Damn good general photography advice

Everybody’s creative journey is unique. What works for one person may not for the next. Yet still, there’s a handful of undeniably good general advice that is helpful to anyone who wants to level up their craft.

These best practices, though, often get overlooked. Their general-ness means that they get ingrained into our rituals so much that we take them for granted. But in practice, they’re so fundamental that they become crucial for our success.

Today, I wanted to share 10 such pieces of advice that have really become essential to the way I work. Enjoy!

This week’s challenge

Put today’s advice into practice and share some of your own general best practices! What are the small things that go a long way to helping you do the work you do? Don’t forget to tag #watchstudies to share it with the community!

10 tips for every photographer

When in doubt, under-expose

If you’re ever in a predicament where you have some highly contrasting areas – like say, some bright reflections and some dark shadows – always expose for the brightest areas, even if that means your photo is terribly under-exposed. The simple reason is that it’s easier to bring back all the details in under-exposed shadows than it is to bring back details in over-exposed highlights when you’re editing the photo later.

This may be less of an issue with certain cameras, but from conversations with other photographers, this seems to be a common rule of thumb worth passing along.

Damn good general photography adviceAn under-exposed RAW photo vs the final edit.

Shoot in burst/continuous mode

Most cameras have the option to switch between single or continuous (i.e. burst) shooting modes. If you have that available to you, take advantage of it! While there’s a little more intentionality in shooting with the single shot mode, shooting continuously lets you capture a series of photos so you have a better chance of capturing the perfect moment. This is especially helpful if you’re timing the position of the second hand for optimal symmetry.

If you have the option to adjust the speed of your continuous mode, you don’t need to go too crazy. I usually keep mine on the lowest setting so that I’m getting multiple shots without hogging too much space on my SD card.

Take more shots than you need

Along the same vein as the last piece of advice, always – ALWAYS – take more shots than you think you need. Change your framing, move some props around, adjust your angle, or just take the exact shot two or three times. You never want to find a small blemish, blur, or other imperfection afterwards that makes you need to reshoot. You may also find that you like a different shot than the one you intended once you see it on a screen.

Damn good general photography adviceEssentially what my photos app looks like these days.

Check your shot before unstaging

Every shot takes a bit of setup work, but it’s the ones that feature more complex staging efforts where you want to follow this piece of advice. Before packing away the props and cleaning everything up, check that you got the shot you wanted. On numerous occasions, I’ve packed up a mega flatlay only to realize after that I missed something. Now I always import my photos and check them on screen (and sometimes even do a quick edit) before I unstage anything.

Shoot in bulk

Setup and clean up work generally takes the same amount of time and effort whether you’re shooting one photo or a dozen photos. Getting multiple photos out of your session is not only a more efficient use of your time, but it also relieves you from having to shoot every single day. For me, a single shoot can sometimes yield about a week’s worth of content, which is helpful for a busy week ahead or for those unforeseen hurdles that fall into your calendar.

Damn good general photography adviceA big ol' BB58 party. A single shooting session that yielded 11 usable photos.

Add something for yourself

There’s a tendency to want to please the watch fam all the time on Instagram. It’s not always a bad thing (see my thoughts on shooting for Instagram), but sometimes it leaves the relationship between you, the creator, and your photos a little fragmented. Make photos more meaningful to you by adding little details that make them uniquely yours. You don’t even need to tell anybody about them. This makes the work more interesting to you, which in turn, makes you produce better work overall.

Damn good general photography adviceI love mega flatlays because I can squeeze in a lot of little personal easter eggs.

Don’t edit at night (or in the dark)

Our eyes are really adaptive. When we’re in low light environments, they know how to adjust our perception of everything around us to ensure we can still see properly and not stub our toes on everything. So when we edit in a darker room, which tends to happen at night, our eyes adjust to help us see colors and contrast on the screen a little differently. Super cool biological trick but unfortunately bad for editing.

Damn good general photography adviceEverything looks so good at night. Until the morning.

If you’re editing, try to get yourself into a more neutrally lit environment. Even if it’s nighttime, put yourself in a well lit room. What you’ll find is that you’ll make better editing decisions, in particular around exposure, contrast, and color calibration.

Give it a day

Whenever you can, give finished work some time and distance. Walk away, look at other things, and maybe give it a day before officially calling it done. Doing this essentially lets your eyes and brain reset and recalibrate so that you can judge the work more objectively. There are far too many times when I’m in love with an edit in the moment, but come back later and find that I need to make some finishing touches that I completely overlooked originally.

Yes, there’ll always be those times when you’re shooting at the eleventh hour to get something up on the gram. I get it, I’ve been there too. But when you can, try to give the work some breathing room. It’ll be better for it, I promise.

Compare photos side by side for consistency

One of the most common struggles I hear about on a weekly basis is around editing skin tones. It’s a part of us that we know so intimately, and yet it feels nearly impossible to get it to look consistent in photos – not only in comparison to real life, but in comparison to other photos we’ve taken.

Whether it’s skin tones, a leather tray, a colored watch dial, or some other commonly reoccurring element in your photography, there’s one helpful trick I use to help me edit them for consistency. I put all the photos into a single folder so that I can see them side by side. And then I edit, zoom out to the grid, go back in to edit more, and keep zooming back out until all the photos optically feel cohesive. A simple but effective solution.

Damn good general photography adviceJust a big folder of hands. Editing skin tones is still really, really hard.

Keep your photos organized

Damn good general photography adviceStay organized. Your future self will thank you.

I admit, I geek out over file and photo management. I just like that everything has its exact right place. But dorky OCDs aside, I assure you that having a proper organization system for your photos from the get-go will save your future self a ton of time and sanity. I know there’s a tendency to believe that the photo you’re editing is a one-off that doesn’t need filing, but you’re wrong.

Not sure how to organize your photos? Start simple: put stuff in folders/albums and label them by date and subject. If you want to be really cool, use a yyyy-mm-dd date format (e.g. 2021-11-28) to prefix the folder/album names so that you can easily sort them chronologically.

As the saying goes: organize your photos in a way that an idiot can understand it. In most cases, you will be that idiot. :)

Your turn!

Put today’s advice into practice and share some of your own general best practices! What are the small things that go a long way to helping you do the work you do? Don’t forget to tag #watchstudies to share it with the community!

And if you’ve made it this far into the tutorial, let me know by dropping a 💡 in the comments of today’s Instagram post!

Thanks for joining another edition of Sunday Study Club! If you enjoyed today’s tutorial, you may also enjoy these related ones:

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1 comment

Damn good article with loads of value! Thanks!


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