As promised, acclaimed photographer David Barnes has agreed to share some simple ways to improve your photography. With 40 years of professional photography under his belt, David’s advice is invaluable. While most of us will never be National Geographic photographers, following these tips will help anyone take better photos.
5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Photography
Many people go into a situation, look at it, take a picture, and leave. If you have a photographer’s eye, this can get you “good enough” pictures. But I think you can get much better ones if you slow down and consider the following things.
- Ask yourself, What do I really want in my picture?: This is one question I always have in mind when composing a photograph. Anything in your photo that isn’t helping you is hurting you. I try to slim my pictures down to the bare bones. But be careful not to eliminate something that really does need to be there. It’s a bit like poetry–you need to economize. You have a two-dimensional space to say it all, and the blink of your viewer’s eye may be all the time you’ve got, so whatever you do include needs to be powerful. Note: I rarely crop my pictures after I’ve taken them. I try to do that as I’m shooting.
- Get close: Closely allied with that is something the renowned war photographer Robert Capa once said: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Yes, you could simply use a longer focal lens, but you could also get closer to the subject. There’s a difference between the use of a long lens and getting close to your subject with a wide-angle lens. Try it. Get real close to a subject and see the difference.
- Try different perspectives: The first picture I take in a given shoot is rarely the best. Think about the perspective you get from where you’re shooting. Could your subject been seen better from a different angle? Also, think about what details from the scene may help you tell a story. A good detail might be even more telling than an overall shot. Keep working your subject from different angles. With digital photography, there’s no reason not to. You can throw all of the seconds out later. Note: I never throw anything out while I’m taking pictures–too distracting and I might regret it later.
- Think about timing: Are you photographing your subject at the best possible time? Consider the light and how it will evolve. If you can come back, what time would be better? Is there a better time of the day, week, or even season? Also, are there any events that might happen at another time and provide more interest?
- Don’t overlook the details: When taking a photograph, think about everything that’s going on in the frame. For example, is there a flag blowing in the wind? Does it hang limp in your exposure, or does it show its full colors? Are there other details to be aware of? You want as many things as possible in the photograph to be at their best. In the photo below, the red lights on top of the “trees” were blinking, but not in unison. I waited until they both came on.
Discover More Photo Tips in David’s E-book
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If you’re looking for more photo tips, David’s e-book, Seattle Through Your Lens: A Practical Guide to Photographing Seattle, is full of great photography advice and gorgeous images. Learn more about it on our blog and the iTunes store. You can also visit his website to see more of David’s wonderful photography.