The 12 Tips of Christmas - Part 6

This past Christmas, I posting 12 tips to improve your photography on my Facebook page ( As Facebook has limited room to post, I'm expanding those tips in this blog. Stay tuned for all twelve tips (some by themselves and some combined), and if you want even more, join me for one of my photo courses!

The Twelve Tips of Christmas

Tip # 5 - Change it up

"Every once in a while, change up what you are shooting and how you are shooting it. It will keep your photos fresh and it will keep you creativity fresh. Try a different lens, or different zoom. Try a different angle. Take your camera somewhere you wouldn't normally think of taking it (within reason of course)."

After the excitement begins to wear off, and it does to some extent, you might find yourself falling into a photographic "slump". You've learned a lot along the way about how your camera operates and how to take great pictures. Your hard drive is filling up with thousands of images you don't know what to do with and you begin to think you've taken a photo of almost everything there is to take a photo of. 

From a compositional view, nothing looks quite "right" - the placement of things isn't worth taking out your camera, or the light isn't quite right.

In those times, you need to change things up and make them fresh again. 

In a sense, this is just a broader version of the last two tips - putting yourself in a good spot and being creative - but with a wholly different purpose. In this case, it's about getting a fresh perspective on photography in general.

Start a project

One way to jump start your photography again is to work on a project.

If your days are varied, you could try a 365 project where you select one photograph from each day. Post the best image you take each day for others to see. At the end of the year (or even along the way), look back on your images to see how you have improved, or how you could improve, or just do it for the fun of looking at the images.

Are you outgoing? Or perhaps not so outgoing but want to learn to be? Maybe you could try a "100 portraits of strangers" project. You guessed it, randomly ask people if you can take their portraits. Try to be as unique in creating your images as the people you are photographing. Do the best job you can, and share the photos with them on-line.

Not looking for something that takes so long? Why not offer your services to someone who can't afford great photography and have some fun with them. They get some great photos and you are allowed to be more creative with them.

You might also join a photography group to share your images with them. Have them critique your photos and you do the same for theirs. This can be challenging but very productive and will definitely improve your photography.

Limit yourself for a time

Another way to get things moving again is to limit yourself to a certain type of photography, or certain equipment. Choose a fixed focal length lens (or just keep your zoom at one length) and work at trying to get the best image at that focal length, or with that lens.

Getting out of the slump is usually just about pushing through. In challenging yourself, you will find new things that interest you, and along the way, you will find new ways to photograph. Above all, keep shooting. If you stop entirely, you may find it harder to pick up that camera again!

Tip # 4 - Make it Unique

"Putting special effects (aka instagram) doesn't make a bad photo better. Don't take a photo just because you can. Think about it. What makes your photo different from every other one you have seen. Avoid the cliche's - if it's a photo that's been done a thousand times, will anyone really care about it? What makes your image unique? What would make people pause and stare at it? When you think you have it, then push the shutter button."

I have a lot of friends with iPhone or Android cameras who use instagram. Yeah, it's cool, and the fact you can grab shots and instantly share them is even cooler, but what's with those effects?

It's not that effects in and of themselves are inherently "bad", but I think people believe, if they put an effect their photo, it will instantly be better. Overuse of effects, however, can ruin an otherwise perfectly beautiful photo. 

Most of the effects in instagram have been used in professional photography to enhance the mood of the photos and help to tell the story. The problem is, people are using them thinking it will simply make their photos better.

So what are the effects in instagram for anyway? They are there to make the photos more unique - something different and therefore more interesting. And that is the key.

What you are really looking for is the photo that is unique - something no-one has done before, or no-one has done in that way before. The methods of making your photo unique are as varied as the cameras and lenses - and effects - that are used to create those photos. 

All of the previous tips come into play here, from the technical setup of your photo and the proper use of your camera, to the creativity behind it. Use everything you have put together to create an image that others don't typically see. Shooting a portrait? Shoot it from your unique perspective. What do you see in the person in your portrait that others don't? What way do you want others to see your subject that you don't think they do?

If you were looking at a photo of your subject, what would make you stop and stare at the photo?

After the photo is taken, there are plenty of tools to create special effects on the image, but be careful here. If you are going to use an effect, pick one that enhances the photo, not just that looks cool. Choose one that is going to complete or enhance the story you are trying to tell - sometimes even by simplifying it or limiting the viewer's view.

Pausing and thinking about how to make your photo unique will help you to stop taking all those photos that just take up space on your hard drive, and will start giving you more that you will want to keep - and share.

It's not easy to be unique - as a wise man once said, "there is nothing new under the sun". but changing your perspective can give you a unique view of it even when it seems old and stale.

Read more on any of the other Tips:

Part 1 - Get to know your gear
Part 2 - Use your camera tools
Part 3 - Use Composition Rules
Part 4 - Tell a Story, and Keep it Simple
Part 5 - Put yourself in a good spot, Be creative
Part 6 - Change it up, Make it Unique
Part 7 - Get the shot quick, be brutal and show your best work

(c) 2014 Gary Scott - Gary's Lens Photography


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