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Are you looking to improve your photography this year? Perhaps you want to take your skill level up a notch or even get into a business. If you are already in business, perhaps a more lucrative client roster is one of your goals. No matter where you are at, let’s make this year the year that we run toward our photography goals!
I have been at this photography thing for 9 years now and have found that there are specific disciplines I engage in that really propel my work forward. More often than not, the changes are not major but instead little things that make a difference for me. I am resolving this year to dive into these habits again and am sharing the 5 that I have found make the biggest impact with you!
Practice makes perfect and the more you pick up your camera, the more comfortable you will be with the buttons, menus, and functions that make your camera work for you. Even more, committing to photographing often helps you to see what scenes draw you in, what subjects interest you and can allow you to ‘read’ light more quickly. You may notice and develop patterns in your work that can become your style.
I have said this before, and I say it again, there is no such thing as bad light! Light is just different and learning to read light is an important skill to have if you want to improve your photography. You will find yourself getting excited to try out and photograph different lighting situations. The more you practice, the more comfortable you become with light.
Set a loose goal to shoot more often or engage in a project like the 365 Project or Project 52 that give you more concrete deadlines and expectations. Whatever it takes, make this year the year you take more pictures. Even consider sharing your work on social media to keep you on track. Hashtags like #365photos #project52 are great for inspiration and to keep a schedule.
If you are like me, sometimes it can feel strange to share photos when you are trying something new or experimenting with your photography. Will anyone like it and will they get it? Will they think you lack skills or judge your capabilities? Stop letting these voices of doubt hold you back. The truth of the matter is that sharing your work is a great way to get feedback and keeps you accountable when you are participating in a photography project.
You can share your work freely in many different ways. Sometimes it is as simple as opening a social media account and sharing your photos. Sometimes it is setting up a website and showcasing your work. Alternatively, it can even be as simple as printing a few of your photos and sharing them with your family and friends.
Putting yourself out there might feel scary, but it’s a great way to overcome your roadblocks and to grow.
I belong to a few different photography groups and forums. One of the biggest reasons that I advocate this is because it has given me a group of friends who understand me. When I talk photography lingo, they get it. If I am excited about the latest gear, they share in my excitement. When I am stumped about client work or even in a creative rut, they offer advice on how to get over it. Don’t get me wrong, I have a very supportive family, but I can only talk so much photography before their eyes glaze over, and they tune out.
Whether it is a local group of enthusiasts or an online group that is participating in a shared project, find the people who push you and encourage you to be a better photographer. Chances are, they will become more than just photography friends and will become friends that make life that much sweeter.
Getting your photos critiqued is a tough thing to do at times. However, if you take the stance that critiquing is getting objective feedback on what you see versus what others see is a great way to grow. When I first started, a photographer friend told me that she felt my photos were a second too late. Like I had just missed the crucial moment. It took me a bit to accept and react to that statement. Now it is something I remember and keep an eye out for when I take photos. Am I a second too late or did I accurately capture the moment?
If you have a chance to critique the work of others, do it. Critiquing the work of others helps train your eye to see things in your own work. The separation between yourself and the moment gives you a more objective view. It helps you to see flaws and successes in composition, light, and processing more clearly. Then, when you pick up your camera and photograph, you’ll know to pay attention to these things in your own work. However, remember when critiquing the work of others, be objective, be nice and more importantly be civil. The best critiques don’t tear someone down; they open doors to opportunities to improve.
Photographers are people too!
If you are not comfortable giving or receiving critiques (I hope you will be because it is a great way to grow), you can do self-critiques. Pick up magazines and make a note of what you like and what you don’t like.
The best part about photography is that there is no finish line. There is always something new to learn, and I am just not talking about technique. At a recent photo conference, I taught a class about travel photography and also took a class on food photography. I am a terrible cook and always wanted to try food photography. The instructor was amazing and made me realize that you don’t have to be a great cook to take amazing food photos (hello! Grocery store cheesecake!).
Also, the concepts on lighting, the rule of thirds, and the golden triangle are all the same across many genres of photography. There are no experts, and there is no final mastery of photography. Instead, it is an evolving art where there is always something to learn and always more to improve.
So this year, be intentional about learning something new to you. Whether it is technique, tool or craft, there are no dearth of options when it comes to learning something new in photography.
This year is going to be great, and I can’t wait to grow and improve alongside all of you.