10 digital photography tips beyond the basics

Digital photography can be an addicting hobby. The mount offers instant feedback that you don’t get with film (unless you’re shooting a Polaroid), and the large memory cards let you experiment with angles and lighting as you wish. If you’ve passed the beginner stage and are looking for new ideas to help improve your shooting experience, check out these tips for inspiration. And if you have any that you would like to share, feel free to add them to the comments section.


1. Film in Raw

Most digital cameras are set up to capture ready-to-use JPG files. This is very convenient, as it allows you to quickly share files with your friends and family, without the need for post-processing. But you lose a lot of control by not shooting Raw, which is an unprocessed file that contains the image as the camera sensor captured it. A Raw file allows you to change colors, exposure, black levels, sharpness, and other attributes with much more flexibility than an already compressed JPG. You will need software to work with raw images. Your camera may have a bundled solution, but a dedicated program like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC or Phase One Capture One Pro will provide more tools and better results.


2. Consider off-camera lighting

You may have already added a dedicated flash to your camera to avoid harsh light created by the camera flash. But if you really want to experience flash photography, moving the flash away from the camera is essential. It’s easier than ever to take advantage: Brands like Godox offer affordable wireless flashes with automatic TTL metering for all popular systems, and you can boost and spend more on Profoto lighting to meet the demands of use. regular professional.

Illuminated portrait with monolight off camera (Photo: Jim Fisher)

There are many different choices for off-camera lighting. You can go for a portable, battery-powered flash that can also be used on the camera, or go for more powerful studio lights. The portrait above was taken using a single Elinchrom one-piece lamp with a reflector for a striking, contrasting look. But you can use different light modifiers like a softbox or an umbrella for a softer, more even light. And if you’re working outdoors, a portable shadow-filling reflector is a useful tool, although you’ll need a helper to hold and position it.


3. Try different lenses

Lensbaby Composer Pro II

Lensbaby Composer Pro looks different from other lenses (Photo: Jim Fisher)

Chances are, you’ve already strayed from the 18-55mm kit lens, opting for either a higher quality zoom or a fast prime lens. But if you’re stuck in a creative rut or just want to experiment with new types of photography, a specialized lens can really come in handy. You can go for an ultra-sharp macro lens that can focus up close and fill your frame with small objects. You can go in the opposite direction and grab a Lensbaby, a creative lens system that lets you adjust the focus plane, creating photos that have a sharp focus point that gives way to a soft dream whirlwind.

If you have a mirrorless camera, your choices are even wider. There are many lens adapters available that allow virtually any lens to be mounted on these cameras for use in manual focus mode. More interesting options include CCTV lenses, which are generally very fast, but produce images with extremely soft corners, Russian rangefinder lenses like the Industar-69, and toy camera lenses like the Holga.

43mm Pentax lens on Sony mirrorless camera

Use adapters to try out classic lenses on new digital cameras (Photo: Jim Fisher)

Check out How to Use Vintage Lenses on Mirrorless Cameras for more ideas. If you want to try a lens before you buy, you can rent online using BorrowLenses or Lensrentals.


4. Keep your sensor clean

If you’re the type to switch lenses in the field, there’s a good chance you’ve got dust on your image sensor. This is often invisible at wider apertures, but if you take a photo at f / 5.6 or less, these dots can distract your shot. A simple blower, like the Giottos Rocker Air Blaster, is a simple (and fancy) tool for dusting. For more persistent stains, consider a cleaning kit from Visible Dust and Lenspen or, if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, professional cleaning is in order.


5. Replace your strap

If you’re going to be doing a lot of shots, you should be comfortable. If you’re carrying your SLR or mirrorless camera on the neck strap that came in the box, don’t. There are dozens of third-party options, many of which are more comfortable and convenient. My current favorite is Peak Design Slide Lite, a good choice for mirrorless cameras and full frame SLRs.

Peak Design Slide Lite

Peak Design Slide Lite

Straps, like those from BlackRapid, are often used by event photographers who carry multiple bodies with heavy lenses attached. They are great if you also have a telephoto lens with its own tripod collar. I always catch one when using a big zoom.

You can also go the classic route with a wide fabric strap, readily available at Etsy stores, or go hipster with a handcrafted, handcrafted leather strap like those made in Brooklyn by Tap & Dye.


6. Invest in support

A camera strap is important for handheld photography, but you’ll want to add a quality tripod as well. It is an invaluable tool for taking landscape and long exposure images, or exploring beyond our world with astrophotography.

Peak Design Travel Tripod

Peak Design Travel Tripod (Photo: Jim Fisher)

You’ll spend a bit more for a set of quality carbon fiber legs and a good ball head, but you’ll find that they will outlast your camera. We don’t review a lot of tripods, but like the Peak Design Travel Tripod for its extra-small folded form factor. Trusted brands like Gitzo-Manfrotto, MeFoto and Sirui are also sure values.

If you choose a tripod with an Arca-Swiss compatible head, and I recommend it, you can make your life easier by adding a compatible baseplate to your camera. I keep a Really Right Stuff baseplate on my full frame hybrid so it’s always tripod-ready, without having to mess with the quick-release plates.


7. Mix your media

Sony camera on gimbal

Gimbals stabilize portable video (Photo: Jim Fisher)

Today’s digital cameras not only capture high quality still images, they are also high performance video cameras, and you can share video clips on your Instagram feed with the same ease as you take pictures. Some stories are best told with a photo, but others require a bit of movement and sound. It’s a different skill set, and it’s beneficial to learn.

If you’re more into video tools, check out our favorite cameras and accessories to get started with vlogging, and consider adding a powered gimbal for Steadicam-smooth portable video.


8. A drone?

Drone photo

Drones add aerial shots to your portfolio (Photo: Jim Fisher)

You don’t have to just take pictures when standing on level ground. Adding a drone to your toolkit makes it possible to take photos from perspectives that you could never get otherwise. Most drones can capture 4K video and raw footage, and current models can fly safely (assuming you follow the rules). Discover our top picks in the category.


9. Print your work

It’s easy to share your photos online or view them on a digital photo frame, but if you take a photo you really love, it’s worth printing. You can print at home on inkjet, but for the best results you will need a dedicated printing service. Many of our favorite photo printing services offer fun ways to display your work, including canvas prints, metallic paper, and real black and white photo paper for a classic look. You can also opt for a personalized photo book, an update to the classic family album with your photos printed right on the pages.


10. Upgrade your camera for the right reasons

If you’re passionate about photos, you might be looking forward to buying a new camera. There are plenty of reasons to upgrade, but you don’t always need to have the latest camera to take good photos. If you’re using an entry-level SLR or mirrorless model, you’d better upgrade to a higher class body rather than a higher resolution camera of the same class. Semi-professional cameras offer clearer viewfinders, more physical controls, better autofocus, and a more robust construction.


If you are looking for a more specialized guide, check out our explanations on photography of lightning and fireworks.

Photographers looking for a new camera or lens should check out the Digital Cameras Product Guide for the latest reviews and the best digital cameras for the best products we’ve tested.

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