We all want to take better pictures don’t we? I have been working on my photography for well over 30 years now, and do you know what, I thought that it was time that I put a load of my experience together in a single post for us all.
50 new photography tips to instantly take better pictures is just that. 50 actionable things that we can all do to help us take better photos. These 50 short but golden nuggets of positive photography ideas, advice and inspiration start with getting out and taking more photos. Read on for lots more.
I hope that you enjoy this post, and find something that inspires you to act and take your photography forwards.
1 – Get out and take more photos
Tip number one always is to get out and take more photos. This is the single best way that you and I can improve our photography – practise followed by more practise followed by more practise. You get the idea.
If you stop reading right here but take this one piece of advice on board then my work here is done and I will be a happy chap. Obviously there is lots more good stuff but this is the one thing that I want you to take from this blog post.
2 – Look at your photos
Rather than taking loads of photos and doing nothing with them once they are on your computer really look at them. I like to do this a few days after I have been out taking photos so I can look at them afresh.
And I mean really look at them, study them, critique them
Think about what you like and do not like. Think of how you might have taken a better photo.
And lastly (to keep the purists happy) think if you can make the photo better with image processing. Cropping is always a good thing to try.
3 – View your photos as others would
Don’t look at your photos and marvel in how great you are and congratulate yourself on getting up at 3am, walking 27 miles and sitting on the top of that hill waiting for the sun to appear as your fingers froze. The person looking at your photos knows none of this, just what the photo looks like.
That is all that matters, so look at your photos the same way a complete stranger would.
4 – Get a critique of your photos
Taking this one step further find someone to look at your photos and give you an honest opinion. Don’t be nervous, don’t be afraid of criticism. It is better to know than to not know trust me.
Don’t ask a family member, they will always say that your photos are great. Find someone, or pay someone to give an honest critique of your work.
5 – Learn composition
It took me a long, long time to work this one out. Composition really is king, and is at the heart of each and every photo that we all take. I have read a few books on composition, and studied lots of famous photos.
And I suggest you do the same. And apply what you learn to the next photos you take.
And also think about the compositions of photos that you have taken.
6 – Think about light
Photography is after all drawing with light, so this is another important factor in any photo.
Study the light. This might sound odd but check out the work of some of the classical painters, you will learn stuff trust me. Think about the light when you are taking a photo, and how it plays and interacts in the composition.
Talking of which
7 – Take photos of the same scene at different times of the day
Do this and you will learn a bit more about light and how it affects a photo. If you manage to take 4 or 5 photos of the same scene over the course of a day (or days) and study the photos you will learn about how the light affects a photo. And I am not just talking sunrise and sunset here – there are many other hours in the day.
8 – Take photos of the same scene at different times of the year
The logical next thing to do is to photograph a scene at different times of the year. This is something that I love to do with my landscape photography, to see how a scene transforms naturally over the course of the year.
Not something that I do with my architectural photography though to be honest!
9 – Revisit places you haven’t photographed in ages
I did this quite recently, and loved returning to a location I had not photographed for years. I found myself looking at the scene with fresh eyes, seeing a lot more, and came out with new compositions and higher quality images, which was a relief to be honest!!
10 – Look at old photos and see how you can improve them
This was the next thing that I did having returned to a location I photographed a long time ago. I started to look at other older photos and looked at them again through different eyes – eyes that have been constantly studying photography, composition, light and exposure. And my more recent photos are in general better than my older photos.
11 – Take less photos
This may sound counter-intuitive but these days, as a result of all the things I have already written about, I take less photos than I used to. And on an architectural shoot recently I took 30 photos, processing 10 of these which I issued to the client.
A couple of years ago I would have taken loads more photos and probably issued double that amount to the client.
12 – Quality over quantity
In the example above I took 30 photos and processed 10 for issue. I only had 30 photos to choose from. All the photos that I took were technically correct, meaning that all I had to do was choose from 30 images the ones I wanted to edit. This saved me loads of time in both image capture and image selection.
And the 30 photos that I took I was happy with which was also good.
13 – Nail the exposure every time
These days there is little excuse for getting the exposure wrong. I take photos in AV Mode, and the only adjustments I normally make are exposure compensation ones, and of normally no more than 1.5 stops under or over. Thankfully I cannot remember the last time I took a commercial photograph that was not correctly exposed.
14 – And if you need it try HDR
I use HDR for architectural photography. Why? Because I want to get all the detail in the highlights, shadows, and everything in-between. If I am photographing an internal space with no windows I will take single images, but wherever there is a sky or a window I will use HDR, taking three photos which I will merge together in Lightroom.
15 – Less is definitely more
Not wishing to labour the point, but if I manage to create 1 new portfolio image per month I am happy. I am talking about a photo that I can replace one of the photos in my portfolio with. My architectural photography portfolio is 24 images only, 12 exterior and 12 interior photos. And my travel photography portfolio is just 12 images.
16 – Get your photos critiqued
This was a revelation to me. I applied to join the BIPP – the British Institute of Professional Photography. And this was the first time that I had my work properly critiqued, and by a Hasselblad Master no less.
Things that I thought were excellent were quickly discarded, and I learned a lot during the process.
Don’t get family members to do this – they will say that you photos are great even if they are rubbish!
17 – Get qualified
One of the best things that I did was to get qualified. I am an Associate of the British Institute of Professional Photography and proudly have the letters ABIPP after my name. The BIPP defines Associate Membership as
“A high standard of craftsmanship, including the use of light, composition, Image framing and cropping. Demonstration of good ability in preparing files for print. Increased knowledge for output including the correct choice of printing media.”
Yep that’s me!
18 – Photograph more of what you love
I love taking photos of buildings, locations and landscapes. I genuinely love doing this, and try to push myself to take more photos of things I love to photograph. I have found recently that I am taking photos for commercial use only, and not for myself.
It is good for me to photograph stuff I love photographing so one for me to act on.
19 – But also photograph new stuff
This is another thing that I am not so good at.
I should broaden my horizons a bit more, to try to expand my photography skills. The closest I have come to doing this recently is some night photography in Parga Greece, where I presented myself with some unusual technical challenges that made me think but also gave me some great images.
And I loved doing something different.
20 – Find new places to photograph every week
I drive a lot. And when I am out and about I am constantly looking for new places to photograph. This is another thing that I have got out of the habit of doing, but writing this post has reminded me that I need to get back into doing.
And I take photos of new locations on my iPhone so I have the locations recorded – there a bonus top tip for you!
21 – Learn your gear inside out
Stop looking at other gear. Stop reading reviews of things that you do not need. Get out and take photos using the stuff that you have.
Trust me I spent years spending more time looking at gear than I did working on my photography.
22 – Read the manual
Boring as it may be, read the manual, or a book about your camera. Seriously I did this with the Olympus OM-D EM5 Mk 2 and found things out that I would have never worked out for myself. Things that helped me to take better photos too!
Read the manual or a good book all about your camera of choice. Do it now!
23 – Use a tripod
This was a big one for me. As soon as I put my camera on my tripod everything slowed down and my photos got better. On an architectural shoot I take all the photos with my camera firmly mounted on my tripod. Never had a problem with blurry photos since, and I do not need to even think about shutter speed most of the time. And my camera is left at ISO100.
And when I am away somewhere before I get my tripod out I have a good old look around at what there is to photograph.
A great habit to get into.
24 – Use some gear that you bought but have not used
I used to have loads of gear. I bought things because I thought I needed them, and had gear that I had bought and never used.
So dig out all that gear that you have bought and actually use it.
And if there is something that you just don’t need this is what you need to do.
25 – Get rid of stuff you don’t need
I have done this, and got quite a bit of money back selling gear that I clearly did not need. If I don’t use something for a year I sell it. That simple.
Keeping gear that you might need one day is for me counter productive – do you keep it all in your camera bag? That’s what I used to do until I realised that all this excess gear was doing was getting in the way, slowing me down and impacting negatively on my photos.
26 – Get your sensor cleaned
Either pay someone to do it or learn how to do it properly yourself. I pay to get mine done, or even better take my cameras to events in stores where they do free sensor cleans – that is the best way!
I am not brave enough to clean my sensors myself, which might sound ridiculous but I did have a problem once. So if you are going to do this yourself make sure you know exactly what you are doing, and that you have the right gear, conditions and indeed time to do it properly.
27 – Get a smaller camera bag
I used to have two Lowe Pro backpacks with waterproof zips that could take 2 bodies, 5 lenses and all sorts of other stuff. I even had a large plastic box in the boot of my car with all the stuff I might need in.
Now I use a Peak Design Everyday Backpack – the smaller 20 litre one. When I go on holiday I use this as my camera bag and hand luggage.
And that is all I take.
And I have never missed not having some gear.
On a commercial shoot I do have two other bags with spares just in case, but even they are smaller than the bags I used to have.
28 – Learn new techniques
I am talking image capture techniques. They are so many great things to try. I am expanding the range of viewpoints from which I take photos, which the Olympus EM1 and EM5 have allowed me to do with their fantastic articulating screens.
29 – Turn off auto focus
I know. But do it. Go on, just for me. Why should you do this? Well at the very least it will make you appreciate how fantastic the auto focus is on modern cameras. And doing this is another way of slowing things down and making you think about what you are doing.
Well it does for me – yes I have really done this.
Try focussing on a specific thing using the LCD screen (if you have one of course!). You can zoom in on most cameras.
30 – Shoot in manual
What? Manual. I don’t use it. I use AV.
But I have tried out manual many times. So why ever should you do this?
For the time when you need to – that is why. And if you are not 100% clear about the exposure triangle get into manual and change the dials – this definitely helps with understanding.
Challenging conditions, tricky light, after a certain effect. It is important to be able to know how to shoot in manual even if you don’t do so all the time.
31 – Try focus stacking
What is this? Focus stacking is this uber clever thing where you take a load of different photos of the same scene but move the point of focus from front to back. Chuck the photos together and you have a photo that is pin sharp form front to back.
Apparently. I have never done this, but now that I have written this I will have to give it a go!
32 – Learn about the histogram
On most cameras there is a graph called the histogram which is a visual representation of the exposure of an image. The left is black, the right end is white, and everything in-between is literally just shades of grey!
You can get away with taking photos without using the histogram, but learn how to use it and you will get better, more considered exposures. And the data from image capture goes all the way into Lightroom and into image processing.
I have to be honest and say that I don’t use the histogram often, but again knowing how to interpret the data is dead handy to have in your knowledge locker.
33 – Expose to the right
Once you have learned about the histogram then expose to the right. This is where you expose to the right, stopping just before the highlights start blowing out. This gives you the maximum amount of data in the image. You can’t recover blown out highlights but you can bring some info out of the shadows if you want to.
These days there is an amount of controversy about this technique, which I think is perfectly valid.
Have a go and see how you get on.
All these things are good to try as they broaden our knowledge and skills in image capture.
34 – Try black and white
I got into my black and white photos when Nik Silver Efex Pro was around. And now I am going to get right back into it as a personal thing for me to do.
I bought myself an Ansel Adams calendar for my office which has inspired me to get back into black and white photography. I will not be taking photos in black and white, but will be converting colour images and working on them in Lightroom and whatever else is around these days.
Like I say this one is just for me!
35 – Get a drone
2020 is thee year that I am going to get a drone. The recent announcement of the DJI Mavic Mini has removed all the barriers – it is just a case now of buying and using it.
Much much more on this in the future.
36 – Get into video
I have read from everyone and anyone worth listening to that video is for now and the future, so get into it now or fall behind the rest.
I launched two You Tube channels last year
And I am working hard on improving the quality of my video creation.
All using my iPhone though!
37 – Improve the audio quality of your video content
A new thing for me, which I have just done courtesy of the Rode Video Mic Me that plugs straight into my iPhone.
Only problem is that I have lost it so have to buy another one!
Better audio quality can very quickly elevate your work above that of everyone else who has not thought abut this yet.
38 – Try some lighting in your videos
I have bought a Lume Cube, which I am going to use to provide some better lighting in my videos. I am going to combine this with the daylight bulb fitted in my office and see what happens.
I have recently recorded some videos using a standard light bulb that has given the videos that horrible orange glow that I really, really hate. Never again!
39 – Try using a gimbal
I have played around with the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 which I really like. The problem is how do I attach a microphone? I spent ages looking into before buying the Rode Video Mic (which I have since lost).
I love walking around taking videos with my iPhone on this uber cool gimbal, which gives really smooth results.
And not too expensive either. Check it out here on Amazon.
40 – Find a new photography podcast
Ok, I will have an interest in this statement. I am going to be starting my own podcast soon. But I love podcasts, and listen to photography and business related podcasts when I am driving.
I listen to the following photography podcasts at the moment
PetaPixel Photography Podcast
The Six Figure Photography Podcast
This Week In Photo
41 – Get a book with some photos in that you like
I know. How utterly old school. I have a book that I love to browse, Ansel Adams 400 Photographs. It is on my bookshelf in my office, and I pick it up, have a browse and put it back.
iPads, phones, Kindles, PC Screens – they are just not the same as an actual book.
Pages to turn and photos to look at – lovely.
42 – Subscribe to some blogs
This is one that is directed right at me. I am going to subscribe to some of the most popular and successful photography blogs.
Why am I doing this? Well I produce a weekly photography blog, and want to earn a living doing this good stuff, so really I should be keeping an eye on the blogs that are working at the moment shouldn’t I?
I will write about the photography blogs that I subscribe to in a future blog post. (I have made a note to do that!).
43 – Revisit your workflow and automate
Do you find that you are doing the same things over and over? I spent years doing this before I had my very own light bulb moment!
Automation in Lightroom. Or as others call it – Import Pre-sets!
There are lots of things that I do to every image that I am working on to get me going. I am working with RAW files so it is the absolute base data that I am working with.
So I carry out a number of adjustments to every image automatically as I import them. Sure this slows things down but saves me loads of time.
Look at your workflow and see if this might work you. I will write a full blog post just in this subject.
44 – Learn Lightroom
I have been using Lightroom since version 1.0. And I am still using Lightroom. In my opinion it is the best overall software to organise and edit photos in.
Sure there are those who seem to love to have a go at Adobe over the speed and the monthly cost, but I think that the vast majority of Lightroom users are happy ones who just love working with it.
I have over 70,000 photos in a single Lightroom catalogue, and whilst I might use other software I always start and end in Lightroom.
45 – But also try Luminar
I am a Luminar affiliate. If you buy Luminar 4 using my Skylum affiliate link – here it is – Skylum Affiliate Link – then I get a commission.
But I do love Luminar 4, and in particular AI Sky Replacement. I have written a lot about this on my photography blog, and am looking forward to playing with the rest of Luminar 4 soon.
46 – Change the sky
Using Luminar 4 though. Don’t bother with the Photoshop route – it takes forever and Luminar 4 can do it using artificial intelligence technology so so quickly and easily.
47 – Enter a photography competition
I did this. I entered the travel Photographer Of the Year Competition – TPOTY.
I didn’t win, but it did get me looking at my own images very critically, which is a good thing.
I am actively looking for the next competition to enter.
48 – Start a weekly photography blog
I did some years ago. Well I went weekly late 2018, and this has broadened my knowledge massively. It has also opened me up to much more of the photography world and increased the traffic to my website.
Writing makes me think more clearly. And in writing this blog post I have come up with two new subjects to write about.
Blogging is not last years news – high quality content is still the high ticket item on the internet.
49 – Write a 4000 word post
Like this one. 4000 words is long enough. Trust me as I wrote this one.
50 – Enjoy photography
The last point (hurrah I hear those of you still with me saying!) is this simple one.
Enjoy photography. It is a wonderful thing that I genuinely love.
Want to watch the video of this blog post?
Want to watch the video of this blog post?
I hope that you have enjoyed this post, 50 new photography tips to instantly take better pictures.
Let’s all act now and go out and take some great photos.
Next on my photography blog
Well I am going through a bit of a republish at the moment so the next post will be along in a couple of days.
Thanks for reading this post, and I will see you on the next post.
Rick McEvoy ABIPP – Architectural Photographer in the UK
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