and display their work, while the latter is made of members who enjoy competing for rewards. (Speaking of rewards, just by joining a local, regional or national photo club, you can get an automatic discount on all Frame Destination products.)
In addition to joining local or national photo clubs, try scouting and joining a meetup group to get more experience with the camera and learn from others. Many also offer opportunities or events to showcase your work. One example is a group I belong to in Asheville, North Carolina, called Vagabond Photo Walks.
Display Your Work
Some people take hundreds of beautiful photographs, but they neglect to display or to share them with friends. While uploading a casual snapshot online now and then is one fast way to share your work, displaying your best photos properly will give you a different sense of appreciation and pride in your photography, as well as highlighting your skills for others to appreciate.
The most natural candidates for framed display are your best shots and your favorites (hopefully, they’re one and the same). Choose a photo that complements the décor in a room, or one that will make a striking focal point on your desk. Invest in a high-quality picture frame to showcase your art as well as a mat board in a neutral color or a shade that enhances the photo. You can either enlarge one photograph to become a showpiece in a room, or assemble collections of smaller photographs in matching frames for a collage effect. However you choose to do it, make a point of appreciating the work you’ve put into learning your skills!