No money? No problem! Here are seven ways to take better photos and improve your output that won’t cost you a penny.

1. Find a new location

This is the simplest and most obvious thing that many photographers still seem to miss. Next time you head out to take pictures, head somewhere completely new. It doesn’t have to be scenic – close your eyes and stab a map with a pin if you want, then see what you can make. There is no place on Earth where it is completely impossible to take good pictures, so get out there and find them.

2. Go back to compositional basics

If you’re in a bit of a rut and your pictures just don’t seem to be coming out right, returning to the basics can be a good way to refresh yourself on the simple art of composing a photo. Next time you head out, do the following three things – take a photo that uses lead-in lines, take a photo that follows the rule of thirds, and take a photo that adheres to the golden ratio. You don’t have to do it all the time, but reminding yourself of these simple rules is a great way to remind yourself how to take pictures that work.

3. Join a community

Online or in person, it doesn’t matter – often the fastest way to improve your photography for free is to get feedback from others. Seek out your local camera club, search for communities on Facebook or Twitter, call up a few friends who take pictures and arrange a group outing. Set a pact with each other to give honest feedback, and stick to it. Whichever way you do it, you’ll find the collaborative experience to be enriching and invigorating.

4. Visit exhibitions

Our country’s galleries and art spaces are a fantastic, underappreciated and generally free resource, so make use of them. Find a photography exhibition local to you and head along. Make notes of what you like about the pictures you see, and what you don’t. See if you can spot any particular techniques that impress you and plan a way to try them out for yourself.

5. Take on a challenge

There are many great challenges online that can help push you out of the door and into the shoot. Photo-a-day and photo-a-week challenges are plentiful online and are a great way to get yourself out taking pictures on a regular basis. If you want a short-term solution there are plenty of 30-day challenges, which suggest a different theme for each day of a month. Don’t worry if some of them are out of your comfort zone – that’s the idea! Get creative. If you’re into smartphone photography there are apps that can help prompt you to take a photo every day, such as Photo 365.

6. Go old school

Digital cameras have made many aspects of photography much easier than they used to be, and while this is incredibly convenient it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming creatively. Next time you go out, set yourself an old-school challenge. Imagine you’re using a 24-shot roll of film – you’ve only got 24 exposures to capture this location, so make each one count rather than clicking away and producing hundreds of shots. Alternatively, set your focusing and exposure to manual for a tactile experience, and focus on getting the shot exactly right when the shutter clicks.

7. Enter competitions

You know what the secret is to producing something creative? A deadline. So make a commitment to enter the many photography competitions that are held throughout the year. Put the deadline dates in your calendar and stick to them. If you can find regular competitions that will be held every month or even every week, all the better. Some of these do cost money, but many don’t, so look around and sign up!

Still looking for more inspiration? Find out how a photography project might be just what you need, or brush up your photo skills with these photography exercises.

  • Gregor R

    I have been taking photographs for over 50 years, in my experience of camera clubs there is no benefit in putting photos in their competitions for judging.
    Go and talk to members and look at photos, but 90% of judges are so intent on looking for faults that they miss the whole point of the photo. Many admit that they do not understand the geometry of an image or subject that they are looking at. There is a a ‘form’ of club image and it is too rigid.I learned more from an eight week on line photography course than from thirty years of camera club membership.

  • Whiskey Bravo Charlie

    I had an instructor tell me to avoid sending my photos into competitions as it is equivalent to giving away your work with little chance of compensation while giving up all rights to your work. Thoughts???

  • foto2021

    Learn all there is to know about light.

    Learn how to hold and operate the camera to minimise or eliminate camera shake.

    Learn about choosing a shutter speed to stop or emphasise motion and optimise sharpness.

    Learn about choosing a lens aperture to restrict or expand depth of field, and to optimise sharpness.

    Learn how to choose focal length to emphasise the subject and choose how to render its surroundings.

    Look at other photographers’ work and learn what you like about it and what you don’t. Look at your own work and learn what you like about it and what you don’t. Develop your own style.

    Then practise what you have learnt, carefully analyse your results and use them to improve. None of this involves buying new equipment, just making the best of what you already have.