„Everyone was a beginner once.” I’ve bought my first professional camera 1 year ago. With no knowledge about shutter speed, exposure or what an aperture is (so let's be honest - I didn't know anything, I had no idea what all those magic buttons do), I decided to start the 365 project.

I had the whole year of taking pictures in front of me and believe me or not, I was like "just give me the camera that will blur the background nicely".

Where am I now, after taking more than 400 pics? Well, I won't mention switching to the Manual mode. I think it's obvious. I’ll just tell you about 5 things that I’ve learned during my 365 project.

But don't get me wrong, I am still an amateur, a beginner with a lot of things to learn still - but I'm sure that if I had an opportunity to read an article like this one year ago, it would be a lot easier.

You don't need the room full of professional equipment to take studio pics that look like taken from the advert

At the beginning, I really thought that a professional source of light with the whole bunch of umbrellas and softboxes are necessary to take a good-looking studio photography.

That was until I read this article by Paweł (seriously, you should read that first). Light can be diffused by a sheet of paper or reflected off the walls, a reflector can be replaced by aluminum foil from your kitchen. No tripod? I’ve even used a few books stacked instead. You can take two pics lit from two different sides and merge them later if you don't have two sources of light. That's how I took "Hot beverage”.

Hot beverage by Michał Kubalczyk

Do not ignore the post-processing. It really matters.

Of course, the degree of using Lightroom presets or Photoshop tricks depends on you. But that's not the case here. Sometimes the original RAW doesn't look interesting, it doesn't express any emotion. Your pic should illustrate your point of view.

Applying some presets, sometimes completely taking off the colors if the lights and shadows are good enough or just amending the frame can completely change the way how people will look at your pictures. Thanks to the post-processing I pulled out what's best in the "Christmas Market" photo, focusing your attention on the crowd, not the whole bunch of lights and colors. If I haven't spent time on this, it probably wouldn't have been worth uploading to the internet.

Christmas market by Michał Kubalczyk

There's one thing that makes a pic even more interesting - "the human factor".

After taking photos for over 200 days and switching more to the street photography in the second part of the year, I’ve realized one thing: even if you find an interesting place - it can look boring if there's no a thing that I call "the human factor". A person in the frame can completely change the photo.

Just stop for a while and wait 'till somebody will go through the tunnel, or take a tripod with you and go into the frame by yourself. I took two pics under the sports hall in Poznan - one with and one without myself in the frame. Guess which one draws more attention.

Entrance by Michał Kubalczyk

It's really worth to go back to the same place to retake a photo.

So you took two, three, four good photos on the same day. And you can choose only one. This is definitely something we hate in 365 project, don't we? But there’s a solution - just choose the one that stands out the most.

Every time I go back somewhere to retake a pic, something unexpected happens and finally, I'm going back home with totally different, but even better photo. I once went to the train station two days in a row. Two women were smoking cigarettes exactly in the spot that I wanted to photograph. I had to wait. I went a bit further and finally photographed a guy on the train platform that later became one of my favorite photos.

Alone by Michał Kubalczyk

Forcing yourself to take photos is good, even if you think otherwise

There's nothing weird about not being in the mood for a photo session on a cold, cloudy or busy days. It happens to all of us, but it shouldn't be an excuse.

My most creative pics were taken just on days like that. Pics that I've used to call the streak-pics quite often turn to be my best ones. And they wouldn’t exist if I hadn't forced myself to take a pic that day.

My camera probably would lie in a bag, unused. Even if it’s wet and glumly outside, I take it and go outside for a short walk. Like some big sports company says „Just do it”. It really works, trust me. You will be glad you did it.

Touch the mirror by Michał Kubalczyk

I think that you’re ready now to take up a challenge. You can start your own 365 project right here. All I wrote here is only a part of what I’ve learned. Let me know in the comment if you’ve got something else to share!

*Okay, you got me, I'm a graphic designer so I already had some experience in working with photos and probably a bit trained aesthetic.

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  • vera

    Thank you for your article! Very interesting to hear you about your project in the light of your photos! I feel very close to your discoverings! Neither didn't I knew my camera in the beginning and haven't got a studio at home! Now, after 500 days of my project, I make fewer pictures than at the beginning. Before clicking on the button, I take more time to examin: the framing, the background, the light. Thank you for your advice about the human presence that brings a plus ! I could think more about it...

    • Michał Kubalczyk

      I'm glad that you've found here something that is new and interesting for you 😀 Yes, you're right, setting the camera is much faster, but in my case it still needs some improvement 😛

  • Gogi Golzman

    what a great article !! loved it =]

  • jewels

    Super article! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips Michal 😀

  • Darek

    Simply thanks

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