For most of us, we are mesmerized with our new cameras and the amazing pictures they take… for a while. Then, as we compare them to the works of others, we find that they are somehow lacking and we struggle to find the magic that makes an image truly great. Professionals have talent, great equipment and years of experience on their side, so you are not likely to equal their work without the same, but you can improve your images dramatically and give them a run for their money if you will do the following:
Change your position. 99.99% of all amateur photos are taken at eye level, which means that if you will simply choose a slightly different angle from which to take your shot you can add a great deal of interest to your images. Try shooting from ground level, from the top of a ladder or any other perch you can find. John Moran, a professional photographer and a favorite in the Central Florida area, wanted to get an image of rowers sculling across a local lake. To get the shot he wanted, he mounted a ladder onto the launch that followed the rowers. It was a risky place to stand, but the shot he got was well worth the effort.
Frame your image with meaningful props. You would be amazed at how much a simple image can be improved with something as simple as a branch that hangs down from above or equipment or almost anything that gives some perspective, and some clues as to the environment in which you are shooting. I had a friend in college who figured out a way to place a soda can on the front of his lens so he was shooting through the pop-top hole. It made for some interesting shots.
Pay attention to your backgrounds. Few things will improve your images more than careful attention to what is behind your subject. As a photographer, you are responsible for everything that makes its way into your image, yet many people concentrate so much on the their subject that they lose sight of the rest of the image. (For some humorous examples of this, look up “photobomb” into your favorite search engine.) Train yourself to look in all four corners of the frame before snapping the shutter and look for a shooting angle that will allow you to have a simplified background. The improvement will be well worth the effort.
Don’t be afraid to cut. Not everything you shoot will fit neatly into your camera’s frame, so as a result you will have unneeded space at the top, bottom or sides. Use your favorite photo software to clip these parts off. When I was in college we would use two cardboard “L’s” laid across our images to experiment with different crops. It was amazing to see how a rather mediocre image could be transformed into something impressive with some judicious cropping, yet many people resist the urge to clip. Don’t be that way; experiment with different crops and see if you don’t find one you like better than the original.
Take lots of pictures. It used to be that by the time you bought a roll of film and developed it, you had a substantial investment in your images, but modern cameras allow us to shot hundreds of images for a relatively small investment. This is a great advantage for beginners and pros alike because it allows us the luxury of trying many different things to get the best image possible. Consider this an investment in your art because those who work hard to improve their images by doing lots of experimentation are the ones whose skills advance the fastest.
And there you have it, 5 things you can begin right now to improve your images and they won’t cost you a dime. So, before you invest a big wad of money in a new lens, flash or meter, give these a try and see how far they will get you. They truly have the potential to improve your dramatically while you wait for that new lens to come in.