With DSLR cameras becoming much more affordable, and with the recent interest in Mirrorless cameras, it’s no surprise that more amateur photographers want to shoot like a pro, and buying the appropriate camera to do so is a great start.
But unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that, just because you’ve purchased a professional camera doesn’t automatically mean your images will look professional. It will still require much practice and experience to capture the perfect shots, but buying a good camera will certainly point you in the right direction.
The next step is learning about your camera and understanding it, every camera is different and even with the same settings (aperture, shutter speed etc.) you’ll see very different outcomes. Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s as much down to your environment and your own (creative) eye as it is to your camera of what images you can produce.
I will give you my own tips on what I believe can help you to shoot like a pro, the rest is down to you. I personally own a mirrorless camera but these principles applies generally to any type of professional camera in the market today.
1. Avoid Aberrations
This is a great tip because it applies to all photos, in all environments, landscape or portrait. I’ve often taken what I thought to be a great photo, with an excellent subject and a beautiful backdrop. It’s only when I print the photo or view it on my computer I notice a dog doing his business in the background, and after that, it’s all I can see. We often spend too much time focusing on the composition that we forget the anomalies that are hiding in plain sight.
This brings me on to the next part.
2. Clearly identify your subject
It’s perfectly fine to have a nice backdrop to your image, but just make sure the viewer knows who/what the subject is. Try to avoid having too many subjects in one shot as this could deviate the viewer from the main subject.
If you’re at a crowded event but want to just focus on one person, you can adjust the settings accordingly, by lowering the aperture you can focus on the main subject and blur the background, alternatively you can zoom in on your subject, but make sure you leave don’t zoom in too tight and ruin your shot. Continuing on the subject of…subjects. The next tip is also important.
3. Choose an interesting subject(s)
Don’t waste your camera’s storage space on boring subjects. The most captivating photos are the ones that include interesting and often unusual subjects, especially capturing them at a particular moment. This might mean waiting with your camera at the ready for the perfect moment; after all, good things come to those who wait.
If you see a monkey in a tree with its back to you, it’s not going to make a very captivating shot; wait until it turns to look at you (by seducing it with monkey calls and fruit) and then take your picture. And don’t be afraid to climb a mountain to get the perfect shot; it’s all part of the photography adventure!
4. The Trio of Exposure
I’m going to elaborate a bit more on what I mentioned before about understanding your camera. There are three important factors you should take into account with every picture, they are ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture.
Depending on the environment and lighting you’re in, you’ll need to adjust these. I won’t go into too much detail about this instead you can take a look at this handy infographic, read some more on this topic, and then put it into practice.
Although you can adjust the settings on your camera, and use flash when necessary, it’s really best to examine the lighting you already have and arrange (if you can) your scene and subject accordingly. At night this will be a bit more challenging if you still want to capture high quality images with little (digital) noise, but good DSLR and Mirrorless cameras are designed to be able to capture clear images, even in low light conditions.
6. A Creative Composition
This is possibly the most important tip if you want your photos to still look professional without following any tips (but I’m not suggesting that.) For more details on this you can read about the ‘Rule of Thirds’, though I don’t believe it’s essential all of the time.
Nearly every photographer will make some sort of post-shoot tweaks to their photographs, just to make those final improvements. Maybe you feel that the image is not quite bright enough, or you’d like to increase the saturation; minor adjustments can go a long way. Like with most things, practice makes perfect. We can learn a lot from reading about different techniques, but nothing beats actually getting out there and learning from experience, so don’t waste too much time reading, happy snapping!