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Five on Friday – A Photography Exercise to Improve Your Pictures

Today’s Five on Friday is a five step photography exercise to help improve your photos!  This is a fun exercise to do if you’re stuck in a photography rut as it really forces you to see things differently.  You’ll need at least a half an hour for this, but don’t be surprised if it turns into much longer than that!  The only equipment you’ll need is a camera and a subject to photograph.  It doesn’t even have to be a fancy SLR, a point and shoot or even your phone will do!  The point of this exercise is to make you see one subject in a variety of ways, and in the process learn to train your eye.

Without further adu, 5 tips to improve your photography today:

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Grab your camera and scout out your location.  My location is fairly humdrum- I was out running one day when I passed by the marquee for my local middle school.  Planted in front of the sign was a small crop of tulips that had just bloomed.  After my run (and a shower!), I grabbed my camera and headed back over to my location.  The photos below were all shot with a Nikon D7000 and my Tamron AF 60mm f/2.0 lens. (*Both of those links are affiliate links that will bring you to Amazon. I get a small compensation if you purchase anything through my links).

Fairly plain and boring right?  Read on to find out how to turn this into something magical!

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1- Get down low and be aware of your background.  For these flowers, standing above them and photographing them from 5 feet above them isn’t going to create a visually appealing photo.  For this first picture, I got down on their level and moved myself around so that the American Flag was in the background.  Be aware of what is in your background.  If it is distracting, move around or move in closer/zoom in to eliminate it.  If there’s something interesting, move around yet again to include it.

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2. Look for leading lines.  Leading lines (in this case, the flower stems) draw the eye into the photograph.  In this photo, the stems draw your eyes upward to the bright red flower.  Look around in your location for something that could be considered leading lines and photograph it with your subject at the end of those lines.  You’ll be amazed at how abstract your photos can turn out!

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3. Get close and personal.  If you have a macro lens (or a macro feature on your point and shoot), use it and see how close you can get to your subject.  In this case, I moved in close to the stamen of the tulip.

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4.  Don’t have concrete feet.  I always remember a college professor who told us (in an education class) that as a teacher, we shouldn’t have concrete feet- as in, don’t act as if your feet are planted in one location, make sure you move around.  In this case, I laid down on the ground to shoot these flowers from down low.  So many photograph flowers from above, but look how interesting the lighting is when I got down low.  It makes these flowers appear as if they were on fire!

I once read that a photographer pretended that their subject had a clock drawn around it, and then proceeded to photograph it from every “hour” angle. They positioned their camera at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and so on.  By photographing 12 different angles, you might find a different perspective you would have not other noticed.

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5.  Turn around.  Yup– do a 180 and turn around. You’ve been focused on one subject this whole time, turn your body around and find something else behind you to photograph.  I turned around and on the other side of the sidewalk was this puffy dandelion.  I know they’re a weed, one that many wish they didn’t have in their yard, but I find them whimsical and oh so fluffy.

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So there you have it- 5 tips, and a half an hour (or more) and look at how far your photos have already come.  You’ve gone from a boring scene and turned it into a work of art.  Remember to take your time and have fun!  If you try out this exercise, I’d love to see your before/afters! Link up to them in the comments above.

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