What Would Help Improve Your Photography?

What Would Help Improve Your Photography?

I recently asked this simple question on social media: “What do you think would help improve your photography?” Your answers prompted me to try to come up with some tips and possible solutions that could benefit everyone.


The number one answer was finding the time to go out and shoot more. Yes, we all wish that our days were a few hours longer or that we could function on less sleep…  Let’s assume you cannot make any big changes to your schedule but you crave more time with your camera. Consider the following options:

Stuck in an office all day? Skip lunch at the cafeteria, bring a sandwich and your camera and spend your lunch break shooting! You will enjoy three immediate benefits: You will save money, get physical exercise, and exercise your vision! The more you shoot, the better you’re going to get. Shoot every day if possible!

Busy mom? Offer to swap childcare with another mom for a couple of hours here and there. If that is not an option, get creative and include your kids in your photo walks. If they are old enough to hold a camera, give them a cheap point and shoot and let them imitate mom!

Start a photo walk group! Schedule regular photo walks and be there! If it’s an early morning shoot and you’d rather stay in bed, you will have to get up because others are counting on you. As a result you’ll be happy you didn’t waste any more time in bed when you’re out experiencing the early morning sun with friends who share the same passion for photography.

Find ways to trim the fat in your weekly schedule. How much time do you spend on social media or watching TV? Can you cut a few minutes here and there? Those minutes add up to hours that could be spent behind the camera improving your craft.

TIME was the number one answer to my question “What do you think would help improve your photography?”

Perfect light

Light was also a common answer. Yes, we all wish for perfect light every time we are out with a camera but limiting ourselves to shooting in perfect light will not help us grow. Try to take a different approach. There is no such thing as bad light. As long as there is light, there is opportunity to make amazing images. Make a habit of noticing the light around you, whether you have your camera or not. Soon you will start seeing potential in the most ordinary situations and realize that images are waiting to be made everywhere and at any time of the day. Also, keep in mind that the most adverse weather conditions are perfect for making the most beautiful images.

Learning the settings on my camera

Most cameras come with an instruction manual… How many of you actually took the time to go through it? I’m guilty of that myself. I’m more hands-on, I learn best by experimenting. But before you can truly experiment, you need to know what aperture, ISO, shutter speed, white balance, exposure compensation, etc. actually mean. Start by opening the manual and take it one step at a time. Then Google search articles and tutorials to learn about each technical aspect of photography and practice as you learn. There has never been a better or easier time to learn. You can stay on the Digital Photography School site and learn everything you need to know about the technical aspects of photography. The important part is to pace yourself so that you don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed.

Better gear

I was pleased that this was not the most common answer. Start saving but use what you have to its full potential in the meantime. Most photographers have gear lust but rarely outgrow their gear. Limiting yourself will help you grow until you can afford to get the camera and lenses of your dreams. By then you will also be better equipped to use it at its full potential. A new camera will not make you a better photographer. Period. To become a better photographer, you have to learn to see. It’s true that a more advanced – and expensive – camera system can improve your work, but only if you already know how to make great pictures with your current equipment.

Confidence and more learning

Confidence comes with practice. Experiment with genres of photography that you never thought you’d enjoy shooting. Get out of your comfort zone to grow and gain confidence!  Learning is something photographers do until they stop clicking that shutter. Embrace new techniques and technologies and don’t be afraid to fail. We learn best by trial and error, not trial and success!

A trip

Shooting the same subject over and over again?  Seeing the same people, the same streets, the same scenery day in and day out? If an exotic vacation to perk up your pixels is not an option right now, you can still change the way you see your familiar surrounds and get excited about your regular photo walks by giving yourself a photo assignment!

A photo assignment is a self-driven project that can require one hour or several months – it’s your assignment, so it’s up to you!  It’s a way to get out with your camera and hone your skills by challenging yourself. Most importantly, it’s a way to keep your passion for the craft fresh and alive!

Quitting my full time job

Don’t quite your day job yet! Achieving success is hard work and no one becomes successful overnight. Okay, that can happen, but so is winning the lottery…  It takes years to gain experience and to build a good reputation. Start your photography business on the side while keeping your full time job. This will give you the time to decide if that is really what you want to do full time, and you will find out if your work and your skills are good enough to sell. Set a goal for when you want to quit the day job and work toward that. You can always adjust that goal later.

Living with a photographer 24/7

This was not one of the top answers but it made me smile and I wanted to include it. I always say that photographers should date other photographers. We are definitely a breed of our own. My best friends are photographers and I can’t imagine ever getting tired of being in their company. You should schedule time for yourself to hang out with other photographers only. This can be done through photo walks in your town or even via Skype or Google Hangouts to share tips and ideas.

If your significant other is not a ‘photography nut’ like you, that’s okay too, just make sure you surround yourself with friends who are. What you should expect and deserve from non-photographer people in your life is support. You also have to be understanding and sensitive about the fact that they don’t share your passion and know when to leave the camera at home once in a while…

Please share your thoughts. If you ran into the same issues listed above, can you share tips that worked for you?

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Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! I am also thrilled to be an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram. And listen to my Podcast!

Some Older Comments

  • Michael Jan Jackson February 13, 2013 10:53 am

    I always try to arrange a photo shoot with the perfect light situation but some of my best images have been a result of taking photos at times when I knew the light was a problem. Learn to use the light you are given. It has made me a better photographer.

  • Wayne C February 10, 2013 07:30 am

    You bet! Always carry a camera.
    day you don't will me the day the Martians land right in front of you!

  • Guigphotography February 9, 2013 11:58 pm

    So much good advice in the article and responses. A few months ago I'd have said some lighting as well, but I've been working hard on coping with what's available (until budget allows some investment). I'm still learning but it's reaping rewards by trying things out and definitely learning from mistakes!

  • harrywalson February 9, 2013 02:50 pm

    I find many useful things herewithPhotographs and pictures of sun

  • Lori February 9, 2013 04:25 am

    When people have come to me for tips on improving their photography, my standard answer is take a composition drawing class if at all possible. It's the best way I know to train your eyes to see. Snapping away with a new camera is exciting, but spending several hours on a charcoal rendering forces you to slow down and really look.

  • christodoss February 9, 2013 04:15 am

    I am greatly benefitted reading these articles. Photography really has become an obsession. But one needs to practice patiently all through life . Knowing your equipment is aother very important thing to get the best from your camera. Keep clicking and you become a satisfied photographer. The aim is not to become a professional but to get the appreciation of fellow enthusiasts that pushes you miles forward!

  • David Sargent February 9, 2013 02:48 am

    Great tips. I also like that getting better gear wasn't on the top. I've been shooting for almost 2 years with my first DSLR and still find new potential for it all the time. It wasn't just a want for better looking photographs that got me looking for better gear now, but a multitude of other demands. I have paid shoots and models traveling a couple hours (and I live in michigan so that's a big deal this time of year) to come shoot with me, and as that demand grows, I have to match up to something of an expectation of equipment for them if I want to stay up on my game. Yeah, it takes saving for a while, but it's worth it when you're at the point when you are delivering high quality images with great perspectives, but just need that extra push, those faster read-and-writes, more light and less grain.
    Currently using a Sony Alpha a55: 18-250 telephoto, 30mm Macro
    Upgrading next month to the a65, with an additional 50mm 1.8 prime.
    On top of that I've even opened up another option for my clients and ordered a portrait studio kit to do shoots inside my home (where it's warm) and try something new for myself.

    I can't say it's ALL in the shooter, but nor can I say, it's ALL in the gear. It's varying combinations of both.

  • Dave February 9, 2013 02:27 am

    I'm surprised that "seeing the photograph" isn't listed. I'm a full-time photographer, I have no other job. I'm out taking photographs pretty much every day. But what I find often when I get back to my computer and load the images, is they look awfully similar to scene I shot just a few days ago. I find I have to get myself out of a "comfortable zone". I just need to be more creative, spend more time and look at things a little differently each time.

  • Marcos Loyola R. February 9, 2013 12:30 am

    Quitting my full time job would be wonderfull, but without my job i wouldn't have budget to buy gear...

    I usually use a 5D MKIII or a 7D, but they are too heavy or use too much space, so I always have a light Point and Shoot with me. When i see some interesting scenary I come back with my big guns.

    I always try to see pictures every time i have some free time between patinet and patient, in blogs of 500px or flickr... that help to feed my inspiration.

  • Jeb B. February 9, 2013 12:16 am

    I would strongly recommend that any photographer developing their craft become very familiar with digital development software like Photoshop or Aperture, as well as software which organizes and smooths out your workflow such as Lightroom. Knowing how to efficiently and creatively alter or develop information at the computer can exponentially enhance your ability to produce interesting images.

  • Scottc February 8, 2013 10:08 am

    #1 is definitely the main "excuse", even with 13 hour work days I know I could shoot more if I'd just put the effort into it.

    I built a light box for those "end of the day" projects, just don't use it enough. Making the time is what we have to do.


  • Thinkeye February 8, 2013 08:58 am

    My personal list:

    - I want to SEE what I am looking at.

    - I always want to KNOW what I am doing.

    - Every day I want to LEARN something new.

  • Al February 8, 2013 07:38 am

    I have just gotten back into photography in the last two years, after retiring. I never had much time before due to insane work schedules, but still had the interest.
    I had saved some money and bought a new camera and lenses to get going. Now my wife accuses me of going on a photo shoot every time we go out. I have to say dong this, practice makes perfect, my photos are improving. I have done much reading and getting proficient with the features on the camera. As was said above about seeing light, form, and composition in a different way does happen. I look at the world around me in a different light now.

  • Mary February 8, 2013 07:37 am

    On the matter of time...
    Carry a camera with you - always. Make it part of your life. It does not have to be your fancy camera, it can be a point and shoot, or cellphone. Then you are always ready, always able to make an image, and you don't have to "go out and shoot." Moments only happen once.

  • Robin February 8, 2013 06:38 am

    I use my camera all the time! At lunch I take a break from work and do some shots and then sometimes in the morning on my way I get some great shots. It is great to have the different seasons, lighting and also a chance to document change in our community. I did a couple's picture for their christmas card this year and they loved it! I hope it's just the beginning!

  • Nancy B February 8, 2013 05:48 am

    Very interesting points that hit the nail on the head for me. Thank you Valérie. Now for Naz's comments : very interesting as well but, no offense or sarcasm intended, you might want to proofread next time because that dyslexic text made my eyes hurt :-)

  • Liz February 8, 2013 05:46 am

    I love your advise: "A new camera will not make you a better photographer. Period. To become a better photographer, you have to learn to see"

  • John February 8, 2013 05:40 am

    One benefit(???) of a non-photographer spouse or friend is that they will always ooooogle over your photo's (hopefully not drool on them or the camera).

  • Naz February 8, 2013 04:49 am

    I'm very surprised that 'learnign composition' and 'learnign the craft' aren't lsited- The masters of photography didn't becoem masters simply by devoting more time to shooting- They became masters by learnign their craft inside and out- just like artists do- Henri Cartier Bresson it is said, woudl scout a location- study that location, find theexact right geometrical composition at that location, and set the camera up and wait for someoen to be in just the right spot- soemtimes waitign for hours- before he 'banged the shutter' at the precise moment- He knew geometry inside and out, and all his photos are arranged aroudn precise geometric patterns and diagonals and triangles and rectangles- ther'es nothign hsaphazzard abotu his photos- He knew his craft inside and out- and he is famous for saying that he couldn't care less about things liek processing, or multiple lenses- he mostly used a 50 mm lens I beleive-

    Newton, Franke- etc- all used precise compositions, and hteir works stand heads above other's works- Learning composition 'beyond hte simplistic 'rule of thirds' should be top of thel ist in my opinion- Soem might argue 'there are no rules' but I woudl argue, that only applies to htose who have mastered the rules and know how to break those rules correctly'- Many photographers have stated, a millimeter or two can either make or break a photo- and they are3 right- the wrong angle, the wrong composition, not paying attention to the background, to clutter, to chaos within the scene, can all make or break a photo- but composition is one of the biggies- A lot of reviews doen by pro photographers who look at amature's photos, often will say, this is a great scene, but had you moved a foot to the right, and lowered your angle of shot, or raised your angle, looking down on the scene, or whatever, the photo woudl have taken on a whole new life' or soemthign to htat effect-

    The reason I go on abotu composition is that especially in portrait photograqphy, composition is critical- and learnign how to pose your subject is also critical (but this is also linked to composition- composing hte arms, hands etc, so that they are pelasing to view, and don't look awkward)- Composing hte l ight jjust right etc- These are all thigns that can be taught (I think there's been several articles here on positioning models or subjects for compelling poses)

    The arty of teachign composition is not an easy thing- many great photographers just don't seem to be able to put to words how they compose their shots- I've seen only a very few really good articles or books describing sound composition (I'm talkign composition beyond hte 'rule of thirds'- The 'rule of thirds' is far too easy to describe, advanced composition however seems to be much harder to put to words for some)

    I persoanlly believe that if we can learn and master compostion, our photography will take a very significant leap forward- I'm still tryign to find the book or video that can teach it though- But once composition is mastered, then we're free to experiment and explore without beign hindered by bad composition and not knowing why the compositions don't work- Once we kknow, that frees us to becoem true artists- Picasso at hte age of 13 mastered the 'rules' of art, and from that age on began his career of experimentation and expression- but he had to learn composition first in order to be free to explore confidently and express hismelf through use of color, line, shape etc- Had he not leasrned and mastered composition, he woudl never have really made it as big as he did- Art critics are art critics for a reason- because they know hteir craft, and know what makes a great photo or painting- We NEED to learn these thigns too-

    One more quick point- Just read a popular photographer's blog where he said somethign along hte liens of'There's a ton of really great photos out htere, but if you really want to make it in todays market, you NEED to establish a unique style of your own- somethign that will be isntantly recognizable to clients- like establishign a brand- a unique brand- eventaully peopel will rcognize the label, recognize the style, and know isntantly that you are the creator-"

    I thought that was a pretty true statement- there's literally millions of really good photos o nthe web- soem are even pretty great, but there aren't nearly as many unique styles/photographers- Millions of photos all look very similiar- but few really stand out above hte crowd-

  • Toeknee February 8, 2013 04:39 am

    "Perfect Light" of course that is what a camera needs but what about long exposure or night photography?! Sometimes I'll wait till the sun has completely set or even wait for the stars to come out to break out my camera. You can also have fun with light painting which a lot of the time you need darkness :)
    I like the idea of getting out on your lunch, gives you a nice break from work too! Thanks for the tip!

  • Jim February 8, 2013 04:33 am

    There's always some luck in photography, but I have found that the more I practice, the luckier I get!

  • AnZanov February 8, 2013 03:53 am

    I definitely abuse of the first rule of time: "Stuck in an office all day? Skip lunch at the cafeteria, bring a sandwich and your camera and spend your lunch break shooting!"


  • Stacie Jensen February 8, 2013 03:35 am

    Valerie these are all great points I try to teach my students too. It all comes with time, patience and practice. Great article!

  • steve parton February 8, 2013 03:26 am

    does anybody have a place where you can go to get arpeture settings like when taking pics of portraits what settings group pic what settings so on like cheat sheets to use

  • marius2die4 February 8, 2013 03:25 am

    Excellent tips;Tkx!