Quick tips you can squeeze into your busy lives

Photography is easy to start but takes a long time to master. Most of us cannot dedicate vast chunks of time to it, even though we would like to. So we have to squeeze in photo-time between work, home life and other commitments. A question I am commonly asked at my workshops is what can they do when they don't have ? Well, the answer is a lot!

A key principle of my workshops is directed towards developing the photographers creativity skills. Not just taking a picture, but creating one! It is obviously important to know how to you use your equipment in order for you to take a picture, but it is you behind the camera who will create it. 

So, here are 5 little things anyone can squeeze into their daily routine that will help you build on the creative aspect of your photography.

My wife, Jenifer, takes a snapshot of me with her iPhone 4!

1) Always keep a camera on you… 

This way if you have an opportunity to shoot, you can, and you never know what something interesting will happen! Aim to shoot something, anything, every day. The idea being  to shoot the mundane, but try and make it interesting. Experiment!  If you don't fancy lugging around your main camera with you, use you camera phone. It is more than capable of producing great images if YOU use it accordingly! :)

Try and create an interesting image out of your day to day life, because if you can do that, imagine what you could do when you are in an amazing situation! :) 

My Jenifer posing at our home 'studio'.

2) Don’t get fixated on your chosen discipline…  

I have many wildlife photography enthusiast friends who just spend their time moaning about the fact they can't shoot unless they are in the jungle/mountains/parks etc. Thinking that they can't learn or develop while they are not at an exciting location. This is just incorrect!

Continuing with the example of wildlife photography. If you are stuck in a situation where you can't get out and shoot wildlife, shoot portraits, it will teach you excellent lighting skills. Shoot landscapes or cityscapes, because these kind of environmental shots are pivotal for wildlife habitat shots. Go out and shoot street photography, it is basically the same, living organism + environment, although be careful, it can be just as dangerous! :)

Try different shooting styles; high-key, low-key, black and white, HDR, long-exposures, flashes, external flashes, home studio, light painting...  

Try different things, see what you like about you images, what works and what doesn't. Broad photographic knowledge is going to provide you with an excellent eye for future shots! 

3)   Avoid the ‘gear zone’... 

This is a dangerous zone...  one I have found myself in frequently when I couldn't go out and shoot. This is when you peruse the internet looking at that next bit of gear that will make your photography awesome. Don't get me wrong, I love getting ne gear and staying on top of all the new lenses etc...  but how is that actually helping my ability to take pictures? Don't get stuck in the gear zone, spending endless hours 'window shopping' for new gear, and try to remember that gear is used to realise your idea...  Without an idea, but all the gear, the best you can get is the most technically accurate boring image. An Idea is more potent than the gear! I can not stress this point enough. So try not to linger in this place...  :)

In combination with point 1, confine yourself to just one of your lenses (if you have more than one). Use only that lens for a week or so, and test it's and your limits with it. Make sure you look up what other people can do with the lens on Flickr (point 4). Once you think you have done all you can with it, move onto another lens.

Understand your current equipment and your limitations using it. It will help you realise the extent of what you can do with what you have. 

If you are looking for inspiration...  have at look at some of these sites:

  • JungleDragon - Great for wildlife enthusiasts!

  • Flickr - FULL of all kind of images, good and bad.

  • 500px - Another great resource where you can filter by type

  • behance - an adobe sharing site with more than just photos

4)   Look at other peoples work... 

This will not only give you ideas of things you can try (see point 2), but will inspire you! Create a folder on your desktop filled with what you think are great images and keep looking at them. It will motivate you! Analyse what you like or dislike about other peoples work. It will help you develop your own creative style, and never be afraid to emulate an image you like. Try and figure out how it was done and give it a go yourself!

This will give you plenty of inspiration for things to try or aim for! 

5)   Dream up shots...

Think about a perfect shot you would like to make. Really think about it to the finest detail. What will be the subject, the back-ground, the mood? And then think about how you could get it. What camera settings you would need? Have you the right gear to do the shot, and if not, how could you do a work-a-round? Mentally dissect this image in your head, and try to accomplish each piece in turn (great idea for Point 1).

Here, let me give you an example. I have a dream shot of a leopard up a tree at night with the milky-way in the back-ground. To get this shot, i would need to do a long exposure (15-30sec) to get the milky-way. Which means a tripod. The leopard in the tree would probably be too dark still, so would need to light that separately. Also, the leopard might move, so i would need to light it for a short period of time only, light painting? External flash? The considerations are huge, but I can certainly try each part separately, so i have it all figured out just in case this near impossible situation should arise! :P

Get it sorted in your mind, so if you are ever lucky enough to be in a situation to take 'the shot', you know exactly what you would need to do and how!

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