I realize that the subject of how to become a better photographer is a very, very broad one. There are tons of ways to improve your photography by learning new skills, expanding your knowledge, and equipping yourself with the right gear. It’s also helpful if you actually understand how to use your gear, too!
In this article, I want to focus on four ways of getting better at photography. Each one is a little more of an advanced topic that will really help you get the best quality photos.
Become a Better Photographer by Learning How to Spot Meter
The light metering systems in today’s cameras offer you a way to improve the exposure, and do so quickly and easily. Cameras have several metering modes that are best-suited for different situations. Multi-zone metering, for example, is often used for landscape photography because it takes light readings from different points throughout the shot. That means that the camera takes into account dark areas in the foreground, bright areas in the background, and so forth, and comes up with a meter reading that gets you the best exposure all the way around.
Another metering mode that’s common on today’s cameras is center-weighted average. As the name states, this mode gathers light information from the center of the shot, making it great for images in which the subject is in the middle of the frame. If you’re taking a close-up portrait, for example, and you want the camera to expose for the subject’s face and not the extremely bright background, this metering mode will work well.
However, if you really want to be a better photographer, you need to master spot metering mode. Spot metering is the most accurate of them all because it takes its light reading from a very small area of the frame, usually less than 5 percent of the total image. That means you can get a pinpoint light meter reading – which you can’t do in the multi-zone setting.
It also means that you can select which autofocus point is used to get the meter reading – unlike center-weighted average which uses the middle focus point. In the image above, for example, you could use spot metering to measure the light from the man’s cheek or the underside of the woman’s chin to get an appropriate exposure. Since spot metering takes its reading from such a tiny area, it’s imperative that you take care when you select the area from which you meter.
For example, if you’re shooting a portrait, meter off of the subject’s face as noted above, not the background. For a detailed look at spot metering mode and when and how it should be used, check out the video above by Theoria Apophasis.
“Restrict” Yourself With a Prime Lens
If you’re a beginner photographer and you’ve to this point only used the kit zoom lens that came with your camera, it’s time to branch out. Prime lenses, which have a fixed focal length (i.e., 24mm, 50mm, 85mm, and so forth), are excellent tools for working on your composition and framing. That’s because you don’t have the benefit of a zoom, which means you have to physically move around the subject to get views closer up or further away. What’s more, prime lenses usually have very large maximum apertures. Since aperture controls the amount of light entering the lens, prime lenses are ideal for shooting in low-light conditions.
On top of that, many prime lenses are small and lightweight, making them an excellent choice for photographers that don’t want to carry a bunch of gear around. If you go with something like a 50mm f/1.8 lens, you can grab one brand new for well under $150, so they’re budget-friendly as well!
Learn to Use Your Camera’s Histogram
What’s the first thing you do after you take a photo? You look at your camera’s LCD to see how it turned out, right?
The problem with doing this is that while you can check the composition and framing on the LCD, it’s not the best tool for determining if you have a well-exposed image. Instead, your camera’s histogram is perfectly suited for that task. The histogram is a graphical representation of the light values in the photo, giving you an easy way to see if the photo is too dark, too light, or just right. As you can see in the graphic above, the histogram shows you the number of pixels in shadowed, midtoned, and highlighted areas of the photo.
If there’s too many shadows, the image is too dark. If there’s too many highlights, it’s too bright. You get the idea…
Be a better photographer in short order by starting to rely on the histogram to evaluate the exposures you take. It’s a much easier and far more reliable tool to use than the LCD!
Carry Your Gear in a Way That Makes It Easier to Shoot
What’s the worst thing about your camera strap? Is it that it’s completely uncomfortable? Perhaps that it’s unwieldy and gets in the way? Or is it that you can only carry one camera at a time?
Maybe it’s a combination thereof…
I know that how you carry your camera might not sound like something that impacts your photos, but trust me, it is. Back in the day, I carried my camera around using the factory camera strap, and unsurprisingly, my neck and shoulders fatigued quickly. I also spent as much time trying to get the strap out of my way when I was shooting with a tripod as I did actually composing the shot. That’s not to mention the fact that as I became a more skilled photographer, I carried two or three cameras with me. That meant that I was constantly putting one camera in my bag and taking another one out, spending time on gear changes instead of actually taking photos.
Then I got myself a Holdfast MoneyMaker and that all changed. As you can see, the MoneyMaker is a dual-strap camera harness that puts your cameras (up to three of them!) right at your fingertips. That means you have easy access to not one or two cameras, but with an additional piece of hardware, you can carry three cameras right on your body. And since the MoneyMaker puts your cameras close to you, they’re out of the way, safe, and secure, all while making it a breeze to grab your camera to get quick shots.
This thing feels great, too. It spreads the load of your gear out across both shoulders and your back for a much more comfortable carrying experience. With less shoulder and back fatigue, that means you can shoot longer and get more high-quality shots than ever before. I know that the bulk of the battle in becoming a better photographer is in building your photography skills. But if you can also streamline your workflow and make it easier to access your gear, that will only help you in getting better at photography!