Lately, I have had several people ask me questions about how to ‘improve’ their photographs… Such as, how did you get the lighting like that? What did you do to get that color to pop out so much? How did you get that angle? Was that posed or was it candid? And the list goes on and on… So, in this blog, I am going to point out some tips and tricks you should know and use…
Tip/Trick #1: Post shoot editing! Don’t ever forget that even with the perfect lighting, the best camera & gear, with everything ‘perfect’, that something can always go wrong with your shot! You can’t control everything! I would estimate that approximately 95% of all shots can always be improved with editing software! Some, can NEVER be improved to the point you want but, you can always improve something! I am not saying to rely on this fact, I am saying to always try to get the best shot you can but, if and when it doesn’t work out, don’t give up on the image! You may be able to save all or at least part of it! This leads to my next tip…
Tip/Trick #2: Not all photos are trash, if it didn’t come out the way you wanted! A lot of times, I keep images that (in my mind) are horrible… Why? Simple, because sometimes a part of that image can be used for something! I have taken hundreds of thousands of pics, photos, and snapshots over the years but have only ‘highlighted’ maybe 1 out of every 1000 of them as a great photo by itself (Given, I am a perfectionist, everything has to be just the way I want it to be considered ‘great’ by me)! Back to the editing idea for a moment, with technology the way it is now, sometimes piecing together portions of several photos can create an AMAZING image! Look at any photography magazine on the stands or search any photography website, and you will find ‘surrealistic’ images… These images are created by photo manipulation, sometimes including several elements from several images… If this is not an area of photography you are interested in, you can still benefit from it. A lot of websites and companies are willing to pay for ‘stock’ images (photos that are available to the public to use as foundations for work or as images in fliers, documents, advertisements, etc.)… I have a folder of hundreds of my own personal ‘stock’ images… I have known several photographers who, on the spot, review their shots and instantly trash any they don’t like… I do trash photos but only after a close look at each one! So, in short, even ‘bad’ photos can become or be used to make a ‘great’ photo!
Tip/Trick #3: Don’t be afraid to change your view/angle! I have climbed on top of rocks, stood on benches, climbed up trees, leaned over high ledges, stretched out completely flat on the ground/floor, bent over and turned around, twisted my body into odd angles, and much more just to get a different perspective! WARNING: You could be putting yourself into serious danger by doing some of these things! I have been injured by trying to get a great shot, more than once! So, be careful but, be creative! Sometimes, simply changing your view/angle can create a completely different feeling, emotion, or setting to your shot…
Tip/Trick #4: Props are always a great thing to have handy and can be used in a variety of ways! Sometimes, it is the ‘un-seen’ prop that really makes the shot great! Confusing? I’ll explain: I have done shoots before where I couldn’t get the angle or the positioning ‘just right’ and have found that creative use of props can sometimes fix this… Especially when working with models or when shooting still life, positioning is important! Most models are accustomed to having to ‘contort’ their bodies to get a shot the way the photographer wants it but, a lot of times, an object used to support that body part that is shaking or the back that is now aching, can improve the shot and ease your models pain! Still life shoots are always challenging to get the shot to look just the way you want it, but a well placed prop can change that… And, if needed, can be edited out later to create the ‘illusion’ of the placement you wanted… I, personally, carry a bag of ‘props’ with me to every shoot I do… I consider them a part of my necessary gear! Depending on what the shoot is, will decide what props I bring along but, here is a list of some of the various items I utilize:
– Several pieces of cloth of various shapes, sizes, colors, and materials.
– Pillows of several sizes and firmness (usually small, less than 12″ x 12″)
– Foam blocks, circles, etc.
– Some odd items, to most, such as 12″ x 12″ wire grids, dowel rods, pieces of wood, crates (as small as 6″ x 6″ x 6″ up to as large as 18″ x 18″ x 18″), magazines, printed ‘stock’ photos, scarves, etc.
If you have these type of items handy and keep them in mind, while shooting, you will be surprised at the ideas you can come up with!
Tip/Trick #5: Always have your finger on the trigger! You never know when you will turn around and just happen to see a great shot, if you aren’t ready, you could miss it! Sometimes, just taking a random shot ends with a great photo! What your eyes see and what your camera catches are different but, always being ready to take a photo will give you more images to work with and help you catch those ‘candid’ shots that usually become some of your favorites!
Tip/Trick #6: Keep your equipment prepared also! Make sure your batteries are charged and you have back-up batteries for your flash, meters, etc. Keeping extension cords handy can help also with lighting placement and such… It is also a very good idea to have extra memory sticks/cards handy! One of the worst feelings as a photographer is to be at a shoot and have your batteries die because you forgot to charge them or to have to start deleting photos because you don’t have enough memory!
Now for the fun part! A few examples of my tips/tricks in use:
#1 – This photo came out a bit too dark, as it was shot from the hip in an instant to catch the face-plant, still not a ‘perfect’ shot but, after lightening it up some, you can see the detail a bit better and tell what it is actually a photo of! (This also serves as an example for tip/trick #5)
#2 – At first glance, this photo seemed to be kind of a waste, too many objects/people in the way but, with some editing, it becomes a great shot of my son skim boarding! Just had to crop, and ‘remove’ some elements!
#3 – No risk to my life/health for this shot… The cake was beautiful in the first shot but, after changing my angle and taking the second shot, it just screams to me! Plus, everyone who sees these 2 photos love them both but always make a bigger deal about the second one!
#4 – This photo is comprised of nothing but props! Pink satin material, printed ‘stock’ photos, and some decorative lights… One of my favorite photos and it was all by accident (almost)! The idea came to me when I accidentally dropped the stack of prints in this photo… Took a look around and still had the material out from the Valentine’s shoot as well as the lights, put them all together and got this shot!
I don’t feel the need to show an example for #6, if you have ever been there, you will NEVER forget #6!
So, to sum it all up, when asked how I get the shots that I get, I can’t answer with anything simpler than this: I get lucky sometimes and other times, I make them happen! The above tips/tricks can help you to improve yours as well! So, there you go! Hope it helps!!! Good shooting!