12 Rules for 12 months

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Last week we went through 10 tips for amateur photographers. This week I will add to the professionals’ tips by suggesting 12 rules for 12 months. These came from a similar article I wrote 20 years ago, and all of them are still very important if you want to continue to improve.

In no particular order, by following these “rules” you will improve your picture taking.

  1. Shoot more
  2. Walk closer
  3. Use the focus lock
  4. Buy a tripod
  5. Have more than one memory stick
  6. Make enlargements of your better prints
  7. Use different formats
  8. Use a polarizing filter
  9. Carry your camera with you
  10. Use the flash during the day
  11. Develop a project
  12. Change the batteries

Let’s expand on these somewhat. Shooting more images – photography, like any sport, recreation or pursuit is something where the more you do it and practice it, the better you get. That just means shooting more and improve by doing. Capturing an image is really the cheapest part of photography, especially when you compare it to the purchase price of a half decent camera. Shoot more!

The one major fault in most amateur photographs is taking the shot from too far away. The “hero” becomes so small in the final image that is it no longer the hero. Make the subject the “hero” and walk in several meters closer to make the hero fill the frame. Don’t be lazy and use the zoom instead of walking closer.

With modern auto-focus cameras the most obvious focussing problem is where the subject is off-center. The magic electronic eye doesn’t know this and focuses on the center being background, leaving your close-up subject soft and blurry. Focus on the subject and keep your finger depressed on the focus lock while arranging the shot.

Tripods we covered recently, but one of these will expand your picture taking no end. Get a good quality sturdy tripod, not one of the cheap aluminium ones.

Memory sticks/cards, always have one in the camera and another safely in the camera bag. Trying to delete images on the fly is not the way to winning pictures.

Another thing to keep your interest going and give you pride in your work is to make some enlargements of your better photos. At around 100 baht for most places, this is very cheap and enlargements do make good presents at Xmas time too.

We all get lazy and it is too easy to end up just taking every picture in the horizontal (landscape) format. Always take two shots of each subject – one in the horizontal format and the other in the vertical. You can get some surprising results that way. Don’t be lazy – do it every time!

With color photography, which covers about 99.99 percent of most people’s pictures these days, the one major factor to give your skies and seas and scenery some color oomph is the use of a polarizing filter. Get one and use it.

You will always miss some “classic” shots and regret it later, but you certainly will never get them if you don’t have a camera with you. With so many incredible sights around Pattaya you should be photographically ready at all times!

To give your daytime shots some extra sparkle, use “fill-in” flash. Most new cameras have a little setting that will do this automatically for you – even with point and shooters. If you haven’t, then spend some time learning how to do it. It’s worth it when you see the results you get.

To give yourself the impetus to go out and take photos, develop a project and spend your leisure time building up the images. It can be flowers or fashion, cars or canaries, but fix on something and follow it through. It’s worth it, just for the fact that it makes you become an “enquiring” photographer.

Finally, every year at the end of December, give the camera a birthday by buying it some new batteries. You won’t have a problem damaging the sensitive innards with neglected battery acid and the camera’s light metering system will work correctly every time. Cheap insurance.