Since I had a heap of unused images left over from my US trip, I thought I would put them all together along with some photography tips, as I often receive messages asking for advice.
Of course there are the obvious tips everyone will tell you: read the manual, shoot in raw, pay attention to composition, understand light, and adjust your settings. Those are all very useful and important, but here are a few lesser shared tips about developing your photographic style.
Take Your Camera Everywhere
Always have your camera by your side, or in your car. Take photographs as often as possible, and get super up close and personal with your equipment. Learn how it works, what it can do and what it can’t do; play around, have fun, try new things. The only way you can improve your photography is through taking photographs as often as possible and experimenting with composition.
PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE!
This one is a no brainer, but it's so important if you want to improve! The only way to get better at something is to practise! It doesn’t matter how good your camera is; if you don't know how to use it or have had very little practise, you’re going to take bad photographs. Everyone starts somewhere! I still feel like I have A LOT to learn, and constantly try to improve what I do.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Probably my most important tip is to shoot either early morning or afternoon to avoid any harsh lighting during the day. My favourite times to shoot are always during sunrise or sunset as the lighting is a lot softer, and there is less crowds too!
Always keep an eye on the reflections on the car - especially on a black car! Have a look around you and look closely at the car and see what reflects on its surface. If you can, try shooting in an empty field and also keep an eye to see if you are reflecting on the car! I always use my CPL filter as it reduces the reflections and gives you more control.
Set A Challenge
It could be something as simple as challenging yourself to take a photograph every day or a bigger commitment such as a 365 day project. Setting a challenge for yourself can help speed up the process of discovering and developing your photographic style.
If you’ve had an interest in photography and been taking photographs for a while, habits can form which prevent us from experimenting with our style. Getting stuck in a rut is a tough place to dig ourselves out of. By setting a challenge we can break those habits and push ourselves to improve our approach and ultimately our photographic style.
Ensure that you follow various photographers on IG or Tumblr, that will continue to inspire you and motivate you to get out and shoot. Often times I find myself screenshotting or using the save function on IG then putting them into various collections for inspo. (BTW I'm really loving IG's new feature which allows you to put them into collections!)
If you're unsure who to follow or don't know where to start, you can find some of my favourite photographers on my Automotive Photographers Part 1 and Part 2 blog posts. Also the Automotive Photography Collective Facebook group is really good!
Define Your Aesthetic
Identifying the elements, style and compositions we like is key to discovering the direction we want to head in with our own photography. Creating style boards to identify what photography you enjoy (or dislike), and define an aesthetic that appeals to you, is a useful way of learning how to take better photographs.
Make notes on what specifically you like about a photograph, what you can learn for the use of light, subject, or the composition. This collection of photographs is not for copying directly, it’s for identifying styles you wish to experiment with or emulate to better your own style.
Do Something Different
With the constant pace that social media goes at, it’s very easy to fall into the habit of taking photographs in a style you know is currently popular online. It’s the safe option. Following trends almost guarantees you likes and comments. If all you’re interested in is increasing followers and gaining likes, you might be able to get by with good photographs that follow trends and reflect what’s popular. If you want to develop a photographic style that sets you apart and is identifiably yours, then you have to do something a little different.
Doing something different makes you stand out. Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t. Taking that risk by going in a different direction to everyone else is important to experimenting with and developing your personal photographic style.
Learn How To Edit
I often get asked a lot about my photos, and how I edit them and I generally go for a 'clean' look or use my Lightroom presets to add a moody effect.
Editing can make a good photograph amazing, and even a bad photograph mediocre. Learning to edit is crucial to the development of photographic style. A lot can be emphasised, changed, or expressed through a few tweaks in the editing process. Learning how to use editing software, such as Photoshop and Lightroom, will improve your photographs and help enhance the finish result.
Making key adjustments to the exposure and contrast, levels and curves, and colour balance is important, however, more importantly learning tools such as spot healing (my fav!), dodge and burn, and clone stamping (amongst others) will benefit your finished results. These tools enable you to manipulate your photographs and achieve a result that consistently reflects your style but else help you achieve better results.
Understanding photography and developing personal style is as much about physically taking the photograph as it is learning how to edit and achieve the final result.
If you’re learning how to use editing software or have discovered filters/presets there is great enjoyment to be found in experimenting with all of them. It’s definitely favourable to play around with settings, try out filters, and apply different edits to see how the result turn out; however, the key to personal photographic style is consistenty.
Once you’ve figured out your editing process and results you like the most, stick to them. Those with a distinct photographic style have a consistency to their photographs by which they can be identified. If you’re chopping and changing between bright white, airy images and dark, moody filters it will be hard for people to pin down your aesthetic and identify you through your imagery alone.
It doesn’t matter how many tips and tricks you know or whether you understand every function your camera has; you can read books and attend courses and you might get better at taking mediocre photographs but you will never develop your own distinct photographic style unless you get out and explore with your camera! But not only that, you have to make sure that you have fun along the way!
I hope these tips help! Let me know if you have any other good tips in the comments below!