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Best Way To Improve Your Photography Skills Without Spending A Penny

Photography Project 366 - Day 366. Ready for church. A smiling bride with her maid of honour and two flower girls.

Best way to improve photography skills, Photography Project 366 – Day 366. Ready for church. A smiling bride in the doorway, with her maid of honour and two flower girls.

2016 IN PHOTOGRAPHS, PROJECT 366 | Darrin Henry

The next time someone asks me what’s the best way to improve photography skills, my advice will be: ‘take one picture every day.’ Trust me, this is as solid a ‘sure thing’ as anything out there when it comes to photography, no matter how simple and obvious it may sound.

Try it, just for two weeks; you’ll be surprised what a difference it makes.

A St Helena History Picture Book

You don’t need to pay for lessons or purchase expensive kit, just pick up a camera every day and attempt to capture at least one ‘interesting’ picture. You will learn and you will improve – guaranteed.

Sharon and I did it, our first Project 365 – or Project 366, as it was a leap year! One complete year of photography for each day of 2016; 366 unique images, no blanks.

Photography Project 366 - Day 227. Shot with the camera phone, this visit of the cruise ship, Artania, in November gave us this unexpected shot of someone being soaked by a sudden wave breaking up over the sea wall in Jamestown.

Project 366, best way to improve photography skills. Day 227. Shot with the camera phone, this visit of the cruise ship, MV Artania, in November gave us this unexpected shot of someone being soaked by a sudden wave breaking up over the sea wall in Jamestown.

We’ve photographed cats, dogs, donkeys, goats, birds and cows. There’s been a button worm, a praying mantis, a bumble bee and even a hamster. There was a little dinosaur as well on day 218!

Cars, boats and aeroplanes – even a helicopter has made it into our line-up. People, food, flowers, sunsets, sunrises… rain, sunshine, the moon, fog, fire and even lightning!

Why Project 365 Is Best Way To Improve Photography Skills

A project like this automatically encourages you to think and learn and get creative with the camera, which makes it the best way to improve photography skills.

The dinosaur on day 218 came after a number of not so great macro efforts shooting toys.

The project has also (accidentally) become a historical record of St Helena. The departure of Governor Mark Capes from St Helena on day 78, the visit of ancient sailing boat Hokulea on day 11; the historic Comair 737-800 wobbly landing on day 109; a new Miss St Helena on day 127. Even Donald Trump made it in on Day 314.

 

Best Way To Improve Photography Skills - Photography Project 366 - Day 254. Behind the scenes - creating interesting photos indoors has been one of the features of Project 366 in 2016.

Photography Project 366 – Day 254. Behind the scenes – creating interesting photos indoors has been one of the features of Project 366 in 2016.

 

Photography Project 366 - Day 254. Creating interesting photos indoors has been one of the features of Project 366 in 2016.

Photography Project 366 – Day 254. Creating interesting photos indoors has been one of the features of Project 366 in 2016.

Photography Project 366 - Day 127. A new Miss St Helena, Kimley Yon, begins her two year reign on 6 May, flanked by Kaylee Young (1st runner up) and Jodie Scipio-Constantine (2nd runner up).

Photography Project 366 – Day 127. A new Miss St Helena, Kimley Yon, begins her two year reign on 6 May, flanked by Kaylee Young (1st runner up) and Jodie Scipio-Constantine (2nd runner up).

 

Photography – A Team Game

‘Yikes!’ moments – when we nearly forgot the daily picture, well thankfully there were just two of those. ‘Popcorn’ on Day 233 and ‘Gin and Chocolates’ on Day 339. Talk about shoot what’s in front of you.

I’m promoting the concept of a photo-a-day project as the best way to improve photography skills but I should also admit it’s a huge commitment. We’ve done it as a team which has made a big difference being able to share the load.

On Day 170 I injured my knee. Photos for the next six weeks were nearly all taken by Sharon as I convalesced and soaked up sympathy. So I would definitely recommend doing a project of this size as a team.

 

Photography Project 366 - Day 180. We shared the load of this project, but in the middle of the year it was all Sharon as I recovered from a knee injury. This shot of hers capturing two Indian mynah birds in Jamestown in June one of my favourite pictures of the 2016.

Photography Project 366 – Day 180. We shared the load of this project, but in the middle of the year it was all Sharon as I recovered from a knee injury. This shot of hers capturing two Indian mynah birds in Jamestown in June is one of my favourite pictures of 2016.

One Bright Spark

Favourite photograph of Project 366 – Day 28, a match being lit.

It’s my favourite image more for what it symbolises. It was early in the project, we had been up all night making use of the free internet window, and I wanted to get ‘picture of the day’ done before going to bed. The ‘flaring match’ I had wanted to do as a macro shot for a while. Long story short, it took more than 30 attempts to capture this.

The match was clamped in a bull-dog clip; the camera fixed on a tripod, pre-focused and fired using the remote trigger. Coordinating the flare and camera shutter was easier said than done.

 

Photography Project 366 - Day 28. The match flare and smoke curl finally caught perfectly. A single strobe was fired back from the right side to light the smoke.

Photography Project 366 – Day 28. The match flare and smoke curl finally caught perfectly. A single strobe was fired back from the right side to light the smoke.

Photography Project 366 - Day 28. Some of the failed attempts when the timing was off or the trigger didn't respond right away.

Photography Project 366 – Day 28. Some of the failed attempts when the timing was off or the trigger didn’t respond right away.

That Day 28 match really helped my focus on the reality of the project. A simple idea but requiring a lot of dedication. But it’s been a brilliant challenge, working with gobos, strobes and natural light at home, making use of everyday household objects. The bulb filament on Day 60 was another good test.

Feeding The Addiction

Perhaps the most pleasing thing has been learning to appreciate different cameras – for me anyway! Sharon has always praised the virtues of mobile photography. We’ve made extensive use of the compact and the phone camera on this project. There are things you can do with the mobile phone camera you can’t do with a DSLR, especially remaining inconspicuous in a small group of people.

Photography Project 366 - Day 118. 'The Great Escape' On a foggy visit to the St Helena Donkey Home in April the donkeys were discovered outside the fence, having found a hole to escape through. Luckily they didn't quite know what to do with this freedom and waited outside for someone to come shoo them back inside.

Photography Project 366 – Day 118. ‘The Great Escape’
On a foggy visit to the St Helena Donkey Home in April the donkeys were discovered outside the fence, having found a hole to escape through. Luckily they didn’t quite know what to do with this freedom and waited outside for someone to come shoo them back inside.

 

Best Way To Improve Photography Skills - Photography Project 366 - Day 23. A cold and windy dawn in January on the upper slopes of Deadwood Plain. Morning skies on St Helena can be clear at 5am then completely cloud covered an hour later, quickly spoiling an early start.

Photography Project 366 – Day 23. A cold and windy dawn in January on the upper slopes of Deadwood Plain. Morning skies on St Helena can be clear at 5am then completely cloud covered an hour later, quickly spoiling an early start.

 

Photography I can safely say also has health benefits!

There have been many occasions when we’ve decided to go hiking or exploring just for the sake of finding a different picture for the day. Day 131, 10 May 2016, photography motivated us outdoors hiking to Banks Battery.

Day 255, September 11, a short hike to Halley’s Mount in search of an image kept us active. It’s been like that throughout the year.

Day 366, the final picture of the year was a bride on her wedding day. We couldn’t have asked for a more special image to complete the project.

So there it is. A successful Project 366, or ‘photo of the day’ as we ended up calling it. For me it is, hands down, the best way to improve photography skills.

One year of photographs, all taken on St Helena.

Problem is it’s addictive! Now we don’t want to break the spell. Project 365 – 2017, is already underway.

What’s your tip for improving skills with the camera?

 

Photography Project 366 - Day 227. The Rio 2016 Olympics inspired us to shoot the famous rings using a colour light app on the mobile phone. This was a 91 second exposure to give us time to change colours, move and trace each circle in the air.

Photography Project 366 – Day 227. The Rio 2016 Olympics inspired us to shoot the famous rings using a colour light app on the mobile phone. This was a 91 second exposure to give us time to change colours, move and trace each circle in the air.

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