From time to time I’m asked for my best, down and dirty top photography tips.
1. Be prepared. Experience is the best preparation. If you lack experience you can still be prepared and you owe it to yourself to be.
For instance, if I’m going to photograph at a location I’m unfamiliar with I will virtually tour it through the street view of Google Earth. It’s an invaluable tool to get the feel of an area. It might not be completely up to date but you’ll get an overall understanding of what is where (especially coffee shops). If you’re photographing something for the first time and can scout it in person beforehand, even better.
1a. Ask questions. If you have questions about what you’re supposed to capture, where to park, when you need to arrive, etc ASK! It sounds simple but a lot of times new photographers are afraid to ask questions. Maybe they don’t want to appear inexperienced but in my opinion it’s a huge mistake to let questions go unasked. Clients appreciate reasonable questions, sometimes you might even remind them of a detail they’d forgotten about.
1b. Know your camera. I’m not suggesting you read the manual or anything crazy like that (though it wouldn’t hurt) but know your camera. You should be able to pick it up in any situation, adjust settings, and shoot without thinking. You should know how to change your ISO or shutter speed faster than a NASCAR pit crew can change a tire. I don’t know how fast that is but it’s fast. If you remove the thinking (about your settings) part of photography you’re going to be a better photographer. You’ll be using your brain power to compose and “see” the photo rather than worry if the (fill in the blank for the setting that worries you the most) is set properly.
If you’re using a point and shoot you should know how to force your flash, what each preset is made for, and what kind of shutter lag you have with each preset.
1c. Watch this video of Greg Heisler. Look for this quote: “A photographer is responsible for creating a climate in which they can do their best work” then shuttle back and listen to it again.