My top 10 photography tips...

A while back I asked here if you had any questions or if there are any topics you wanted me to write about. So, I'm slowly working my way through your interesting suggestions. If you'd like to see the other ones, you can check them out in the "over to you" category. Today I will try to answer Joie Fatale's question which is all about indoor photography. 

Now, I'm not a pro photographer and I'm often bewildered by the amount of people who call themselves photographers… I'm a self-taught amateur who can occasionally turn out a nice image and all my knowledge has come from an awful lot of trial and error, many frustrating hours of trying to read instructions and manuals only to go back to the trial and error approach. I first went from a small point-and-shoot camera to a Nikon D5100 and then moved onto a Nikon D800 which I love. I work with Nikon and Tamron lenses depending on what I'm photographing. I'm still learning all the time and will annoy any professional photographer who crosses my path with far too many questions. So what I will try to offer here are my personal tips on indoor photography and setting up shots as this was the question. I hope these tips will prove useful.

top ten photography tips
  1. Learn as much as possible about your camera. As I said, I'm pretty bad at learning from manuals, but playing around with the camera and online tutorials do help. The more you know how your camera works, the better the images.
  2. Once you know your way around your camera, set it to the manual setting. It might seem daunting at first to move away from the auto setting, but will give you the most flexibility when setting up your shots. Learn about aperture and shutter speed and how the two work together. Play around with the ISO settings and check how the different settings change your images.
  3. Get yourself some editing software like Photoshop or Lightroom and learn how to use it. This is not only useful to resize images for the web, but also for correcting a shot that might have come out too dark or too light. Personally, I've always used Photoshop and am so far quite happy with it. 
  4. Learn to shoot in RAW as opposed to JPEG format. When shooting in JPEG format, your camera converts the data into said JPEG and will get rid of the RAW file which takes up a lot more memory space. However, the editing possibilities are fairly limited. Shooting in RAW means your camera saves the data, but it won't actually be an image until you've processed it with your software. You will therefore have far more flexibility when editing your images.
  5. Invest in a tripod. Having the camera supported and completely still means that you will be able to increase the exposure time and shoot even when the light isn't ideal without having to use the flash (no, no, no, do NOT use the flash!). It also means that your shots will come out clearer as your slightly shaky hands won't blur the image.
  6. Spring and summer make indoor photography easier as there's more light for longer. Winter, however, can be quite tricky. I've learned to stay well away from tungsten light as it really does look awful in shots, especially when photographing food. Consequently, I have had to abandon some shots and wait until the next day and for natural light. Increasing the ISO does help when it gets darker, but be aware that the higher ISO settings will produce more 'noise' in your image As it depends on your camera how well it copes with a hight ISO and how much noise the image will have, I can't give you exact numbers here. Going back to point 5, having a tripod and increasing the exposure time also helps massively in low light. Try reflecting some of the low daylight back onto your subject by using a large piece of mount board covered in tinfoil. Again, this will help to maximise light as well as minimise shadows caused by light coming from a single direction. 
  7. When setting up a shot and styling an image, take some test shots. What you see with your eyes might not be what the camera will see. You might have to move a small detail just a few centimetres for the image to really work.
  8. Move around and look at your setup from all sides. I often have to remind myself that just because I've set something up in a specific way, it doesn't mean that I can only shoot it from one side. Some of the best results have come from looking at things literally from a different angle.
  9. As textures can't be felt from an image, they should be visible to make the picture interesting. That means trying to use opposites like matt and glossy, colour and neutral, rough and smooth, dark and light in order to make the image visually appealing. 
  10. Stop over-thinking things. Some great shots happen when you're just having fun and you haven't set out to create a masterpiece. The more pressure you put on yourself about achieving perfection the worse it generally gets. The bottom line is, enjoy what you're doing!