29 January 2016

8 Things You Can Do NOW to Improve Your Photography

Art Model, Covenant, Back Patio ©2015 Terrell Neasley
Okay. So you know that Spring time is coming around soon. Its the middle of winter and before you know it, the snow will have melted and green grass and flowers will be budding and blooming. You've seen it before. Every year its the same thing. So why not, while you're holed up in the house to stay out of the winter storm, get to cracking on learning your camera so you can be better prepared to take advantage of these great pics you're gonna wanna take in the Spring? Sorta like working out NOW to have your summer body by end of May.


1. Pull Out the Manual
Chances are you have never done this. Not once. Well find it and dust it off. Put down the morning paper for a change and review your camera manual. If you can't find it, then look it up online. Its there. Trust me. Check out the specifications that your camera is capable of and become familiar with them.

Art Model, Covenant, Upper Pahranagat ©2015 Terrell Neasley
"Smooth seas have never made a skillful sailor"

2. Go Shoot!
Find out what you like to shoot. THEN SHOOT SOMETHING ELSE! In other words, get out of your comfort zone a little. Again, comparing this to working out... if you just stick to shooting what you are familiar with, its like hitting that plateau when you know you want to lose that last 20 pounds. Develop your photo muscles by exercising different ones you are not so familiar with using.

Art Model, Panda Nevada Desert ©2013 Terrell Neasley

3. Test the Limits of your Camera
Another familiarization drill! See what your images look like at the highest ISO it can achieve. If it has expanded ISO, check it out. Maybe that noise is doable or maybe you'll need to back it off a stop or two. Test out the high frame rates and see if the Auto Focus misses on any of those shots. If it shoots 5 frames per second. Test it. Maybe all of the shots are in focus, but if not, it will be better to test this before you actually need to use this feature.

4. Play with Flash and Long Exposures
You'll really have fun with this one. Flash can be intimidating, but its really not. Its just light. You use light every day. Play with the flash sync speed. Practice with the Rear Curtain Sync feature. See what it might be good for by checking out YouTube. Use a speedlight OFF of the camera. Pick up some inexpensive trigger/receiver combo to make your flash pop wirelessly. And do this without using the automatic features or TTL. Got a cable release for your camera? Ever use a shutter speed as slow as 15 minutes? What do you think you have that tripod for? Try it out!

Art Model, Panda Nevada desert ©2011 Terrell Neasley

5. Go Look at a Lot of Pics
You can better see what's possible when you start looking at other photog images. I'm not talking about copying other people's intellectual property. I'm speaking to looking at the work of others do get ideas for better lighting concepts. Better perspectives. Better inspiration to maybe shoot outside at night. If you want people to appreciate your work, check out other photog's work. Make comments on their work on Instagram or 500px.

6. Change Perspective, Lenses, Locations
The majority of lens kits are there are of the middle focal length range and this will be the only lens most people will own. Take a look at some wide-angle perspectives. See where this might come in handy. I recall the first time about 10 years ago that I experimented, at the suggestion of a friend, with wide-angle for a model shoot. Didn't think I needed it and why use wide-angle glass for anything other than landscape of photographing large groups. That shoot changed my life! And again with getting out of your comfort zone, take a road trip and shoot someplace new. Make it fun and get up early and do a day trip somewhere 200 miles away.

Art Model, Panda Nevada Canyon ©2011 Terrell Neasley

7. Limit to 36
I did this back in the film days. The idea behind it is that film has a much more limited number of exposures available compared to a SD card which can give you thousands of exposures. Limiting yourself to just 36, or the number of exposures you can get on a roll of film will make you more deliberate. You tend to make sure that the compositions you see have better subjects, are more developed scenes, and will be composed of more photographic fundamental elements that make a good picture. You'll take your time to really begin to see. You train your eye to attain a desired goal that first formulated in your mind. Today, people tend to "spray and pray". They take a bunch of shots and statistically, they are more apt to have at least one good one. The problem is that this great shot is still challenging to reproduce. You got a good shot, but you don't really know how you got it. It just happened. Let yourself be challenged. Do this exercise every now and then of limiting yourself to 36 shots for the day.

8. Commit
And this is as self-explanatory as Nike's slogan, "Just Do It". Committing is doing these 8 things plus more. Its leaving your familiarities and going out to that new location. It's heading over to B&C Camera (if you're here in Las Vegas) and rent a wide-angle lens, some studio lights, or a new camera you want to try out. Check out Sony's A7sII and play with its ISO to see what 409,600 looks like. Use it with  a 16-35mm lens to go shoot the milky way. Rent out a Panasonic GH4 and practice some video work. Need some studio lights? They have plenty. Practice. And commit yourself to this effort. By the March, you'll have that perfect Spring photography body that you'll need to get the best shots and you'll know you have the best shots because you put in the work and preparation to achieve these goals. Have fun!
Art Model, Covenant, Upper Pahranagat ©2015 Terrell Neasley

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