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I recently asked this simple question on social media: “What do you think would help improve your photography?” Your answers prompted me to try to come up with some tips and possible solutions that could benefit everyone.
The number one answer was finding the time to go out and shoot more. Yes, we all wish that our days were a few hours longer or that we could function on less sleep… Let’s assume you cannot make any big changes to your schedule but you crave more time with your camera. Consider the following options:
Stuck in an office all day? Skip lunch at the cafeteria, bring a sandwich and your camera and spend your lunch break shooting! You will enjoy three immediate benefits: You will save money, get physical exercise, and exercise your vision! The more you shoot, the better you’re going to get. Shoot every day if possible!
Busy mom? Offer to swap childcare with another mom for a couple of hours here and there. If that is not an option, get creative and include your kids in your photo walks. If they are old enough to hold a camera, give them a cheap point and shoot and let them imitate mom!
Start a photo walk group! Schedule regular photo walks and be there! If it’s an early morning shoot and you’d rather stay in bed, you will have to get up because others are counting on you. As a result you’ll be happy you didn’t waste any more time in bed when you’re out experiencing the early morning sun with friends who share the same passion for photography.
Find ways to trim the fat in your weekly schedule. How much time do you spend on social media or watching TV? Can you cut a few minutes here and there? Those minutes add up to hours that could be spent behind the camera improving your craft.
Light was also a common answer. Yes, we all wish for perfect light every time we are out with a camera but limiting ourselves to shooting in perfect light will not help us grow. Try to take a different approach. There is no such thing as bad light. As long as there is light, there is opportunity to make amazing images. Make a habit of noticing the light around you, whether you have your camera or not. Soon you will start seeing potential in the most ordinary situations and realize that images are waiting to be made everywhere and at any time of the day. Also, keep in mind that the most adverse weather conditions are perfect for making the most beautiful images.
Most cameras come with an instruction manual… How many of you actually took the time to go through it? I’m guilty of that myself. I’m more hands-on, I learn best by experimenting. But before you can truly experiment, you need to know what aperture, ISO, shutter speed, white balance, exposure compensation, etc. actually mean. Start by opening the manual and take it one step at a time. Then Google search articles and tutorials to learn about each technical aspect of photography and practice as you learn. There has never been a better or easier time to learn. You can stay on the Digital Photography School site and learn everything you need to know about the technical aspects of photography. The important part is to pace yourself so that you don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed.
I was pleased that this was not the most common answer. Start saving but use what you have to its full potential in the meantime. Most photographers have gear lust but rarely outgrow their gear. Limiting yourself will help you grow until you can afford to get the camera and lenses of your dreams. By then you will also be better equipped to use it at its full potential. A new camera will not make you a better photographer. Period. To become a better photographer, you have to learn to see. It’s true that a more advanced – and expensive – camera system can improve your work, but only if you already know how to make great pictures with your current equipment.
Confidence comes with practice. Experiment with genres of photography that you never thought you’d enjoy shooting. Get out of your comfort zone to grow and gain confidence! Learning is something photographers do until they stop clicking that shutter. Embrace new techniques and technologies and don’t be afraid to fail. We learn best by trial and error, not trial and success!
Shooting the same subject over and over again? Seeing the same people, the same streets, the same scenery day in and day out? If an exotic vacation to perk up your pixels is not an option right now, you can still change the way you see your familiar surrounds and get excited about your regular photo walks by giving yourself a photo assignment!
A photo assignment is a self-driven project that can require one hour or several months – it’s your assignment, so it’s up to you! It’s a way to get out with your camera and hone your skills by challenging yourself. Most importantly, it’s a way to keep your passion for the craft fresh and alive!
Don’t quite your day job yet! Achieving success is hard work and no one becomes successful overnight. Okay, that can happen, but so is winning the lottery… It takes years to gain experience and to build a good reputation. Start your photography business on the side while keeping your full time job. This will give you the time to decide if that is really what you want to do full time, and you will find out if your work and your skills are good enough to sell. Set a goal for when you want to quit the day job and work toward that. You can always adjust that goal later.
This was not one of the top answers but it made me smile and I wanted to include it. I always say that photographers should date other photographers. We are definitely a breed of our own. My best friends are photographers and I can’t imagine ever getting tired of being in their company. You should schedule time for yourself to hang out with other photographers only. This can be done through photo walks in your town or even via Skype or Google Hangouts to share tips and ideas.
If your significant other is not a ‘photography nut’ like you, that’s okay too, just make sure you surround yourself with friends who are. What you should expect and deserve from non-photographer people in your life is support. You also have to be understanding and sensitive about the fact that they don’t share your passion and know when to leave the camera at home once in a while…
Please share your thoughts. If you ran into the same issues listed above, can you share tips that worked for you?