Worried About Taking Good Pictures? Be Inspired by Location

by jonnywhitlam

Copenhagen was a place I found particularly inspiring. I was trying to capture how it felt different to Newcastle for me. This was mostly because it actually had nice bits (sorry Newcastle).

A few people on Flickr and Twitter have asked for my ‘best photography tips’, and friends and family are always asking me to take pictures for them. I love this! But when people ask for tips I think they expect something more conventional: elbows in, careful you’ve lined it up properly, is the camera on the right setting? Do you really need flash here?

Read on to hear me ramble and answer precisely none of these questions.

But the best tip I could ever give for taking a good photo is much more simple though: you have to be inspired by your surroundings. You have to like what you’re taking a photograph of, for whatever reason. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a positive feeling, but you have to be properly inspired and in the right place mentally to take the pictures you want to.

Returning to Newcastle I found the city not the most endearing aesthetically. It still has a special place in my heart of course, but I was trying to capture a certain dissatisfaction here (sorry Newcastle).

I guess the best way to achieve this isn’t the most exciting, but for me it’s just going for a walk. Only for about an hour or so, stick some music on and lose yourself for a bit. You don’t need any technical ability, photography skills come from experimentation and practice. As such the best way to take a good picture is often to just take loads of pictures. And then some more. I have taken nearly 10,000 photos this year alone, the vast majority of which have gone straight to the ‘trash’ folder, with digital photography it simply doesn’t matter.

This is one of my favourite spots to photograph. I've been back to this building in Copenhagen whenever possible, and always seem to find a new way to capture it.

Another thing I’ve been asked from time is what a specific number means. For example if someone asks what the aperture (f number) does, I always explain it as best I can, and say that for your camera to expose correctly, you need to balance Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO… this normally flows out of my mouth in a very confusing way and is met gormless gawping faces. I’ve even tried to make it a graph before.

It’s ok though, I’m pretty bad at explaining this stuff. That’s because I taught myself, kind of by accident. I started out the same as anyone else – auto mode and nothing else on my point and shoot camera – and this can be a great learning tool! Just take notice of what numbers are coming up when you take different pictures. Your camera saves all this information as well, it’s known as the EXIF data. You should be able to view it on both your camera and computer.

Take a mental note of this often enough and you should find it easy enough to mess around with turning the flash on and off, using various manufacturer’s ‘P’ modes before moving on to the more complex options available on DSLR-style cameras as and when you feel the need to manipulate all the different figures to alter your exposure.

Been living somewhere for many years? A walk with your camera by your side can show even the most familiar locations in a new way.

So sorry it’s been a bit of a ramble, but to summarise simply don’t worry about taking good pictures. Go for a walk, think about what you want to capture without worrying about how, just give it a go. No one’s going to care if you took a bad picture, and it’s much easier to ask for advice if someone can actually see what you’re doing wrong.

Of course, saying ‘be inspired by your surroundings’ is all well and good, but careful if it leads to travel photography like it has for me, it can get a bit expensive!

So why do I love photography? Because I love travel, and I’m not sure I’d have one without the other.

P.S. Newcastle has its lovely parts too.