There’s one way anyone can learn to improve their photography in 60 seconds, and it doesn’t have anything to do with adjusting Levels or getting your head around Adjustment Layers.
No, the simple truth is that you’ll be able to take your photography forwards once you start looking at your existing picture collection with fresh eyes.
The art of ‘seeing’ is something that a lot of photographers talk about. It can be a really tough thing to develop, and it sounds a bit ‘deep’, but it really can make a difference.
There are a few different ‘seeing’ stages you can go through. First up is the obvious one: blurred or badly exposed pictures. Zoom into a shot at 100% and ask yourself if it’s really sharp. Not just acceptably sharp, but really, bitingly sharp. You may not be shooting with the highest quality glass out there, but have you made the most of what you do have?
Did you get the exposure of the shot as you wanted? If not, how will you adjust the camera next time for this type of subject photographed in similar lighting?
Viewing EXIF data at the same time as you look through your images can provide another layer of seeing. If an image doesn’t appear sharp enough, was the aperture small enough or the shutter speed fast enough? Learning from camera setting ‘mistakes’ in this manner is a sure-fire way to ensure you don’t repeat them again!
The next layer of seeing is to do with that fundamental aspect of photography: composition. You’re not only looking for framing errors here, but also routines and habits that you may have fallen into.
Take a look at your landscapes, for instance. Are you always conforming to the rule of thirds? How often do you shoot vertical and horizontal versions of the same scene? Are you repeatedly using the widest setting on your zoom?
Trying to develop a signature style is one thing, but structuring all of your photos in the same way may be holding back your creativity.
As for framing errors, these should be obvious – and you’ll be kicking yourself when you spot them. Have any elements been awkwardly cropped by the edge of the frame? Are there any bright or colourful parts of the picture that are taking attention away from the main subject?
Are there any obvious overlaps – a telegraph pole or tree appearing to sprout from someone’s head, for instance? Would the shot benefit from a slightly tighter or looser crop?
This seeing technique (and we use the term ‘technique’ loosely) isn’t designed to make you feel that some of the pictures in your collection aren’t up to scratch. It really is about seeing where you could fine-tune things, and you should be able to learn equally as much from all your satisfying work. What do you like about your best photos and how can you repeat it?
If all this sounds a little long-winded, it’s not. It really should take 60 seconds or less to analyse a picture this way. And 1 minute spent here, really looking at a picture you took the previous day, week or month before, can save you much more time when you’re next behind the camera.