Sorry – none of these tips involve buying a magic camera. But if you try them, based on my own experience, they will help you become much better at producing images that matter. And of course, these aren’t the only five steps that you will need to take in order to master photography, but they are a start.

Learning how to see the final result before you press the shutter is maybe the most important step you can take to mastering photography.

It’s that moment where you grow as a photographer and no longer have to worry whether or not the picture “came out.” Your work becomes deliberate, rather than reactionary. You make pictures, you don’t just take pictures.

Since it’s almost time to photograph hummingbirds in the Pacific Northwest, I thought I’d show everyone a few of the tricks I use and how I do my setups.

The first step is to get hummers used to coming to your yard to feed. Three months ago, I set up two feeders near the spot where I plan to do my hummingbird photography. I want the birds to get used to the feeders, me and the general area where I will set up my background and flashes.

So, I have decided to build out a corner of my home studio as a product studio so I can do both lay-flat and standard product shots. This will keep my photographic mind busy for a while and for that I am grateful.

The problem is, I don’t have much experience as a product photographer and prior to this month, no experience doing serious lay-flat work. I have been thinking back, and I can name all five times I was paid during my career to do product shots. They were mostly years ago before I specialized in birds, and none of them were remarkable.