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Anyone can take snapshots, the question is do you want to elevate your photography skills to produce perhaps more artful, more story full photos?

The suggestions below are borrowed from TEN: Ten Ways to Improve Your Craft. None of Them Involve Buying Gear a $5 ebook by David duChemin. They were compiled by Alan Levine (ds106 guru). For our class, I’ve copied them from the main ds106 Web site and added some photos to illustrate most of the points.

Get Pickier

Instead of using your camera like a rapid fire machine gun, spend more time pre-composing in your mind. As you get more practice, you can be more selective, and more deliberate. See if perhaps you can decide before taking a shot if it will be good.

Better Contrast Makes Better Stories

Contrast can be in terms of colors and lighting, but also elements and subjects in your photos- look for things that maybe do not belong together (juxtaposition). Look for near and far perspective.

Image Credit: Alan Levine, CC BY on Flickr

Change My Persepective by Changing Yours

Find different and unique points of view. Look down, up, lay down on the ground, anything different from your normal view of the world at head height. Seek perspectives of lines.

Image Credit: John Johnston, CC BY-SA on Flickr

Create Depth

Look for ways to add dimension of visual depth in your 2 dimensional images- play with foreground, lines, use of wide angle lenses, use of dark backgrounds.

Image Credit: @moDern 3bady, CC BY-NC-ND on Flickr

Get Balanced

The rule of thirds is not only about placement on a grid; duChemin describes visual mass, elements that draw more attention in a photo and how to balance that effectively. “Becoming more intentional about creating and playing with balance in your images will help you create images that more intentionally express what you have to say.”

TIP: Check out this Google Chrome addon which will ovelay a rule of third grid on any photo on a page you’re looking at. It’s super cool.

Image Credit: Rich Renomeron, CC BY-NC-ND on Flickr

Pay Attention to the Moment

Sometimes it means slowing down, but also being more aware of the action in a scene, trying to anticipate the moment of something interesting before it happens e.g. watching a family at the table preparing for when baby might spill the glass of milk? at sporting events trying to be ready for the kick that scores the goal?

Image Credit: Philip Hollar, CC BY-NC-ND on Flickr

Look to the Light

Probably the most key lesson- be aware of light that works and what does not. Knowing about shadows, directions, aiming for directions where light is strong (or not). Good light makes every photo. Learn how to sense when light is good (and when not, and you can skip lousy shots).

Image Credit: Philip Hollar, CC BY-NC-ND on Flickr

Use the Best Lens

If your camera uses different lenses, understand better what a wide angle does versus a telephoto not only in terms of what it can fit in a photo, but what effect it has one photos (squashing or expanding space). If your lens is fixed, understand what its limits are (how close you can get, what happens at severe angles).

Image Credit: Eva Holm, CC BY-NC-ND on Flickr

Expose for Aesthetics

Learn how to use aperture, shutter speed, iso to control the image- what the effects of these all play on depth of field, motion freeze vs blurring. For fixed lens camera/mobile, at least understand what the level of light means for your photos (why are those low light photos are blurry?)

But a Great Foreground in Front of a Great Background

Pay attention to the near and far. A landscape scene is dull without something in foreground to give depth and scale. Learn to avoid clutter and distracting elements.

Image Credit: David Gabriel Fischer, CC BY-NC-ND on Flickr

Additional Resources