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194 of the best photography tips from professional photographers

Discover some of the best tips for portraits, weddings, landscapes and commercial photography from people who make a living shooting them

81. High dynamic range

Image: Charlie Waite

If you decide to use HDR, ensure you are familiar with lighting ratios and don’t underestimate the human eye and brain to detect where these ratios are skewed i.e. too much light drenching a foreground shadow when the light source is in front of you. 

Read more: 12 incredible US national parks for landscape photographers

82. Do your own tests

Don’t trust others to inform you about your camera and its performance. Experiment with all ISOs yourself and check to see when image degradation sets in. Test at what aperture and with what lens any diffraction appears. Don’t sacrifice a sacred small aperture if little or no diffraction is evident at that aperture. 

83. Investigate and decide

Image: Charlie Waite

Take your eye around the entire outside edge of the viewfinder, and make sure to do so twice to be totally familiar with all that exists on the perimeter. Decide whether what exists on the outside edge supports what takes place within the body of the image. Omit any redundant elements. A painter would not neglect the edges. 

84. A way out

If there has been a rhythmical and sinuous river or road in your image, try and find an easy departure for it through a corner. Better that exit rather than slamming abruptly into the edge of the frame in an ungainly fashion. 

85. Restraint and integrity

For classic landscape photography, your audience needs to trust your image. Maintain your integrity with restrained post-production manipulation. A good maxim is: in-camera, on the day. 

86. Consider shadows and highlights

Look at where shadows are and how deep they are. It is surprising how deep black ‘nothingness’ can dominate a photograph as much as unwanted highlights. Find a balance. Squint to evaluate brightness range. 

87. Visualise a print

Image: Charlie Waite

When looking through your camera try and envisage the image as a giant print. It will help you to take your photograph seriously if you can make the leap from the postage-stamp size image in your viewfinder to imagining it becoming a print 1,000 times bigger. 

88. Refine your vision

Only acquire a new camera if you can really justify the expense. It’s better to develop your perception than buy another camera that you may not need. 

89. Don't panic

There will be times when you may feel ‘photographically blind’. Do not panic, as your vision will eventually return. Any artistic endeavour is fraught with decline of confidence, anxiety and joy. Doubt your doubt and build back your confidence. 

90. Attend and intend

Image: Charlie Waite

Try and attend to all the elements within the image you plan to make. Landscape photographs can often be made up of many components. Get to know all of them and ensure that you intended for them to be there before depressing the shutter. 

91. Use shadows from clouds

Use cloud shadow to conceal any ugly features of the landscape. Look up to see what the clouds are doing and use them. Clouds that are not in your image are often actually more useful than the ones that are. 

92. Create a portfolio

Build a website with all that you want to say, but no more. Less can often equal more. Be sure to check that all the images you present in your gallery are your best, so that they are representative of your skill level. Also, create a print portfolio. 

93. Frame up

Using your hands, make them into a rectangle to see whether there is a photograph to be made. Possibly make a piece of thick and durable black card about 4 x 5 inches with a rectangular aperture cut out of it. This will help a great deal to remove the potential image from its wider context. 

94. Use the histogram

If the subject brightness range is compressed, then no need to bracket. Think of bracketing with extreme contrast. Highlights and shadows will be on the margins. Decide which is sacred. 

Read more: How to read a histogram

There is no need to bracket if the contrast is low. The histogram is all knowing and super informative, so make the most of it. 

95. Monitor the sky

Try to monitor the movement of the sky. If it is lacking in interest, consider omitting it. Look at the wind direction and prepare for a better sky than the one that you found on your arrival. 

96. Use your tripod

If you have a tripod, try to use it! It has two functions. First and most obviously to allow long-time exposures, and secondly, and as important, it enables you to take your photograph seriously. With the aid of a tripod fine adjustments can be made. Think of your photograph as being an important, considered production. 

97. Be the lighting director

Make sure that you are always consciously aware of the light. A photographer must be acutely aware of nature and the quality of light, as well as how the light is falling on the subject and how the light is absorbed and reflected by different surfaces. 

98. Be clear

Big views can at times be overwhelming and difficult to manage and make sense of. Aim to make them coherent and cohesive; don’t be scared of them. Try to look for relationships, no matter how tenuous they are. Your audience will find them. 

99. Look at postcards 

Image: Charlie Waite

Look at postcards with a critical eye. Compare relevant postcards of the same subject. Check out photography exhibitions whenever you possibly can. Go to talks and fill yourself up with photography and further your inspiration.

All words: Charlie Waite

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