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Photography: my best 15 tips for better results

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During my over 10 years of experience in photography,I learned many useful tips to improve my results. Therefore today i’d like to share my tips with my readers

DISCLAIMER: the present article has been realized in pure amateur form with a mere recreational, personal, non profit intention. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee in any case the absence of errors or the freshness of the informations reported. For this reason he strictly invites any reader to also search for more informations about the same arguments inside other external sources, and to report any eventual mistake to the author through the Contact page on this website. In any case the author will not be responsible for any action committed by anyone following the reading of the informations reported inside this article

THE MAIN GOAL OF THE ARTICLE

The goal of the article is to focus the attention not on the camera itself, but on the way one approaches the reality around him. Infact, sometimes is very easy to forget that behind the camera and the subject itself, there’s still a human body to control, made by arms, legs, foot, and many different sort of positive and negative emotions, and that even the body is made of settings and parameters, like, just to recall a couple, the stress and the energy level!

So, this is where i will focus today, how i usually manage my body and my physical and mental resources to get the best from myself while searching for the shot that can make my day

DISCLAIMER

The following article doesn’t want to be any sort of professional guide, nor i am a professionist photographer

Rather, the following tips are just some useful ones that really helped me in improving my experience in the past in strict relation to my personal technique

TO WHAT PHOTOGRAPHY STYLES MY TIPS APPLY THE MOST?

I don’t follow any particular style…rather, i live photography like it was a hunting….it can be a macro, a sport event, or a landscape, i don’t care….if i like it, i want to shoot and hunt the nice shot…..For this reason, i believe that my tips can apply more to those who like to be free and hang around, by searching for something new all the time, rather than focusing on a specific genre

A LITTLE BIOGRAPHY ABOUT ME

I am Moyan Brenn a 10 years experienced photographer who works with Creative Commons license. My works have been used by many brands like Adobe, Lonely Planet, Alitalia, Huffington Post and not only (all publicly available on Google). In 2014 i have won the WPO Global Encounters international award, and since today my pictures have been used by more than 500 websites, and my gallery received more than 30 millions of clicks. I am a free soul, i have never attented any course nor studied any book.

My rule is simple, be inspired, be wise, be curious, and your body will do the rest

LET’S START WITH MY TIPS

TIP 1: USE A BACKPACK AND WEAR “BATTLE-READY”  CLOTHES AND SHOES

Using a nice backpack together with a jacket full of pockets really improves the way the body can move in the space without renouncing to bring all the necessary equipment. And the rule here is simple for me, the more i can move, the more i can find alternative perspectives

Personally, i don’t like to use the typical photographer “shoulder bags” or the “women bags”, often used by those who like to comfortably have all the lens ready to be changed right to one hand or by women in general. It really impedes people to move, crouch and climb over obstacles. I have found that those acting in this way, tend to use the very usual and boring “touristic” perspectives

I did this picture of fireflies by going in the middle of bushes with battle ready clothes

I did this picture of fireflies by going in the middle of bushes with battle ready clothes

The same is true for a good old and robust pair of shoes and “battle ready” clothes. I hate not to be able to really go in dirty places just because i am scared to ruin my clothes….

Concluding, i believe that photography, is not an activity to practice with a 1000 dollars night dress, nor with an elegant feminine bag…

TIP 2: MOVE FAST

Over time i have understood how counterproductive was to stay motionless in one place without any precise idea, uselessly waiting for something to happen or to change, except if i was waiting for the right moment to shoot, or even for something specific known in advance

So, apart from some limited exceptions where i already know what i am waiting for, i have learned to move fast as soon as i get bored of a place. Is this place making me bored? ok move away, right now!

The same is true not only for places, but also for the single points of view in the context of the same place. Sometimes, i found useful to only change a little bit the “point of view”, especially respect to the light source for example, so that everything can suddenly become totally different and more appealing

TIP 3:  GO OVER OBSTACLES

An obstacle, whatever thing is, natural or human made, voluntary or not, should not be seen as far as possible, as a valid reason to stop, except if there’s a safety reason to do it.

Rather, it could represent a valid opportunity, because the presence of an obstacle, working as a deterrent, probably reduces the number of people who go over it…..personally, i have been rewared more than once when i found the courage to go over it

TIP 4: GETTING INSPIRED BY MUSIC

Many different times, like when i decided to visit Scotland and Arizona, i have been seriously inspired by music. It really pushed me to book a flight and get there for real to make an album of nice inspiring photos recalling the sound of that music, i’m not joking!

After listening to Bjork music, a popular Icelandic singers, i have been inspired to come in Iceland and take pictures like this

After listening to Bjork music, a popular Icelandic singers, i have been inspired to come in Iceland and take pictures like this

But the same can happen in everyday situations too. Sometimes I really feel that by listening to the right music, i can easily find again that special harmony which inspires me so much and pushes me to get somewhere and take some “music inspired” nice shots

To give a better idea, i consider music for photography in the same manner an athlete consider muscles streching for his favourite sport

TIP 5: DON’T SHOOT AT ALL COSTS

Sometimes i have found useful to leave the camera in the bag or even at home to totally concentrate on the reality around me, without any disturbing factor, like the act of setting all the camera parameters or the anxiety of shooting a picture at all costs

Feeling authorized to shoot like a machine gun just because the memory is 32Gb can be a mistake, because there’s another thing that can finish earlier than the free space on the memory, the creative energy of mind.

Mind is what feels the inspiration and governs the body movements accordingly. But mind can operates if it has enough energy, and if it gets too much tired by shooting too much to useless things, no result will ever come out. For this reason, my idea is to shoot more like a sniper, or at least, if one wants to shoot in a machine gun style, to wait at least for a very nice opportunity, rather than shooting at the most stupid thing out there

For the same reason, sometimes i have found very useful and inspiring to allow my mind to have a rest, by simply going out there and searching for something good without my camera, just to better train my eye without the stress of settings parameters or shooting at all costs

This can’t be applied of course during unique occasions like a trip, anyway, especially if it’s possible to come back in the same place in the near future, i believe that this exercise can help, and at least for me, it worked nicely

TIP 6: CHANGE THE LENS, USE WIDER APERTURES

When a novice makes his first purchase, i’ve found that he tends to buy an all around lens, like a typical 18-200mm, usually included in product kits also in version like 18-55mm and 55-200mm, because it gives the false sense of being able to do everything without any further lens purchase

However, this choice can easily lead to a particular limitation which is not immediately evident, related to an important aspect, the lens aperture capability

Infact, sometimes it can be important to isolate the selected subject from the background, to provide that sort of emphasis necessary to give a better sense to the picture. And in some situations (with all the usual exceptions) this is only possible when the aperture starts to be around f2.8 or even wider like f2.0, and this is why kit lenses are very limited in this sense

Kabukicho district in the district of Shinjuku station

Kabukicho district in the district of Shinjuku station

Furthermore, regarding night photography, some people believe that as a workaround to a limited aperture, it can help to just mount the camera on the tripod by also eventually pushing the ISO to its limit. Yes, this is partially true, but only in the case of enough static shots or very good sensors. What instead, if one wants to take a more dynamic and fast picture by moving all around in the space and by also continuously changing perspectives, all this, in the middle of the night with just few light? Well, this is something i usually do with my fellow 35mm f1.8, and more than once, it really allowed me to take a nice result otherwise impossible with the use of a tripod, and together with the strong blur background, the final outcome has been even better

Concluding, the message i want to provide is not to avoid to buy kit lenses, but, as soon as the budget allows to do it, to add to a kit lens also another lens with a nice aperture like, as an example, the 35mm f1.8 or something similar

TIP 7: MAKE A BLIND SESSION

Sometimes i have found useful to simply take the camera, and go to a random place without any specific idea in mind. I personally think in this sense that every place can offer something unexpected because our mind is not always capable of predicting what it will find, and although some places in our imagination can be seen as not enough interesting, once there reality can reveal some surprises

It can be the usual amusement park where ones goes for a walk, the house of an aunty, or why not the old garage of our grandfather full of very old things in every corner, every place can be unexpectedly surprising

That morning i was walking along the usual harbour of my town to make a blind session. Well,i found this funny cat on the way and got a great shot

That morning i was walking along the usual harbour of my town to make a blind session. Well,i found this funny cat on the way and got a great shot

I usually call this way of shooting “blind session”, intended as the research of new opportunities in random places where there’s no immediate apparent reason to find them

And this is what sometimes being a pioneer means for me, to believe in new ideas, by searching new things where other people would have never expected to find something good.

This is also how sometimes, i have been able to take that unique unexpected shot

TIP 8: DON’T GET STUCK ON SPECIFIC SUBJECTS AND BRING ALL THE EQUIPMENT

When it comes to visit a specific place, or participating to a predefined event, it can be easy to get too much focused on it. Instead, i believe that ones should be always ready to take any sort of shot

As an instance to better understand what i’m talking about, one day i needed to take pictures in a theatre for my friend who was exhibiting. So, the idea was to bring a zoom lens and make the work by leaving all the rest of equipment at home. Instead, when i arrived, i realized that the theatre was situated in front of a beautiful lake, surrounded by wood, birds of all kinds, and even a nice sunset sky. Luckily, i had the other wide angle lens with me, and by mounting it, while waiting for the theatre exhibition to begin, i was able to take very nice shots of the lake

While waiting for the theatre event, i had the chance to take this shot over the lake in front of the theatre itself

While waiting for the theatre event, i had the chance to take this shot over the lake in front of the theatre itself

This is only a short example of the multiple situations where i have been able to get a good shot by focusing not only on my main target (in this case, the theatre exhibition), but also to what i had around me in the meanwhile

Having always all the equipment ready and not focusing only on the main target but rather on the entire reality around, is a good way for me to get a nice unexpected shot

TIP 9: DON’T GET STUCK ON SPECIFIC TECHNIQUES OR LENSES

Sometimes i went out with the idea to get somewhere and make, let’s say, a landscape. However, once there, i found that there was something more interesting, like a fisherman in front of the sea at sunset. At the same time i realized that the landscape itself wasn’t nothing special

For this reason, i decided to give up with the initial idea, give up with my wide angle lens, mount a nice zoom, and take the picture of the fisherman

That night i went out to try my wide angle lens...no way....i gave up with it, put a zoom and got this fisherman shot, 100 times better than the landscape itself

That night i went out to try my wide angle lens…no way….i gave up with it, put a zoom and got this fisherman shot, 100 times better than the landscape itself

Reality is there ready to continuously change and evolve. For this reason, i believe that one should never predict in advance what it is going to shoot at (except for events and some exceptions). Rather, being ready to shoot to every possible interesting thing without limitation is the best approach for me

TIP 10: BE ONESELF, RATHER THAN FOLLOWING MANIAS

Many times i have found photography manias taking places on internet.

I still remember many…..

It was the time of black and white pictures, than the one of very pushed HDR and than that of Instagram 80’s effect. The logic was always the same. Take a stupid picture, apply the trendy effect of the moment, and that’s it…..you’ve got a masterpiece

I must say, i really don’t like when people use a technique not because they need it, but just because it is trendy. By doing this, there will always be a lackness of personality, and watchers will struggle to recognize the hand of a real photographer behind works

Yes, in that specific moment during which the mania is taking place, the picture will have a great visibility. However, probably, i believe that when the mania will over, the picture will be forgotten by everyone.

Rather, by using a more personal style, people will always recognize the hand of the single photographer, and will be probably more interested to follow him for a very long time. Of course this requires more effort and time, but over the long period, i have found this strategy to win

TIP 11: WORK ON THE QUALITY OF LIGHT, NOT ON THAT OF THE SUBJECTS

To explain this point, i always like to talk about a paradox. Let’s say I have two pictures, one cloudy, badly made with a mobile phone, of the Statue of Liberty, and another one spectacular, with a great sunrise effect, a nice golden sky, well composed and very romantic, taken inside the unknown amusement park of my little italian town

What of these two pictures would find the way into the eyes of watchers? probably and strangely, the one of the amusement park, although the Statue of Liberty is 1000 times a more popular and attractive subject on paper (i have made an experiment like this in my gallery and found this to be true based on my website statistics)

So, why should this happen? probably because eyes after all are attracted by lights, more than subjects, intended as “photons”. And this is why many times i really like to forget about the subject and focus more on the light itself

Going out when the light is great without caring about what the final subject will be, is an aspect that i personally consider foundamental in my experience, as well as one of my greatest secrets. Sometimes, i even went out with the idea of considering the light itself as my real subject, and below is an example of this. In the following picture, i had no intention to represent the forest itself, but rather, the lightrays falling down after the storm

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TIP 12: CHECK OTHER PEOPLE WORKS ON 500PX

It is always fantastic to get inspired by other works, and i have found 500px to be a nice site for this, although someone has argued, (and i agree with him), that respect to some years ago, the quality of this website has diminished a little bit

One important thing regarding this point, in my opinion, is to avoid to fall in the trap of manias and trends. Getting inspired by other people is ok, but getting inspired by manias, i’m not totally sure is good in the same way

TIP 13: IF YOU CAN COME CLOSER, DON’T USE THE ZOOM

I hate very much those using the zoom not because they can’t get closer, but rather due to their laziness or the desire to show their beast lens to the others

What a shame…..using a zoom when one shouldn’t is a nice way to narrow the chances to get a nice shot. The reason is related to the fact that by increasing the zoom, one is gradually forced to stay in line with the horizon without any chance to tridimensionally move around the subject to find a better perspective

Imagine a motorcycle parked somewhere. If i stay 50 meters far and just play with the zoom, one can only stay in line with the horizon while taking the picture of it

Instead, if one tries to get closer by also using a 35mm for example, it will be possible now to rotate and move all around the motorcycle, with a wider and almost infinite possibilities to compose a picture with many different perspectives of the motorcycle

Concluding, i believe that zooming is useful when there’s no chance to get closer or when one wants to make two distant subjects appearing like they are closer, otherwise, i really prefer to keep it in my bag because it is very limiting

TIP 14: DON’T WAIT TO TRAVEL

I am a photographer who travels very much, at least 2 times per year, but does this mean that for the rest of the year i am stucked at home waiting for the next flight?

No way! there’s always a nice opportunity behind the next corner, and waiting to travel to take pictures, or waiting for the next great event to take place, in my opinion is a waste of time

The nice shot can be even inside one's home...i never wait to travel to shoot..sometimes i just walk around my home

The nice shot can be even inside one’s home…i never wait to travel to shoot..sometimes i just walk around my home

Rather, one should learn to find opportunities even on the way to the job place. It’s something i often did for real. Before going to work at nine o’clock, sometimes i have decided to get up earlier of half a hour to have the chance to play with the camera in the morning for a while before taking the train!

Furtherly, by training at home and in everyday places while waiting for the next travel, one can practice and improve the technique, by producing better pictures the next time

TIP 15: DON’T WAIT FOR FRIENDS. IF THE MOMENT IS GOOD, GO OUT ALONE

I can understand that some people are very lazy, and that they easily refuse to go out with their camera if they don’t have a friend to go out with or if their club hasn’t organized anything for the next weekend

Well, when the light or the opportunity is good, who can guarantee that a friend will be available to shoot with us? of course noone, and this is why one shouldn’t rely on friends or clubs to take pictures.

Good chances don’t wait for anyone. If someone is forced to go out alone, let’s do it.

CONCLUSION

I want to conclude the article by talking about a last important problem of photography: the laziness.

Being lazy is the last thing one should do if he wants to take nice pictures

I understand that sometimes bring all the equipment all the times, going out there without a friend, and being always fast and ready, are all things that can be boring, energy demanding, apart from requiring a nice preparation and a good stress tolerance

One of my hardest shot where i put all my effort and preparation, the blue cave of Capri. I really needed a great concentration to get it. Dark condition on a moving boat.....the hell of photographers

One of my hardest shot where i put all my effort and preparation, the blue cave of Capri. I really needed a great concentration to get it. Dark condition on a moving boat…..the hell of photographers

However, this is a real requirement of photography, and this is consequently the reason why, it would be very nice sometimes to stop talking about megapixes, stop caring about the latest camera model, and focus more on the way one approaches reality through the use of both body and mind

This is how, at least, i really managed to become satisfied in what i have done since today

Thanks for reading

Moyan

Copyright © Moyan Brenn and Earthincolors.wordpress.com

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Small excerpts or the pictures contained in the article may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Moyan Brenn and Earthincolors.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Discussion

8 thoughts on “Photography: my best 15 tips for better results

  1. An useful article.. And loved ur pictures!! I just want to know..how to get light trails of a moving firework or candle or any light source? I like those kind of artistic light paintings..i know a slow shutter speed is required but often i get the person holding it blurred! Despite using a tripof..plz suggest if possible..the criterias and basic exif details

    Posted by Krishanu Bhattacharya | July 11, 2015, 7:14 am
    • hi friend! i think for firework you should ask to people to don’t move and use an exposure around 1/10 or even 1/5. If they manage to not move, i believe fireworks should show a trail but people shouldn’t be blurred, except for those walking of course

      Posted by moyanbrenn | July 13, 2015, 3:10 pm
  2. its very nice tips, i hope can more learning form yout website.. thanks for greate posting..

    Posted by jasa foto semarang | July 14, 2015, 3:26 pm
  3. gorgeous! thanks for sharing your insights! I passed this along to my son who just launched a website on fishing video sharing…. He also has an artistic eye and will appreciate your tips. Iceland is around the corner! carolyn

    Posted by carolyn schmitz | July 17, 2015, 2:43 am
  4. Wow, thanks for those ideas. I was hooked with the photograph and your insights are really interesting to read. I’ll keep those ideas on my mind.

    Posted by Benedict | September 23, 2015, 4:02 am

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