Recently, friends have been asking me how I learnt to become a better photographer. The simple answer is...I stopped being lazy!! haha :) For many many years, I was lazy. I would take photos in Av mode and then run it through Picasa filters. If I was feeling ultra lazy that day, I would click the "I'm feeling lucky" button and pray for the best.
After committing myself to buying a full frame DSLR 2 years ago, I decided it was time to take things more seriously. To be honest, to become a better photographer, it requires work. A lot of work. A lot of work studying on how to become better, a lot of work practicing to become better, and even more work sitting in front of Lightroom editing photos to make them even better.
The key is to think beyond pressing the shutter button!
Obviously, you're reading this and thinking..."geez Cari, well that's NOT helpful at all!!" Worry not friends, for I have come up with 4 actionable items for you to become a better photographer!! You can even add them to your New Years Resolutions if you want ;) These are based on learnings from the wonderful world of the internet, but in my experience they really have helped me become a better photographer.
1. Understand Light
Photography is essentially the art of capturing light. No light = No image. I've spent a lot of time recently studying light and shadows - sources of light, how the weather and time of day affects sunlight, how to control/manipulate/supplement light in different situations. This book (How to Shoot in Sh*tty Lighting) that I read recently has been quite helpful and easy to understand!
2. Shoot in RAW and Edit in Lightroom
Your camera captures so much more data when you shoot in RAW and exposure mistakes are much more recoverable. Post-processing is where a lot of the magic happens! It's here I give myself artistic freedom to experiment and see my vision for the image come to life.
3. Use Prime Lenses and Shoot Wide Open
a) The large aperture (ie: small f-stop number) of primes is what gives you the beautifully sharp subject and blurry background effect.
b) Primes are extremely affordable. My first prime was the 50mm f/1.8 and it changed my life!! It retails around $100. On a full-frame sensor, this will give you a 1:1 aspect ratio (ie: what you see in real life is what you will see through the viewfinder), which makes it really easy to work with. However, on a crop-frame sensor, what you see through the viewfinder will be zoomed in.
c) Primes lenses are by definition fixed focal lengths and hence, it forces me to move with my subject and see things more creatively.
4. Shoot in Manual Mode (or at least Av)
To create the images you want, you must first be in control of your tool - in this case, your camera. If you let your camera decide how to capture a photo, then you're just pressing a button and hoping for the best (ie: I'm feeling lucky!) Shooting in manual mode forces you to think critically about what you are shooting, your environment, and how you want your image to turn out. At first shooting in manual was too overwhelming for me, so I shot in Av mode. This is a good way to get started! Just set your Aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation, and then let your camera determine the shutter speed. A Busy Girl's Guide to Digital Photography is a really fun and easy read for understanding the basics of photography...it has pictures, doodles, and creative projects ;)
That's all for now friends! :) So much to learn...never enough time ;)
I hope this helps you!