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!