If your photos are looking a bit bland, try these 5 things which will help you take more captivating photos.
1. Stop obsessing about kit and don’t buy anything else
“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” – Ansel Adams. Wise words.
This is a creative endeavour we’re undertaking, not a technology fest. Don’t confuse your brain with lots of technical choices.
Unburden your mind from choices about lenses and flash by heading out with just your camera and one lens, a prime if you have one. Learn about its limitations and strengths. By only having simple kit you will be forced to think more creatively as you work within the limitations of your kit. This will mean you have to choose different viewing angles and compositions than you would otherwise. These different viewpoints could make your photos more interesting.
2. Pretend you only have 36 shots
Back in the ancient past there was this stuff called film which went in a camera. Film was a type of memory card but it only held 36 or 24 photos and you couldn’t see the images until you put the film in your computer (we might have got that wrong, but it was so long ago we can’t really remember). Try going out and just taking 36 photos, if you want to be really brave put some tape over your camera’s monitor and only review the shots when you get home.
Limiting the number of shots you have will make you slow down and really consider what you’re photographing, why you’re doing it and how.
3. Get off auto mode
Auto mode is for people who don’t want to, or can’t be bothered, to put any thought into their photography. Yes, it will create a record of the scene you are photographing, and it will usually look OK.
To take outstanding photos though you need to be in control of important elements of your image such as motion blur, depth of field and exposure. First learn how to use aperture priority and shutter priority, then try manual mode. Of course you will make mistakes, and you may miss some shots, but in the long term you’ll learn more, and create better and more interesting photos.
4. You don’t always have to put your subject right in the middle of the frame
Early on it’s a natural instinct to place whatever you’re photographing right in the middle of the photo. This seems to make sense at first. The first and most basic rule of composition is the rule of thirds. This means dividing your frame into thirds horizontally and vertically. Then if you’re photographing a person, place their face, or even their eye where two of these lines cross. It just looks better.
The simple rule is to place to main subject around the line that divides the frame into thirds. This is more interesting for the eye.
5. Work on a theme
Setting yourself a project to work on is a great idea. It forces you to take photos regularly and means you are actively looking for photos which will push your creativity. Sometime a theme will grow from one or two shots you’ve taken, or you could choose a theme to work on. You might want to work on something simple like shadow, or reflection, or you may choose something like people waiting at bus stops, or lost looking dogs. A series of images can look stronger than individual photos.
If you do set yourself a theme, remember to create good photos, and don’t just treat it as a collection of photos of the same thing. Think about what your photographing, and also how and why.
Want to learn more? Read about our Photography Courses.
by Andrew Mason