1. Know your camera inside & out
It seems obvious but most camera owners don’t take a look at their manuals. You want to know how to use your camera? Look into the manual, and read. There are a ton of information that it will boggle your mind why you even bothered searching in Youtube. Now, you can take that with a grain of salt. Using the manual as a reference is also a good way to learn your camera over time – which I have done by the way. Guilty!
A simple example, the composition grid can be turned on/off in your camera. Most commonly it would be the ‘Rule of Thirds’ grid that will be shown. This helps tremendously for beginners to learn basic composition, an essential part of photography, in my opinion. Another example is bracketing. When one needs to have a full dynamic range, bracketing photographs will provide that HDR look. That being said, it is up to the photographer how they’d like their final HDR image.
2. Use a prime lens
You’ve heard it before, from other photographers both professionally and hobbyists, and I’m going to say it again. USE, OR PRACTICE WITH A PRIME LENS!
A prime lens, no matter what focal length, will help improve your composition. When I first started experimenting with a prime lens, my camera didn’t even support auto-focus Thus, I had to learn 2 things; composition & manual focusing. I learned a lot from that experience, having to use your feet to ‘zoom in & out’ makes you aware of your shots is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether it be a close-up portrait, landscape, wildlife, or candid shots. It’s somewhat hard to explain but trust me, it helps.
You can start with whatever focal length you’d like, however, I recommend using a 50mm prime lens as your first. It is said that it resembles the same viewing angle that of a human eye covers. Making it easier for envisioning your shot.
3. COMPOSITION & LIGHTING
By definition, the word “photography” comes from the Greek root words ‘photo-,’ meaning ‘light,’ and ‘-graphia,’ meaning ‘writing’ or ‘drawing.’ Thus “photography” literally means “writing or drawing with light.” It is vital to learn how light reacts to your subject(s). A bright sunny day will give a different characteristic of light compared to a subject under shade; or, light from a portable flash unit that has a soft box will differ from a beauty dish. Now depending on your vision, you can either have the light stress you out or control light to your will.
It’s one thing to know how to light your subject(s), however, if your composition isn’t right for your vision you will fail to portray your work to others or your client. Luckily, learning a few basic composition ‘rules’ eliminates the stress. The ‘Rule of Thirds – by aligning your subject(s) with the guide lines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the top or bottom line, or allowing linear features in the image to flow from section to another, gives an image balance.
4. Keep Learning
I mentioned earlier about learning from the manual instead of going in Youtube and searching the same context. There is however, an exception; learn from other photographers, watching videos from Youtube or other sources, learn post processing techniques, and from a few million other resources. The limits of learning photography is hindered by the one’s initiative and dedication.
Know what you like to photograph, get to know your niche or decide on one – doesn’t matter. Then search for a photographer (living or dead) and follow his/her work. Analyze their images – the lighting, composition, what they’re trying to portray in an image, poses (for portraits), and focused/bokeh parts of the image – essentially studying their work. Then apply what you think they did to achieve that image. In my experience, their knowledge will grow on you. Eventually, you’ll be able to explain and help other photographers in plain English.
5. Practice, practice, practice!!!
There’s no other way. Basketball players improve their skills through practicing their shots, and their offense and defense; football players practice their plays day in and day out; so why wouldn’t you practice your skills in photography? Photography is one of these skills that takes time. Reading and learning can only do so much but doing it practically will help you improve. I cannot stress this enough, if you want your images to be great then put in the work and practice.