We’ve all done it. Scouring the internet for hours searching for that new camera or that piece of gear that we think will transform our photographic output and make us ultimately content as photographers. Well if you’re a victim of it, I’m sure you’re also aware that buying a new camera doesn’t solve all your problems.
In fact, aside from being a very expensive habit, it probably doesn’t really help you progress with your photography anywhere near as much as you’d like it to. So now is the time to stop lusting after another camera and to get creative with the equipment you already own!
Making the Most of the Gear You've Got
The first thing that I’d suggest is to practice using the gear that you already own. Whichever cameras, flashguns, triggers, filters, and lighting set ups you own, spend time learning how to use them inside out. You probably be surprised at the capabilities of that "old" equipment.
Doing this will enable you to make the creative decisions that will allow you to realize the vision you have for a shoot. Being able to make quick decisions regarding gear and set ups on a shoot will seriously improve your chances of getting the results you want.
Photo by Geishaboy500
Take Your Camera with You
A habit that I have fallen into over the years is to start leaving my camera at home when I’m not heading out for a shoot. When I first started out, I had an enthusiasm which meant I couldn’t go anywhere with my camera, excited about the potential subject matter that I might find.
Now that I head out on shoots on a regular basis, I seem to leave my camera behind when I’m not working and I miss out on the enjoyment that I get from taking photos for my own pleasure. Not only will this allow to express yourself as a photographer, you’ll also learn how to work in a variety of lighting situations that you may otherwise not encounter by choice.
Photo by S H Photos
Try Out a New Lens
Many people looking to buy a new camera are actually looking to increase the capabilities of the camera they currently have. One of the best ways to do that is to try using different lenses as they can have such a profound affect on the photographs you make.
Try using a prime fixed focal length lens for the first time, something like a 35mm or 50mm prime lens will mean you don’t have the distraction of zoom. They typical have fast auto focus and also have wide aperture capabilities.
You could also try out a high end wide aperture zoom lens. Just rent it for a weekend and head out and see what results you get. You might find that you don’t actually want a new camera, you want a new lens! This is a separate syndrome, but is usually less expensive.
Find a Friend
One of the best ways to refresh your photographic enthusiasm is to find a friend to head out on shoots with. The chance to share ideas, tips and techniques will go a long way in allowing you to approach your photography in a different way.
Seeing things as someone else sees them can highlight either the similarities or differences between your individual approaches. This may either act as an encouragement to pursue the vision you have for your shots or act as an incentive to develop your photographic eye to see things in a new way.
Photo by Dicktay2000
Try a Filter Set
A very cost effective way of adding to your equipment set up is to purchase a set of filters. They’re an extremely useful creative tool and can go a long way in enhancing your work, especially landscape shots.
There are a huge variety of filters available, but to start with, maybe look into getting a polarizing filter, which will help with definition, particularly within clouds, as well as being able to avoid nasty reflections in shiny surfaces.
You could then move on to graduated neutral density filter, which are ideal for landscape work, enabling you to block out some of the light from the sky and get a balanced and detailed foreground and background.
Photo by Jimmy McIntyre
Learn How to Use Flash Creatively
Artificial lighting is often a subject that new photographers take their time to explore, there’s enough to worry about with aperture, shutter speed, ISO and focus before even thinking about bringing extra light sources into the equation!
However, when used effectively, a flashgun can make the difference between a fairly good shot, and a stunningly well lit shot. So take your time to experiment with flash settings and get used to how it works. Then you can start using it in shoots and get creative with lighting options to bring your shots to life.
Photo by Guadiramone
Try a New Portrait Series
If portraits aren’t something you’ve worked on much before, what are you waiting for! All you have to do is convince some family members, friends or colleagues to stand still for an hour or so and you’ve got a wealth of subject matter waiting to be captured.
You can experiment with angles, expressions, props and lighting, you can go for a serious window lit shot, or an informal casual feel. My aim for a portrait shot is to capture that person's character in a single shot. This can be very difficult, but after a bit of conversation you can usually coax it out of them!
Try New Landscape Locations
If you’re running short on subject matter, then maybe it’s worth taking the time to venture out to pastures new. Exploring a new area of natural beauty really gets my photographic senses tingling and to have the chance to discover a new coastline, a mountain range, or even work my way along a river gives me an amazing amount of photographic material to encounter and capture.
Photo by Steady Steve
Snap a Local Event
If you’re looking for new subject matter to work with, then try shooting a local event with the aim of capturing the atmosphere and people on camera. Maybe there’s a food fair, music festival or a small community event you could photograph.
In the UK, we recently had the Queen’s jubilee celebrations, which acted as an ideal opportunity for street party’s that soon became a hotspot for photographers looking to capture the festivities, interactions between members of the community that would not usually meet and a chance to try a more photojournalistic style of photography that involves thinking on your feet and acting quickly to get the shot you want.