Do you feel that you don’t develop enough as a photographer? Or would you like to become better faster? Take a look at these 8 suggestions that will take your photography skills in the right direction.
Learn How Your Camera Works – Read The Manual
I know it. Manuals are only for when you get stuck and cannot work out how something works. Even though they can be tough to get through, you can learn a lot about how much your camera is capable of doing. When you know the settings and features, it can save the day when you take your camera to the field.
You probably cannot remember everything if you read it all today. But if you begin with reading one section each day, then in one week or a little more, you will know a lot more about how your camera works, or why it doesn’t do, what you ‘tell’ it to do.
You should be so familiar with your camera that you can use it in the dark. Even though it isn’t pitch black when you use your camera, if you need to look at the buttons or screen to change the settings, you will miss the moment, and it will be gone forever.
Instead of going through the manual, you can also take a shortcut with this guide to mastering your DSLR camera.
Switch to Manual
Why should you switch to manual, when aperture or shutter priority works fine for you? And even risk missing important shots if you fumble around in manual mode?
Sure you will miss some shots, but when we are beginning to learn photography those shots aren’t likely to be a million dollar shot anyway. However, if you learn how to work in manual mode, where you dial in both ISO, shutter speed and aperture, you will get a better understanding of how these three important factors make or break an image.
Understanding how shutter speed, ISO and aperture interacts allow you to become creative with the settings when necessary instead of being lucky or being limited by only controlling one parameter, like aperture or shutter speed, at a time.
Buy Books Instead of Gear
Getting into gear craving is easy. We all do at some point. The thing is not to get hooked on having a particular camera or lens. You will learn and develop more if you buy books instead of gear.
Having the right gear is great. From a pixel peeper’s point of view, it will help you take better photos. However, from an artist’s point of view, you will not move an inch. Instead, dive into a pile of books about photography and then put the exercises into practice. You will emerge as a better photographer.
You can begin with The Photographer’s Toolbox. In this e-book, you get tips for 26 different topics or tools that are crucial for most serious photographers to master. You learn how to create beautiful backlit photos, silhouettes, use lines or use panning techniques and much more. Tools that are essential to know to be able to capture the image you have in mind.
Join a Learning Community for Photographers
Improving your craft is not going to happen without getting feedback from others. And your mother, wife or husband don’t qualify for this type of feedback unless they are very skilled photographers. What you need is feedback from peers at or above your level in the kind of photography you’re doing. Someone who can give you constructive feedback with suggestions on how to do things differently.
The Arcanum is unique in this sense since you get both a master in photography and a cohort of peers that will help you excel your journey into photography. Your master and the cohort will help you in moving through a set of challenges aimed at pushing you further and refine your skills and artistic vision. The critique sessions you get with your master are very specific on how to improve your work based on the images you submit for feedback. Furthermore, The Arcanum has a massive library of videos made by all the masters teaching in The Arcanum, which helps answer a lot of the questions you encounter in your journey as a photographer.
Be Deliberate in Practicing Your Skills as a Photographer
All world-class athletes practice their skills again and again until they are sick and tired of the monotony. By being deliberate and mindful in practicing composition techniques, simplifying the composition or telling a story, you will with no doubt develop as a photographer. Being deliberate about practicing is the guard against shooting away like crazy and mindlessly. Only by knowing the routine can you break away from it and enter it into creativity. If you start with creativity, you will fail, or it will be random luck.
As a child I took a photo of a cat in mid-air with a point-and-shoot camera, I was very proud of it, but even though I tried, I could not reproduce it – it was pure luck. We need to move beyond that stage where the best shots are based on luck.
The best way is to practice like a world-class athlete. Practice the technique again and again until it sticks.
So pick up your camera, and decide that the next session you will only focus on practicing shallow depth-of-field, or concentrate on using leading lines in your shots.
Follow Modern Masters of Photography
Many photography teachers tell you to study the early masters of photography, like Ansel Adams. I like this advice since it is a tribute to the pioneers of photography. However, Ansel Adam cannot teach you Lightroom or Photoshop or how to get the most out of your digital camera. They can teach you about the art side of photography, but both has to go together.
Find a few masters of photography within your niche in photography and begin to subscribe to their newsletters. Most are generous in sharing tips and tutorials that can help you improve your craft.
Are you into Long Exposure Photography or black & white, you ought to take a look at the amazing work of Joel Tjintjelaar over at BWvision.com.
Do you want to develop your visual storytelling techniques, I suggest you begin to follow someone like David duChemin, who is fantastic in telling stories through photos and capturing the heart-core of being human in his shots.
Attempt Things You Cannot Do
Never tried to bracket several exposures and blend them manually together in Photoshop? Try it. Be aware of expanding your comfort zone, by pushing the limits of what you can do. If you haven’t tried to tell a story with your images, you need to try it.
A mentor or coach can help push you towards your limits. If you don’t have a coach, you should set yourself tasks, where you know that you will fail a couple of times before getting it right.
Switch Between Genres of Photography
Don’t insist on shooting one particular genre all the time. In harsh light, it is not the time to pursue landscape photography. Wait until the golden hour or blue hour for shooting landscapes. Instead, head into the forest where you can find softer light or shade and do some macro or close-up photography instead. Or go to the city for some street photography. Learning to use the available light within the time you have will make you come away with more great shots. Switching between different genres in photography will help you develop as a photographer.
Becoming a better photographer takes time. But the great thing is that everybody can become a great photographer. It takes time and dedication. Think about world-class athletes. On average it takes 10,000 hours of practice to reach a world-class level for athletes, no matter whether they are a talent or not. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Step by step you can get there by doing one thing different today, that you didn’t do yesterday.
Do you have a particular method that helps you improve as a photographer, share it below?