Stuck indoors? Can’t travel or photograph what you normally would? Use this time to your advantage and keep your spirits high with these tips.
Right now, we’re living in a very different world to the one we remember a few weeks ago. The coronavirus pandemic has upturned our day-to-day lives and ushered in a range of challenges we probably didn’t think we would ever face.
While it’s easy to become despondent, those of us who suddenly have more time on our hands, or restrictions on our movement (or both), can still do much to keep our spirits high and our photographic passions stoked.
There are many ways in which you can put this time to good use for your photography, from sharpening your editing skills or exploring a new photographic genre to getting the admin and business side of your photography in shape. Here are 10 things to consider.
1. Dive into the world of macro photography
Macro photography is a genre accessible to all photographers, not least because the range of potential subjects is limitless. Just venturing out into your garden may be enough to inspire you to shoot something you never considered to be good photographic material.
A dedicated macro lens will give you the best results, although you don’t strictly need one as there are many other options for those on a tighter budget. These include close-up filters that can be used with existing lenses, and reversing rings that can transform your conventional optics into macro tools for next to nothing (albeit with some limitations). The results from modern smartphones are also now considerably better than they used to be, so don’t necessarily rule these out if you don’t have access to a regular camera.
If you are using a DSLR or mirrorless camera, however, make sure to place it on a sturdy tripod and use your camera’s self-timer option, or a remote release, to prevent the camera from moving during the exposure (which can create image blur). You’ll also probably want to use a moderate aperture rather than a very wide one as depth of field is particularly shallow when shooting close up. But above all else, experiment with new subjects and techniques and see where it ends up taking you.
2. Backup your images
Hard drives can and do fail, and even when they don’t, it’s easy for files to get corrupted. If you tend to store all your images on a single hard drive, now would be a perfect time to add extra insurance by creating a backup.
The most basic approach here is to have a secondary hard drive that replicates the contents of your main one. That way, should anything happen to one of the drives, the other will still allow you to access your images. The only drawback is that you need to manually update both as you add images to keep them up to date.
Many photographers will have another duplicate drive that’s kept in a different location, such as an office, garage or a second home. This is a sound idea as it provides additional insurance in the event of a fire, flooding or theft, given that each of these events stand to affect both drives stored in the same location.
A more convenient solution is to have a RAID 1 configuration for your drives. In this setup, you’ll typically have two hard drives within a single enclosure, with the secondary drive mirroring the first. So, if one drive fails for some reason, you’ll still have the other with an up-to-date copy of your images. This does mean, however, that you’ll have less space in total than if you weren’t using RAID 1, given the need for one drive to simply act as a backup for the other.
3. Create your website
If you’ve been putting this one off for some time, ask yourself: what better time than now to put together a new website with all your masterpieces? Whether you never got round to assembling one to begin with, or your existing website is getting stale, now would be a good moment to consider how you want people to see your images and your brand from this point on.
Not had a website before? All you need to do is register for a domain and find a web-hosting service. Popular services such as Wix and Squarespace are compatible with SmartFrame, which means you can easily embed images from your SmartFrame account and keep them protected from theft. If you prefer to use WordPress, you can even download a plugin to instantly convert your images to SmartFrames and show them off with the same protection.
4. Give your camera kit some love
When did you last clean your camera’s sensor? Or update its firmware?
It’s easy to forget about these things – they’re hardly the most exciting tasks. But taking some time to regularly check and clean your equipment, and make sure everything is up to date and working as it ought to be, is a good habit to get into if you want to get the best out of your kit.
Start off by checking the sensor for dust. Your camera may already have an option to clean this away automatically, but a long exposure of a clean, white wall or ceiling at a small aperture may highlight more stubborn spots that may require physical cleaning with a rocket blower or swab.
Viewfinders and LCD screens are magnets for grease and dust, so give these a clean with a microfiber cloth if you have one. Your lenses may also need some attention for the same reason; start with a rocket blower to blast away looser dust particles, before moving to a contact method if you can see the need to do so.
To check whether your camera is running the latest firmware, find this option in your camera’s settings or tools menu, and compare this with the most recent version available on your camera manufacturer’s website. Also consider adding your copyright information to your camera so that it automatically attaches itself to all your images as you capture them.
If you have a relatively modern DSLR, you may also be able to check your lenses are focusing properly and adjust this in camera to compensate for any slight inaccuracies. Guides on how to check and adjust this can be easily found online, although you should consult your camera’s manual first to understand how to do it on your specific camera body.
5. Learn new editing skills
Most of us are probably only using our current image-editing software to a fraction of its full potential. If, like many photographers, you pay a monthly fee for an Adobe CC Photography plan subscription, this will almost certainly be the case.
So why not use this time to learn how to get the most out of it? Between your software manufacturer’s website and blogs through to YouTube and Vimeo, and learning sites like LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com), the internet is bursting with tutorials that guide you through all aspects of your editing software’s capabilities.
This isn’t just about learning new skills either. You may discover easier ways to do something you rely on with some frequency, or ways to integrate different software packages to help speed up your workflow.
6. Look around you for still-life or abstract inspiration
It’s easy to think we need to head somewhere picturesque to capture something unique, but sometimes good subject matter is right in front of us – even at home. Even the most mundane objects can be transformed into works of art with a little experimentation, appropriate lighting and the right camera technique.
The kitchen is an obvious first place to seek inspiration. Cutlery, straws and kitchen utensils like balloon whisks and cheesegraters can all be successfully used to create more abstract works of art. Close-ups of fruits and vegetables can turn everyday patterns and textures into works of art, while playing with sparkling liquids, oils and food coloring can also yield interesting results.
Outside of the kitchen, you could experiment with pencils and folded pieces of paper, stationery or general household objects. Capturing images deliberately out of focus to create more abstract results can also be fruitful, particularly where many colors are involved. Incorporating movement into your images too, be it through a moving subject or camera movement, is a good way to capture something more unique and unrepeatable.
7. Print your work
Many of us don’t have a dedicated photo printer that can produce wall-worthy images, and, as a result, we don’t print our images as often as we ought to. So if you fall into that camp, and your walls could do with something fresh, consider spending this time on getting your best photos ready for display.
You may already have your best images edited but the whole process of ordering prints, deciding on mounts and frames, and working out where you want everything to hang requires time and consideration. Start now and by the time things start to return to normal you may have all the hard work out of the way.
8. Revisit your earliest images
With memory cards and hard drives cheaper than ever, it’s easy to shoot so much that you forget about everywhere you’ve been with your camera. So why not revisit some of your earliest images?
Raw-conversion software has probably moved on some way since you started shooting, and no doubt have your abilities in the digital darkroom, so you could bring something new to images you previously discarded, or maybe even completely forgot about.
9. Spring clean your kit bag
We’ve all got a lens or two we never use, or a flashgun that we’ve called on far less frequently than we imagined we would. So taking this opportunity to re-evaluate your kit bag and trade some unloved items for a new addition or two could make sense.
Even at this time, it’s possible you could gather some quotes for your existing kit to better understand whether it’s worth your while selling an item or two, or even switching camera systems completely.
10. Network and plan ahead
This might seem like an odd time to start networking, but with shoots, shows and other plans either canceled or postponed, opportunities may be there for those willing to seek them out.
Sure, you may not be able to meet with others in person right now, but with more time on their hands, those you might want to contact online may well be more receptive than usual to any ideas or suggestions you may have.
Perhaps you want to get in touch with a photographer whose work you admire? Or grow your professional circle on LinkedIn? If you’re planning on a career move in the near future, updating your CV, LinkedIn profile or website might all be worth your while.
You may want to seek out local photography clubs or photo walks that will resume before long, or learn about galleries and exhibition spaces you haven’t been to before.
You should also consider how you might be able to help others with their own photography. If you’ve developed some skills over time there’ll no doubt be many who could benefit from this in some way – and you never know what opportunities may arise by you doing so.