The camera is the last piece in the photographic process. Seriously, I mean it. If you want to be a good photographer, as an amateur or a professional, do ponder over the following:
1. The camera does not matter: You do not need an expensive camera to start taking good photos. Make do with what you have – smartphones, point-and-shoots or basic DSLRs – and master these first. In over 70 percent of the cases, your entry level DSLR will give you results similar to a high end one. Upgrade only after you have been shooting enough with what you have first.
2. Technology does most of the work for you – but only you can compose: Today’s cameras are advanced enough to give you great results even in the auto mode, or by just adjusting the Shutter or Aperture settings. No need to fret about knowing all camera functions initially – just understand the essentials. But no camera can compose for you – the art is your own. And that is what you need to work on most – what goes into your frame. Learn to observe the world around you – you can compose images in your mind without your camera.
3. Always be a student: Never stop learning. The Internet is a great resource for blogs, magazines and other repositories of knowledge. Go through this content regularly – understand what the experts are saying. Look at a lot of photographs – online and in galleries. Your senses will get more artistic sub-consciously. Talk to other photographers – don’t hesitate to ask questions. We have all learnt from each other. A simple tip can do wonders for your photography. Learn from the Masters but don’t imitate them – develop your own style.
4. The 20:80 rule of classroom learning: No matter how many lessons you take, that is only 20 percent of the job done. The rest is what you do yourself. If you don’t practice regularly, and put in the hard work, you might as well not waste your time and money attending classes. The teacher can only teach you the vocabulary – you have to forms words and stories yourself.
5. No substitute for hard work and odd hours: Photography is not for the lazy. You have to be on your feet – and at times when your subject can be shot best. If you want to shoot in the first light of the day, you have to be up when the world is still asleep. Sunrise will not change its schedule for you. Be willing to explore and wait for surprises to pop up – for example, if you are a travel or street photographer, spend hours walking around and looking around you. You cannot always pre-plan what you are going to shoot.
6. Prepare yourself in advance for best results: Advance research is very important. Research your subject before going out to shoot. For example, if you are travelling, find out the best time of the year to shoot. Try to coincide your trip with events. Browse the Internet to see what others have shot – get ideas, but don’t just imitate. Come back with your own unique shots. If you need permissions, have them in order. Carry back-up batteries, memory and even cameras if going to remote locations. Go fully prepared – but keep your mind and eyes open to shooting what you have not visualised.
7. Travel light: Burdening yourself like a mule with equipment is not sexy. Travel light. Carry only as much as you need. You don’t want to be weighed down with gear – and also be worried about losing something. You need to be free in the mind to shoot better.
8. Keep your equipment safe: Tourists are the easiest victims for thieves looking to steal cameras. We all tend to just place our cameras anywhere – on a wall, on the floor in a cafe, in an open car. And as the day progresses, we get tired and our alertness levels go down. Keep the equipment close to you. Have the cameras strapped to your bodies. If you are sitting someplace, have an arm or a leg going through the bag straps. You don’t want to spoil your mood and be the poorer too.
9. Don’t let the camera die on you: Cameras seem to follow their own version of Murphy’s law: they will go on the blink just when you have that perfect moment to be captured on holiday. Carry extra memory and battery. And keep the batteries charged and empty the memory cards at the end of each day.
10. Take Back-Ups: Try carrying a laptop to download images whenever you can. And don’t procrastinate: download at every opportunity, you might run short of memory anytime. And make an extra copy too in case of a computer crash. Back-up on CDs at a cyber café: Most cyber cafes, especially in tourist locations, have facilities to download images and burn them on a CD for a nominal sum. Upload the same online on Flickr or any other platform if you can.