How To Not Take Trash Photos: 12 Tips From Professional Photographers

Image: Getty

August 19 is World Photography Day, and that got me thinking about how we perceive photos in 2018. With increasingly impressive cameras being built into our phones, we're all photographers, to an extent.

But what about those who want to take it a little more seriously, grow their skillset or work towards photography as a career — but aren't sure where to start? Obviously there's a lot more to it than pressing a button and throwing a filter on, so I chatted to some professional photographers to mine them for their best tips to help get you started.


Lauren Bath

Image: Lauren Bath

Lauren is a travel photographer who was also Australia's first professional Instagrammer, making her a pioneer in the Australian influencer landscape. She shoots a myriad of subjects, including landscapes, wildlife, people, cities and everything in between.

In addition to having a large and impressive client list, Lauren also works as a social media consultant for major industry bodies,

The lightning shot! ⚡️⚡️⚡️ I know a few people have been waiting on this one. The most important thing to remember about shooting lightning is to make sure you maintain some distance on the storm, that’s why I was shooting with a zoom lens here, so I could be far away. If you don’t have an olympus and you’re shooting lightning you can either keep your shutter continuously going so you don’t miss a shot or you can use neutral density filters to obtain a longer shutter speed so that you don’t miss a strike and might catch several in one frame. _________________________________ Gear and Settings: ⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️⬇️ ???? @olympus_au E-M1 Mark II ???? M. Zuiko 40-150 mm PRO lens ???? Olympus wired remote ???? @gitzoinspires Tripod ???? LIVE composite mode ???? ISO LOW (64) ???? F 11 ???? 1 second x 600 (approx) __________________________________ ???? This was another shot taken using Olympus’s live composite feature, it’s not perfect but I was more than happy with the result. Live Composite mode allows you to take a base image and then the camera continues to shoot and record ‘changes’ to the light to stack onto the base image. I don’t know how to better describe it; I’m a bit of a tech noob. Since it was still relatively bright when I started this shot my shutter speed was only 1 second and I wanted heaps of lighting so I left the exposure going for at least ten minutes, effectively taking hundreds of frames. The draw back was that there is visible movement in the clouds that looks unnatural but the pro is that I got this shot virtually straight out of camera. __________________________________ #olympusinspired ????

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What are your 3 top tips for new photographers?

1. Learn how to work your camera! I know that it seems obvious, but I have always been a big believer of knowing your camera inside and out, whether it’s a smart phone camera or a high-end digital camera. Knowing its capabilities will free up time to work on your creative.

2. Practice a LOT! I love the expression "The more I practice the luckier I get" because it is so true! With digital photography being the new normal there’s no excuse not to practice.

3. Be vigilant about backing up your work. The sooner you set systems in place, the sooner you won’t have to worry about losing your work. I use the Western Digital My Passport Wireless SSD to back up all of my RAW images and I always keep two full sets on different devices.

What is your go-to camera and lens setup?

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and probably the 12-40 f2.8 pro lens.

What was your first camera?

Nikon D7000, but before that it was an iPhone 4.

You can see more of Lauren's work over on her Instagram.


Michael Coyne

Image: Michael Coyne

Michael is a documentary photographer, author and keynote Speaker who covers international social issues. His work has appeared in publications across the world such as Time, National Geographic, New York Times, Smithsonian, Vogue and Sports Illustrated.

What are your 3 top tips for new photographers?

1. Know and understand your camera equipment before you start taking photographs. If you don’t you will spend more time worrying about the camera than shooting images.

2. When photographing people, focus on their eyes. It’s the area of the face we look at when talking to people, and it’s the eyes we first look at in a people photograph.

3. When photographing an event, arrive early and stay late. A lot of the best pictures happen before the event begins or after the show is over.

What is your go-to camera and lens setup?

My current favourite camera is the Fujifilm XPro-2 which I use with an 18mm lens.

What was your first camera?

The first real camera I owned was a Nikon F film camera.

You can see more of Michael's work over on his Instagram.


Andrew Hall

Image: Andrew Hall

Andrew is a Sydney-based photographer who specialises in motorsport, portraiture and landscapes. His website beautifully summarises how he, and many photographers truly feel about the art.

"In a world populated by computer-manipulated hybrid imagery, it’s important not to lose sight of what makes photography truly singular, magical and timeless.

To me, now, more than ever, photography is about the moment; capturing and preserving forever the purity of that instant, whether it’s a fraction of a second or a two minute exposure. This new direction is as old as the hills. It begins with an idea. Then it’s a combination of beauty, authenticity and harmony, with that wonderful element of chance thrown in for good measure.

Blink and you’ll miss it."

What are your 3 top tips for new photographers?

1. Familiarise yourself with the basic photographic compositional rules (Rule of Thirds etc), understand why they work and use them - but don’t be afraid to break them!

2. Keep it simple. Don’t over complicate the setup or overthink portraiture poses. Less is often more!

3. Join a camera club. It’s a great opportunity to learn from others. Share ideas and be introduced to other photographic genres that you may not have attempted before.

What is your go-to camera and lens setup?

Fujifilm X100F

What was your first camera?

The first SLR camera was a Ricoh XR7 in 1982

You can see more of Andrew's work over on his Instagram.


Rob Mulally

|| Dynanic || We need the cities of tomorrow to move with us and be a dynamic place of mobility maximising the human potential living within its spaces. #CityofTomorrow #WHPDynamic — I captured this image at the Taj Mahal the Movment of the woman passing the puddle perfect for this weeks theme. We were here with @fordaustralia attending the City of Tomorrow Symposium where the ideas around mobility of future cities were discussed. The Taj itself for a number of years has had a electric vehicle only zone around it to protect the marble surface from pollution, this is a great example of forseeing the unique needs of one area in a reactive way, as we move forward and build new cities having the forsight to think and plan them differently using all the technology we have and are devloping by listening and learning on how we move about our spaces now should help avoid some of the mistakes of the past and provide some radically differnt looking spaces and methods of mobility in the future. . #INDIA #tajmahal . . . #beautifuldestinations #earthpix #OurPlanetDaily#awesomeearth #tourtheplanet #TheGlobeWanderer#wonderful_places #discoverearth #awesomeglobe#fantastic_earth #discoverglobe #awesome_earthpix#welivetoexplore #awesome_photographers #awesomepix#wowplanet

A post shared by Freelance, Sydney Australia (@robmulally) on

Rob is a freelancer photographer and content creator from Sydney. Ever since buying a camera and quitting his job he has been successfully working on social media projects and campaigns.

Rob started in his photography career on his phone, so his tips are geared towards budding mobile photographers out there. He believes that learning on your phone is a good first step before deciding if you really need a camera.

"I learned so much on my phone and the ease and accessibility helped me learn at a rapid pace, I didn’t have any excuses like time/laptop etc as I could edit while waiting for a meeting or bus."

Editor's Note: I met Rob on a trip to India with Ford last year. He took a cool photo of me:

|| Begin || In the begining it was simple.

A post shared by Freelance, Sydney Australia (@robmulally) on

What are your 3 top tips for new photographers?

1. Get down low! Go Crazy! Mirrors. Windows. Reflection puddles — all these things you can put your phone near to help get some crazy perspectives. Sometimes a unique angle at sunset or sunrise is all you need to get an interesting image.

Silhouettes can also be a great way to compose images — especially against against a beautiful sky. On phones you won't have some of the Dynamic Range of bigger cameras (the dark and bright parts in one shot). Don’t fight this. Work with it and you will learn about composition and even the human form if you ask someone to stand in a shot for you. I still use that knowledge now with a camera.

2. Edit and crop. Learning to edit on your phone (especially using a tool like Adobe Lightroom Mobile) means you're learning all the names/slides/tools that you can use on your laptop later. Every photo you edit and crop will make you notice what you can improve next time.

3. If you have a phone like the Galaxy s9+ you can go into pro mode and take control of the shots, that can help you get more accurate timing and exposure control.

What is your go-to camera and lens setup?

I have two cameras — Sony A7Riii and Lumix G9

You can see more of Rob's work over on his Instragram or check out his video Should I buy A Camera?

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