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Top 5 Tips to Help You Improve Your Photography

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them. – Elliott Erwitt

1) Get familiar with your camera

Get to know your camera settings so that they become second nature, even if it is just the basics like exposure compensation, what f/stops do etc. Speed is often essential in wildlife photography and fiddling with settings at wrong time during a fleeting moment will cause you to miss sometimes the best pictures.

2) Make use of high ISO

If you have a reasonable recent DSLR make use of its high ISO capabilities. I see so often people using no more than 400 ISO on dull overcast days with top end cameras and struggling to get enough shutter speed. My default ISO is 1000 ISO and I regularly shoot at 2000 ISO and 3200 ISO if handholding. When light is really low I am happy to shoot at 6000 ISO, it is better having a slightly noisy image than an unsharp useless one. Of course I realise cameras makes/models vary on ISO capabilities but whatever one you have don’t be afraid to push it to it’s limit.

3) Don’t just focus on the subject

Pay attention to the background in your picture, its easy to get totally focused on the subject and be oblivious to what is going on behind. Messy cluttered backgrounds are rarely appealing. It’s not always possible granted, but if you could even try moving a couple of feet in some instances, this could make a huge difference. Try and get some separation between your subject and the background. This can be achieved in several ways. Getting lower and shooting at ground level if you can is often the best way. Using a large telephoto lens like a 500mm with the aperture wide open like f/2.8, f/4 and f5.6 will often achieve the desired effect and combine that with previous suggestion is even more ideal. Another way is to try and get the subject on a ridge for example and the background away in the distance like a distance mountain. Again using a wide f/stop you will achieve the separation required. It all takes practise and patience to get things right but once you start to visualise these effects and they become second nature there will be no looking back.

4) Take pictures for yourself

Never take pictures to please a judge or others, its important you develop your own way of doing things. You will need to accept that some people will like it while others will not.  Competitions are great and if you do well it’s a fantastic feeling and you should be proud of yourself. However, if you do not it is not the end of the world nor does it mean your images are not good enough.  I have judged a few national competitions and there is a limit to how many images can be selected out of thousands entered.  You could easily pick the same number again which would be of a similar merit, but at the end of the day there has to be a cut off point and sadly many great images don’t make it into the final cut. If you have real faith in an image and it does not make it one year, then try it again the following year.  I know of several photographers this has worked for as judges change and have different preferences.

5) Get to know your subject

It’s a cliché but it is true  “get to know your subject”, the more knowledge and understanding you have for a particular species or place will undoubtedly help you achieve better results. Anticipation is key for wildlife in particular, and the more you can read this the better placed you will be to capture these special one-off moments.  I have always believed that the taking of the picture is the easy bit, its getting into the position to take it that is the harder and more skillful part.