Ep 266: How to take better images without upgrading your gear

We all want to take better images. And we can sometimes be convinced that will happen if we get that better camera, those new lights, a better-looking subject! However, that’s not always going to be possible.

In this episode, Gina and Valerie discuss how you can take better images without upgrading your gear.

Gina and Valerie hope you enjoy the podcast.

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Show Notes

Useful links

Dog and cat videos are the best https://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-1007292391

How to take better images without upgrading your gear

It’s about technique, not gear.

If Michael Schumacher, the best F1 driver in history was to race me and I drove a Ferrari and he drove a 1981 Toyota Corolla, he would still win. Why?

Schumacher is a master who has spent years driving, he knows how to drive fast, take corners at high speed without rolling the car. He would probably lap me three times before I’d even had a chance to get out of 3rd gear. In the wrong hands, the best gear in the world is useless if you don’t know how to drive it.

So many photographers get hung up on the notion that having the right gear will make them a better photographer. Whilst it’s true that the right gear will give you a better quality image it’s not going to guarantee you will be a better photographer.

Instead of worrying about the gear, focus on the technique. It’s what you do every day that makes you great not what you use every day.

Dedicating as little as 30 minutes a day to your photography every day will do more to improve your skills and develop your style than owning all the high-end gear in the world.

Get Off Auto
A great baker will experiment with ingredients to create a signature recipe. They do this because they understand how the ratios of flour, eggs and milk influence the taste and look of their cake.

Shooting in manual mode gives you the freedom to manipulate the camera settings to create an image that is unique to you.

The best bakers in the world would not be caught dead using a packet mix. The best photographers in the world shoot in manual mode.

Not all light is created equal

“Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman

Learning the difference between bad light, good light, and great light is a game-changer.

At first, all light looks the same but the more you keep shooting the more you notice the subtle differences in the quality of light.
Pay attention to the light, take notes and experiment. The best photographers know how to find the best light, manipulate or manufacture their own.

Pre visualise your images
“Every once in a while a blind squirrel finds an acorn.”

If you walk around with a camera in your hand every day you are bound to get lucky at some point.

The spray and pray technique will give you good photos every now and then but it’s not consistent.

The best photographers plan their images, scout locations, look for the best light and then choose the decisive moment.

Photograph subjects and experiences that you love in a way that is unique to you.
When you photograph the things you love you will always be excited and inspired. If you are excited and inspired by something you are naturally going to want to spend more time doing it.

The more time you spend doing something, the better you become at it.

I spent the first half of my career focusing on fashion photography because I thought it’s what I should be doing. I was ok as a fashion shooter but to be 100% honest I never really got the whole fashion world and it did not consume me like it does the best fashion photographers in the world. The photographers who excel in this genre live and breath fashion, some of them are fashion.

It’s not until I started to focus more on portraits and travel lifestyle that I really fell head over heels in love with photography. I’d finally found my “thing” and could happily shoot portraits or travel lifestyle images all day long. I felt energised and on a high after each shoot. I was always exhausted after shooting fashion.

Are you photographing the things you really love? Is this work making you feel excited or energised or depleted and flat?

Secondly, the way we see and experience life is something that is unique in all of us. If you want to take your photography to the next level then focus on photographing the things that matter to you, in your own world in a way that is unique to you. This is the one thing that will set you apart from all the other photographers

Forget about what everyone is thinking about you, they aren’t
Okay, this would have to be the best advice I’ve heard in the last 10 years. Seriously. I wish I knew about this when I was a teenager. We spend most of our teen years and half of our adult life worrying about what people think about us. The truth is, they don’t think about us at all because they are too busy thinking about themselves.

So the next time you’re feeling nervous or intimidated about speaking to someone for fear of how you will be perceived, know that the other person has exactly the same reservations.

Instead of spending the majority of the exchange trying to be interesting, try to be interested instead. Genuinely and sincerely noticing, and listening to another person is one of the kindest and most generous acts and the easiest and quickest ways to develop a rapport.

Passion not Perfection
If Passion and Perfection had an arm wrestle, passion would win every time. Why? The thing that makes photography great is the way it makes us feel. If there is no passion in an image and it doesn’t inspire a reaction it’s just a snapshot.

If you want to take your work to the next level, show the passion in your work.

If I had a choice to shoot a photo that was technically brilliant, sharp, correctly exposed, and perfectly composed yet void of emotion or an image that was a bit rough around the edges, slightly soft, grainy, with a few blown highlights but captured the feeling then I would pick the latter every time.

Learn to peel potatoes before you cook a souffle
During the first few years, I was building my photography business I worked as a cook in an Italian restaurant at night. When you train to become a cook you master a task before you are allowed to move on to the next one. The first task each apprentice cook must master is peeling potatoes. Then they move on to the salads, entrees, pasta, steaks, and seafood. The last thing I was taught to cook was the most technically difficult dishes the souffle.

Many photographers who buy their first camera and then attempt complicated studio shoots are like the apprentice cook who walks into a kitchen and insists on cooking a souffle on their first day.

Taking a stepped approach to learning will take your photography to the next level much faster than trying to learn it all at once. Many photographers will try complicated shooting or lighting styles and then become frustrated because their images are not working out the way they had hoped.

Master peeling potatoes it’s definitely a game-changer

Ask for Help
Putting your work out there is something that many photographers struggle with yet seeking and implementing constructive criticism is one of the fastest ways to take your photography up a few notches. The fear of ridicule or criticism prevents some from sharing their work. This is really sad because many people’s fears are imagined.

Fear is an acronym for “False evidence appearing real”. It’s our mind trying to keep us small. When you create beautiful art and don’t share it with the world you are denying so many people the opportunity to experience beauty.

If you are ever in doubt take mother nature as an example of best practice for artists. Every day she puts her work out there, sunsets, sunrises, storms, sunshine and rainbows. Some are absolutely spectacular and other times her art can be mediocre yet she puts her work out there every day for us to enjoy.

Other ways you can ask for help is to join a photography group, find a mentor or do a workshop where your work can be critiqued by an expert whose work you respect.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” Henry Ford

You can read books do courses and listen to podcasts till the cows come home but if you don’t have self-confidence it will be very difficult to take your work to the next level.

Confidence is knowing that you’ve done the hard work, put in the hours and can turn up and nail the shot.

Many photographers and artists really struggle with confidence. It may be due to old programming from a lifetime of being told they weren’t good enough, the people they spend the most time with not being supportive enough or a hundred other reasons that undermine a person’s self-esteem.

Look for ways to improve your self-confidence. Spend more time with people who value and respect what you do and find ways you can get rid of destructive self-talk.
The good news is self-confidence can be trained, just like a muscle in the gym.

Self-confidence and self-belief is by far one of the biggest game-changers that will take your photography to the next level.


Aussie Slang word of the week

Wag: To be absent without permission

Used in a sentence: Dave wagged school to go swimming at the beach.

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About Gina

About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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