Here’s a quick tip that I consider a constant work in progress: simple in principle but harder to apply in practice.
Photojournalists and sports / action photographers can look away now as this advice is probably not so relevant to those who working reactively in split-second moments.
Allow yourself time to think
Just like my previous tip about studying light, I first came across the notion of slowing down when I started out. But in the eagerness to learn and take photos, it can be forgotten.
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment – to get excited about photographing a particular place or subject and the time we give ourselves to think vanishes. We rush to the scene, fire off a dozen shots and only after reviewing them later realise all the things we should have done (or not done).
This still happens to me but it happens less and I credit that to learning to slow my actions down.
It is important to allow yourself time to consider all the things that will make a good photograph: composition, focal length, aperture, the light. Some will be instinctive decisions but others might need more consideration.
This zen-like state of mind doesn’t mean you have to operate at a snails-pace; after all you don’t want to miss the shot. But you should feel in control.
If you start to feel that you’re on autopilot, here are some things to consider to help you start slowing down:
Carefully examine the scene before even picking up your camera.
Study the light (more on that here).
Ask yourself: “what am I trying to convey with this photograph?”
Go through your mental checklist of key things before you press the shutter, e.g. composition, focal length, aperture, focus settings, etc.
Be your own pacesetter. We’re all unique and some work slower / faster than others. The key is to find a pace of shooting that feels natural to you: not laboured but not rushed.