I’ve been trying hard to get my heart back into photography. Because of that, I’ve started looking more at photo-related articles and stories, and I’ve been trying to refresh my skills by reviewing old photo training materials and consuming any new ones I can get for free.
This list was originally presented as “100 Tips from a Professional Photographer” on Gizmodo, but tracing it back led me to it being “100 Things I Have Learned…” which isn’t really so much “tips” as simply ideas being shared. At least, that’s how I take it.
I thought I’d share it as a “tips” list, anyway, as I’ve said most of these things to one person or another at some point. It also gives me a chance to mention the few things I disagree with. Obviously, your mileage may vary.
Los Angeles street photographer Eric Kim’s 100 tips and observation about photography is a fun read for anyone who likes to get behind a lens, whether beginner or pro. Recently republished via the Times Photo Journal Facebook page, there’s a lot of sage advice here for just about any situation (example: “Alcohol and photography do not mix well.”). All 100 listed below…
1. Just because someone has an expensive camera doesn’t mean that they’re a good photographer.
2. Always shoot in RAW. Always.
3. Prime lenses help you learn to be a better photographer.
4. Photo editing is an art in itself
5. The rule of thirds works 99% of the time.
6. Macro photography isn’t for everybody.
7. UV filters work just as well as lens caps.
For really sharp images - if you’re going for tack-sharp, high quality work - you don’t want any extra glass in front of your lens. Or, you’d want to use a UV filter of extremely high quality that you wouldn’t want to break/scratch either. So, I use lens caps.
8. Go outside & shoot photos rather than spending hours a day on photography forums.
9. Capture the beauty in the mundane and you have a winning photograph.
10. Film isn’t better than digital.
11. Digital isn’t better than film.
12. There is no “magic” camera or lens.
13. Better lenses don’t give you better photos.
This suggestion has a serious flaw: the assumption that the lens is not degrading the quality of the pictures. If you have cheap lenses, you can suffer from a myriad of problems like slow focusing, poor sharpness, light falloff and severe chromatic aberration. If you aren’t a good photographer, better lenses won’t make your pictures better. But if you are a great photographer, your abilities (and results) will be stunted by crappy glass.
14. Spend less time looking at other people’s work and more time shooting your own.
15. Don’t take your DSLR to parties.
16. Girls dig photographers.
Where are these girls? Have them bathed and brought to my tent.
17. Making your photos b/w doesn’t automatically make them “artsy”
18. People will always discredit your work if you tell them you “photoshop” your images. Rather, tell them that you process them in the “digital darkroom”.
19. You don’t need to take a photo of everything.
20. Have at least 2 backups of all your images. Like they say in war, two is one, one is none.
21. Ditch the neck strap and get a handstrap.
Again - completely dependent on the situation. This guy is a street photographer, who runs around snapping images all the time, so his camera is rarely idle and he likely isn’t using his hands for anything but photography. I use my neck strap to sling my camera over my shoulder and behind me when I need to use my hands for something else, like beating my children into submission so I can get the best photos of them. When I’m shooting, I often wrap my neck strap around my forearm to help stabilize the camera. I have quick-clips on my strap so I can remove it any time, in seconds. It’s far more versatile than a handstrap.
22. Get closer when taking your photos, they often turn out better.
23. Be a part of a scene while taking a photo; not a voyeur.
24. Taking a photo crouched often make your photos look more interesting.
25. Worry less about technical aspects and focus more on compositional aspects of photography.
No - just no. You have to balance the two. You can’t choose composition over proper exposure and focus, or you have no picture.
26. Tape up any logos on your camera with black gaffers tape- it brings a lot less attention to you.
27. Always underexpose by 2/3rds of a stop when shooting in broad daylight.
28. The more photos you take, the better you get.
29. Don’t be afraid to take several photos of the same scene at different exposures, angles, or apertures.
30. Only show your best photos.
31. A point-and-shoot is still a camera.
32. Join an online photography forum.
33. Critique the works of others.
34. Think before you shoot.
35. A good photo shouldn’t require explanation (although background information often adds to an image).
36. Alcohol and photography do not mix well.
Alcohol and photographers do not mix well. Alcohol and your subjects can - it makes people relax and behave more casually (see #60).
37. Draw inspiration from other photographers but never worship them.
38. Grain is beautiful.
39. Ditch the photo backpack and get a messenger bag. It makes getting your lenses and camera a whole lot easier.
Again - he’s a street photographer. This is good for him, but not a universal truth. I have a Lowepro SlingShot photo backpack. I can get things out quickly, and I have compartments and space to carry all of my stuff. Because I photograph nature, I may be shooting closeups of plants, long shots of birds and animals, and macro pics of insects. Those things won’t be secure or organized in a messenger bag. Additionally, my backpack is weatherproof. If he gets caught in a shower, a street photographer can pop into a handy doorway or store.
40. Simplicity is key.
41. The definition of photography is: “painting with light.” Use light in your favor.
42. Find your style of photography and stick with it.
43. Having a second monitor is the best thing ever for photo processing.
44. Silver EFEX pro is the best b/w converter.
45. Carry your camera with you everywhere. Everywhere.
46. Never let photography get in the way of enjoying life.
47. Don’t pamper your camera. Use and abuse it.
Have I put my camera in harms way to get a shot? Hell, yes. Do I toss it around and abuse it? NO. But - if I was making money from photography, I probably would be a little harder on equipment since I’d know I could replace it.
48. Take straight photos.
49. Shoot with confidence.
50. Photography and juxtaposition are best friends.
51. Print out your photos big. They will make you happy.
52. Give your photos to friends.
53. Give them to strangers.
54. Don’t forget to frame them.
55. Costco prints are cheap and look great.
56. Go out and take photos with (a) friend(s).
57. Join a photo club or start one for yourself.
58. Photos make great presents.
59. Taking photos of strangers is thrilling.
61. Natural light is the best light.
62. 35mm (on full frame) is the best “walk-around” focal length.
63. Don’t be afraid to bump up your ISO when necessary.
64. You don’t need to always bring a tripod with you everywhere you go (hell, I don’t even own one).
Again - street photography is VERY different from many other forms of photography. If you’re taking photos in low light, or using a telephoto to get a long shot of a far-away subject, or looking for absolutely tack-sharp images - you need a tripod, or at least a monopod. If you’re travelling light and snapping shots while on the go in a city like him, no - you probably aren’t going to be setting up a tripod, like, EVAR.
65. It is always better to underexpose than overexpose.
66. Shooting photos of homeless people in an attempt to be “artsy” is exploitation.
67. You will find the best photo opportunities in the least likely situations.
68. Photos are always more interesting with the human element included.
Photos are more interesting with LIVING THINGS included. It doesn’t have to be human life. And, sometimes mechanical or other things are better with no intrusions. No one looks at the car when you take a photo of a girl in a bikini on a car. Well, except Hemi.
69. You can’t “photoshop” bad images into good ones.
70. Nowadays everybody is a photographer.
71. You don’t need to fly to Paris to get good photos; the best photo opportunities are in your backyard.
72. People with DSLRS who shoot portraits with their grip pointed downwards look like morons.
73. Cameras as tools, not toys.
74. In terms of composition, photography and painting aren’t much different.
75. Photography isn’t a hobby- it’s a lifestyle.
76. Make photos, not excuses.
77. Be original in your photography. Don’t try to copy the style of others.
78. The best photographs tell stories that begs the viewer for more.
79. Any cameras but black ones draw too much attention.
80. The more gear you carry around with you the less you will enjoy photography.
When I leave something I need behind and am left unable to take a specific kind of photo because of it, I don’t enjoy photography. Be a boy scout - BE PREPARED! Unless, you know - you’re a street photographer. Then everything you need should fit in your hand and maybe your pocket.
81. Good self-portraits are harder to take than they seem.
82. Laughter always draws out peoples’ true character in a photograph.
83. Don’t look suspicious when taking photos- blend in with the environment.
84. Landscape photography can become dull after a while.
85. Have fun while taking photos.
86. Never delete any of your photos.
Uhh - yeah, delete any photos you know are of such poor quality you will never use them, or that you have numerous identical shots of. I have 4 categories when I am sorting shots: Show-ers (those I share), Maybes (those I might share if they look better after processing), Keepers (those I save but will probably never show anyone but a helper or family) and TRASH. Trash just takes up space, and having 2 backups of trash takes up 3 times as much space.
87. Be respectful when taking photos of people or places.
88. When taking candid photos of people in the street, it is easier to use a wide-angle than a telephoto lens.
89. Travel and photography are the perfect pair.
90. Learn how to read a histogram.
91. A noisy photo is better than a blurry one.
92. Don’t be afraid to take photos in the rain.
93. Learn how to enjoy the moment, rather than relentlessly trying to capture the perfect picture of it.
94. Never take photos on an empty stomach.
95. You will discover a lot about yourself through your photography.
96. Never hoard your photographic insight- share it with the world.
97. Never stop taking photos
98. Photography is more than simply taking photos, it is a philosophy of life
99. Capture the decisive moment
100. Write your own list.
I don’t need my own list, because he covered most of it - but #100 is good advice, especially when considering the items I took issue with - everyone who is serious about photography has different needs depending on their style and what they’re trying to do. Don’t think I am slagging street photography, I’ve done it on occasion - it’s just a very unique niche that requires extreme simplicity in equipment and methods.
Finally, a big load of HELL YES to: 1, 2, 5, 8, 17, 18, 19, 22, 24, 27, 29, 30, 34, 45, 51, 60, 61, 65, 71, 73, 82, 84, 91, 96 and 99.