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5 Things That Won't Improve Your Photography

Myth No.1: Expensive gear

Remember: it’s not your camera that’s stopping you from taking better pictures. As Ansel Adams said, “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” Your vision, your passion, your creativity – all happens in your head. There are as many bad photos taken with three-thousand-pound cameras as there are amazing ones taken with a smartphone. Having said that, you do need some gear – have a peak inside my camera bag here.

Myth No.2: Spraying and praying

Taking as many photos as you can. That’s the beauty of digital photography isn’t it? Just fire away, then you can simply delete the ones that aren’t any good and, like a gold-panner, you’ll just be left with that one gleaming nugget. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. You need to carefully consider each and every shot. Imagine that you’re shooting film – that instead of a memory card with a capacity of 900 RAW files, you’ve only got those 36 precious exposures – and you have to make each and every one count. Spot-on exposure, well composed. A considered, crafted image.

Myth No.3: Being a light snob

The light’s bad, forget it. It’s too cloudy. It’s raining. The sun’s too harsh. It’s too windy. It’s pointless taking photographs in such “BAD” light. Bad light? There’s no such thing. There is such a thing, however, as a bad photograph which fails to realise the potential of the light you’ve got. Of course, we all want to shoot landscapes in the golden hours before dawn and after sunset, but the opportunities don’t stop there. It’s only your vision, your visualisation and understanding of light that’s stopping you.

Myth No.4: Thinking you’re only a proper photographer if you stick to the rules

"I only ever shoot in Manual Mode. I never place the main subject in the middle of the frame. A tripod is mandatory for every shot. And a sloping horizon is punishable by death." Really? Actually, for each of these, there’s a case for and against. Shooting in Manual Mode is a great way to learn the fundamentals of photography and take full control of exposure when you need to. But I’ve seen so many photographers ‘harassed’ into thinking this is the only mode they MUST use, and they’re fumbling desperately with the aperture dial, tweaking the shutter speed dial, trying to remember where the ISO button is…. And the moment’s gone; they’ve missed it.

Don’t be afraid to use programme/auto modes like Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority if the situation calls for it. And don’t be afraid to break the rules of composition. The classic Rule of Thirds or Golden mean is perfect for a lot of situations, but not all. Tripods, yes, if optimum sharpness and depth of field is important, or you’re shooting in low light or trying to capture the Milky Way… keeping your camera as rock steady as possible is crucial. But if you’re shooting candid portraits in a busy market, you probably don’t want to be grappling with a tripod. As for sloping horizons, yes… they are punishable by death…. Unless of course, you’re being all arty and tilting the camera on purpose to add a dramatic diagonal horizon across your frame...!

Myth No.5: Believing that post-processing is cheating

"Oh, that must have been Photoshopped!" How many time do we hear that in a negative context. It’s rarely, "Wow, that’s been Photoshopped!” If you enter the Wanderlust Travel Photograph of the Year competition, the rules only allow for essential post-processing; the emphasis is very much on capturing the moment as it happened there and then on your travels. You can’t add to it or change it substantially beyond that, at home, in front of your computer. That’s fair enough. Rules are rules. But let’s not forget that photography is an art form. It’s a creative process that doesn’t necessarily stop once you’ve pressed the shutter button. No one seemed that worried about Ansel Adams dodging and burning in his darkroom when he was creating all those wonderful black and white landscapes in Yosemite. Most digital files need a bit of post-processing to unlock their full potential – vibrancy, tone, sharpness, white balance. Just don’t over-do it.

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