Things I learned to photograph better

Find different angles

Never shoot the same picture as everyone else does. Move up, move down, take a picture of the crowd taking pictures. Even if the picture ends up being, all things considered, worse than the one that everyone takes, it’s yours. Overtime, as you train your angles, you will have creative pictures of popular subjects. 

Incense sticks in central Vietnam, 2018.

Don’t forget to play with ISO

Amateur photographers like me understand the concept of aperture and speed early in the process. The thing is, there are actually four variables in photography that can be used when the former two don’t. For example, if you’re taking urban pictures at night, you’d benefit a lot by increasing the ISO to a value that is still good in your camera (in my X-T20, I usually put at 3200).

Several cameras have a “fn” button somewhere that you can use to quickly change ISO. 

The basic rule I use is: use the minimum ISO possible during the day (or any scenario with very high luminance), and when I see that the camera is using a very low speed (something like 1/60 or lower), then I raise the ISO until I get it to a safe >1/100.

The art of focus

Playing with focus is core to telling the story you want: it adds depth, forces people to look first on the focused part of the picture and ignore the blurry parts, and it’s something that smartphones are miles away still from getting it right versus a good camera. 

I’ve been trying to be more deliberate about using aperture to pick a specific depth of field and telling a specific story. 

On this picture, only the first statue is in focus. 35mm f/2, 1/3800
All statues are (mostly) in focus. 35mm f/16, 1/75

Beware of the boiling frog in post

I do my minor post production using Darktable or directly on Google Photos, and I always over expose, over saturate, and over-you-name-it. When I look at the pictures I edited the next day, I always tweak them back about 30-40% to make it look much more natural.

Google photos is king

Speaking of Google Photos – it is, by far, the best way to manage my endless pictures. If you still have doubts, simply use the search function and you’ll be amazed. It’s completely free (although there’s a limit to 16MP but Google’s compression is pretty good).

Google Photos search treats your photos as your email: add everything, you can easily search later.

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