Great photography comes as a combination of two factors: having an eye for a great shot, and knowing how best to achieve it.
Attending photography school and practicing on a near-daily basis is by far the best—and quickest—road to gaining both of these innate skills, but it never hurts to have a few tried-and-tested photography tricks and hacks under your belt…
… and here’s seven good practices and secret weapons every photographer should have in their arsenal.
7 Essential Photography Hacks and Tips
1. Check Your Perspective
If you want to instantly become a better photographer with just a single thought, try this: whenever you’re about to take a shot, simply ask yourself: “Is there a better perspective here?”
Each and every one of us spend our lives looking at the world from eye-level, so taking photos from this same perspective isn’t actually bringing anything new to the table. As such, seek to mix things up a little by getting as low or as high as you possibly can from your subject; it won’t actually improve the shot in all cases, but it’ll help you get out of your creative zone and eventually you’ll get an instinctive eye for opportunities in which elevation and angle can make a big difference.
2. Pinhole Camera for Less
Pinhole photography is very underrated and great fun to play with—want to get started in less than two minutes? Simply drill a 5mm hole through the center of a spare lens cap (obviously not while it’s attached to the camera!) and you’re good to go.
3. Soft Filter Vaseline
Need a soft focus filter in a pinch? All you need is a little bit of Vaseline (or other petroleum jelly-style product.) Just smear a very small amount over the surface of the lens, and you’ll get a very interesting, ‘vintage’ style effect. If the thought of glopping up your lenses makes your hairs stand on end, the same effect can be achieved by coating a piece of clear glass or plastic with the stuff and placing it in front of the lens for less mess!
4. Switch Up Your Medium
If you really want to get your creative juices flowing, try shooting subject matter that, as a photographer, is as-yet alien to you. Know how to capture a steaming dish of hot soup every time? Take your existing knowledge and shoot macro landscape photography instead. Always work in color? Try black and white for a stretch.
Breaking old habits is the name of the game, and finding any way of forcing your mind to think in new ways in order to achieve a great shot will have crossover benefits to your photography discipline of choice.
5. A Little Foil Goes a Long Way
Aluminum foil is your friend. Nothing can help eliminate ugly shadows and dull shots quite like it—well, save for investing in a lot of extra lighting.
Careful positioning of a board wrapped in foil can make a huge difference, and you don’t even need to get crafty—a $5 car windscreen reflector will do exactly the same job.
6. Master Bokeh
The bokeh effect isn’t one you’ll want to overuse, but learning the ins and outs of how it’s achieved will simultaneously improve your knowledge of lens differentiation and aperture. Plus, it just looks amazing, particularly when it comes to portrait and micro shots.
7. Read Your Camera Manual
We know, we know: sitting down and reading your camera manual from cover to cover isn’t exactly thrilling, but you’ll be surprised at how little you knew about your own camera’s functionality—even if you’ve owned it for years—by the time you get to the back page. We’ve said it before and it bears repeating: a cheap camera in the hands of someone who knows it intimately usually beats out a $5,000 behemoth operated by someone who is clueless as to its settings.
Got any other surefire photography tips and hacks that you’ve found to have dramatically improved your own work? Don’t be shy—drop a comment in the box below!