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Top 5 Photography Lessons I’ve Learned (So Far)

As a newbie to DSLR photography, I've been trying to learn as much as I can about it in order to maximise the use of my new toy. And, so far, some of my favourite photography tips include:

1. Flash is a Friend. When I was relying heavily on my P/S for pictures, I used flash every time I needed extra light. But, I began reading tips that said "Don't use flash in your photographs." So, I avoided using flash at all cost.

While there is some truth to that advice, I realised that not using the flash at all is actually not the best route. Outdoors, for example, when there's strong sunlight, flash can help diffuse some of the harsh shadows created by the sun. Indoors, a good flash (with a bouncer), can create better lighting conditions.

So yes, flash can be used to improve pictures. But, you must learn how to use it. The Strobist is a good place to learn all about flash photography.

As an experiment, here are sample photos with and without built-in flash -

Light - no flash
Photo without flash, using ambient light at night

Light - with Built-in Flash
Photo with built-in flash, no bouncer

Light - with Biz Card Bouncer
Photo with built-in flash, using homemade bouncer out of a business card

2. It's not about the equipment. I love the idea that cameras (and other equipment) don't make good photos - photographers do. It's so easy to get carried away with buying better cameras, bigger lenses, more camera accessories... But seriously, if you don't use any of them, what's the point, eh?

The best thing to do is to buy whatever you can afford to buy, then make the most out of what you've got. Even if you just have a point and shoot camera (or a cell phone camera) - you can still take great photos if you apply your vision to what you're taking.

Expensive equipment doesn't make you a good photographer. Learning all you can to make the most out of your camera - and taking plenty of photos - is the best way to create great photos.

3. Your Story Makes It Great. Pretty pictures without original vision just looks so-so. Touristy. Washed out. Ho-hum.

Story with PhotoImages that tell a story - *your* story - become stunning photographs.

After taking over a thousand pictures since getting my new Nikon D40x, I realised that the photos I love best are those that remind me of a particular day, a particular moment, a person or place... Some of them aren't well composed or well lit. Some are even blurred. But, I love them nevertheless.

Find out more about how to tell a story with your photos.

4. Be shutter happy. Take your camera everywhere. Take several shots. That's the beauty of digital cameras. It doesn't cost much to take a lot of photos. It's easier to sort them out later. Deleting is easier than trying to capture the moment again.

And, no matter how much people 'complain' about you taking too many photos, don't worry about it. Most folks *do* love seeing the results.

5. Start - and Keep - a Photo Organisational System. If you're going to take a lot of photos (and really, if you want to improve and to capture memories, you should), it's a good idea to have a system in place.

What happens after you've taken the photo? How do you back-up? How do you organise your photos in your computer/disks/online storage? How often will you back-up? How often will you print out? And once you've printed out your favourite photos, what do you do?

SmugmugOne of my personal goals this year is to improve my own photo system - naming files/folders, backing up, printing, and organising prints. This is a massive task, so I don't expect to complete it anytime soon. But, I began working on this recently (both the organising and the back-up bit), when I signed for an account with Smugmug*. I've used their free 14-day trial to get a feel for the service and I was quite happy that I can accommodate photos from both my Windows and Mac systems. Their uploaders work really well. And, I like several other features. I'm giving it some more time (now that I've paid the annual subscription) - and will report back with a more elaborate review.

NOTE: If you decide to sign-up with Smugmug and you wish to receive a $5 coupon, just use my code (vhRErGA0z8uaQ) or my email addy (shaicoggins AT gmail DOT com). I'll earn a bit of cash too, but I thought I'd pass on the savings to you too.

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About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children’s book.

A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company’s “Most Influential Women in Technology” list.

Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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