"If there is one thing that unites photographers, regardless of experience or genre, it is the desire to improve." - Chris Sale
I think there is a lot of truth in this statement from photographer Chris Sale.
Of course it is possible to take good photographs without knowing all the technical stuff, but for those of us who see photography as a serious hobby it is not enough to rely on luck and we want to have some technical knowledge so that we can know how to improve.
Learning photography is not easy. Photography is a hobby that takes a lot of time and practice. I find that it takes a lot of practice to embed new learning and use it automatically 'in the field'. For me, lessons don't stick until I go out often with my camera and use what I've learned in making my own photos.
I like to use many different sources of learning and recently much of my photography learning comes from watching YouTube videos of professional photographers. These are not specifically teaching videos, but often they do include tips and techniques that are useful to novice photographers.
I always enjoy these videos that talk us through how the photographer composed the image, but there are so many variables that these are often not transferable to my own situation.
Firstly, my locations are not as interesting and don’t offer the same potential for creating a good composition as the locations which these photographers visit.
Secondly, I don’t have the same lens choice or variety of filters which professional photographers can use to enhance their compositions.
However, one tip which I did pick up in a recent video was to ‘change one thing’.
In this video from last year, Chris Sale shares his top tip for improving our landscape photography.
This is advice that will work in all locations, with all types of cameras and lenses, in any weather conditions.
In fact, this tip will work whenever we take a photograph.
It simply requires us to take a moment after capturing our image to look at the image on the back of the camera and ask ourselves the question – what one thing would I change if I was taking the image again?
I have been using this tip for a while and I can say that it has helped me to improve my images. For me it works in two ways:
1. It helps me to slow down, be more intentional about my photography, consider each image more carefully and not just go away with the first image I take and later regret that I didn’t move closer, compose differently or use a different lens.
The advice to ‘change one thing’ helps me to evaluate my own images when there is still an opportunity to make changes. Often, when I capture a lot of images without checking them in-camera I am disappointed when I see them on the larger computer screen. This technique gives me the best chance to avoid disappointment, to make any changes that I feel need to be made, and to know that I have done my best in the field.
2. This advice gives me the opportunity to utilise the gear I have with me. Sometimes I will check the photo and realise that I could use a zoom lens and zoom closer to isolate the subject and get a better composition.
Sometimes I will realise that a wider-angle lens will produce a more pleasing image.
If I am out with just one lens, or with my phone, I can take the same image with a different aperture or shutter speed. Sometimes, all I need to do is move a little to the right or left, move closer or further away or simply position the subject differently in the frame.
In this location I started with this view.
I decided to try a closer view.
I then changed the composition to move the subject to the other side of the frame and show some of the coastline of the small island.
With this image I started with the whole building.
I then moved closer to include just part of the building.
My third attempt was to move further away to include some foreground and give some context to the location.
I liked these two trees standing together but the image had a distracting background.
The next image was closer but a third tree also proved to be a distraction in the frame.
By moving slightly I managed to get rid of the distracting tree although the two trees now overlap slightly.
Trial and error!
I took this tree from a variety of different perspectives. After each shot I changed one thing.
There are many techniques that will help us improve our images, but I often find that I don’t bring them to mind at the right time, which is obviously the main distinction between a novice photographer and a professional. However, remembering to ask myself what I would change if I was taking the image again is one piece of advice that has become engrained in my mind as I have found it so useful. It means that I continually experiment, discover new ways of seeing and composing, and hopefully improve my photography as I go.
Do you have a particular tip that has helped you improve your photography? Share it in the comments below.