12 rules for 12 months

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We are approaching the end of the year, and it is time to look back and think what you can do to improve your photography and get better pictures.  While there are plenty of photography books for sale in the bookstores, most of those are of the genre, How To Photograph Mountain Lions or similar.  (The answer is with a very long lens, don’t bother buying the book.)

So here are my 12 rules, which if you follow them through, I will guarantee you will get better photographs.  And get more fun out of your photography.

The first is simply to take photographs every day.  Photography, like any sport, recreation or pursuit is something where the more you do it and practice it, the better you get.  With memory cards and the like, it is no more expensive to shoot four as it does to shoot one!

The one major fault in most amateur photographs is taking the shot from too far away.  From now on, make the subject the “hero” and walk in several meters closer to make the subject fill the frame.

Focussing!  With modern auto-focus cameras the most obvious focussing problem is where the subject is off-center.  The magic eye doesn’t know this and focuses on the central background, leaving your close-up subject soft and blurry.  Focus on the subject and use the focus lock facility of your camera.

Tripods I have mentioned frequently, but one of these will expand your picture taking no end.  Camera shake becomes a thing of the past, and you will take more time to compose your shots.  Even a ‘mini-tripod’ is better than nothing.  Get one.

Always carry a spare memory card.  There is nothing worse than trying to delete on the run getting the shot of a lifetime.

Keep your interest and pride in your work by making enlargements of your better photos.  At around 80 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.  Make it a habit to always take at least 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!

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 every time the sun shines.

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 photo opportunities in Thailand, you should be 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, at the end of every year, 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.  It’s cheap insurance.

Here is the list.

1. Take more shots

2. Walk several meters closer

3. Use the focus lock

4. Buy a tripod

5. Carry a spare memory card

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