So, in November 2017, I invested in an Olympus Pen E-PL7. I saw lots of other bloggers taking incredible images with it and as most people do, I thought “I need me one of those”. When I got the camera, all was fine. The images were super lovely and sharp, colourful and great quality. However, I couldn’t figure out why I just couldn’t seem to get my images to look as good as all of these other bloggers with the same camera. Now I understand why.
PHOTOGRAPHY ISN’T JUST ABOUT THE CAMERA. And it’s actually really demeaning to only say to someone who’s put a lot of effort into progressing their photography, “your camera is so good!”. Yes you’re correct, it is, but at least 80% of the success of that shot was thanks to me. The good thing about it not just being the camera is also that you can take great images without having to fork out for expensive equipment. Below are images I’ve taken on the exact same camera, around a year apart. I think you can probably tell which side are the most recent images. In that year, I’ve learned and progressed a hell of a lot in my photographic skills (can you tell?) and now have a permanent role doing photography in a restaurant and get freelance paid photographic jobs.
Here are the most simple top tips I can think of to improve your photography without having to spend lots of money! I’m not saying I’m an expert by any means but these have really benefitted me in my journey.
Yellow light is a massive no. Great for car headlights, not for photography. They throw the colour of the photos completely off whack as all of the lighter areas come out yellow as well as other areas usually also having a yellow tinge to them. You can sometimes fix this in editing but you shouldn’t rely on that as it’s not always fully possible. It can also cause trouble if there are yellow things in your image that you’d like to actually keep yellow. Stick to natural light if you can or if you need a bit of a boost, you can find white lights in the form of lamps, soft boxes, ring lights, even torches or reading lights that can help to enhance images. JUST MAKE SURE IT’S WHITE.
HUGELY IMPORTANT. People that take a lot of photos of themselves will know just how important an angle is. One angle can make you look like Keira Knightley and another you can resemble Boris Johnson, am I right? It’s the same when you’re behind a camera with any sort of subject. Some people, objects, food – whatever – just look much better from a certain angle, so experiment. You also might find that one area of your photograph looks better at one angle and another area looks better at a different angle, this is where composition comes in. Try to re-arrange if you can to make sure that the ‘best sides’ of both areas are showing. If it’s not physically possible, try and use your initiative and creativity to think of a way around it to get that money shot.
I don’t know about you but I’ve been taught all my life that clashing colours and prints are a big no-no. I do not believe that anymore. I clash them all the time in my fashion, make up, creative projects, photographs etc. I find clashing things can be really refreshing and bring out areas of a photo that you may have never noticed before. I’m not saying that all clashes work, of course. You have to make that decision yourself and as I’ll probably say about 10 times in this post, experimentation is your best friend and the key to improve your photography. You might pair 5 things that don’t work but it’s worth it when you find perfection on the 6th try.
If you’re like me and like bright and fun colours and images, you might get a bit excited with the saturation and exposure sliders. I have been very guilty of this before and I still am sometimes. Bloggers are also quite known for over-exposing photos too much, oops. I think it can really work for some images but you need to make sure it’s not really warping anything. I have done it to an outfit photograph of myself before and got carried away wanting the outfit to really pop. When zooming out to view the full image, it turns out I had over saturated it to the point of turning my skin a lovely bright yellow/orange colour. Just be careful, turning yourself into an oompa loompa or losing your nose to over-exposure isn’t all that fun.
I’ll admit, I haven’t really done much of this other than in A-level Photography but it’s something I will be doing in the future as I think it’ll be extremely helpful. This is more an exercise for educating yourself on how to create something specific. For example, if you chose a birds eye view food flat lay image that had a warm toned but moody editing style and you recreated it well, you then would have taught yourself a few things. Flat lay composition skills and ideas, what adjustments and editing techniques you need in order to get that desired finished image and how to shoot from such an angle. If you failed at getting a similar end result, try again and you’ll know not to make the same mistakes.
I know some people would disagree with me here but I personally find this massively helpful as a bit of an amateur. I think a suitable amount for each set-up/angle would be 3-5 shots. This point is because images never look the same blown up as they do on your teeny camera screen. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than getting home, uploading your photos and seeing what could’ve been an incredible image, out of focus.
I’m not saying this occasionally won’t happen if you’re taking quite a few images but you’re eliminating a lot of the probability of it happening by consistently taking more photos than you’ll end up needing. When you’re working with people too, there are quite a lot of variables that you can’t avoid like people accidentally blinking or hair floating somewhere in the way. And it only gets worse when fidgety children are involved so I’d definitely raise your image numbers even more for those kind of shoots!
Again, I know some people will definitely disagree with me on this point but I have always believed that change is growth. Some images will look absolutely stunning in your editing style and preset but others will need something different to help them reach their full potential. That could be anything from a different white balance or temperature to a different clarity setting. I am ALWAYS experimenting with editing – different tones, hues, finishes, the list goes on. I just think there are some images or shoots that might need some extra special attention. This doesn’t mean you have to post these images anywhere, just be working behind the scenes to improve your photography.
I am by no means an expert but I do believe my progress has been a consequence of my consistent practice and experimentation. There are definitely styles and subjects that I favour over others but I don’t think I’ll ever decide on a specific niche. I will however turn down work that I don’t think I’m experienced, trained for or to be honest, even passionate about. I take my camera out with me most of the time and just capture things that take my fancy like pretty rivers, views, buildings, animals, plants etc. and snap a few shots of people I’m hanging out with. I’ve taken some creative shots of solar lights, glass baubles, gone to the zoo and taken some of the animals there. The list of things you can practice your photography and editing on is endless. GET OUT THERE! If you want to have a look at my Instagram dedicated to my photography for any inspiration or just a nose, you can find it here!
Do you have any simple top tips to improve your photography that I haven’t mentioned?
’Til Next Time,