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How to Stop Taking Sh*t Photos - A Piece by Shawn Eastman

Photographer Shawn Eastman taking a photo in a field at sunset

Let's face it, we've all taken some pretty crappy photos in our time.

Whether it's a blurry shot of a beautiful sunset, a poorly framed picture of our loved ones, or a selfie that makes us look like a potato, we've all been there.

But fear not, my fellow photography enthusiasts. I'm here to give you some tips on how to stop taking sh*t photos and start capturing some truly memorable moments.

Understand Your Camera

First things first, if you want to take great photos, you need to understand your camera.

And no, I don't mean just knowing how to turn it on and off.

Though you certainly don't need to know every button and feature inside out, either.

An attractive female looking at the back of a camera

Photo of Lucy who used to take sh*t photos but now takes decent ones.

Take some time to read the manual and learn about its most important features. Google and YouTube the hell out of it as well - trust me, any modern camera and even the majority of vintage film cameras will likely have various video reviews and test-shoots with photographers discussing the exact model (or very similar) that you have.

Experiment with different settings (Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO - and if you're unfamiliar with these terms and settings, spend an hour looking each one up for a very basic understanding because I don't (yet) have any articles on here that I can link you to - and see how you can make them work in unison with each other to correctly expose an image (which basically means making sure the image isn't too dark or too light for what you're trying to achieve).

Once you know what your camera is capable of, you'll be able to take better photos and make better judgements than your camera makes when you rely on leaving it in Auto mode.

Learn the Basics of Composition

When it comes to photography, composition is like the foundation of a building. It's the backbone that holds everything together and makes the final product visually pleasing.

Good composition can elevate an ordinary image into a masterpiece.

Ok, a bit far-fetched... but it can, at worst, definitely help turn your sh*t image into a half-decent one.

At its core, composition is all about arranging the elements in your frame in a way that creates a strong visual impact. The most basic rule of composition is the rule of thirds. This rule involves mentally dividing your frame into a grid of nine equal parts using two horizontal and two vertical lines. The goal is to place your main subject at one of the four points where the lines intersect. This creates a more balanced and visually pleasing image.

An example of Welsh sheep portrayed in an image with sh*t composition against an image with half-decent composition

Another key aspect of composition is leading lines.

These are lines in your frame that draw the viewer's eye into the image or towards a specific subject.

Leading lines can be anything from a winding road or trailing path to a fence or a row of trees or ANYTHING.

By using leading lines, you can guide the viewer's eye towards the main subject, making the image more dynamic and interesting.

An example of two images with strong leading lines that I know you're keen to wander into.

Framing is yet another useful component of composition.

It's a bit like a wildcard - something you can crack out in an emergency to add interest.

It's the technique of using elements in your frame to frame the main subject.

This can be anything from a natural frame like a tree or an archway, or even an artificial one like a window or a doorway. Framing adds depth and context to the image, making it more engaging for the viewer.

A temple in Bali, Indonesia, framed by a doorway

This temple photo was at risk of being sh*t if it wasn't for a doorframe.

While these are some basic rules of composition, don't be afraid to break them and experiment with different compositions. You will have to learn from the sh*t experiments, but sometimes, the most interesting images are the ones that break the rules. Try playing with different angles, perspectives, and framing techniques to create something unique and unexpected.

Remember, strong composition is a skill that takes time and practice to improve upon along with a creatively growing imagination. But with a little effort, you can take your photography to new levels and capture stellar images instead of folders and galleries full of sh*t ones.

Get to Know Your Subject

Whether you're photographing people portraits, animals, travel landscapes, or even cars, it's important to get to know your subject.

Spend some time observing them and try to capture their personality or essence in your photos.

If you're photographing people, try to make them feel comfortable and relaxed so that you can capture their natural expressions. Likewise with animals, you want them relaxed within a habit that's natural and something they're used to. If you're photographing a landscape or environment, think about the time of day - and if you're looking for next level stuff, check the weather forecast and research various vantage points for something a little more unique than the norm.

But if you're just on your holidays capturing smiles and views and wanting to avoid sh*t photos, the basic camera settings you've learned and the composition we spoke about earlier is there to help.

A Macaque monkey opening a nut while looking directly at camera in Bali, Indonesia

This monkey agreed to glance for the shot for no reason other than because I got to know him

Play with Light

Lighting can make or break a photo.

And if you're generally crap at taking photos, it's probably breaking yours on the regular.

Try to avoid harsh, direct sunlight, as it can create unflattering shadows and make your subject look washed out. Instead, look for softer, diffused light, such as during the golden hour or on an overcast day.

You can also play with artificial light sources, such as lamps or candles, to create a unique and moody atmosphere.

I've even cracked out the torch on a mobile or two to add some light to an impossibly dark situation if an external flash or other light source wasn't to hand.

Photo of an attractive girl in a cave lit up with only a mobile phone torch

It turns out caves are pitch black so this was lit using a strategically placed mobile phone torch.

Experiment with Editing

Editing can be a massive help when it comes to either adding the wow-factor to an already decent image, or salvaging something that's absolutely sh*t and converting it into a rather nice holiday snap.

However, don't go overboard with filters and effects.

Instead, focus on subtly enhancing the natural beauty of your photos.

Adjust the brightness and contrast, crop and straighten your images, and play with the colour balance.

And remember, less is often more when it comes to editing.

If you can't salvage a sh*t photo with relatively small tweaks, then it was probably sh*tter than you thought it was to begin with.

A very sh*t edit and a decent one.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Like any skill, photography takes practice.

Don't be discouraged if your first few attempts at a shot are sh*t.

Keep practicing and experimenting and making the adjustments to your settings until they become second nature and you begin guessing the best settings you need before you even take the shot - you'll soon start to see improvements.

Take your camera with you wherever you go and look for opportunities to take photos.

The more you practice, the better you'll get.

Obvious, wasn't it?

So there you have it, my friends. Top tips on how to stop taking sh*t photos and start capturing some truly memorable moments. Remember to have fun and experiment with different techniques. Who knows, you might just discover a hidden talent for photography. And if all else fails, just embrace the sh*t photos and share them with your friends. After all, sometimes the best memories are the imperfect ones.

Even still, stop taking sh*t photos if you can.


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