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20 Ways to Improve Your Photography by Improving Yourself

Sometimes what holds us back in photography is not a lack of “know how” or new gear, but not growing anymore as people. Before you try to improve your photography with a new camera or lens, try working on some weak part of your personality. Once you’ve improved yourself as a person, you’ll make much better use of that new camera or lens!

Whether you’re an amateur or professional, here are 20 personality problems to tackle that can help you grow as a photographer.

Golden hour photography of kids sledding in the snow

Imagine if adults kept growing at the rate toddlers do. One day they’re watching the big kids play, and then suddenly they’ve figured it out for themselves.

1. Stop being lazy – accomplish something big

If you always have a nagging feeling that you should be accomplishing more, then now is the time to do it. Instead of letting half-baked ideas and almost-finished projects pile up, get something completed.

It’s so easy to be lazy. That’s the danger. Accomplishing great things takes work, but being lazy doesn’t.

You can spend hours scrolling through photos that other photographers have taken, always lusting over their projects. Or, you can get off the couch to finish one of your own projects.

Before long, you’ll look back and see a trail of finished work.

2. Don’t work so hard

Maybe you’re the opposite of lazy. Maybe you can’t stop working. Suppose you run a photography business and feel a lot of guilt about missing so much family time. You must stop working a bit and pay attention to the other important things in your life.

When you make more time for friends and family and a little bit of downtime, you’ll grow in your creativity and do greater things when you get back to work.

Expand your relationships and life experiences and you’ll bring a much deeper version of yourself to your work.

Cut back on the hours you work by eliminating tasks that are not essential to your projects or business.

Candid photo of a toddler reading books.

Workaholics could schedule some time into their week to relax with a book. Expand yourself with a thrilling novel or good “how to” book.

3. Get organized

Begin to de-clutter and simplify your life. For example, do you just dump all your photos onto a hard drive or leave them floating around the cloud? You need to get those photos organized.

Get all your photos into one place and get them sorted out.

If you’re a project photographer, them sort them by year and by the project.

If you take a lot of photos every day or every week, I highly recommend sorting them by date.

The system I use is simple.

  • All photos go into a monthly folder
  • The monthly folders go into a yearly folder
  • All yearly folders go into one main folder labeled Photos

When your photos are organized you can begin to sift through them, print them, and enjoy them.

When your photos are in one place it is easy to back them up and know they’re safe.

4. Embrace a little chaos

Perhaps you are so orderly in life that you can’t stand any chaos.

Maybe you’re a photographer who can’t stand dealing with toddlers or people with strong personalities. You need to get out of your comfort zone and embrace a little chaos. Let the toddlers run wild a bit, maybe you’ll notice some great candid moments when you’re not asserting so much control.

Instead of meticulously planning every detail of your life, leave some things to chance. Allow for surprising spontaneity and see where it takes you.

Candid photography of a toddler exploring

Those white pants were so clean when we left the house! Toddlers are agents of chaos. But they’re exploring their world and learning so much.

5. Be more kind

Does your mouth lack a filter? Do you boast that you don’t care about people’s feelings? Are you always annoyed with your clients and don’t mind telling them so?

I recommend you work on being more polite. It’s going to be difficult, but try biting your tongue once in a while.

Don’t be a troll, leaving nasty comments on photography websites. When you say things kindly, your words might help somebody to improve themselves.

Practice saying one thing to every client or photographer in your life that would build them up. When you learn to help others grow, you grow deeply too.

6. Don’t let people walk all over you

Don’t misunderstand the nature of kindness by letting people take advantage of you.

If you’re a photographer in business, you must make people respect your talent, time and prices. Your work is worth something (perhaps more than you think).

Sure, you’ve got a heart of gold. But wake up and see that letting people take advantage of you does nothing to help them.

Image: When the kids get sick it always throws a wrench into our plans. But sometimes those sick day...

When the kids get sick it always throws a wrench into our plans. But sometimes those sick days are gateways to something new. We discover something more of their personality or spend the day reading books or listening to stories together. Sometimes, when something ruins our plans it leads to something better.

7. Volunteer

If you know that compassion is a weak point for you, then you should volunteer your photography skills. Go out and work for free, blessing a family or charity who would be thrilled by your offer to help. You might even enjoy the experience!

8. Compassion has some limits

Many photographers suffer burnout in their photography business. One of the main reasons is that they charge too little for their services. When you charge too little, you have to work too much to make a decent living. You will burn out.

Charge a price that is fair to you and your client, not just fair for them. Don’t feel like you have to give everyone discounts. And don’t listen to those few people who will tell you your prices are too high.

Balance good business and your own photography pursuits with some compassion for those who are truly in need.

Toddler portrait with shoes on the wrong feet

Toddlers always put their shoes on the wrong feet!

9. Learn to accept stress without snapping

Do you find yourself constantly snapping in anger or wanting to cry about stress?

You need to learn to accept difficult things more gracefully. It might not be easy. When everything in you wants to snap, restraint takes strength.

Begin by understanding that not everything is worth freaking out over, even though you may feel like it. Often, your initial feelings tell you how to act, and snapping has become a habit.

When you feel volatile feelings rising up, stop and think about them. Is this the best response?

Walk away from dramatic situations and wait to respond when you are at peace.

You’ll find it much easier to deal with criticism of your photography, difficult clients and unruly subjects.

10. Recognize that sometimes your emotions deceive you

Do you feel like crying or throwing up when you think a client has ripped you off or somebody says they hate their photos?

It’s tough to get bad news. But what if you could receive that news without the flood of overwhelming negative emotions? You can make peace with those clients more easily when your emotions are not raging. Sometimes the situation isn’t even half as bad as your emotions are telling you.

Make yourself calm down before you talk with clients or people who upset you. You can overcome overwhelming emotions.

Get toddlers to engage with the camera by playing games with them.

Drawn to the camera in a game of peekaboo.

11. Go out and meet people

Being introverted is not a bad thing, but being very withdrawn is. Spending time on your own is fine, but hating to be around people isn’t a good thing.

You can’t make the most of life on your own. You’ll grow as a photographer when you spend more time with people.

If you’re awkward around people, try acting like an extrovert. Just pretend you love people. Strike up conversations and take an interest in those around you. Before you know it, you’ll be more confident and less withdrawn.

Even if you’re a landscape or wildlife photographer, you’ll benefit from friendships and relationships with other photographers. You can even expand your photography by including people in your landscape and wildlife photos.

12. Most people are not thinking bad things about you

If you’re always worried about what people think about you, you should know this; they’re not thinking about you!

Most people don’t think bad things about you and most people don’t spend much time thinking of you at all.

Resist whatever thoughts you have that scare you about people.

If street photography is your thing, don’t be afraid to actually approach people on the street for a portrait. You’ll be nervous, but your imagination is probably playing tricks on you.

Candid photo of a toddler hiding

13. Be more assertive

If you’re too afraid to take control of your portrait sessions then you need to grow in your assertiveness. Perhaps you love waiting for candid moments, but maybe you’re more afraid to step in and tell people what to do.

People like a certain amount of assertiveness. Most people prefer that you take some control.

14. Don’t be a control freak

Being assertive is a great quality unless you overdo it! You can be so assertive that you don’t let other people be themselves. Your portrait clients like knowing that you’re confident and in control, but they don’t like it when you won’t listen to them and work with their ideas.

Humorous toddler portrait

He thinks he’s so funny stealing my seat every time I get up!

15. Cheer up!

You will go through periods when you just don’t feel the love toward photography that you used to. That’s okay. But the best way to get out of that slump is to act like you love it. Go through the motions of loving it. Don’t act like your photography work is drudgery.

16. Don’t jump on every opportunity!

You can be way too enthusiastic about photography, jumping on every opportunity that comes along.

You can buy every piece of gear, accept every job, and take on every project. But committing to everything will be committing to too much.

Slow down and only commit to what you’re best at or what you want to learn about most.

Candid portrait of a toddler

Dropping fistfuls of sand on himself, he hasn’t got a care in the world.

17. Go explore

Do you feel so insecure about things that you avoid new situations? If you haven’t experienced anything new in a while, you need to go and explore.

Find new landscapes. Meet new people. Try a different art form.

18. Reflect on what you’ve explored

If you’re constantly exploring and discovering new things it might be time that you stop and do some reflecting. What are you discovering through all this exploration? What are you learning about yourself, other people and the world around you? How has your photography improved? How might you improve more?

20 Ways to Improve Your Photography by Improving Yourself

19. Read a book about a photographer

Maybe you know everything about every photography technique out there, but nothing about the heart of photography. Maybe you know little about the deeply human part of photography.

Go to the library and grab a biography of some photographer to read. Learn about the life experiences that led to their work and techniques.

20. Flesh out your ideas in a photo

If you love ideas and are constantly reading, try bringing some of those ideas to life through photos.

Funny toddler portrait

Sometimes I’m not just capturing moments. I’m trying to capture moments that express something about my subject. What’s the nature of a toddler? What are the ideas about toddler-hood that could be captured in a photo?

Choose 2-3 ways to improve yourself as a photographer

You’ve just read 20 ways to improve yourself that will also help you grow as a photographer. Choose 1 of these things to work on over the next few weeks or 2-3 things that you can work on over the year. As you grow as a person, you’ll grow as a photographer too.

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Mat Coker
Mat Coker

is a family photographer from Ontario, Canada. He teaches photography to parents and families, showing them how to document their life and adventures. You can get his free photography ebook, and learn more about taking creative photos.

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