New cameras, lenses and accessories open up the possibility of fresh adventures in photography. In reality though, most of us have to make do with what we’ve got, upgrading to new camera kit as and when we can afford it.
1. Concentrate on what you can photograph rather than what you can’t
It’s easy to walk away from a photo opportunity because you don’t feel your lens is long enough or wide enough, or you believe your camera’s continuous shooting speed is slow or its autofocus sluggish.
But learning to think around any potential barriers is how original photos are made. Instead of wishing for a 600mm lens for wildlife photography, see how you can frame an impactful shot with a wide-angle.
Rather than cursing your lack of an ultra-wide lens when photographing a sweeping coastal shot, take a series of frames and stitch them together later.
No fast f/1.2 portrait lens in your line-up?
Find a location where the foreground and background will be so far from your portrait-sitter that it’s easy to make them stand out, even at f/5.6.
2. Read the camera manual
Reading your DSLR’s manual won’t help you improve your photography per se, but a bit of technical camera knowledge will make a difference to the aesthetic quality of your pictures in the long term.
You’ll learn how to customise the controls of your camera so that you can react to situations faster.
You’ll understand which of the many autofocus options and AF point set-ups will suit different subjects. You’ll know how the camera will handle flash exposures in different shooting modes.
3. Use your gear every day
You don’t have to head out in pursuit of an award-winning shot seven days a week, but the more you use your camera, the more instinctively you’ll be able to use it.
Being able to press the correct button to adjust the aperture or ISO without taking your eye from the viewfinder, or to know which direction to rotate the camera’s dial to make the next shot brighter or darker can increase your chances of capturing spontaneous photographs.
4. DIY photography hacks and camera mods
Making your own DIY camera accessories is an easy way to add to your creative photography arsenal.
Instead of buying a commercial flash diffuser, why not create your own with DIY light modifier?
Try cutting up a clear plastic milk bottle or using bubble wrap in front of your flashgun to soften the light.
Kitchen foil makes a cheap and cheerful reflector for portraits and macro photography, while an iPad or laptop screen can be used as a constant light source for still-life set-ups.
You can get more ambitious with DIY photography hacks too, such as turning your DSLR into a pinhole camera, making your own ringflash and building a bicycle camera mount.
5. Start a photography project
Setting yourself a goal and parameters to work within is a great way to sharpen your eye for a picture, and by starting a photography project you’ll force yourself to make the best of your current camera gear.
You could try the classic 365 photo project, taking one photo a day for a year. Perhaps restrict yourself to a single lens or focal length on a zoom.
How about choosing a theme: a specific colour, emotion, location or camera effect?
Having a project in mind when you’re out with your camera will give your photography focus.
6. Study the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson
It’s a cliché to bring up Henri Cartier-Bresson when talking about how to make the most of minimal camera kit, but there’s no escaping the fact that the ‘father of photojournalism’ created some the most iconic images of the 20th century using just one 35mm camera and a single 50mm lens.
Too much equipment can be a distraction, and studying the way Cartier-Bresson constructed his images and developed a sense of when to press the shutter when all the elements moved into place, well, that can make a bigger difference to the progression of your photography than an armful of new lenses.
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