When people ask me what they can do to improve their photography, I tell them two things:
1) Look at good photography in order to train your eye and
Like anything else in life, your photography won’t improve if you don’t practice. There are so many aspects to a good picture — focus, lighting, exposure, angle, lens choice, focal length, post-processing. Each of those things takes work. Sure, you can and should read about them, but your photo skills will improve a lot more with practice. I’ve known photography basics for a long time now and have been shooting in manual mode for seven years. And yet, I still need a lot of practice!
Although I usually take pictures of people, I have found that my children don’t always want to be my practice tool. And so I often use other things to practice on. The flowers don’t care if you make them pose for an hour. The flowers don’t care if you try the same shot over and over and over. The flowers don’t care what you do to them. My kids aren’t as patient 🙂
I know a lot of people will use stuffed animals or dolls so they can practice focusing on eyes, but I prefer to practice on things outside. And there is no better time to do it than SPRING!
So, the other day, as the dogwoods were finally in bloom, and the kids away for the afternoon, I pushed myself outdoors for some photography practice. I didn’t have much if a plan other than to find a lot of variation in shooting the same subject. I probably shot about 100 photos of the same couple of dogwood blooms. It might seem excessive, but it was great practice!
As I varied my shots, I was trying to look at the same scene in new ways. I got close in. I stood far back. I tried different compositions. I changed my angle. I paid attention to the color in the background. I changed MY position to see how the lighting changed. I got in front of, next to, under, and above the blooms. I even took a bloom out of its natural environment (off the tree) and played around with unusual context.
Because I wasn’t taking pictures for some important moment or because I was trying to capture that “perfect” family shot, I took the time to play around with settings I don’t usually mess with. I changed my focus mode from one shot to AI-Servo which turned out to be great for branches blowing in the wind (AI-Servo locks focus on a subject and then if the subject moves, so does the focus.) I’ve always wanted to try this with fast moving kids, but I didn’t want to be messing around with settings I wasn’t used to. But the flowers don’t care!
Not only did I gain a lot of practice in things like focus and exposure, but also I learned a lot about changing scenes during a shoot. I was reminded how important it is to shoot the same scene from all sorts of directions and heights. It is amazing how much a photo would change just by simple adjustments.
Now the next time I take people out, I will remember how subtle changes can make BIG difference!