Improving your photography skills can be a lifelong process, but there are MANY simple tips that can dramatically help you get better. Here are just a few:
1. Get closer.
Fill the frame with your subject. This is one of the most common issues I see. If you think you're close enough, get closer!
2. Immerse yourself in photography.
Look at photos! One of the best ways to learn photography is simply to look at tons of images. Think about how they were shot? A lot of photography blogs and magazines provide the camera settings used by the photographer. What do you like about the photo? What don’t you like?
3. Consider perspective.
Taking a great image is all about altering the perspective of what the viewer sees every day. Since we see at eye level, change it up by getting low or getting high. Walk around your subject 360° before you commit to an angle. There's always a better image on the other side!
Not only do you need to shoot often to improve, but you need to download your photos and study what you did. Check out the meta data on your images. What was your f-stop and shutter speed? What ISO did you use? Try carrying a camera with you more often. You won’t practice shooting if you don’t have a camera!
5. Isolate your subject.
Separate your subject from the background with distance and a shallow depth of field. Look for a simple background that is not too distracting.
6. Get out of auto mode.
Adjusting depth of field and shutter speed is what allows us as photographers to control the images we create, not the camera. Shoot in Manual, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority modes to make the most out of your camera. Many point and shoot cameras can control shutter speed and aperture by using the Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Macro camera modes.
7. Choose the best shutter speed
As a rule of thumb, you should use a minimum shutter speed of 1/focal length of your lens to achieve sharp images. For example, if you are shooting with a 200mm lens, use a shutter speed of at least 1/200th.
8. Apply the rules of composition.
Implementing the rule of thirds, repetition, leading lines, framing, pattern and symmetry can make your images more visually appealing. Although, keep in mind the rules of composition can always be broken!
9. Work the exposure compensation.
If you shoot in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority mode, don’t forget to utilize the exposure compensation feature. The in-camera meter will not calculate the precise exposure you are looking for every time, especially when your subject is back lit. You may need to adjust. Exposure compensation will allow you to override the camera’s meter.
10. Look for the light.
Try looking for stunning lighting and then find a subject in that lighting, rather than looking for an interesting subject first. Dramatic lighting can make a photo spectacular. If you don’t have good lighting, you most likely don’t have a good image.
11. Limit excessive post processing.
Lightroom and Photoshop are great for enhancing an image and making the exposure, color and contrast really pop. But be careful not to overuse the filters and retouching tools, ultimately creating an image that looks over processed.
12. Read your manual.
Ugh. I know. Reading your manual can be daunting. But after you have taken a basic photography class, revisit your manual. It contains a ton of useful information and once you can wrap your mind around some basic photographic concepts, it will become a valuable tool in your camera bag.