The invention of digital cameras has made a lot of things easier for photographers, but it’s also made us a bit lazy. Probably the most overused phrase in photography nowadays is, “I’ll just fix it in post production“. Softwares such as the fairly ubiquitous Photoshop and Lightroom have made life easy – images can be sharpened, exposures corrected, white balance adjusted… and so much more.
Now, whilst it’s not always a bad thing to fix things afterwards, it can take away from our skills as a photographer and make it less about the actual image. So, with this in mind, let’s look at some tips to get your image right as you’re actually shooting.
1. Pretend you’re shooting film
In the good old days of film, you had a set number of shots on a roll (24 or 36 for 35mm cameras and as little as 12 for medium format). And film was expensive, so wasting shots wasn’t an option. So, next time you’re out shooting with your digital camera set yourself a specific number of frames to shoot. This will help you focus your work, and you’ll quickly find yourself paying more attention to your technique, lighting and composition.
Some facets of photography have remained true no matter if you’re using a film or digital camera. Key amongst them is the Exposure Triangle of ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
Learning how to control these functions and shoot in manual mode is a key skill towards getting your images right in camera. When you shoot in manual mode, you have to consider how much light is coming into your camera, alongside controlling your depth of field – helping you a long way towards getting perfect shots.
2. Check the histogram as well as the LCD screen
The LCD screen can be a useful tool for checking your image is in focus and that you’ve got the composition you wanted. However, it’s not completely reliable for checking exposure. If you want more information, then you need to check your histogram. This will show you how your highlights and shadows are looking, and will help you avoid clipping your highlights.
3. Have a plan
To help improve your images in camera, it also helps to have a pre-visualised idea of what you want to shoot and how you’re going to achieve it. Think about the time of day you need to shoot at if you’re outside, and the kind of light you need to achieve the look you want.
It also helps not to just start blindly shooting when you arrive at a location, but to take time to analyse your surroundings and look for the best shooting opportunities. Try and think of it as if you were shooting in a studio – you wouldn’t just rush in and start firing the shutter without setting up your lights first and adjusting them until you’ve got the look you want.
4. And finally…
One of the easiest ways to improve your shots in camera is to actually get out of the mind set of thinking you’ll fix the image in Photoshop. Changing your mental attitude is the quickest way to thinking like a photographer again, rather than shooting hundreds of shots and messing about with them for hours in postproduction. Because, to be honest, most of us didn’t become photographers in order to spend hours in front of a computer screen. Spend more time shooting and less time processing!