Invest in a tripod. I know it seems an obvious step, but if you want to improve the sharpness and quality of your image, invest in a tripod. I am a big fan of Manfrotto tripods, I am sure other brands are equally as good but I really trust Manfrotto products and I like being able to swap heads easily from one set of legs or monopod to another. And yes, if you do a lot of outdoor photography, at the very least invest in a monopod and if you can afford it a carbon fibre tripod.
Two of my biggest leaps in photography came after I invested in 1) a Nikon Speedlight and then 2) a number of Elinchrom studio lights. Admittedly my Nikon Speedlight does not get used so much these days, but when it was all I had, it allowed me extra flexibility and creativity. Once I started investing in Elinchrom lights a whole new world of creativity was open to me. Whether it is one, two, three or more lights in your armour (it’s great fun experimenting with them all) you will discover new ways to shoot images.
3 Buy an Automatic Light Meter
When using studio lights, investing in a light meter really does improve your efficiency and saves time, helping you achieve a perfect shot. Often when I am on corporate shoots, people are surprised at how quickly and how few shots I take to get a perfect shot. The secret really is in the set-up, knowing what I am aiming for and preparing the shot well in advance of anyone standing in front of my lens. This of course saves everybody a lot of time, which in a working day is important for everybody and my light meter helps me achieve that.
4 Book yourself on a course
My biggest leaps forward in photography always come after attending courses. I am always open to learning new techniques, understanding my equipment better or just seeing a shot from another photographers angle. Courses run by most camera manufacturers are really great value and I always have my mind open, when time permits, for a course, particularly one which specialises in an area in which I might be looking to improve. As an example Nikon is currently running a 2-part Film Noir course, which I am keen to attend.
It’s always a good idea to read to improve your skills, to gain creative inspiration and ideas, or to understand your equipment better. A good place to start is the Owners Manual that comes with your camera, your flashlight or your tripod. You’d be surprised how many features are easily overlooked just by failing to read the manual. And keep your eye on other photographers blogs, the manufacturer’s blogs and video channels too. These all provide valuable learning tools and inspirational techniques for you to try the next time your camera is in your hands.
6 Practice, Practice, Practice and Practice Again
I can recall in my past being shy about getting my camera out. Don’t be, the more time your camera spends in your hands the more familiar it will become, the easier it will be for you to take great shots. Once you are more familiar with your equipment and the muscle memory has kicked in through regular use, you can really focus on your composition and shot, rather than trying to remember how to work your camera.