“Wow… that’s a BIG lens!”
While hearing those words does give a little ego boost, I think we can all agree it’s not the size of your lens that matters, right? Rather, it’s what you do with it.
Unfortunately, it’s all too common that when someone sees the camera setup I carry, I’m asked questions like, “How much money do I have to spend to get my photos looking better?”
Well, here’s a little secret: A great photographer can take a great photograph with any camera, and a poor photographer can take a poor photograph with the world’s most expensive camera!
So here are my top three tips to easily improve your photos without breaking the bank.
1. Give yourself an assignment
One of the best ways to improve your skills is to practice – but, as with anything, you must have a direction in which to head. So just as you wouldn’t practice playing an instrument without any sheet music, you should create photography assignments to help keep yourself on track.
Assignments could be as robust as taking a photograph every day for a year (known as the “365 challenge”). Or it could be as simple as shooting 50 images within the same theme, thinking along the lines of patterns, selective color, motion, emotions or anything you find inspiring.
The key is practice, practice, practice. With every photograph you take, you are honing your eye as well as your camera skills, gradually improving technically and growing artistically.
2. Shoot with intent!
Now that your technical skills are improving because you’re practicing through self-made assignments, every time you press the shutter button, you should ask yourself three questions:
1. What is the purpose of this photograph?
2. What am I capturing?
3. Is there something I can change to make this photograph better?
By shooting with intent, you are forcing yourself to slow down and capture the moment, the feelings, and the emotions of a situation.
You begin to tell the story, rather than simply pointing the camera and taking a picture of something pretty. The moment you achieve this, your viewer will become engaged and question what’s going on in your scene, why you’re directing their eye a particular way, or what happened right before the photograph was captured.
It is at this point that you have succeeded: They’re captivated, and your photographs now stand out because of the emotional connection you’ve created for them.
3. Everything needs a little editing
Nothing comes out of the camera perfect!
Processing your images is like proofreading your travel articles. Everything needs to be edited before the world is ready to see it.
Whether it’s a little straightening over here or some color correction over there, adding your creative finishing touch in post-processing can instantly improve your results!
It’s hard to believe a mountain with a couple of funny-looking cacti at sunset would actually sell… but it did, and more than a few times. Even though this was taken with a Nikon P80 super basic point and shoot, it has earned me just over $100 in small prints!
Fast forward a few years, and here’s one of my most recent best-sellers. I’ve come a long way with my equipment AND my skill. But my point is still the same, you don’t have to wait to get here to sell your photos. You can sell your practice shots, too. Every once in a while someone buys one of my old images. It’s kinda like old family photos. When you look at them, they look old and outdated, but we still appreciate them. And in my case, they still make money!