10 Ways to Become a Better Photographer this Year

10 Ways to Become a Better Photographer this Year

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Let’s face it, it’s the new year. Your heart is full of hope and your head is bursting with ideas on what you want to do this year, be a better photographer, and how you will go about executing it. You have so much hope in your heart that you will achieve your all your goals, that you walk around with a goofy smile plastered on your face!

Am I right or am I right?

10 tips to become a better photographer

Here is a bouquet of stunning florals to wish you a happy new year!

Let’s start the year right with a few simple, easy yet powerful things you can do if one of your goals is to become a better photographer in the next 12 months.

1. Rock the gear you currently own without buying more

Do you feel limited by the gear you own? Are you telling yourself you really need to upgrade your camera, lens or both? Great! you are exactly where I need you to be.

Challenge yourself to use your existing gear consistently for a few weeks or months. Try to get creative with what you already have instead of hitting purchase on that gear that is sitting in your cart or Amazon checkout.

10 tips to become a better photographer

I had no telephoto lens on hand to get some close-ups of these birds…so instead, I used negative space and rule of thirds to take a creative approach to this image.

2. Photograph in every possible lighting situation

I really believe there is no such thing as bad light. Light is light – it is just different at different times of the day and night. One of the best ways to understand light is to photograph in different lighting situations and challenge yourself to create something unique and different that you are proud of.

Each lighting situation will demand different things from you and your gear. Harsh midday sun will have you rethinking shadows and light. Early morning light or golden hour will have you thinking of ways to create magical images that highlight that golden light. Blue hour may challenge you to bring out the external flash so you can get creative with colors.

Use this exercise to really understand and make the most out of each scenario.

10 tips to become a better photographer

 3. Treat every subject as a rock star

Not every subject is going to be your ideal client. Until you are in a position to only attract your ideal clients, use every opportunity to work towards building your portfolio for your ideal clients. Each client deserves to be treated like they are rock stars. So it is your duty as a photographer to give them the best experience possible – be it in posing, editing, styling or general customer service.

10 tips to become a better photographer

My morning cup of tea and a simple kitchen towel was my subject matter as I practiced still life photography This image is one of the more popular ones on my social media – people really seem to gravitate to light and clean images at times.

 4. Deliberately limit yourself

Today’s DSLR cameras are quite sophisticated pieces of equipment with multiple shutter clicks per second (continuous) and creative photographic modes (Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority) that do a lot of the work for you.

Instead of using those, I challenge you to limit yourself. Think like a film camera photographer and only use 24 or 36 frames to tell your story. Change to Manual mode and try to figure out how shutter speed, IS, and aperture really work to help you take more control of your photography.

10 tips to become a better photographer

I love photographing with a film camera on vacation. It really helps me maintain a good balance between having a vacation and taking pictures because I only have a limited amount of frames to use.

 5. Take an art class

This has nothing to do with photography, yet at the same time, it has everything to do with it. Sometimes stepping away from the thing that we love the most or obsess about can be a really good thing. I have found art, particularly drawing and painting, to be very therapeutic and relaxing. It also gives me a chance to look at creativity with a new lens. As I analyze shapes, sizes and brush strokes – I look at color, patterns and composition in a new light.

6. Study your camera’s manual

I remember taking a technical writing class in graduate school where we had to create a user manual for a product. It was one of the hardest classes I have ever taken because we really had to think as a layman user to design, craft and write the manual. It made me realize that manuals, if done correctly, are incredibly powerful learning tools because they really break down every aspect of the product individually as well as collectively. So don’t be so quick to throw away the camera manual – it might be just the thing you need to really understand the workings of your camera.

7. Use a traditional film camera

10 tips to become a better photographer

Medium format camera love, one of only 16 frames per roll. I love the way medium format film renders colors and tones.

This ties in to point number four above. A film camera is a great way to learn the manual mode of photography because it really makes you think about light, exposure, ISO, and aperture to produce a good, clean image. Also, there is no chimping at the back of the camera screen so you really have to slow down and think of the photo you are trying to produce and then click the shutter.

You have a limited amount of frames per film role and have the additional cost of developing and scanning your pictures at the end of the day. All these factors make you a more intentional photographer as opposed to a “spray and pray” photographer (one who takes several pictures in automatic mode and hopes that at least one will work in his/her favor).

8. Study the work of other photographers

I am sure you have a lot of photographers that you really look up to for various reasons – how they compose, how they handle difficult lighting situations, how they interact with their subjects or even how they run successful photography businesses. Follow them, study how they do things, figure out what makes them tick and how they succeed, and use those ideas to reflect in your own road to improving your photography.

10 tips to become a better photographer

Last summer in Rome I really practiced using a lot of negative space in my cityscapes. Sometimes just a hint of a popular landmark is needed to give a sense of place.

9. Experiment with new techniques

Contrary to popular belief, I feel that photography is not something that you can study in a limited amount of time and then say you are an expert in this field. The field is constantly evolving and expanding and there is always something new to learn.

Become a student no matter what your level of experience and be open to learning new and exciting things in this art of form. It is sure to bring forth much progress in your craft overall.

10 tips to become a better photographer

Triple frame shot on medium format film during an editorial shoot to showcase busyness!

10. Evaluate your own work with a critical eye

Really think about what the work you are producing. Before asking for critiques, refer back to your work and figure out what you like and don’t like in your own work. Chances are you will find several things to add to that list.

Also don’t be quick to delete photos you may not like right now. Wait for a few days to look back and assess all your images. You are more likely to find some new favorites among photos that you previously thought were not correct or worthwhile.

Conclusion

I hope these 10 tips really helped shift your mindset a little bit towards your photography. Hold on tight to that feeling of being invincible that often comes with the new year and use it to the best of your abilities to better your skill and craft.

Tell us about your photography goals for this year in the comments below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Karthika Gupta is a lifestyle, wedding, and travel photographer based in the Chicago area. Her images are fun, fresh and natural and her love for nature makes it way into most of her images. She also has a Free Travel Photography Demystified E-Course a 5-Day video series to help you improve your travel photography.

  • Patchy

    How do you treat a coffee mug or a bouquet of flowers as rock stars?

  • In the context of those particular shots, they are 🙂 – Still life photos can be of everyday objects too

  • Thank you for the time you spent in giving us great advice! I am looking forward to 2018! I agree, we all need to learn more and constantly pursue “new” ways of capturing our subject(s). Better/more gear does not usually solve my quest for “better” like I “think” it will…learning lighting and creativity while using the gear I have has produced “better” results. I really love your photos and how “clean” they are. Negative space is not negative! This photo below could have been better lit, but still one of my faves. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4e039b1f4da125bb55250b36b7228d2e1eef0d99ed0236b5830108bb1e924dc5.jpg

  • Tom Cooper

    Many times when a photographer is anxious for a new piece of gear they think they need to improve their photography, what they really need is to go shoot something. Nothing – and I mean absolutely nothing – will improve your photography more than practicing.

    Now go back over the article and notice that all of the suggestions are just ideas to motivate you to go out and try to take good photos. Get off the couch, shut down YouTube, walk away from the web, and go shoot something!

  • Jore Puusa

    I´d say the main things are missing.
    1. Stop photography for a year and read everything You can. Novels, poetry etc. Then think.
    2. Imagine things and start drawing – no matter if You can or cannot. Just draw things no-one ever has done.
    3. Lay on your back and watch the clouds and tell someone what You see.
    4. After a year You may not want to start to shoot again but if You do You will be a much more innovative person.
    And remember – do not look at SOME, Instagram etc. Be Yourself. You learn only to plagiarize other in social media.
    Cameras are meaningless. any modern camera can do more than You ever need. Gear is just a light tight box with a hole in it. Your inner ideas are what means and that way You differ from others.

    Jore Puusa
    Helsinki, Finland

  • Jore Puusa

    Nothing – and I mean absolutely nothing – will improve your photography more than practicing.
    ———————
    If You mean continuous taking pictures – I could not disagree more.
    I´ve been teaching photojournalism for 25 years. Based on that knowledge, I ´ll say that:
    “First comes the reading and the sophistication, without those one could be shooting the same picture for ages and…become just bored”. Stunning pictures need sensitivity which begins with understanding, which begins with civilization.

  • Tom Cooper

    Look up “practice.” Someone who is shooting the same thing over and over is not practicing, they are demonstrating symptoms of insanity.

    Oh, and read the article. Virtually EVERYTHING in it is about practice.

  • pete guaron

    What a wonderful article, Karthika – I can only add one little comment – more like an addendum to one of yours. In your section 10, on evaluating our own work – you describe what I do – but not how I go about doing it. To do what you suggest, I always print my photos – not “all” of them, obviously there will be instantly recognised duds to throw out and some that are left won’t quite make the cut – but it’s during the printing process that the final cut is made. Even to the point of trying a print of some photos before sighing, and thinking “no – not that one”. And it’s during this process that I complete the evaluation of my work – without printing my photos, I don’t believe that I would be able to fully evaluate them, and I would miss the learning opportunity that I get out of printing them.

  • Jore puusa

    Oh, and read the article.

    I did, that`s why I comment.
    I see no idea in practicing the cam. Anyways it`s a box only. It takes two weeks to master those buttons but a lifetime to learn to think visually.

  • Armando Bargas

    use beautiful natural lighting, surround everyday items with flowers or other accents to create a natural looking frame or make that subject pop.. capture the smoke from fresh coffee or tea, minimize distractions if needed..

  • Armando Bargas

    Very good tips, My favorites #2 & #3.. shooting a varietys allows you to note differences in settings, provided lights, angles etc, while #3 challenges your creativity to turn something mundane into a eye catching subject.. Thanks for this!!

  • Tom Cooper

    Thanks, that proves my point. You will never learn to think visually by watching YouTube or reading articles on the web. Go out there and shoot. If you have to, use the excuses in the article to go out there and shoot.

  • Tom Cooper

    I suggested nothing about “practicing the cam.” That statement reminds me of trying to be a better player by looking at the ball.

    Practice photography. It can make you a better photographer. Just like playing baseball can make you a better baseball player. You won’t get better at either by watching Youtube.

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