Someone asked a noted musician, “how do you get to Carnegie Hall from here?” The musician replied, “practice, practice, practice.” Your interest in photography may range from wanting some nice snapshots for the scrap book or to someday become a professional. Whatever the case may be, the advice from the musician is the same. Practice.
The more often you use your camera, the more familiar you will be with its functions. Few things feel as bad as trying to remember where the telephoto button is when a doe and fawn are a second from sprinting into the woods. The owner’s manual is a great resource and there are books available for high end camera users. But, there is no written replacement for hands-on experience. Knowing your camera will make you ready to catch the action and magic moments when they arise.
Practice also makes you more aware of the rules of creating good images. Photography means painting a picture with light. Frequent shooting will give you a better idea how shadow can be a benefit and distraction, when to use flash, and whether or not the photo is worth taking in the first place. Concepts like the rule of thirds, leading lines, and depth of field can be studied formally or on your own. But, learning by doing is the best way to re-enforce these lessons. In fact, practice inspires photographers to break a few rules to create better images.
Take time to familiarize yourself withyour photo editing software too. While it is best to get the photo right on the camera, the editing software that came with your camera or computer can salvage an otherwise wasted photograph. Color, sharpness, and other adjustments can be made as well to enhance your best pictures. Don’t be afraid to try special effects on projects like panoramas (I know a guy who used Photoshop to create a High Dynamic Range picture with his cell phone camera).
Enjoy shooting in the outdoors!