Take a Fresh Look – Improve Your Photography in 6 Steps

It’s easy to fall into a routine as a photographer, and to take shots which lack creativity. Finding a new spark is often all that’s needed, and a fresh approach can inspire you to produce fantastic pictures again. Many people fall into the trap of thinking they need new equipment, but trying out some new techniques usually produces better results.

Try the following tips to improve your creativity as a photographer.

1) Experiment with viewpoint.

An easy way to photograph a subject in new ways is to change your viewpoint. Most photographers take pictures from eye-level while standing up. Crouching down low and bringing in foreground interest changes a picture completely. You may also notice that lighting changes as you look at a subject from different angles. Lying on the ground gives you a ‘worm’s eye view,’ and even routine subjects will take on a more dynamic look. Alternatively, try to find a higher viewpoint such as the top of a building. Looking down on the world is also a great way of producing original pictures.

2) Use selective focus.

Shallow depth of field gives photographs a strong three-dimensional quality. Foreground subjects can be made to stand out from their background for a very powerful effect. Opening up the aperture on a camera reduces the depth of field to its minimum. Using longer lenses will exaggerate the effect further. Isolating a subject from their surroundings in this way can also add a surreal look to pictures.

3) Alter perspective with a telephoto zoom lens.

Many photographers think of zoom lenses simply as a way of making things look bigger (or give a wider angle). However, selecting different focal lengths also changes the relative size of foreground and background subjects. Using a wide-angle lens makes a subject in the foreground look very large compared to anything in the background.

Switching to a telephoto zoom lens flattens perspective, and makes background subjects appear closer to the camera. Experimenting with perspective in this way opens up a range of creative options for the photographer.

4) Experiment with shutter speeds.

As well as being a mechanism for controlling exposure, shutter speed can be used to show movement in a subject. Selecting a slow shutter speed means a subject’s movement will not be frozen. Long exposures can be used to capture light-trails or creative blur in fast moving subjects (like a waterfall or surf). A tripod is generally needed for long exposure techniques, and a level of experimentation is required.  Some cameras like the new Sony a7 and Olympus OMDs offer a degree of in camera, multi-axis stabilization that can allow you to hand-hold at lower speeds, but a tripod is still your best choice for longer exposures.

5) Play with exposure.

Modern cameras can measure the correct exposure of a scene very accurately to produce correctly exposed pictures. However, some subjects actually look better when over or under-exposed. For example, a landscape can take on a dark and moody atmosphere if deliberately under-exposed. Portraits take on a classic high-key effect if over-exposed. Experiment with different exposure settings on your camera, and override them for different creative effects.

6) See the world in black and white.

The world around us is filled with a range of bright colors, and these can be a distraction for some subjects. Shooting in black and white brings out texture and detail, and can create very powerful images. Things which we only ever see in color take on different qualities in a black and white photograph.

Hopefully, once you start to experiment with these techniques and ideas you will find new creative inspiration for your photography.  As always, my articles are directed more at newer photographers than crusty old pros, but even as I approach 70 years of age, I need to periodically remind myself to step outside my self-imposed limits, so maybe you can benefit, too.  Specific images are not included with most articles because I want you to use you own imagination and  creativity to increase your vision.   However, if you need photos to help, this blog has, or is linked to, 1,000s of my images.  You are free to explore.

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