- Use your feet
Sounds strange, huh? I mean, walk, kneel, stand on your tip toes, go up the stairs, under the stairs, up in the middle, lean, bend. In short: try different angles. What would this look like if I was a mouse? What would it look like from the top? How about from an angle? Take several shots of the exact object from different angles to see how it changes how that object is perceived. Take an object from far away, take it up close, even closer. Try. And try. And try again.
- Start Black and White
Photos "like" contrast. Almost any shot will look good provided that it high contrast. To train your eye to contrast, start taking photos in black and white (all digital camera have that option). If everything looks like one shade of grey... there's not enough contrast. Try taking shadows, dark over white, cars, cutlery... whatever. Look for contrast.
- Start outside
Unless you're lucky enough to have a high-end DSLR, chances are, your camera doesn't like inside. Most indoors settings are too dark to practice in; they often have mixed lighting, low light conditions, so that many shots will be very blurry. Start outside, in the daylight. Around noon, the shadows are harsh; early morning and early evening provide for softer, gentler light on objects. Try both and see what difference it makes... especially when taking portraits.
- Start digital, but...
... don't touch Photoshop! We all want our photos to look the best. But to get better, practice is the way to go. And spare yourself the cost of film by using digital. Use the full potential of your digital camera: take lots and lots of shots. I find that I learn faster when I don't leave myself a safety net (oh, yeah, I'll edit that later). The more you try to make it perfect on the spot, the more you'll learn. I got better with that method: try, fail, try again, fail again, try again. Trust me, you'll get better faster than you think.
- Don't collect electronic dust.
Now that you've gotten started on taking tons of photos to practice, you need to check them out, and let them live. Go on Flickr or Picasa (getting an account is free), and post some of the shots you like best. In the title or the tag line, ask this: how can I make it better? Also go on Flickr and look for other pictures of the same subject. If you took a black and white of a plant, then type "plant black white" and see what comes up. Compare. Which photo appeals the most to you, and what did they do differently? More contrast? Different angle? Perspective? There is a lot to learn from other photographers, and the knowledge is out there. Ask for feedback. Connect with other photographers and talk. And most of all - have fun!
Hopefully more to come soon... enjoy!
For questions or comments, email me at carolineblogs at gmail dot com