Here’s the thing. You can spend a ton of money on a fabulous DSLR that makes even your town’s most sought-after wedding photographer drool, and depending upon what you’re using now, you just might see a nice increase in the quality of your photographs.
But are you suddenly going to be the amazing photographer you know you have the potential to be? Not without the fundamental skills set all photographers need. I’m not talking about knowing the basics like aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and all of that. Maybe you know that stuff, maybe you don’t. If you don’t, that will come in time as you evolve as a photographer.
What I am talking about is the basics of composition and imparting mood into your photographs…in short, finding your “voice” as a photographer.
I’m here to help you with that. And yes…it can happen in one afternoon. Four hours, in fact.
Hour One: Find Your Photo Inspiration. Join photography Flickr groups, find talented people on Instagram, or create a G+ circle with photographers you admire. You could also spend time perusing websites of photographers you admire. The point is to soak up as much inspiration as possible, let your eyes feast over beautiful photographs that get your creative juices flowing. Spend an hour doing this and you’ll be itching to get out there and to start shooting. But not yet!
Hour Two: Learn the Rules of Composition. There are many guidelines to composing a strong photograph, but these are my top three:
- Rule of Thirds. Imagine a tic-tac-toe board stretched out over your photograph. The four little intersections? Put important stuff there. Where the lines are: That’s where strong visual elements should go (like the horizon line, or a tree trunk).
- Lead-in Lines. This is a line your eye can follow into your image. This can be anything; it just means that an element starts OUT of the image and continues into it, ending at a focal point. Perhaps it is a road that ends at the horizon, or utensils that end on a plate, or arms that end in hands clasped together lovingly.
- Check Perimeter. Before you hit *click*, look at the edges of the image. THIS IS HUGE. Is there anything unwanted creeping into- our out of- the image? You don’t need a stray branch or litter on the ground becoming the focus of your image. Scan it before taking that photograph and you’ll automatically be taking better photos.
Hour Three: Now Know When to Break Those Composition Rules. Rules are meant to be broken, ya’ll. Does this mean ignore them as if they don’t exist? No. Pablo Picasso famously said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” You can only break the rules when you can execute them well in the first place. So for this hour, I want you to make sure you really understand the Rules of Composition. If you feel like you’ve mastered them, spend a bit of time writing about how you might break them, and why.
Hour Four: Reign in the Post-Processing. Whether you’re a Photoshop enthusiast, PicMonkey junkie, Instagram filter lover, or post-processor of a different stripe, please just don’t go overboard. It’s so tempting, I know. The graininess, the super saturated colors, the washed out vintage looks can be gorgeous and visually pleasing. But don’t rely on them; all too often they are used as a crutch. It’s far more difficult to take an image that is so strong it doesn’t need a bit post-processing (other than perhaps a bit of white balance adjustment or minimal cropping). Be the photographer that can add #NoFilter to the photos they share online. It feels amazing!
So what are you waiting for? Grab your camera or your smartphone and head on out!
What’s your favorite photography tip? Share in the comments!