Do you remember when you were a kid and totally afraid to jump in the water and swim? We’ve all been there. In life, some things just freak us out, and it’s no different in photography. I know it sounds strange, but we all need to be pushed sometimes. We need someone to force us to do something in a new and different way. So today I’m going to act as that person. I want you to try these 5 things.
Challenge yourself to get up close
We’re all too comfortable using the zoom feature on our cameras, but the real gold lies in getting up as close as possible to your subjects. That’s why I’m challenging you to forget about the zoom on your camera and just walk up as close as possible to your subjects. Try to fill the entire frame with someone’s face. Even better, fill the frame with a part of someone’s face. It’s an entirely new perspective that makes you see the importance of focus and composition.
Photos need to have a consistent theme. They need to be about one or two things, and usually nothing more. By getting up close, you force yourself to find a theme for your images, and that’s a very good thing.
Challenge yourself to avoid centering your subject
It’s our default wiring to place the subject of our images smack dab in the center. Most of the time, this backfires on us. While it works for us to look directly at things, it doesn’t look good in a photo. You need to place your subject somewhere else to create an image that looks interesting.
So I challenge you to place your subject anywhere but the center of the frame. I honestly don’t care where just as long it’s not the center. Put your subject all the way up in the top corner. Cut off someone’s legs. It might not look pretty, but it’s usually ten times better than simply placing your subject in the center of the frame.
If you want to follow the officially established rules, you’ll consider placing your subject in one of the four thirds of the frame. I’m talking about the upper right, upper left, lower right, or lower left thirds. This is what we call the rule of thirds, and it works in a lot of shooting situations. It creates a space for your eye to move through the photo, automatically making it appear more interesting.
Challenge yourself to learn manual photography
If you read up on it and start doing some experimentation, you can actually learn manual photography quite fast. I learned it mostly through trial and error. I would try one setting, check the LCD screen, find out it needed to be brighter or whatever, and then I’d make an adjustment until I liked what I saw. There are a number of modes on your camera (shutter priority, aperture priority, etc.) that you can use to learn manual photography. You just need to play with them.
By the way, if you own a point-and-shoot camera that doesn’t offer manual settings, this challenge does not apply to you. In that case, it’s better for you to learn as much as you can about the way your own camera works. There are a number of ways to make your images more colorful and interesting, and none of them involve manual settings.
Challenge yourself to add more color to your photos
I think there’s one big thing that differentiates great photographers from ordinary Joes, and that is color. Experienced photographers know that photography is not about replicating what you see in real life. It’s about taking what you see in real life and making art out of it. To do that, you need to make your photos more colorful than life.
The best way to start with this is to use your camera’s own artistic modes or white balance settings. Depending on the camera model you own, you might have a vivid color or extra vivid color mode you can use to get more color out of your photos.
If you don’t have those modes, you can always adjust your white balance to get more color from your images. The easiest way to do this is to set your camera to the “cloudy day” setting even though it’s perfectly sunny outside. When you do that, you’re basically tricking your camera into thinking it needs to add more color to a scene.
As you perfect your technique, you’ll learn ways to add more color in Photoshop Elements and through other means. Do have a look at my other tutorials on Photoshop Elements. They’re very handy when you want to get started with adding color after you’ve taken the photo.
Challenge yourself to do what you would never do
It’s perhaps the hardest challenge of all. We all know we do it. We get into a niche we really enjoy, and we never push ourselves to try anything outside of it. The next time you grab your camera, think to yourself, “what else could I be photographing? What am I missing out on?”
If you only shoot action, consider getting down low and shooting macro. If landscape photography is your thing, try taking some candid portraits of your friends. Who knows, you might learn a thing or two that can help you out in your favorite niche. The best way to become a better photographer is to step outside of your comfort zone. The skills you learn in other domains will translate over to the areas where you’re most comfortable.
So get out there and try these 5 things. I double dare you! And while you’re at it, let me know how it goes.
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