The day we stop improving is the day we fail – as my personal motto goes. As photographers, we should always be learning. However, it is rather easy to get stuck when trying to improve your photography.
Between a mixture of personal expression and technical proficiency, photography can be a rather hard subject to critique. However, there are always things you can do to improve your photography.
Here is our list of six things you can start doing today to improve your photography.
Look at Other Photographers for Inspiration
This can be rather controversial. Some photographers misunderstand the advice and create blatant copies of the work they look at.
However, I still believe that observing the work of other photographers and artists is extremely important if you do it right. Even art students are often instructed to mimic or observe a specific artist’s work.
Learning from the masters is crucial in developing your skills, your style, and increasing your artistic sensitivity. As a photographer, you aren’t just limited to admiring the work of other photographers.
Due to the nature of our work, understanding composition, perspective, lighting, and concept are all fundamental facets of producing beautiful work.
You can learn all of this from going to museums and viewing historic artwork, art galleries and being privy to the work there, or even just a photographer show-and-tell and seeing what others in your field are doing.
You might get a new idea, begin to understand how certain things work together, and you might find new motivation to produce work you really like.
Sometimes, it’s even fun to try and figure out how a specific photograph was created, and in turn, learn a new technique.
My suggestion when looking at other photography work is to ask yourself the following key questions:
- What is it that I like about this?
- What is it that I dislike about this?
- Why did the artist make this choice?
- What makes this piece stand out?
All of this being said, being a copycat isn’t a good thing. There is a difference between being inspired and duplicating. Use your discretion and be careful not to “rip-off” another artist’s work. Instead, use what they did to create something unique of your own.
Get Photographed by a Professional Photographer
The best experience is taking a walk in someone else’s shoes. In this case, your subjects! An absolutely fantastic way to improve your work, especially if you’re a portrait photographer, is to become the subject to another professional photographer. I can speak from experience on how eye-opening this is.
For starters, customer service is vital for success for any business. For a photographer, part of the customer service experience is helping your subject feel comfortable, pose well, and enjoy the experience. Until you’ve actually been the client, your ideas on customer service are all theoretical.
It is well worth hiring a professional photographer for yourself to learn how they talk to their clients, the best way of explaining or showing poses, and what makes the experience fun (or not so fun!).
I gained major insights on how to direct my clients on posing when I was being posed by someone myself. I found that being in front of the camera was awkward and nerve-wracking, but a good photographer will alleviate all of those feelings and inspire confidence. This is what I strive for in my shoots, with the help of having tried it out myself!
As a bonus, it is always highly advised to have professional photographs of yourself. Clients love to see who they are hiring, and having pro head shots can really aid you.
Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
The biggest barrier to improvement is only ever doing what you know. How can you improve your photography skills if you never attempt something that you don’t know how to do?
Try to always step out of your comfort zone. This can sound daunting at first, but will improve your photography tremendously. At least you’ll learn what you like, what you dislike, what your strong suits are, and what your weak points are.
If you only shoot in natural light, try a studio setting! Vice versa, try some natural light if you’re an experienced studio photographer. Photograph dogs if you only photograph portraits, or photograph humans if you only work with animals.
If you feel like you’re out of ideas, try a monthly photography challenge. Plenty of websites and social media accounts host monthly photography challenges.
This is a great way to try something new, meet fellow photographers, and get inspired by others’ work.
Practice Making Ordinary Objects Extraordinary
A big challenge for photographers is finding ways to make the mundane look unique. This is an excellent way to improve your skills with little preparation or planning.
Practice photographing mugs, keys, hairbrushes, or anything of the like in brand new ways that make such objects look enticing.
As photographers, we have to make our images eye-catching to stand out from the herd. Practise with everyday objects first. Then apply what you’ve learned to whatever job you are doing.
Besides, product photography pays very generously – what if you develop a passion for it? You can build an entire portfolio in a single day! Definitely a winning situation there.
Shoot Every Single Day to Improve Your Photography Skills
Practice makes perfect, and you have to practice a lot. However, you’d be surprised at how little time you need to spend on it, as long as you do it consistently every day.
Whip out your camera every day, even for just five minutes, and you’ll be amazed at how much you improve your photography skills in a short period of time.
You want your equipment to feel like an extension of your arm. You should, in fact, get to the point where you don’t need to think twice about switching your settings or how you grasp the lens.
Practising everyday will help you get there faster.
Knowing that you have to practice photography everyday might also incite you to take your camera everywhere with you. This can result in some of the most phenomenal pictures in the world.
Photography really is all about being in the right place at the right time, and you never know what you might come across!
Using your camera every day can also help make the process more fun as you’ll be photographing something vastly different each time.
Tying into tip 3, encouraging yourself to step out of your comfort zone by taking your camera everywhere will let you kill two birds with one stone.
Learn Your Gear’s Limits
This is the most important tip as far as I’m concerned. Understanding your gear’s limitations will improve your photography tenfold. You’ll learn the best ways to use your equipment (or if you need to upgrade to new photography gear!).
You need to know how far you can push the tools at your disposal and what they’re best for. That way, you can always know what to count on.
And if your camera or lenses fall short, finding creative ways to work around the limitations is just as important.
There are two key ways to learn the maximum and minimum capabilities of your cameras and lenses.
First is learning about settings, components, and how they all work. A good way to learn about this is by referring to the user manuals. Another way is reading all you can about the technical aspects of photography.
Learn about ISO, shutter speed, aperture, white balance, noise, frames per second, and other such important concepts. Our Beginner’s Guide is a great starting point.
You will then have enough knowledge to be able to compare various models and lenses together and understand how they differ.
The other way is through trial and error. Consistently try and push your gear to its limits, or the limitations you assume it has. You can then see what your gear is capable of and what it isn’t!
For example, shoot at a very high ISO just to see what the noise level is. Try auto-focusing in low light to see whether the camera and lens is proficient at it or not.
You’ll soon be taking better pictures because you’ll know how to best work within the limits!
Now take these suggestions with you and turn your greatest photography aspirations into reality!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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