Ireland is a great place to stretch your photography muscles. Our natural scenery and city hubs offer rich textures to explore, and with national newspapers like the Irish Times and the Irish Examiner offering up prizes to amateur snappers, you don’t need to be a seasoned professional to have your skills recognised.

We chatted to the people behind Canon’s Through My Lens campaign to get some idea of what it takes to become a better photographer. Through My Lens follows the work of eight photographers who have scaled the amateur ranks to make a career out of their hobby. Thanks to their tips you won’t need to ditch the day job to start exploring photography.

Lean on Instagram

Instagram is a great tool for not only promoting your content but getting ideas for new content too. As Kristina Makeeva (@hobopeeba), one of the photographers profiled in Through My Lens notes, “look around: there are so many talented people on the platform you can collaborate with or take inspiration from.”
Irish photographers like Hugh O’Conor and Enda Bowe make use of both a personal online portfolio and a regularly-updated Instagram profile to reach their followers.

Go manual

While the pre-set, “automatic” settings on your camera will get you up and running in seconds, it’s a bit like using a predictive text assistant to help you finish your sentences. For complete control, you want to use manual settings on your camera.

For ISO, James Relf-Dyer (@jamesrelfdyer) keeps specific rules in mind. “As a rule of thumb, keep your ISO between 100-500 when shooting outside. When shooting inside, try to stick to 1600. And at night, keep your ISO lower than 1000, employing a longer shutter speed and using a tripod as a counter balance.”

Consult tutorials on YouTube to learn more about ISO, shutter speeds, lenses and aperture. And, from there, practice consistently. It’ll give you the confidence to keep the automatic modes on your camera left unused.

Learn the old-school photography “rules”

You don’t have to go to photography school to learn some of the ruling guidelines of the craft:

The Rule of Thirds is an old composition technique. Imagine your photo is divided into 9 blocks like a noughts and crosses board. You want to avoid putting the focal point of your image in the very centre block. The idea is that we look at photos from left to right or right to left, and an “off-centre” composition is more appealing.

Leading lines: In one sense, photography is the art of directing the viewer’s gaze to what you want them to see.
Leading lines help you do that. Before looking through the viewfinder, study your environment. If you’re in a built-up area, are there are any roads or buildings you can use, that will create the impression of movement towards the subject of the shot? And if you’re in nature, what about trees, tall outcrops of grass, or even the shoreline of a beach? You want to create a strong sense of the depth; of space between the foreground and the background that draws the viewer in.

Time of day matters

“Use the light,” says Carmen Huter (@carmenhuter). The hour after the sun comes up and the hour before it goes down – “the Golden Hour” – are commonly seen as the best times of day to go out and grab your shots. Early morning shoots can also mean you avoid the crowds, so those might be your best bet for beautiful pictures. Perseverance is also key.

“Don’t leave your location until you are happy with the shot,” Harry Sinclair (@harrysinclairphotography) says. When you’re struggling to get the shots you want the temptation is to leave entirely. Resist that urge and you’re more likely to get a great end product.

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