20 Ideas for photography inspiration

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Sometimes we need a new challenge, or some fresh ideas, otherwise we risk becoming stuck in a photographic rut. So we’ve compiled 20 ways i...

Sometimes we need a new challenge, or some fresh ideas, otherwise we risk becoming stuck in a photographic rut. So we’ve compiled 20 ways in which you can to motivate yourself to get out and take more pictures.

Turn the camera on, set the sensitivity to ISO 400, flick to aperture priority and set the aperture to f/8. Make sure AF is on centre point, white balance on AWB and metering on evaluative. Visit the same location you’ve been to a hundred times previously, and take the same types of images. And repeat…

We’ve all done it. It is all too easy to get comfortable with your camera, and your photography routine, and settle for what you know. However, it can take so much of the joy out of photography. Part of the challenge should be learning new things, taking new photographs and capturing the perfect moment. And you don’t have to buy lots of new kit, travel the world or set yourself big projects.

Ideas for photography inspiration

We have compiled a list of 20 ideas that you can use to motivate yourself and try something different. Not all of them are bold or dramatic. In fact, most are very simple, such as taking the time to make more prints, or shooting with a different camera or lens. Others include starting a new project, such as taking a photo every day for a year, or asking a stranger if you can take their photograph. Even just spending time talking to others about photography can be inspiring.

So why not pick a few ideas that you like and give them a try? They may open your eyes to a new technique, or be the start of a new project. In fact, why not set yourself the task of trying all 20 ideas on the list?

Ideas for photography inspiration: Shoot Black and White

One of the easiest ways to transform how you shoot is to try your hand at black & white.

There are many images that look far better in black & white than they do in colour, as the colour can distract from the subject. Removing the colour allows us to view the scene in a simple arrangement of shapes and tones. Where a scene lacks light and contrast, this will become even more apparent in a monochrome photograph, and as such you will begin to look at the world in a different way.

Digital photography allows us to view a scene in black & white instantly, which may reveal photo opportunities that would previously have gone unnoticed. We can even increase contrast, or add a traditional coloured filter effect, in-camera while out photographing. And we need no longer fear that shooting in black & white will make us miss a photograph that would look great in colour just shoot raw and JPEG images together, and you will have the best of both worlds. The JPEG files will be saved as black & white images, while the raw files will be saved in full colour it’s like shooting with a roll of colour film and black & white film at the same time.

So the next time you are out, set your camera to raw+JPEG and shoot in black & white. Learning to see how light and contrast interact with the environment can only improve your photography.

See an Exhibition

There’s endless inspiration to be found in the work of other photographers.

Even the most prolific and talented photographers sometimes find themselves stuck for inspiration, and fighting against that frustrating creative block. Always remember, though, that photography is a rich and varied art form, which is why it is entrenched in some of the UK’s most important galleries. Visiting photography exhibitions and seeing the work of photographers old and new is one of the most inspiring things about photography. Knowledge and inspiration are almost always gleaned from the work of fellow practitioners, so when you’re struggling for ideas, take a trip to your nearest gallery.

Ever more galleries dedicated to photography are appearing throughout the UK, and typically show work that is relevant and exciting. And it’s not just established photographers who are exhibiting. Many amateurs are renting space to show their work, which is a thought worth keeping in mind. Online exhibitions are proliferating too, so you can view work from the comfort of your own home.

Ideas for photography inspiration: Join a Camera Club

What better way to meet fellow photographers, enter competitions and receive valuable feedback, all under one roof, than to join a camera club?

Here are five great reasons why every photographer should join a camera club or photographic society:
Talk with like-minded photographers
Meet people who are just as passionate about photography as you are. No one will tell you to ‘hurry up’ or change the subject!

Competitions, contests and critiques
Most clubs and societies hold competitions on a regular basis. These are often based around a theme, so members can test their skills and get advice and feedback from other members or even specially invited guest judges.

Organised pro talks 
Many camera clubs organise for professional photographers to come and speak to the club members about photography, techniques and their own experiences.

Trips and photo excursions 
Some clubs embark on day trips or holidays at discounted rates for great photo opportunities.

Library of books, and knowledge
Many clubs have shared libraries of books you can borrow, not to mention the diverse amount of experience and knowledge you’ll be able to tap into from fellow members.

Find your local camera club by searching the internet or your local newspaper.

Try a New Camera

Whether you swap with a friend or hire one, trying a new piece of kit is a great way to reinvigorate your photography

We always advocate knowing your camera inside and out. This ensures you achieve the exposure and effect you want, with few shocks. However, we can also benefit from handling new kit every now and then, whether that’s trying a film camera and seeing how differently you shoot when you have to consider the number of times you press the shutter release, or using a prime and ‘zooming’ with your feet rather than your camera.

There are a few different ways you could give this project a go. If you’re a part of a camera club, why not suggest you all swap kit for a week and give each other feedback on what you do and don’t like about the cameras. Or swap your kit with friends. Alternatively, try companies like HireACamera.com, which caters for personal, professional and business needs, stocks hundreds of products, including compacts, CSCs, DSLRs, rangefinders and accessories.

Select the camera or lens with the features you want to experiment with or call us and we’ll suggest the right kit for you to try!’

Rework an Old Photo 

Having trouble creating something new? Then look for an old image that could benefit from your accumulated experience and beefed-up software.

5It's easy to find yourself stuck in a rut creatively, and sometimes going back and reinvigorating an old project can be just what you need to get excited about your photography again. Dig through your hard drive and see what you can find. Chances are you aren’t the same photographer now that you were five years ago, or even one year ago.

Use the time elapsed as license to experiment you probably aren’t as attached to the image as you were when you first took it, so saturate, sharpen, rack up the contrast. Pull it to pieces if you want. You have no reason not to be extreme with your experimentation.

This is another reason to always shoot raw, and to keep the files well organised on hard drives. You never know when you might get the urge to tinker with an old project, and it’ll be a good deal easier if you have raw files. Also bear in mind that software is continually improving, especially with regard to facilities like noise reduction. It’s very likely that a photograph you struggled to edit with Photoshop CS2 on a PC running Windows 2000 will prove more malleable with your latest upgrades. Load something up and find out.

Shoot from Dawn till Dusk

Dedicate an entire day to taking photographs. Challenge yourself to take as many different photos as you can and really explore a location.

If you haven’t got the patience to set yourself a year long project, scale it back and make a day of it instead. Start taking photographs at dawn and don’t stop until dusk. There’s nothing quite like waking up at 4am, driving on deserted roads to a new location and finding the perfect spot to catch the rising sun.

Once that is done, you can always have a nap in the car before taking a stroll around the area and seeing what else you can find. Have a location in mind for the end of the day, and head there to catch the sunset it could be a location you have researched, or somewhere you have discovered during the day that you can return to.

Depending on the time of year, this could mean spending as many as 17 hours out taking photographs, resulting in perhaps hundreds of new images.

Research and Planning

The first thing you need to do is work out exactly where you want to go. While it is possible to head out with no particular location in mind and strike it lucky by stumbling across somewhere amazing, it is far better to plan ahead and decided on a location to explore.

The internet makes location scouting extremely easy. If you know roughly which part of the world you wish to visit, simply run a Google image search to find possible locations in that area. Flickr is also an excellent research tool: just search for a location and see what other people have photographed there. You can even refine your search by adding the words ‘sunrise’ or ‘sunset’, for example, to see images taken at those particular times of day. Of course, these images should only be used for reference your aim should be to go out and create something new, not repeat what has gone before.

A more advanced tool is The Photographer’s Ephemeris (photoephemeris.com). This is an app for Android (£3.10) or iOS (£5.99) smartphones or tablets, and is available for free on Windows or Mac computers. The sophisticated software shows a map overlaid with the exact direction of sunrise and sunset in that area, along with the time at which they will occur. Furthermore, you can check the exact position of the sun or moon for any time of the day or night. This enables photographers to scout a landscape from the comfort of their home, so without having to go to a location you can discover at what time the sun will appear from behind a hill to light the valley on the other side, or what time it will be perfectly behind the peak of a mountain to create an amazing silhouette. There is a lot of information that can be garnered from the software, and it will allow you to see exactly where you should be standing and when, which takes a lot of the luck and guesswork out of planning your day.

What to Shoot?

What you decide to shoot will obviously depend on your chosen location. Landscapes are the most obvious subject, but the aim of the day is to try to come away with as much variety as possible. If you head to the coast, take a macro lens and keep a look-out for crabs and other creatures that may be lurking in rock pools. Similarly, a macro lens may be useful in the countryside for plants and insects. For more urban locations, search out good places to take documentary or streetphotography images, and there is of course architecture, but don’t forget to include close-up images of details and textures.

The aim of the day is variety and keeping yourself entertained. Setting a whole day aside to go exploring gives you ample opportunity to try some new techniques, or to take a friend’s camera or lens for a test drive. To get the most out of the experience, photograph as many different subjects and scenes as possible. Of course, it would be unrealistic to expect every image to be a masterpiece, but the day should be a learning experience with every hour offering something different as the light changes.

Once you have finished, why not make a photobook, slideshow or online gallery about your day? Don’t forget to take plenty of self-portraits and photos of your kit, as those ‘behind-the-scenes’ images help to tell the story of your day.

What to take

As you are going to be out shooting for so long, and will probably have an early start, it is best to prepare everything you want to take the night before. It is always a good idea to take a rain jacket and warm jumper, even in the summer, as you don’t want to get caught out by changeable weather.

Similarly, leave a blanket in the boot of your car, both in case of emergencies or if you fancy a quick snooze following your sunrise shoot. A bottle of water is also essential. In terms of photographic equipment, you should have a good idea about the sort of equipment you will need based on your chosen location. Put together a good basic kit, starting with a 28-70mm f/2.8 lens, or similar, and a fixed optic, perhaps a 55mm macro for a good standard focal length and something that offers macro options. Another good choice would be a 70-200mm lens, or similar, to provide some extra reach should you see any wildlife or a landscape feature you wish to pick out. A good teleconverter that will work with your lenses can be a godsend, expanding the focal lengths available to you but without adding much weight to your bag.

If weight is an issue, then an 18-200mm lens should suit almost any image that you are likely to take. However, it is when shooting on days like this that a compact system camera and its lenses really are beneficial, particularly the smaller micro four thirds or Nikon 1 system cameras. Not only are the cameras smaller, but so are the lenses. This means that your kit selection will weigh far less and fit in a far smaller bag than their equivalent APS-C or full-frame DSLR counterparts.

Remember to take plenty of memory cards, as you never know how many photographs you will end up taking. And with that in mind, make sure you pack spare batteries, or have another way to charge you camera, such as via an external battery pack or in your car while driving. This is another advantage of compact system cameras, as some of them can be charged via USB, so battery and incar charging are possible.

Finally, take a compact camera. It won’t add much weight, and it may provide a longer zoom than you have on your main camera. Plus, it’s a great back-up option should the battery on your main camera die.

Take a Photo Walk

Create a photo walk of your local area, or venture further afield with our top tips on devising your own shooting tour.

Although there are many companies offering organised photo walks around the country, why not create your own? With the resources available via the internet, it’s never been easier to research and plan your route.

Once you’ve decided where you want to take your photo walk for the purposes of our project we’re using Bournemouth in Dorset use Google Maps Street View to take a closer look at the area. Locate a landmark, such as the pier, from which to start your photo walk. Make sure there are car parks or transport links nearby if needed. From here, mark out a route. Street View shows us that we can walk along the seafront to Hengistbury Head passing another pier, or we can walk along the chine and photograph the Pavilion, Coy Pond and the mini golf course.

Remember, you may also want to check tide times and sunrise and sunset locations, so you can plan your day to ensure you are in the right place at the right time for great golden-hour photos.

Start a Blog

A blog can give your work exposure and provide a platform from which to advise others.

So many of us slave away at producing work that we’re proud of, but then find we lack a means to show the world our images. This is one of the great things about the internet: it provides a platform for you to showcase your adventures in photography.

Sites like Flickr and 500px offer amateur photographers a user-friendly way of putting their work online. Most importantly, they enable other photographers to comment and offer feedback on the images you show. But why not go further and create a website dedicated to your work alone?

WordPress (wordpress.com) and Blogspot (blogger.com) offer template blog sites that are easy to set up and put work onto. It’s a more personal way of showing the world your images, and one you have complete control over. These sites also allow visitors to comment on your images.

Blogs can help to generate a following for your work and allow people to track your progress as a developing photographer. Not only that, but a blog will allow you, if you so choose, to go into detail about how you produced your images and potentially offer advice and inspiration to other photographers. There are many photographic blogs out there that you can visit for inspiration, to demonstrate the potential of creating your own web presence. Not all of them are entirely successful, but that in itself should demonstrate what works and what doesn’t.

Hire a Model for the Day

Club together with some friends and photograph a professional model for stunning portraits and a great skill booster.

Do you struggle to find friends and family who will pose for you? And even if you do find someone who agrees, do they only sit still for five minutes before they get too bored or embarrassed to continue?

If so, a professional model might be the answer to your portrait problems. And by clubbing together with camera-club companions or other friends, hiring a model might not be as expensive as you first thought. Working with a professional model will provide you with a number of benefits. First, they know what they’re doing. They can help suggest poses, props and locations that bring out their best features and they don’t mind being told what to do! As they’re also being paid to be there, there’s no rush, so you can make sure your lighting, settings and composition are perfect.

You might be able to find local models who will give you some time for free in return for headshots for their portfolio. It’s worth posting an ad on Gumtree (www.gumtree.com) or a similar site. Be warned, though you might get some very inexperienced models, so it could be worth going down the agency route after all. Joe Ewaskiw at Model Mayhem (www.modelmayhem.com) gives this advice: ‘Collaborate. Models aren’t just props. Work with their talents to enhance your ideas. Build rapport. Communicate with models clearly and respectfully. If you make a model feel uncomfortable, the photos will show it. And finally, follow through promptly.

If you promised to give photos to the model, don’t delay. One of the biggest complaints models have is never getting the photos. Avoid getting a bad reputation.’

Take of series of self-potraits
If you can’t find someone to photograph, why not take a photograph of yourself? It’s easier than you think.

Finding a suitable subject for portraits can be diffi cult, particularly if you are quite shy. We would suggest asking a complete stranger for permission to take their photograph, but although they may be more receptive than you think, this may be too much of a leap for many photographers. Instead, why don’t you try to photograph the one person who will always be available at the same time as you – yourself!

Taking a self-portrait gives you time and opportunity to experiment with posing and lighting. Set your camera up on a tripod and then use the self-timer or a remote release to trigger the shutter. It may take a few attempts before you achieve the correct exposure settings, but once mastered, you can begin to concentrate on posing in front of the camera.

As photographers, we tend to be most critical of images of ourselves, which makes us the perfect subjects. You will learn that by angling your head in a certain way, or by opening your eyes a little more, you can create a more fl attering portrait, and all the techniques that you learn can then be used when photographing someone else. Similarly, once you have the basic exposure and positioning sorted out, you can begin to play with the lighting, perhaps adding an additional fill light or a reflector and adjusting their positions to see what effect this has while shooting.`

Critique

What’s the use of a picture that nobody sees? Try looking for places to get critique for your images, or even critique those of others.

There are plenty of facilities for getting critique on your photos. Social media sites like Facebook and portfolio sites such as Flickr are good places to start, but also keep an eye out for portfolio reviews taking place at galleries in your area. These are a great way to gain feedback in person, which is always worthwhile.

There is one important point that many people forget, however one of the fastest ways to gain feedback for your work is to give it to others. Why not speak to photographers you know and ask to give crit for crit? With this in mind, here are a few points that you might want to consider when offering critique:

Think about the elements that make up the image. An image should only contain elements that are absolutely necessary to its intended message or effect. Would the image you are looking at benefit from a tighter crop, or some judicious application of the Clone tool? Has the photographer tried to cram too much into the frame, or has he or she gotten a little too close to the subject for its own good?

Look at the light Light is a photographer’s bread and butter, and it needs to be used correctly. In whatever genre of photography you encounter, always ask yourself is the light right in this image? If it’s natural light, ask yourself whether the photographer has shot a picture appropriate to the conditions. If artificial, examine the effects of the set-up. Does the light need softening? If it’s a portrait, has the subject been flattered?

Consider the image’s composition This doesn’t just mean looking along the thirds lines a central placement of a subject can work perfectly well in the right context. Think about what the photographer was trying to show with the image and ask yourself whether the composition aids that.

Has the photographer used the correct depth of field? If a cluttered background pulls your attention away from the main subject, the chances are that the photographer could do with opening up his or her aperture. This could go the other way too would the inclusion of some more background have made for a more interesting picture?

Remember to be honest, fair and specific to the image We’ve all got our pet peeves, but it’s worth trying to get a handle on yours when giving critique. You may not think much of high dynamic range photography or be sick to death of black & white, but that doesn’t mean you get to write off these images as worthless. If they work for that particular image, then they work be fair.

What do you like about the image? Easily forgotten, but this is an important one. While constructive criticism is useful, nobody enjoys having their work ripped remorselessly to shreds. Find something positive to say about every image you critique and you are much more likely to make friends than enemies.

Shoot from the hip

Shooting from the hip can help you stay under the radar and produce some fantastic street photography.

Street photography has grown in popularity over the last few years. However, achieving that sought after natural look can sometimes be quite a challenge. Thankfully, cameras are becoming a little more stealthy, but often when people become aware of a photographer taking a picture, the mood and scene suddenly change. Capturing that impromptu moment therefore comes down to being subtle and discreet.

One method to combat this is to shoot from the hip. This avoids raising awareness of your presence, so the scene does not change as you capture your images. If you’re not raising the camera, people do not expect you to be taking pictures.

In this situation, an articulated screen can be very useful but not essential. All settings can be preset for the situation while relying on the AF to focus the shot or setting a predetermined focus distance.

Look at books and magazines

With so many books and magazines out there, you’ll never be stuck for ideas.

We mentioned that visiting exhibitions is a good way of getting inspiration for your own work. Another good tip is to delve into the myriad books and magazines that line the shelves of newsagents, bookshops and libraries.

Take a wander through the photography section of any good bookshop and look through some of the truly wonderful books that have been compiled by some of the world’s most important photographers. There’s nothing more exciting and inspirational than studying the work of your favourite imagemakers.

A great number of books are released every month whose premise is built on improving your photography, whether it’s in general terms or by using specific techniques such as macro and monochrome. There’s no definitive guide to photography, so it’s worth shopping around for the one that works for you.

It’s worth flicking through magazines that aren’t necessarily devoted to photography, such as fashion and lifestyle magazines. Take a look at the images and see if you can work out how they’re done. How were they lit? What works about the composition? How would you have done it differently? Of course, there’s always the option to subscribe to a trusted photography magazine, one in which you can find reviews of many of the books you’re likely to look at in the course of your research.

Start a 365 Project

Get your thinking cap on and your creative juices flowing, by taking one photo every day for a year.

If there's one thing most of us are guilty of, it is not making enough time for our photography. There are so many reasons, excuses really, not to go out for a day shooting work, family, weather that our cameras may go untouched for weeks on end.

However, a quick adjustment to how you think about photographic time might be all you need to be reinspired to go out more frequently. Why not spend just five or ten minutes a day taking a photo? Take your camera on your walk to work, or pull the car over in a layby if you see a pretty sunset. Take a photo of your cat, dog or child going about their daily business. Or experiment with still life in the comfort of your own front room. The possibilities are endless.

And this is where Project 365 comes in. Project 365 encourages participants to take and share one photo a day. By sharing your photo, you are more likely to follow through with the daily shoots, as well as getting valuable feedback.

There are loads of places to share your projects, including Flickr and 365Project.org, the latter of which currently has 80,000 members documenting their daily lives. We spoke to Ross Scrivener at 365Project.org (365project.org/Scrivna) for his top photography tips on completing your own project:


  1. Pick a subject... or don’t: Having a theme can be a fun way to watch your life, perhaps 365 selfportraits, or photos of your kids or your cat. Or just your life. Pick something to focus on and just keep taking photos.
  2. Learn to use your camera: Your camera is your number-one companion carry it with you everywhere you go, learn to use it to it’s full potential, and get creative.
  3. Stay organised: Don’t allow a backlog to accrue, sort your photos out every day and post, that way you aren’t left with a massive task, plus posting regularly will help you integrate with the community and get positive feedback on a daily basis.
  4. Find inspiration: In the early days, I was often quite stuck for ideas, but it does get easier! Find a photo you like and try to replicate it. It’s a great way of getting a good photo and improving your skills at the same time!
  5. Keep your eye on the prize: You will get disheartened, no doubt about it, but never forget why you started the project. After 12 months you will have a huge sense of achievement, and a great diary of your life.

Use Text 

You know what they say about pictures and words, but sometimes text can give images a creative spark.

It may seem a little gimmicky at first glance, but words are powerful tools and sometimes a sprinkling of text can be the unusual touch that will make a picture memorable. A witty caption, an apposite quote or an overlaid title can all be appropriate in the right contexts, and if you are struggling with how to give an image a little extra something, it’s well worth trying out.

What’s also worth trying is incorporating text that you find in the world into your photos. Look for signs, billboards, even graffiti this is often a great way to get inspired with street photography. Be open to the presence of words in the world around you when making pictures.

Also consider being creative with your photo titles. Most people when they’re titling images will provide simply a blank statement of the main subject: ‘Tree’, ‘Kingfisher’, ‘Dorset’ you get the idea. When titling a picture, try to think more along the lines of what you were trying to say or achieve with the photo than merely what the main subject is. Sometimes this may involve a little research into your subject, but it is worth it. Titles like ‘Elm’s 89th Year’, ‘Weather Beaten Birch’ or ‘Young Sapling’ are all much more interesting and memorable than ‘Tree’.

Edit your Images

Do you always edit your images in the same way? Try some new techniques and styles to reveal a different side to your photographs.

Hours spent in front of a computer editing a digital image won’t turn a bad shot into a good one, but it can offer a different interpretation of the scene. In the same way that we frequently choose to use the same exposure settings on our camera, we also get very complacent when editing the resulting images, making the same adjustments to the same strengths time and time again.

While this does help a collection of images to look like part of a set, sometimes editing the image in a different way can give it a whole new perspective. So next time you sit down to edit an image, why not set yourself the target of editing it in fi ve different ways? Don’t just click on a default preset adjustment; create a selection of your own and apply them all to the same image and see which you prefer.

The way we crop our images is another element to consider. As photographers, we all know the standard crop ratios, but these have been determined by the film we used or the paper we printed on. Given that most of us now display our images on screen rather than as prints, there is no reason for us to still feel constricted to the usual 3:2 or 3:4 crop ratio. Next time you shoot a landscape image, try cropping it in fi ve completely different ways using five different aspect ratios. You may find that the original version is the best, but by looking at and cropping the photograph differently, you could uncover a striking shot.

Use Manual Focus

Take some time to learn when manual focus is the better option, and how thinking about focus distance can lead to better images.

The vast majority of photographers take autofocus for granted, but it wasn’t that long ago that manual focus was the only option. And it still has a huge part to play, particularly if you want to get the most accurate images possible.

For some subjects, manual focusing will be far too slow. However, it’s great for the type of shots that most enthusiasts take on a regular basis. You may even find the manual method faster and more accurate, as twisting the lens barrel can often be faster than changing the selected AF point. Not to mention that some
lenses can suffer from front or back focus, causing images to be fractionally softer than they should be. 

In fact, one way to determine whether a lens suffers from front or back focus is to set a camera on a tripod, use autofocus and take pictures of a detailed subject. For landscapes images, manual focus can be very beneficial, allowing the photographer to use the focus distance scale on the lens to set it to the hyperfocal distance point. This will maximise depth of field to make sure that both the subject and background are in focus, to infinity.

Infinity Focus

It can be difficult to use autofocus when photographing subjects in the sky, especially at night. For stars or fireworks, it is best to manually set the lens to infinity focus. How you do this will depend on your lens. For instance, if your lens has a focus distance scale, manually focusing at a set distance is easy, but not all lenses focus to infinity in the same way.

Some have a ‘hard-stop’ infinity focus, which means that when you turn the focusing ring to its maximum focus distance it will stop at infinity. However, the focus ring on some lenses can turn slightly beyond infinity. This is where the common belief that you should always focus slightly back from infinity comes from. In fact, what you should be doing is turning the focusing ring until the focus indicator line is in the centre of the infinity symbol.

This will guarantee you are focusing on infinity so you can concentrate on composing the image and firing the shutter at the correct time.

Macro Images 

When you take macro images, manual focus should be your default. As the depth of field involved in macro imagery is so small, it can be difficult to get precise points in focus using AF. Manual focus gives more control. Manually focusing on your subject via the viewfinder can be a little difficult as the display may be a quite dark, especially if extension tubes or bellows have been used. If you have a live-view function, magnify the on-screen image as much as it will go. This will enable you to see tiny details much better.

Preset Manual Focus

When taking documentary and street photos, it is often useful to preset the focus manually. By selecting a certain focus distance and aperture, the resulting depth of field will make it possible to capture the subject in focus. In this way, documentary photographers are able to use their cameras almost like a point-andshoot, so the camera is ready the moment the shutter is fired, without autofocus getting in the way.

For example, when shooting with a 35mm lens on a camera with an APS-C-sized sensor, setting the lens aperture to f/11 and the focus distance to 4.5m will create a depth of field extending from 2.47m to 25.7m. This should be more than enough to get any documentary or street subject in focus.

So, the next time you are out engaged in this type of photography, use this technique and have more freedom to concentrate on composition and capturing the moment.

Shoot at maximum aperture

It is all too easy to switch your aperture to f/8 and simply fi re away, but shooting with a large aperture and a shallow depth of fi eld will change your view of the world.

ALTHOUGH a large depth of field is perfect for many types of photography, it can create something of a point-and-shoot mentality. So instead of relying on f/8 or f/11, why not open your lens aperture as wide as it will go, or perhaps 1 stop down from there for better quality?

When shooting at f/2.8, f/1.8 or even f/1.4, there will be a very shallow depth of fi eld. Use it to your advantage to look at scenes in a completely different way. By focusing on foreground subjects, objects in the background will be completely out of focus and show as a mere blur, and vice versa.

By restricting yourself to using a shallow depth of fi eld, you will naturally start to look for opportunities to use this effect creatively. It becomes easy to isolate subjects against a background, to create a sense of mystery, or conversely, to make the foreground a real feature of your image by blurring it completely, showing only the background in focus. So why not set your camera to aperture priority, the lens aperture to its maximum setting and try shooting for an entire day without changing it?

Printing

It’s all online these days, right? Not quite, as there’s still nothing to match the endurance of a physical print.

Taking and sharing photos has never been easier. You can instantly send pictures to the other side of the world directly from a mobile phone or Wi-Fi-enabled camera.

Yet while looking at photos on a small mobile device is convenient, it doesn’t have the same impact as a print. Printing photographs has, from the outset, been at the heart of photography, but how many people now take the time to print their digital images?

Prints are easy to hand around and talk about with a small group of people, while larger prints have greater impact displayed in a home or gallery. Prints are a powerful medium for instantly conveying a message or story, and you don’t need to power up any devices before you can see them.

Looking at the printed image will help you to further analyse the composition and other technical matters. Things that may not have been obvious on a computer screen will stand out on a print. A printed image has a greater perceived value and it’s looked at with more focused interest.

Use the manufacturers’ recommended inks and paper, and prints can last for up to 200 years. Printed photographs will be around for longer than many of today’s mobile devices, including hard drives and removable drives that can be discontinued in favour of newer technology.

Create a Photo Essay

Right from the outset, photography’s pioneers understood that the medium was, at its heart, much more than just a means to record images of the surrounding world. Artists such as Hippolyte Bayard and William Henry Fox Talbot saw the potential for the medium to act as a conduit for one of our most cherished human traits the desire to tell stories.

Photography has an innate ability to educate, inform and entertain, either through single images or through a succession of frames. It wouldn’t be unfair to suggest that most of us spend our time attempting to communicate our ideas through a single frame, but what if you want to take that a step further?

Take a look back through some of the work produced by the significant photographers whose talents were honed under the guidance of such major publications as Life and National Geographic, and you’ll see the exciting potential of creating a story through a group of images. Creating photo essays is not only great fun, but it’s also a good way of sharpening your skills and instincts as a photographer.

Photo essays can be about anything. They can be about a local shop, an exciting event, a person’s day-to-day life or even about what your cat gets up to when he or she thinks you’re not looking. Here we take a look at a simple photo essay so you can get an idea of the potential of such a project.

The Photo Essay

Every good photo essay can be essentially broken down into five components: the establishing shot, a portrait, an action shot, a detail shot and a clincher. Of course, these are relatively malleable suggestions, but it’s a good starting point. There are a variety of steps that can be inserted and there is potential to create more than one image for each section. However, for the purposes of illustration we’ll focus on these five steps.

One thing that’s worth noting before you start is that you should try to maintain a consistent visual style throughout the photo essay. This applies to things such as angle of view, lighting and colour, so your images will function better together as a set.

The establishing shot This is often a wideangle shot to establish the scene. The reason for this is that a photo essay is a journey. You’re taking your viewer somewhere they’ve never been before, so it’s important to place them within the scene so they can get their bearings. You are essentially placing the story in context.

The portrait Here’s where we meet the protagonists of your story. These are the people who will guide us through the rest of the images. What you are attempting to establish here is their role within the wider story. This is perhaps the trickiest aspect of the overall project, but it’s also the one that you’ll learn the most from. There are, of course, simple things you can do to make this person’s or group’s role clear. If they work at the shooting gallery at the visiting fun fair, make sure you show them behind the counter, BB gun in hand. If your subject makes their living as a farmer, show them in a field flaunting their mud-encrusted wellington boots. Alternatively, you can take the opposite approach and shoot your portrait as a tight headshot. This shot sounds simple, but through this one image you’re attempting to introduce a character with which your viewers should be able to find some level of emotional engagement. The important thing is to shoot a variety of portraits, some candid and some posed.

The action shot This is the image that will focus on your subject’s interaction with their environment. It’s the one that will show their reason for being in the chosen location. To take a couple of simple examples, it could be a shop assistant interacting with a customer or a Thai boxer working out his or her aggression on a punch bag. This is where we see the story truly developing, as it will give a human dimension to your character. 

The detail shot We can learn much from getting a little closer to the subject, as this will highlight a particular element of your story. While detail shots don’t necessarily contain much in the way of individual narrative, they are a key component in narrative progression. Think of it as dramatisation. Perhaps you’ll get close in on the character’s hands as they apply icing to a cake or brush strokes to a canvas. There are many forms this shot can take.

The clincher This is the shot that will close the story and deliver the emotional pay-off. What is the end of the process? What has this story been about? This is where we find out. Is it a policeman placing a suspect under arrest or a customer walking away with their custom-made zoot suit? This is perhaps the most important shot of the sequence and the one that will become clear to you, the photographer, as the shooting process develops.

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Photography Workshop: 20 Ideas for photography inspiration
20 Ideas for photography inspiration
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Photography Workshop
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