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WHY YOU DON’T NEED A DIGITAL CAMERA TO IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY SKILLS

Practice makes perfect doesn’t apply today. Throw out the notions you have about becoming a better photographer because facts are facts – you don’t need a DSLR to improve your skills. The advice in this article is about being open to new ideas and aiming to be efficient with the time you devote to photography.

You’ll learn to pick up skills and exercises that will help you inevitably become a better photographer. This is something new to try for every photographer, regardless of your level. Both beginners and professionals can shift their focus to something new, an alternative hands-off approach to improve their photography skills.

Different ways to improve your photography skills

1. Submerge yourself in art – Visit art galleries, museums, exhibitions and other artistic venues.

With paintings, someone has worked at the same composition for months, maybe even years. This gives you a whole other perspective of dedication. It helps you prioritize composition, as if you don’t have an unlimited amount of shots. In learning more about composition, you’re training your eye to look out for better and improved proportions, light settings and colors.

In broadening your knowledge, you undeniably are going to find new inspiration. One of our photographers, Dina Belenko abides by this rule to get inspired for her artistic approach to photography.

“I strongly believe that the best way to find inspiration is to look outside your trade. We are all compelled to seek inspiration inside our own professional field. Visual art, cinematography, that sort of thing. But what about literature and music? What about podcasts and poetry?” – Dina Belenko

As you can see, the implications here are many. The idea is to really be open to inspiration coming from any direction – be it galleries, exhibitions or something as simple as a new podcast.

2. Get to know your camera, without your camera – Read your manual. It’s your obligation to know your camera inside out.

You know those shots you take that are absolutely awful? Yes, well the answer to why that is is actually in your manual. Don’t be scared of your camera’s many features and settings. It’s your job to learn everything and make the most of every little tweak you can adjust.

Reading and studying your manual won’t help you improve actual shots, but will give you a general understanding of what can go wrong and what you can do to work with different settings. Technical camera knowledge will make a difference to the quality of your pictures. You’ll learn to quickly respond to different lighting conditions on the spot.

As one of our photographers pointed out, you will see improvement in your pictures when you know all the ins and outs of your particular camera.

“Get to know your camera and you will make amazing images. If you already aren’t shooting in manual mode and RAW format, then you just have to learn how to do it. When I learned how to shoot on manual mode and changed my file format to RAW, then I started to see some progress.” – Healthy Laura

3. Get the sketchbook out – Draw, write, sketch, illustrate, plan and be creative on a daily basis.

The action of putting pen (or pencil) on paper is good practice for your brain. Step away from the camera, and use your sketchbook to jot down ideas, draw interesting compositions, or use it to study the compositions of your favorite photographers and artists.

This is perhaps the point that needs the least explaining, because every photographer will find their own use for a sketchbook. How you decide to fill it up and use it is up to you. Just remember that you should always keep track of your ideas, it might help you with future projects.

Drawing is another great exercise for photographers and a good use of the sketchbook. When you sit down to sketch or draw, your paying attention to the most mundane details along with proportion, shape, lighting and composition. Remember, you’re not creating a work of art for the Modern Met. You’re doing this to enhance your workflow and the the creative juices flowing.

You can write in it, you can draw in it, you can embellish it with things you find inspiring. There’s really no limit to the number of ways you can make this work for you. Integrating it into your artistic process is vital as it will help you see change in your photography style with time.

4. Surround yourself with inspirational books – Treat yourself to beautiful coffee table books, images of works you found interesting and the like.

Photography books are wonderfully therapeutic in the sense that the images are often the kind of perfection or an experimental approach we strive towards. When you’re feeling a little lost, just the simple action of flipping through photography books can give you ideas.

Don’t just limit yourself to photography books though. This technique of collecting books helps you improve your photography because you learn from fellow photographers and artists. These books can be on any subject but it’s important that they’re always nearby or on display.

Some photographers enjoy books on the basics of photography. Even if you think you know it all, chances are, there’s a technique or a trick you might have missed. So treat yourself! Invest into inspirational books that are going to help you when you’re at home brainstorming.

5. Movies and documentaries – We hand selected both movies for photographers as well as documentaries that are worth your time.

Learning about new artists, techniques and projects can help you improve your photography.  For one, it’s a great source of inspiration. Watching movies and documentaries can be truly eye opening and give you another reason to question the nature and the essence of your work.

No, you certainly aren’t going to come out of a 2 hour movie or a documentary feeling like you’re a better photographer. You have to train to have the analytical skills to actually learn from movies. Every frame in films is intentional, for example. This means the compositions were meticulously planned. This is a great opportunity to learn more about artistic direction, how compositions were timed and framed.

Whereas movies can help you with better composition and understand lighting, documentaries are there as a form of inspiration. There’s so many amazing artists and projects out there. Hearing the individuals talk about their work should be motivating for you as a photographer.

6. Follow photographers you admire – You can improve your photography style through analysis.

Sometimes photographers get really invested into developing their own style which is undeniably important. However, just as no work of art is truly unique, no photography style is an isolated, purely original form. There are photographers that inspire you, and must have helped you polish your vision.

Follow the people that inspire you most. Don’t be afraid to point out your influences. In studying the photographs of others, you can ask basic questions that will help you sharpen your artistic vision. What do you like about the photograph? What don’t you like? What would you do differently? If an image is perfect, why is that so? Simply observe and reflect.

You can combine this with your sketchbook activity to really soak in this information and have something to return to when you’re feeling a bit uninspired. Keep track of these thoughts, they’re important to your growth as a photographer.

You also have a valuable resource, which is our interviews that we conduct with photographers that work with Depositphotos as well as independent photographers that make a living with their devotion to photography. You can find all the interviews and valuable tips from fellow photographers here.

7. Go location scouting for the view, not for the shoot – Train yourself to really see, and see from a new perspective.

We recently covered the topic of making the most of a typical location, and practicing seeing things in a new light. As an extension of this, you can apply the tips and go out location scouting (yes, without your camera). This does one of two things. You learn to really see, and see views for the sake of enjoying them, not getting the perfect shot. Without a camera, you’re paying attention to other details.

Why is this useful? Often times when you go out to experiment with a camera, you’re paying attention to a specific criteria for your perfect shot. Step away and learn to see locations for different reasons. This is a great outdoors exercise although you should be careful, because not having your camera on you might be frustrating. That’s precisely the point of the exercise – training your vision.

8. Crop your own pictures to improve composition – Devote time to analyzing and editing your own pictures.

Great photographs are about the eye and not the equipment. The good news is that you can work at developing your vision without clinging on to your camera. First, you can go back to the basics and see our cover on the basic rules of composition. There’s no need to implement all of them, but focus on putting some of them to practice.

Simply use your go-to editing app or software and find some of your favorite and maybe even failed photographs. Could you modify them to make them better? This is a great exercise because many photographs which you’ve swept under the rug, so to speak, might have a chance to shine in your portfolio.

This is a really great exercise for every photographer as it makes you look at your own images differently. Certain cropping and proportions can and will alter photographs completely. You can learn from this exercise and focus on framing your shots better in the viewfinder.

9. Share your work and ask for feedback – Find communities online where you can take part in a discussion, but also ask for feedback on your photography.

Getting “likes” on social media doesn’t really tell you much about what people appreciate the most about your creative vision. Although social media can be reassuring, you need to get a clear picture. You do this by consulting other professionals that are in the same line of work and want to help you.

There are many online communities that you can find for photographers that will help you get professional portfolio reviews. You get honest feedback that’s totally objective and the more you do this, the better you’ll understand your strengths and weaknesses. Other photographers can also help you with tips and general guidance on what you can improve or continue doing.

You can get more out of online communities than just portfolio reviews. You can make connections and network with fellow photographers. You can also work at building up your reputation online. The possibilities are endless if you commit to showcasing your work online and with online communities of photographers.

10. Photography tutorials online – There’s a tutorial for almost every photography subject on YouTube alone, why not make the most of it?

Is there something you don’t fully grasp about camera settings? Do you want to find out more about studio lighting? Is there a question bothering you that you need to find answers to? YouTube is a great platform to help you quickly grasp information and find answers to some of the questions that have been hanging over your head about photography.

Again, there’s bigger implications with this point. You can look for online resources, that can also be free, to help you setting problem areas in your practice. It’s a matter of pinpointing your problem areas and addressing the subject head on. When the world is at our fingertips in 2018, it’s a shame to miss an opportunity to learn online on your free time.

11. Manual photography challenge with a film camera – Find or buy a film camera and go back to basics to challenge yourself.

We did say you don’t need a digital camera, but our last piece of advice is to fully take control and master the manual mode. A film camera is such a treasure, and certainly lots of fun to experiment with. The processing of images is a whole other world, and if you can do it yourself, by all means do so.

On top of not knowing what the images will turn out to look like, you’re focused on two very important things – working with light and manual settings, and paying attention to what you photograph without having much control over the outcome.

Embrace the unknown. Invest or borrow a film camera, buy some film, study the camera and settings and go out there and shoot. This is such a therapeutic process for many photographers and artists, especially those looking to improve their photography.

Lastly, it’s important to take away from this bundle of information that there are a million things you can do to help yourself become a better photographer without clinging on to your beloved DSLR. Dare to explore and experiment, try new things and you’ll be surprised at your own progress over time.

Stunning Photographs from National Geographic

After being away for most of the last 4 months, it was nice to arrive home to see one of my photos in a beautiful coffee table book from National Geographic titled ‘Stunning Photographs’.

“I’m a photographer, period. I love photography, the immediacy of it. I like the craft, the idea of saying ‘I’m a photographer.’”

~ David LaChapelle

National Geographic stunning photographs book

This is one seriously beautiful collection of images and I’m honoured to have one of my favourite images from my first trip to Iceland included amongst so many breathtaking photographs. There are over 400 pages in this book and once you start looking through it, trust me, you’ll have a hard time putting it down. Of course, the best part comes about two thirds of the way into the book. 😉

“Photography is a love affair with life.”

~ Burk Uzzle

Ken Kaminesky Iceland National Geographic waterfalls

One of the things that makes this even more special to me is that the photograph is from a location that I often include in my Iceland photography tours. This is the second time that one of my images used in a National Geographic publication is of a location that we visit on my photo tours. The first time it happened was when my photographs of the Duomo in Florence landed on the cover of National Geographic magazine. I’m always delighted to see the look on peoples faces when they see this spectacular Cathedral for the first time. That’s just one of the joys of running these tours. I feel fortunate to be able to share some extraordinary moments with people from all over the world as they discover new places, explore new futures, and have the time of their life. Photography truly does enrich people’s lives.

Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inherited, and the wealth and confusion man has created. It is a major force in explaining man to man.

~Edward Steichen

Kirkjufelfoss waterfalls in Iceland

The Original Image: Kirkjufelfoss waterfalls in Iceland

Images like this one would not be possible without using neutral density filters and I’m lucky to work with the best from Formatt-Hitech.

The book contains all the types of images that we’ve become accustomed to when we think about National Geographic. Wildlife, landscape, people, culture, nature, and so much more. Below are just a few page samples from the book.

It looks like National Geographic is in a giving mood this holiday season. They are giving away copies of the book but hurry there’s only a few days left in the giveaway.

Head on over to the National geographic books Facebook page register to win a copy of the Stunning Photographs book and some sweet extras.

Thanks National Geographic!

NG-Giveaway

Last day to enter the National Geographic Books Stunning Photographs Giveaway is December 29, 2014 at 11:59pm EDT. Winners are selected and announced around January 12, 2015. Open to U.S. citizens only. This promotion in no way sponsored, affiliated, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

25 Common Photography Terms All Beginners Need to Know

common photography terms and definitions for beginners

Learning digital photography seems like a tough task—especially when you’re met with all kinds of technical jargon that leave you clueless and itching for a dictionary. Or worse, leaving you trying to explain what you just learned by using phrases like “that hole you look through” or “that one button you press to take the picture.” Understanding the common photography terms, definitions, and lingo is a crucial first step towards improving your skill as a beginner photographer. Whether you’re shooting with your very first digital camera or want to learn more complex terms like chromatic aberration, f-number or image sensor, read on to see how you should change your perspective (or field of view!) when approaching digital photography or iso photography.

After all, those great how-to guides and classes to improve image quality or depth of field are full of new terms and concepts. While there are hundreds of terms associated with photography, beginners should add these 25 terms to their vocabulary to get a good start on mastering the basics. Speaking of basics, you can catch our annual Fundamentals of Photography series, taught by John Greengo.

And now, on to the common photography terms and definitions all beginner photographers need to know:

Aperture

This is the first common photography term you should learn. Simply put, aperture is the size of the opening in the lens. Think of the lens as a window—large windows or wide angles let in more light, while small windows let in less light. A wide open aperture will let more light into the image for a brighter photo, while a smaller aperture lets in less light. Aperture is measured in f-stops; a small f-stop like f/1.8 is a wide opening, a large f-stop like f/22 is a very narrow one. Aperture is one of three camera settings that determine an image’s exposure, or how light or dark it is. Aperture also affects how much of the image is in focus—wide apertures result in that creamy, unfocused background while narrow apertures keep more of the image sharp.


Build A Strong Foundation For Your Photography In John Greengo’s Photography Starter Kit


Aspect Ratio

If you’ve ever printed images before, you’ve probably noticed that an 8 x 10 usually crops from the original image. That’s due to aspect ratio. Aspect ratio is simply the ratio of the height to width. An 8 x 10 has an equal aspect ratio to a 4 x 5, but a 4 x 7 image is a bit wider. You can change the aspect ratio in your camera if you know how you’d like to print your image, or you can crop your photo when you edit it to the right ratio.

Bokeh

Bokeh is the orbs created when lights are out of focus in an image. It’s a neat effect to have in the background of a photo, created through wide apertures. It will have an interesting effect on your image quality. Check out our ultimate guide to Creating Backgrounds With Bokeh for everything you could want to learn.

bokeh common photography terminology, photography for beginners

Burst Mode

You can take photos one at a time. Or, you can turn the burst mode on and the camera will continue snapping photos as long as you hold the button down, or until the buffer is full (which is a fancy way of saying the camera can’t process anymore). Burst speeds differ based on what camera or film camera you own, some are faster than others. Just how fast is written in “fps” or frames (pictures) per second. This will give you a wide selection of which close-up you’ll ultimately select of your dog!

Depth of Field

Depth of field is a photography term that refers to how much of the image is in focus. The camera will focus on one distance, but there’s a range of distance in front and behind that point that stays sharp—that’s depth of field. Portraits often have a soft, unfocused background—this is a shallow depth of field. Landscapes, on the other hand, often have more of the image in focus—this is a large depth of field, with a big range of distance that stays sharp.

Digital Vs. Optical

Digital and optical are important terms to understand when shopping for a new camera. Digital means the effect is achieved through software, not physical parts of the camera. Optical is always better than digital. These terms are usually used when referring to a zoom lens (on a compact camera) as well as image stabilization.


Build A Strong Foundation For Your Photography In John Greengo’s Photography Starter Kit


Exposure

Exposure is how light or dark an image is. An image is created when the camera sensor (or film strip) is exposed to light—that’s where the term originates. A dark photo is considered underexposed, or it wasn’t exposed to enough light; a light photo is overexposed or exposed to too much light. Exposure is controlled through aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

Exposure Compensation

Exposure compensation is a way to tell the camera that you’d like the exposure to be lighter or darker. Exposure compensation can be used on some automated modes and semi-automated modes like aperture priority. It’s measured in stops of light, with negative numbers resulting in a darker image and positive ones creating a brighter shot.

File Format

The file format is how your camera lens will record the image or image file. Raw files contain more information than JPGs, which makes them more suitable for photo editing in various editing software.


Build A Strong Foundation For Your Photography In John Greengo’s Photography Starter Kit


Focal Length

The focal length describes the distance in millimeters between the lens and the image it forms on the film. It informs the angle of view (how much of what is being shot will be captured) and the magnification (how large things will appear). Essentially, the focal length is how ‘zoomed in’ your images will appear. For example, a Canon (or Nikon or Olympus) 35mm lens will create images that appear more ‘zoomed in’ than a Canon 18mm.

Focus

When your eyes focus on an object that’s close to you, the objects far away will appear blurry. The common photography term “focus” has the same meaning. Something that is in focus is sharp, while an object that is out-of-focus isn’t sharp. Different focus areas determine if the camera is focusing on multiple points or one user-selected point.

focus common photography terms

Flash Sync

You probably know that the flash is a burst of light—flash sync determines when the flash fires. Normally, the flash fires at the beginning of the photo, but changing the flash sync mode adjusts when that happens. The rear curtain flash sync mode, for example, fires the flash at the end of the photo instead of the beginning.

Hot Shoe

Hot shoe is the slot at the top of a camera for adding accessories, like the aptly named hot shoe flash.

ISO

The ISO determines how sensitive the camera is to light. For example, an ISO of 100 means the camera isn’t very sensitive—great for shooting in the daylight. An ISO 3200 means the camera is very sensitive to light, so you can use that higher ISO for getting shots in low light. The trade off is that images at high ISOs appear to be grainy and have less detail. ISO is balanced with aperture and shutter speed to get a proper exposure.

Long Exposure

long exposure is an image that has been exposed for a long time or uses a long shutter speed. This technique is useful for shooting still objects in low light (used often by landscape photographers), or rendering moving objects into an artistic blur.

star trail photography common photography term

Manual

Manual mode allows the photographer to set the exposure instead of having the camera do it automatically. In manual, you choose the aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and those choices affect how light or dark the image is. Semi-manual modes include aperture priority (where you only choose the aperture), shutter priority (where you only choose the shutter speed) and programed auto (where you choose a combination of aperture and shutter speed together instead of setting them individually). Manual can also refer to manual focus, or focusing yourself instead of using the autofocus.

Metering

Using manual mode isn’t all guesswork—a light meter built into the camera helps guide those decisions, indicating if the camera thinks the image is over or under exposed. Metering is actually based on a middle gray, so having lighter or darker objects in the image can throw the metering off a little bit. Metering modes indicate how the meter is reading the light. Matrix metering means the camera is reading the light from the entire scene. Center-weighted metering considers only what’s at the center of the frame and spot metering measures the light based on where your focus point is.


Now that you have the photography terms mastered, learn the fundamentals of photography with John Greengo. Learn more.

Learn common photography terms and more with John Greeno today

Noise

Noise is simply little flecks in an image, also sometimes called grain. Images taken at high ISOs have a lot of noise, so it’s best to use the lowest ISO you can for the amount of light in the scene.

RAW or Raw Files

RAW is a file type that gives the photographer more control over photo editing. RAW is considered a digital negative, where the default JPEG file type has already been processed a bit. RAW requires special software to open, however, while JPEG is more universal. Typically, it’s better to shoot in RAW because the image retains more quality making it better for editing.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed is the part of the camera that opens and closes to let light in and take a picture. The shutter speed is how long that shutter stays open, written in seconds or fractions of a second, like 1/200 s. or 1”, with the “ symbol often used to designate an entire second. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light that is let in. But, anything that moves while the shutter is open will become a blur, and if the entire camera moves while the shutter is open the whole image will be blurry—that’s why tripods are necessary for longer shutter speeds.

Shutter Release

That’s the button (or shutter button) you press to take the picture. It allows you to point-and-shoot.

Single Lens Reflex

A single lens reflex camera has a single lens that forms an image which is reflected to the viewfinder. Digital single lens reflex cameras or DSLR cameras are the most versatile of the digital cameras.

Time Lapse

A time-lapse is a video created from stitching several photos together taken of the same thing at different times. Don’t confuse a time lapse with a long exposure, which is a single image with a long shutter speed.

Viewfinder

That’s the hole you look through to take the picture. Some digital cameras don’t have one and just use the screen, but all DSLRs and most mirrorless cameras use them.

White Balance

Your eyes automatically adjust to different light sources, but a camera can’t do that—that’s why sometimes you take an image and it looks very blue or very yellow. Using the right white balance setting will make what’s white in real life actually appear white in the photo. There’s an auto white balance setting, but like any automatic setting, it’s not always accurate. You can use a preset based on what light you are shooting in like sun or tungsten light bulbs, or you can take a picture of a white object and manually set the white balance.