Last Updated on June 4, 2023
You can talk with 100 photographers from all walks of life and come away with more than a handful of tips and ideas that’ll help you move along in your journey. No matter what sort of photography niche a person wants to ‘live’ in, finding a rhythm and style that suits them is one of the most fun things to decide.
We should always think about growing as a photographer. This way, we don’t have time to get ‘stuck’ or feel ‘bored’ as a creative. I hope the ideas I’ve listed below get you out there with a camera or cell phone, re-newed excitement, and a fresh set of eyes.
1. Fill the Frame
One of the first things I found most helpful in creating a good photograph was learning how to fill the frame. Some people would call this close-up or Macro photography. The important thing is that you want your image to be in focus, and you want people to linger there for a little while. Filling the frame can transform a ‘meh’ image into something much more dramatic.
2. Chase the Light
Light is so important in photography. You want to make sure that it’s good light. Not the harsh 1-3 pm sun where everyone is squinting, and shadows fall on their faces. The golden hour – just before sunrise, and the blue hour – just after sunset, are two of my favorite times to be outside with my camera. Also, a cloudy day is perfect, as the light is more even all-over.
3. Include People
For goodness sake, don’t be afraid to include people in your shots. The human, authentic element in photography is critical. You can use apps on your cellphone for model releases, or you can print some and carry them in a notebook on your shoots. I sell so many ‘people’ images – in my travel writing articles and on stock sites. Even if you are not a portrait photographer – taking photos of people can often end in sales after the fact.
4. Try Something New
It’s not often that I find myself bored taking photographs. I always find something interesting – whether it is outside or even inside my apartment. Still, I do love to try new things. Panning is one of my go-to exercises in trying something new. I love this because each try comes out different – even if I am standing in the same place every time I press the shutter. And these make great images to sell on stock sites or even as fine art.
5. Don’t Forget Leading Lines
Leading lines are something to think about when you take out your camera. As photographers and storytellers, we want to bring people into our photo essay. Leading lines can be a tool to do just that. Sometimes, a leading line is head-on, drawing folks towards a specific point in the distance. But, there are times when a diagonal shot can do the same thing – in this case, it illustrates how long the pergola is, creating depth and symmetry in my photograph.
6. Think About Copy Space
Everyone knows how much I love stock photography. One of the things I concentrate on when I’m out with the Canon is called copy space. In the stock world, buyers often need conceptual pictures with a ton of space off to the side, top, or bottom for an advertising message. You can do this with any image – for any business under the sun. Think about billboards you see along the highway, look at book covers, even the photo on a magazine’s front cover.
I am so happy assigning myself photography projects. They’re tough, though, as they make me focus on one type of image for, say, a week. One time I might go out every day and look for backgrounds or one specific color. I tell myself that I cannot take pictures of anything else. I know, painful, right? Another week I might decide to concentrate on architecture, food, or street signs. In this instance, I was cat-sitting for two weeks and had four beautiful kitty cats to use as practice subjects.
8. Look for Natural Frames
Looking for natural frames can be so much fun when you’re out with the camera. I think this practice can bring out creativity in you. Natural frames can be tree branches, a bridge, a window, or a doorway. And using frames like these can add drama to otherwise ordinary pictures. Suppose you want to draw your viewer’s eye into your story, emphasizing what that storyline is. In that case, natural framing is an excellent way to isolate your subject from all the busyness around it.
9. Get low, Aim High
Pictures of a subject shot straight-on with your camera are a dime a dozen. And many times, they’re the same shot a million others have taken. True, maybe the lighting is different, or the time of day. True, perhaps some have people in the photo while others don’t. Still, they’re the same. As photographers, the last thing on earth we want to be is the carbon copy of somebody else. So, get down on the ground when you photograph flowers next time. Or stand under trees and look up the next time you want to capture their beauty and strength.
10. Take Horizontal and Vertical
If you ever dream of landing the cover of a glossy print magazine, remember to take awesome vertical images – not just horizontal shots, especially when traveling. I was lucky enough to land travel writing assignments in Ireland, Fiji, and Paris. Who knows if I will ever make it there again. Thankfully, I took several pictures in both formats and landed covers for all of them. Don’t get stuck in the habit of turning your camera one way, the more variety in horizontal and vertical shots you can offer your editor, the better.
The photo above is horizontal. My vertical shot of the same two bikes landed on a travel magazine cover in the Spring of 2015.