1. Must be fundamentally sound.
You can be a visionary artist with a complex understanding of composition, but stink at making an exposure. If you don’t learn how to operate your camera and properly make an exposure, you’ll consistently fall short. Moreover, you won’t be using your equipment to its full capacity. Reducing unnecessary stressors such as exposures will help free up energy better spent elsewhere such as capturing the moment.
2. Be familiar with your equipment.
Each lens provides a distinct solution to your shooting scenario; you must know what each lens does in order to reach for the right tool to fix the problem. Some lenses are variable aperture, which will impact your exposure. Other lenses have a limited lens-to-subject distance, which may impede your focus. Your camera’s ISO range might inhibit your success in lowlight scenes. There are so many more variables to study and understand. All of these will play a part on shoot day.
3. Make light work for you.
It takes light make an exposure, but the shadows create the dimension. Approach each scene by reading the light source first; explore the space, shift, and watch. If you slow down enough to move through these motions, you’ll begin to see light in a whole new way. Shoot toward or into the light to create breadth and mood. When possible, use the color of light to convey the emotion of the scene or to push your subject forward or backward; cool colors fall back and warm colors jump forward.
4. Don’t chase the subject.
Slow down and become more deliberate in your photography. Don’t jump on the very first item or scene that you see. Spend some time looking for the best subject or greatest vantage point. Spend more time looking and less time shooting. Once you’ve found the ideal composition, sit and wait for the right “moment”. Let the action come to you. Make ten frames without moving your composition. If you commit to making a picture, then really commit.
5. Have a long-term personal project.
It’s important to have a long-term project you’re interested in to keep your creative juices flowing and your techniques fresh. It’s easy to fall into a routine, using the same tried and true approach to every shoot. However, a personal project gives you the liberty to try a different approach or your latest new piece of gear. Also, you’ll grow in your craft and test your own limits. In some cases, personal projects lead to other photography assignments.