5 Surprising Habits That Will Make You a Better Photographer

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When you’re learning photography, it seems natural to pay the most attention to the gear and techniques you use to create images. You’ve probably received advice about developing great habits like photographing every day, carrying your camera everywhere you go, trying different compositions, learning processing skills, and backing up your photos. These things are important, no doubt! But there is more to becoming a better photographer than that.

Getting the shot often comes down to being there at the right time, so these tips have to do with getting out in the field and staying out in the field. If you cultivate these surprising habits, you’ll surely become a better photographer.

Canon Beach, Oregon, by Anne McKinnell - better photographer

#1 – Research Locations

Before you set off on your photo shoot, doing a little research can go a long way to making better images. First, think about what potential subjects are available. I like to create a Pinterest board and start collecting images I like from the location. Once you get an idea of what is there, how can you create images that are different from what you have seen? Is there a different perspective you want to check out? Or maybe a night shot? Don’t forget to take note of the direction of light in the images you see. Imagine what it would look like at a different time of day.

Once you get an idea of what is there, how can you create images that are different from what you have seen? Is there a different perspective you want to check out? Or maybe a night shot? Don’t forget to take note of the direction of light in the images you’ve seen. Imagine what it would look like at a different time of day.

Joshua Tree National Park, California, by Anne McKinnell - habits better photographer

This is the location where the Joshua Trees are the densest in Joshua Tree National Park, California.

The second part of your research should be looking at maps and figuring out where exactly the best subjects are located and how to get there. Is the location close to the road or will you have to hike there? How long will it take?

#2 – Watch the Weather

Keeping a close eye on the weather forecast will dramatically affect your photos. Remember, bad weather is usually a good thing for photography! Storms bring the potential for seeing dramatic clouds, wet leaves, and even rainbows. You’ll get photos with fewer people in them too.

Red Rock State Park, Sedona, Arizona by Anne McKinnell - habits better photographer

Waiting for a break in the weather resulted in this rainbow at Cathedral Rock, Arizona.

When I was visiting Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona, I noticed that there were a lot of people around and it was difficult to get a photo without a lot of tourists in it. Then it started to rain and everyone left. I waited in my truck for 45 minutes during the downpour. Mine was the only vehicle in the parking lot, and when the rain began to die down, I headed out and was rewarded with a beautiful rainbow. I had the location all to myself.

If a clear sky is in your forecast, instead of photographing your scene with a plain blue sky, you might have the potential for a great night shot.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to check when the sun rises and sets and when the moon rises and sets. If you’re going to be on the beach, tides are also important.

#3 – Carry Less Stuff

Whether you choose to go out with your camera and only one or two lenses or switch your whole system to a lightweight mirrorless system, you’ll undoubtedly find that you can hike farther and get to more remote locations with less weight on your shoulders. The potential for finding unique subjects and unique compositions increases the farther away you get from the beaten track.

Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas, by Anne McKinnell - habits better photographer

I don’t think I would have made it this far up the hill if I had carried all of my heavy gear.

#4 – Don’t Forget the Comfort Essentials

Despite the last tip about carrying less stuff, it’s equally essential that you carry the right stuff to allow you to stay out there longer. Anything that makes you uncomfortable in the field will probably cause you to leave earlier than otherwise.

Thirst, hunger, being cold or wet, getting bitten by bugs and looming darkness are just a few things that can make you leave a location too soon. A few things on my “always carry” list are food, water, rain jacket, sweater, bug spray, and a headlamp. These items will get you more potential shots than that extra lens.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona, by Anne McKinnell habit better photographer

I probably wouldn’t have this photo if it were not for my trusty headlamp that I used to make my way back through the cacti in the dark.

#5 – Hike With a GPS

Getting lost is one of my fears when I’m out exploring, so I have started hiking with a handheld GPS. It took me awhile to get used to it because it’s not the fancy kind with built-in maps. All I do is mark a waypoint where I park my truck and then it tracks me as I walk. No cell signal or internet required. I can always figure out the direction to get back to my waypoint, or even follow my tracks to go back using the exact route I took to go out. It’s worth it to carry a couple of extra batteries for it too.

Now that I have the GPS, I am more willing to go off the trail and explore new things. It’s a whole new level of freedom!

Bisti Badlands, New Mexico, by Anne McKinnell - habits better photographer

At Bisti Badlands, New Mexico, it is very easy to get lost with no trails and strange rock formations in every direction. My GPS was a lifesaver.

Conclusion

These tips should help you figure out where to go when to get there and make sure you are comfortable in the field so you can stay as long as you like to get that special shot. Sometimes photography is a waiting game, but if you are comfortable you can be patient and wait for the magic moment to happen.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Anne McKinnell is a photographer, writer and nomad. She lives in an RV and travels around North America photographing beautiful places and writing about travel, photography, and how changing your life is not as scary as it seems. You can read about her adventures on her blog and be sure to check out her free photography eBooks.

  • Carrying a GPS also allows you to geotag your photos. If you ever return to a destination, you can now easily retake photos under different weather or lighting conditions.

  • Khürt L. Williams

    I read the “Watch the Weather” section and thought to myself, “one more reason to watch the weather is so you don’t get caught in a flash flood”.

    https://weather.com/news/news/utah-flash-floods

  • Bonnie

    GPS can also let you preload waypoints and navigate to them. Before we went to Bisti last year, I researched different spots I wanted to see and loaded the waypoints onto my handheld GPS. It made it much easier to find what I was looking for on location. You can also use apps like GaiaGPS for navigation if you don’t want to invest in a handheld GPS unit.

  • I get the job done from comfort and ease of my house, through very simple projects that simply requires from you a PC and additionally on-line connection and I am just more satisfied than before… After 6 months during this task and managed to get paid out overall 36,000 usd… Basically I acquire almost eighty bucks/hr and work for 3 to 4 hours time on daily basis.And terrific factor relating to this work is usually that you can control time and effort at the time you get the job done and for how long as you like and you achieve a check a week.—–>>>> learn by clicking here how to do it right now

  • Paul LeSage

    Good article, good tips and good photos, Anne. Getting “lost in the woods” or desert is not a fun way to end a photo trek. Good to see your articles back

  • If your trip is to an urban location, google street view is a great tool to do research with. I’ve used it to learn locations for trips to Europe and Asia and do preliminary scouting.

  • I get the job done from comfort and ease of my house, through effortless projects that normally requires from you a Computer system in addition to connection to the web and I am satisfied than ever… After 6 months during this work and therefore i obtained compensated totally Thirty six Thousand usd… Generally I acquire around 80 bucks/hour and also work for 3 to 4 hours daily.And tremendous factor relating to this job is usually that you can supervise time whenever you do the job and for just how long as you prefer and you get a paycheck a week.—–>>>> learn by clicking here how to do it right now

  • I love these tips. Such a different approach to becoming a better photographer. I love your tip about the weather. Waiting out the rain can really give you an advantage and unique skies… and for sure taking the items that will keep you comfortable for longer.

    Monashee | Photo Consultant

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