When you get bit by the photography bug you usually get bit hard. You can't put the camera down, you are searching for more photos to take. Sometimes annoying everyone around you because you are taking photos of them...photos of everything (or maybe that was just me). Well, I think that is awesome. That is how you learn. You have to keep shooting to learn. That is how you find out what works and what doesn't work.
The problem that I have seen is that new photographers often pick up the camera and get that excitement, but then it trails off pretty quickly because they are unhappy with the results they are getting. They could not be getting the best results for a number of reasons...from ones I talk to it is generally a lack of understanding of exposure and knowing their camera in general. Taking the time to learn the basics is like crawling before you walk. You need to keep that in mind as you are just starting off with your photography hobby. Know up front that every single shot is not going to be a winner. You have to keep working at it and eventually you will find your groove.
Here are 5 simple ways to stretch and improve your photography skills. These take very little set up, using found items around the house or close by in the community. For those just starting out and those who have found themselves in a rut these photography composition practice exercises can help.
1. Focus and composition - Figure out a compelling composition for a very simple scene from things found in your house or even your yard. Which element should be in focus, and where should it be placed in the photo? Play around with different viewpoints and different points of focus. Shoot a lot, but also shoot methodically and organized. Then later, review the photos and pick which looks best to you. Do this over and over with the same found items. How many interesting compositions can you come up with using the same items?
2. Make something ordinary into something extraordinary - Great! That's easy to say and all, but how do you go about doing that? Well, pick something you see or use everyday. Now photograph it in a way that makes it unique and special. It could be as simple as singling one out from many, or getting a close up of the subject's texture, or even just capturing it in beautiful light. This is all part of stretching those creative muscles. How would you make a bar of soap look extraordinary? How about a serving spoon or even your old sneakers. Everything has a story to tell...this is just small exercise to help get you there.
3. Get off the couch and explore - I have to tell myself this from time to time. There are some amazing things to photograph just outside your front door or a short car ride away. Go out and explore. Take a walk or a drive or if someone invites you somewhere then be like Jim Carrey in the movie "Yes Man" and say..."yes". Take that opportunity to explore. Go, and bring your camera. Be on the lookout for interesting light, textures, and moments. You will be amazed at the things that you find when you are vigilant, aware, and ready.
These last two are more technical based. Both of them will help you improve your photo capabilities and allow you to get many more interesting photos down the road.
4. Practice photographing in low light - Imagine this...it is getting a little darker...you have your camera and see something oozing with awesome-ness and you want to take a photo. You don't have a tripod and everything turns out blurry. If you practice shooting in lower light with slower shutter speeds then will have more confidence you can get that shot. Here are a few important tips for slow shutter photos without a tripod. Find something to brace you and lean up against it. Get your focus then do one of two techniques. Either bring the camera up to your chest for stability or fully extend the camera until the camera strap is tight against the back of your neck for support. Now take a deep cleansing breath in and as you exhale out take 3 to 4 photos doing your best not to move a muscle. Usually the 2nd or 3rd shot you take is a winner. That is how I got the shot below. It took a few times but I got the shot I wanted (1/10th of a second exposure).
5. Practice photographing movement - If you can track focus on a bouncing ball or a bicyclist coming at you then you can track a bride coming down the aisle or your child running down the court. This takes a lot of practice. Know your camera's limitations on this. Do you have just one shot at it or will your camera lock focus and keep it no matter where the subject moves to? When you have mastered this then you can apply for Sports Illustrated to be a sideline photographer at the big game (wink).
There you go. Hope these are helpful in making you a better photographer. If you have any questions or other exercises to try then post them in the comments.
This article is written for Canvas Press. To find out more about Canvas Press’ products visit www.canvaspress.com.