As an amateur photographer who has produced a few decent photos, I feel completely qualified to give photography advice. I basically just use one simple, easy to absorb rule: look around you. Keep looking until you find something. Don’t just survey a scene and assume there is nothing interesting in it. Look from all angles. Some of my friends have told me my photos are good, but I really don’t see what’s so difficult about taking them. All you have to do is find an interesting detail and press a few buttons. Maybe afterwards increase the saturation or contrast a little on your computer. Done.
The sky is always a nice place to start. Particularly at sunset. It doesn’t matter if the burning light is passing over a dead squirrel, it will look fantastic from the right angle. There’s no mystical formula behind good photos. Of course, most amateurs (including myself) are limited by the quality of their camera. Well, most of my photos including the fireworks on my first post, were taken on a Panasonic DMC FS-15, a mid-ranged compact camera from 2009, not exactly state of the art, mind-blowing technology. While the above photo has absolute minimum editing, the one below has slightly more, but it only took about 20 minutes and was fairly easy to achieve with trial and error using a free, easy to use photo editing software package, Paint.net is a good example and is what I use.
However, if, like in the second photo, I used some heavy-handed editing, I still want to stay true to the original image. Which I have done. If it’s not blindingly obvious that a photo has been edited, but it doesn’t stay true to the original image, it feels like cheating a bit. If, for instance, I replaced the calm sky above a hill with a huge hurricane, that wouldn’t really be honest to the viewer.
Also, don’t use flash on your compact, it’s terrible, and make sure you play with your iso and exposure settings. Remember this basic advice is for amateur photographers who can’t figure out why their photos are so terrible, obviously there’s a little more to producing expert level photos than the stuff I’ve mentioned. Lastly, make sure you use the ‘crop function’ on your photo editing software liberally. Crop out 3/4 of an entire image if you have to (which is why you should take your photos as large as possible) to get the desired details in, and only the desired details.
So now you know how to be amateur. Well done.