These kind of posts are all over the place, probably overvalued at a dime a dozen. I’m not writing my own in order to add to the noise; rather, these are three things that have actually helped me improve my images.
Know What Time of Day to Shoot
The golden hour is obviously the most desirable time of the day to go shoot. The sun, low against the horizon, provides deeply hued light at an indirect angle. Not only do the hues add color and vibrancy to the shot, but the indirect angle softens shadows and minimizes hard lines.
But the golden hour is old hat for many. Did you realize the blue hour is the other great time to go out and shoot? The blue hour happens while the sun is actually below the horizon, and is desirable for many of the same reasons as the golden hour. Blue hour gives you a different look and feel, though, with cooler color temperature and less light.
You can figure out when these times of day hit for your area using a number of online calculators.
Minimize the Background
You’ll see experienced photographers preach the idea of minimizing and simplifying for good reason. Particularly in the visual arts, cluttered backgrounds are disruptive and distracting. The inference in this piece of advice is that you’ve carefully chosen a subject and angle; you don’t want the background to be the most interesting part of the photo.
The things you should care about when it comes to background are aperture, lines and framing. As we’ve discussed previously, use aperture to control your depth of field and isolate your subject. Ensure the leading lines in your photo lead the eye to where you want it. When framing, avoid “intrusions,” those tree branches, arms, and other items that poke into your frame.
“But I need to learn Photoshop!”
Nah. Just go shoot. Worry about getting it right in your camera and you’ll not only end up saving a ton of time, you’ll have a lot more fun. Trust me, intensive post-processing, the sort done after a corporate or wedding shoot, blows.
If I had it to do again, I’d spend about 80% of my time shooting and 20% processing. I felt like I had to learn Lightroom in order to be a better photographer, but that was backwards–a good photographer will learn how to use Lightroom. I’ve said before that gear does not a photographer make, and that philosophy holds true here. Your Lightroom skills do not make you a photographer.
The Three Photography Tips
If I had to pick one out of this list as most important, I would pick the last one–don’t post-process. You’ll figure the other stuff out just fine. In the meantime, go look up when the golden and blue hours are and pay more attention to your framing. Keep experimenting!