- By Natt McFee
15 years ago I got my first camera. It was a black plastic film camera, far beyond the years of old Canon AE-1s and the like, but before the digital revolution. It had a battery, autofocus, auto-wind, etc. I was so excited about the thing I could hardly wait to use it. And I used it constantly. I shot everything with it for years, until of course I got a digital camera. The first digital camera I owned was a Sony something or other. It was small and silver and square-ish and was definitely not a knockoff of the ever popular Canon Digital ELPH (it was). On that camera I really learned the power of things like long exposures, time lapse, and other super fun creative photography things that really get the juices flowing in someone who just wants to make cool images. My passion extended from there into video, and I got a Panasonic DV camera. From that point on I knew this was the work I wanted to do, and I’ve been doing it in some capacity ever since. I’m almost 30 now, with many years of experience under my belt, but (hopefully) many MANY more to come.
Ok, enough about me. You’re here to read about how to make photography fun. The best place to start is with the camera itself. For many of you that will mean your iPhone or similar device. Most of the cameras on our smartphones are miles ahead of anything that was available – even at a professional level – 10 years ago. It is simply astounding how in the course of 10 years, cameras have come so far and can do so much. With an iPhone you don’t need to know much about photography to take awesome pictures – that’s the magic. But anyone can take a snapshot, and therein lies the problem: How do you elevate a “snapshot” to a “photograph?”
First of all, play with angles. Go high, go low. Shoot down at your subject or shoot up. Shooting down at people makes them look smaller, while allowing the viewer to feel elevated when viewing the picture. Shooting up can make people look larger, which is not always flattering, but rules are meant to be broken, so try it!
Always play with horizontal or vertical orientations. Is your subject a landscape? Go horizontal. Is it a flag pole? Go vertical. Are you trying to show the flag pole WITHIN a landscape? Try both. See what works. But try it both ways. You can always delete the one you like least.
The sun is your ally. It’s the most awesome light ever created and can be used to your advantage in almost any situation. If it’s cloudy, take advantage of the flat light to take pictures with uniform brightness. The diffused look of a misty day will give your photos an eeriness or tenderness that you simply cannot capture in direct sunlight. Mornings and evenings provide the most stunningly beautiful golden hues – and is probably the reason we all love gold things so much. So use it!
Shoot with the light behind, to the side, or in front of your subject. Break the rules and trust your instinct. It’s always right. Plus, if you totally hate something, you never have to take that picture again. And you never will. Photography is as much a learning process about what you like, than what your friends or clients will like. I’m still learning what I like in a photo and I’ve taken hundreds of thousands – if not millions of pictures.
If you’ve always wanted to do a time-lapse, do one! Everyone loves a time-lapse. They can be so revealing about your surroundings. Look up how your camera does them (they’re all pretty similar), put it on a bench or table and give it a shot. If you have a tripod, great. If not, it doesn’t matter. For years I used a bean bag and whatever surface I could find. Just make sure it’s stable.
The same can be said for long exposures. There is little cooler than letting your camera take a 30 second exposure at night looking at a city skyline or even your backyard. It will show you a scene you are used to in a way in which you’ve never seen it. It’s awesome. Play with the timings, play with settings. You can’t go wrong.
There are so many more ways to make photography fun, so check back for more in the coming months, but this is a good start. The most important thing is to try different stuff all the time. If you find yourself taking the same picture every time you use your camera, you’ll get bored. Try lying down and only taking pictures from the floor. Try going out in the middle of a snowstorm and taking pictures of a pine cone or the bricks on your house. Try pulling over while driving and taking pictures of passing cars. Go to the airport and shoot incoming planes. Spend a whole day only taking pictures of things as close as you can. Or only of cups.
Have fun. It’s an art, and will only be good if you’re having fun. So do that.