There is one thing that most photographers really want and that is to improve at photography, because to believe that we are not improving leads to feelings of frustration and despondency.
We look for something to blame.
Maybe if I had a better camera my photography would improve!
Maybe if I bought a new lens, I could get better images!
Neither of these statements is true.
A shiny new camera or a sharper lens might help us to feel better about our photography for a short while, but feelings that our photography is not improving soon begin to surface again.
However, there are some things we can do to ensure that we continue to grow, develop and improve at photography, without the need to spend money on extra gear.
Specifically, I want to outline three ways which I believe have helped me to become a better photographer.
This might seem obvious yet sometimes when we believe that we’re not improving at photography we feel that there is no point in going out with our camera. However, the opposite is true because the more we go out and take photos, the more we’ll learn and the more we’ll develop our skills. This is true of most activities we undertake, and photography is no exception. I go out as often as I can with my camera and I have discovered that I miss my photography on the days I don’t go out.
I try to go to different places and do lots of different types of photography, and, although this might seem obvious, I have discovered that the more photos I take, the more likely I am to capture something I like.
Recently I spent some time on the west coast of Ireland. Each morning I went out with my camera to observe my surroundings and to capture aspects of this beautiful coastline. I took around one hundred photographs each day, some of which I really like.
When I compare my photos from this visit to those I took on previous visits I can see a definite improvement. My compositions are better, I am exposing my images more accurately, I am more confident at experimenting and becoming creative, and I have no doubt that this is due to practise. I go out often, I fail to get good images often, I try to learn from my mistakes and try again.
In my view, getting out often, either with a camera or phone, and taking lots of pictures, is the most important thing you can do to help you become a better photographer.
Seeing is vital in photography, regardless of the type of photography you do, so if you are to improve your photography, you must improve your observation skills.
We can improve our observation skills even without a camera.
Get used to looking around, really seeing what is around you. Begin to notice small things, things that other people don’t notice. If you start to see more, and see the world in your own unique way, you will become more creative as a photographer and capture images that are unique and interesting.
3. BECOME MORE MINDFUL
This might seem to be an unusual inclusion in a discussion on how to become a better photographer, yet it captures the essence of the previous two steps and goes a little deeper, and in my view it is an essential component in helping you to become a photographer rather than someone who takes occasional photographs.
When we go out regularly and concentrate on improving our observation skills, we naturally become more mindful. We are present in the moment and open to what is around us. Mindfulness encourages us to see, hear, feel, be aware, be present and to connect more deeply with our surroundings. It requires us to focus and pay attention to the process in which we are engaged. This focus and attention help us to notice the small details in a scene and to capture them in our photographs.
Becoming mindful encourages us to slow down, take our time and become more deliberate in what we do. It’s not about taking a quick shot and moving on to the next one, it’s about being there for this shot; it’s about taking the time to get the best composition, the best light, the best perspective that we can get so that we give ourselves the best chance of capturing a good image.
Taking a mindful approach to photography is, in my view, a sure way to help you become a better photographer.
A quick Google search of how to become a better photographer will bring up countless articles, videos, tips and tricks on how to do just that.
There are many ways to improve at photography. I have outlined above three ways that apply to my own experience.
When I go out often, become more observant and take a mindful approach to my photography, I do reap the benefits of seeing improvements and I have singled out these three approaches as I believe that they have helped me to grow in confidence and skill which in turn have helped me to become a better photographer.
You will notice that these are not quick fixes. They are not shortcuts to becoming a better photographer. They take time and commitment and perseverance, but they do work.
In the video below, photographer Joshua Peg compares the journey of becoming a good photographer to climbing a mountain. I think it’s a good analogy. The journey is steep, the path is often rocky and uneven, you might even slip back at times, but when you reach the top, the view is wonderful.
And then you go back and start all over again.
Check out Joshua's video here.