Photography is an art form that takes decades to perfect. While you can’t expect to transition from amateur to seasoned professional within a few weeks, you can hack your way to the top by heeding the advice of others and perfecting some of the following five tips and techniques.

1. Shoot at Golden Hour

As you know, there are certain times of day when natural light is more conducive to high quality photography. While people will argue over which time is best, most would agree that the hour before sunset and the hour after sunrise are the best. This is often referred to as the “Golden Hour.”

“Just before sunset the sun is very low in the sky. This produces more directional light because of the low angle,” says photographer Lauren Lim. “Basically, it adds more dimension to the scene! Shadows are longer (and softer) than during the day, and things just look more interesting and dynamic.”

Whenever possible, shoot during the Golden Hour and play around with front lighting, backlighting, and different angles. Each setup will produce very unique results.

2. Use Shadows to Your Advantage

Whether you’re shooting during Golden Hour or in the middle of the day, shadows can always be used to your advantage. Make sure you’re paying attention to your environment to ensure you’re making the most of these details.

“Shadow plays an important role in creating drama in your portraits,” says Waseem Abbas of Envira Gallery. “Whether you shoot in sunlight or artificial light, you can use shadows to maximize the volume in results of your photography.”

Before shooting, look around and take note of where the light source is located and how it’s hitting various objects in the room. Based on this information, move around and take some shots at different angles. Review the results and proceed to work with the best ones.

3. Obey the Rule of Thirds

Are you familiar with the Rule of Thirds? This rule is one of the fundamental principles of proper photographic composition and requires the photographer to look through the lens and divide the scene into three rows and three columns.

When taking a picture, the photographer is supposed to frame the subject of the photo along one of the intersection points. This satisfies the theory that the human eye naturally gravitates towards these spots (rather than the very center of the image).

4. Shoot With a Roll of Film

While digital cameras are great, they can also be a crutch. In extreme cases, amateur photographers can greatly stunt their growth by learning on a digital camera. The solution? Try shooting with a roll of film every now and then.

When shooting with a roll of film, you typically only get 24 or 36 exposures. This forces you to slow down and think about every shot you take. As a result you’re more conscious of what you’re photographing, how you’re composing the shot, and the purpose of the shot. Over time this will teach you to be a better photographer.

5. Buy Used Equipment

Photography is certainly a creative pursuit that requires talent and experience, but there’s also something to be said for having the right equipment. Sometimes upgrading from outdated equipment to newer alternatives can be enough to transform your results.

The issue is that any new equipment is going to be expensive, so here’s a tip: buy used! You can find photography equipment, supplies, and accessories online, in consignment shops, and even at garage sales. Keep an eye out and snag these affordable buys.

Become a Pro Today

Not everyone can become a talented professional photographer but you won’t know until you try! Work on improving your skill set day by day and you’ll quickly enjoy the benefits of your progress.