1) Shoot in RAW, some people insist on shooting JPG because they get the image “right” in camera. RAW shooters don’t intend on exposing an image incorrectly so they can fix it later, we shoot just like a JPG shooter for the most part. Having the RAW file gives you so much more creative control in your workflow. It also allows you a shot of saving a picture that you didn’t hit the exposure dead on in. It takes more work to shoot this way but the results I feel are better.
2) It doesn’t matter what people think about your pictures. Don’t shoot pictures for others opinions and feedback. Go shoot what you want.
3) Print your work out in a large format. Holding one of your favorite pictures in your hands or framing it on your wall is a GREAT feeling. It makes your work real and tangible. The first time I saw a photo I took hanging in someone’s house was such a rewarding moment for me.
4) Don’t buy twice. If you pursue photography you will see that almost every piece of gear is 4 times the cost it should be. Because its photography!!! Don’t buy the cheap tripod, it will break. Don’t buy the cheap glass if you can afford the good glass. Someday the extra aperture on that lens will come in handy. And some day you will see the difference in your cheap lens and your expensive prime lens.
5) Don’t worry about finding your style. It will find you.
6) Go outside your comfort zone. Shooting the same stuff is boring… and while you may become a landscape photographer by shooting landscapes every day you will not learn nearly as fast as the person who shoots various subject matter. Shoot photos of people, cars, cats, bugs, water, shadows, try an HDR, still life, ninjas…. You get my drift. PS ninjas are very had to capture and will often make an attempt at your life when they see you have properly exposed the photo of their favorite hiding place.
7) No amount of digital darkroom (Photoshop, elements, light room) can take a crappy image and turn it into gold for you. There are some graphic artists out there who break this “rule” but you can’t polish a turd as the saying goes. That being said I do Photoshop my work and I do use techniques that I feel help the look of my image, or at least the look I am going for. If you are a shooter who is pure in camera shooting you are missing out on a wealth of options the age of digital photography has brought.
8) There are about 10 photogs who are jerks to every 1 that is willing to teach you. Some photographers will see you as a threat and treat you as such. You can’t blame them. Why would they want to teach you something that could potentially take food off of their plate? When you find those great photographers that are willing to teach you be respectful and realize the gift they are giving you. Pay it forward… teach others what you learned when you can.
9) Take your camera with you. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have missed a beautiful moment because my camera was at home. I know it’s not always possible to take your camera everywhere you go, but you should try if you want to better your photography. I read that if your spouse is not a bit jealous of your camera at times then you are not a true photographer. My wife can attest to this…. One date night I was musing about the sunset and how it looked that night and that I missed my camera!!!
10) Put your toys away. The sound of your gear hitting the floor is a horrible, gut wrenching sound. When you are done shooting put the camera someplace safe. Don’t leave equipment sitting out on your flash stand. Fold up your umbrella or whatever else you were using and hide that stuff!
11) A camera does not make a photographer. While upgrading your gear will get you better photos, it starts with you. Think more about the composition of a photo then how you will shoot it, especially when you start in photography. The technical side will come to you in time. One of my best friends takes all his photos on an I phone and some of his shots are amazing. On this same note, something that drives photogs crazy: “wow that is a nice camera, it must take nice pictures” ARRRRG…no it doesn’t, I do. Ask my wife how some of her photos look with my camera gear if you don’t believe this one.
12) The sooner you learn about ISO the better off you will be. ISO is the equivalent of film speed back in the day. If you are shooting too slowly your images will be soft and fuzzy. It’s better to hit the focus and the shutter speed than to have a blob of a photo. You can often fix grain in Photoshop later if you choose to… but the grain can actually add to some photos.
13) Back up your photos. Keep them in multiple places. You will probably need more hard drive space if you shoot digital… buy an external hard drive. You may want to spend that money on something else, but don’t.
14) Learn to shoot with your camera without looking at its settings. Shoot in manual mode and do it until you can see the settings in your head before you put them in to the camera. Be able to shoot your camera in almost pitch black…. If you don’t think shooting your camera in the dark will come in handy wait until someone asks you to photograph a wedding with candles or an Easter vigil.
15) Learn the AF modes of your camera. Learn when to use single point focus or multiple points. Learn how to focus a shot and then recompose it how you want before you take the shot.
16) Off camera lighting- One of the best ways to make your photography better is to learn about off camera lighting. Moving the light to a different angle can drastically change how your pictures look. On camera flashes are ugly and make for a boring photo.
17) Steal things. This one may be a bit controversial but I cannot tell ya how much I have learned by emulating someone else’s shot. If I saw a picture that I liked and wondered how it was shot I attempted to do it on my own. Dont steal the shot, steal the idea and teach yourself how to do it better. Do it in a different way. If you see a photo that makes you think "How did he or she take that shot?" go try the shot!
18) Learn how to light paint. Even if you suck at it…it’s a lot of fun
19) Learn how to see light. When I started with a camera I saw the scene and the picture only. Photography sometimes is less about the scene than the light in front of you. One of the fastest ways to learn this is to shoot photos at night. Nothing will teach you about the available light faster than shooting stuff at night. You will learn to see light differently
20) Do some street photography. You will meet some interesting people. You will learn how to change your camera settings quickly. You will meet some crazies. Take a walkabout downtown with your camera and shoot the people around you..