I’m always looking for ways to improve my photography. I’m one of those people who always pushes the limits and tries new things. Recently, I’ve started watching other photographers while they work. It seems strange I know, but there are a lot of good things you can learn from watching someone else work. I promise it will improve your photography. Let me explain in more detail.
Observing is a key to understanding processes
Ask any scientist, especially those studying nature, how they learn about animals or natural processes, and they will tell you that the majority of their work involves observing animals and taking note of their behavior. You can do the same with other photographers. Just remember to ask for permission first, some may not enjoy your scrutiny.
Watch the photographer carefully. Look at how they approach a situation. Make a note of their actions and decisions. Their behavior might bring you some insight and add to your understanding of how to take photographs. Each person approaches a situation differently. Learn photographer behavior, analyze their actions and compare them to your own. Is there something you could do differently?
Observation can teach you what’s good and what’s not
If you are watching someone do a family portrait session, try to listen and take note of how they talk to the clients. Maybe they do something you’ve never thought of trying. It’s beneficial to watch experienced photographers work with clients. You can learn little tricks to help people relax or ways to get genuine smiles from folks.
There are also occasions to learn what you shouldn’t do with clients. I’ve seen photographers make mistakes and that’s also taught me a lot. It’s hard in those situations to stay quiet and continue to observe, but the experience is worth it. One photographer I watched was a highly experienced individual, he’d been shooting for 30 years and was a master photographer here in Canada. He made some pretty big mistakes when working with this one couple. Later he acknowledged it didn’t go well and I learned so much from that seasoned veteran.
Learn how to conquer physical limitations
Each of us is limited in some ways by our stature, our physical strength, and many other factors. Watching others can help you to learn how to cope. As a shorter photographer, I am often frustrated by the height of the boards when I shoot in hockey arenas. They obstruct my ability to get certain shots. It wasn’t until I worked with a woman who was much shorter than me that I learned how to conquer this limitation.
At barely five feet tall, I had three or four inches on her. Yet, she was able to get the shots I was missing by using a stool and she also took some pretty big risks and by standing right on the boards to capture certain images. She was quick, more like an acrobat when she was shooting. I watched her carefully and learned her technique. It has helped me to capture images I previously thought were unattainable.
Even amateurs can teach you something
As seasoned veterans, we sometimes get very stuck in our ways. We approach every project in the same way. Perhaps it’s not a conscious effort, but nonetheless, it happens. Watching someone with no experience try to tackle a challenge can help to bring a new perspective to a project. Kids are fantastic for this. They have this fresh ingenuity that can help to push us to new heights. They look at things in a different way.
It’s worth observing because who knows what you may learn. I once watched a child shoot a landscape scene, then they brought in an element of movement by propping the camera up against their shoe as they dropped a leaf into the scene. It was a beautiful moment of creativity. Take these instances and reflect on how it can help you to change your approach or to add something fresh to your work.
Continue to observe
There are so many ways to learn and grow as photographers. Observation is worth the time and effort. Approach others and ask politely. Some people may be very self-conscious, others won’t care. Make a trade offer to show them how you work and the things you do.
The highly experienced photographers, the grizzled old veterans are the best to approach. They often have no shame. So many of them have shrugged their shoulders when I’ve asked and said something along the lines of “Knock yourself out.” If you politely ask questions at the end of the shoot or during a break, you will find they open up more and get excited about your interest in their work. Give it a try and let us know how it goes.