There are several ways you can improve your Photography Skills, and the great thing is that they apply to people at almost any level of experience and knowledge. Photography habits are not exclusive to newbies, mid-level shooters or pros.
1. Buy photo books
Photo books are the ultimate goal of many photographers. The effort and passion of years of dedication reach their summit when a photographer’s printed book editions of photos see the light.
There is a huge process behind the final edition of a printed photo book, and this is something to really consider when seeking inspiration and great photographs. Immediate images posted online will in most cases lack have the matureness of photos in books. Both photographer and editor have put a lot of thought into filtering the published images, and that’s why you should invest in photo books– even more so than gear.
The greatest images aren’t those that are taken and 5 seconds later are getting likes on social media. These can be great images, but when you’re talking about art, there’s always a serious process behind the published work.
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Practice will get you close to mastering anything. Practice photography until you reach a level of automation when grabbing your camera, seeing light, and setting it right. This should be immediate – and you can’t learn this from books, videos, blogs or anything else. You need to practice.
When you started learning to drive, everything you did was driven by thinking and decision-making. Today, years after the first time you sat behind the wheel and started the engine, you drive by instinct.
3. Shoot from the hip
For people who love street photography (like me), you need to start practicing shooting from the hip to achieve better-looking images. Using this stealthy technique, you’ll be able to get many great images.
People’s true nature will be captured by your cameras when you shoot from the hip. This is not easy, and you need to practice a lot. Since you need to know your focal lengths almost by memory, your wrists will essentially be your eyes, so you need to know how to aim – and again, this is a matter of practice. Another great trick is to use cameras with flippable screens.
Yes, you may look weird, but people will think that you’re looking at some photos you’ve already taken, and their odd feelings will not interfere with the natural and candid shot you’re seeking to capture.
4. Go at a slow pace
When we walk in the street, we are always in a rush to photograph everything, as if we need to deliver a lot of images after an hour of walking. Instead, slow your pace, get picky, and seek out moments that deserve to be captured and preserved.
Don’t rush. Walk slowly, and you’ll cultivate a wiser view of the streets. Scout them, and don’t lift your camera at every moment you see. Again, be picky, be slow-paced when walking and scouting. But when the moment comes, be quick and discreet.
5. Learn about the culture
Before taking the camera out of your bag when traveling, do your homework about the culture you’re visiting. When you arriving in a new place, always chat a little with the locals to get a grasp of what you should do to interact with the people you are new to.
Learning about the culture will give you a more intimate approach to almost anything, and help you avoid the clichéd tourist photos. This rule applies almost anywhere, not just to exotic places. Let’s put it this way: you’re aiming to do an essay about a teenage subculture. You need to start learning from their culture to truly understand their beliefs and costumes.
Anyone can take a photo of a group of teenagers looking different from the norm, but few can get inside their intimate circle. You must decide what kind of images you’ll be more proud of capturing.
6. Stick to one focal length
This is a great challenge, but you’ll definitely make better images when you understand the purpose of doing it. You’ll be challenging yourself to use just one focal length, so forget about achieving different images with different perspectives for one walk-around or travel. You might say, “Oh no, I need to change the lens, I don’t know what to do” or “Well, I only have this lens, what will I do?”
I once knew a guy that used a particularly beautiful camera made by a German brand you all know, and he used one particular focal length for years. First he started with 24mm, and later he moved to 35mm. Challenging yourself to achieve great images using one particular focal length is one of the best ways to achieve great images.
This will also help street photographers with shooting from the hip. Learn all the limitations of your lens, take it to the limits, embrace it, and you’ll achieve great images. Trust me. Also, your feet are a great zoom: they allow you to experience the thrill of being truly close to people. Try it.
7. Get involved with volunteer work
This is a great way to get close to daily activities that help you grow as a human being. There is a memorable phrase I heard in the film “The Salt of the Earth”, a documentary about Sebastião Salgado. Someone said, “He really cares about people.” You too can cultivate this sense of caring about people by stepping out of your comfort zone and getting involved in volunteer work.
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8. Always carry a camera with you
You should always carry a camera with you to be aware of everything that surrounds you. You’ll get better pictures if you start walking and moving around with a camera as your constant companion.
9. Create a “favorite photographers” list
Create a list of favorite photographers. It can include great masters or modern great photographers. Study their images, read about them, and make these photographers your great source of inspiration.
10. Watch movies
Learn to see movies through a cinematographer’s eyes. Think about the points of view, the angles, the focus, the light and the intended messages behind particular scenes. I'm pretty sure that Wes Anderson’s movies would be completely different without the cinematography of Robert Yeoman.
Just imagine Birdman or The Revenant without that wicked and ingenious cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki. Cinematography is a great source of inspiration and photographic knowledge.
Even if you’re a street photographer or a portrait photographer, you should always put a lot of thinking into the planning of your images. Plan your routes, plan the message you want to achieve in relation to a particular situation in your city.
Planning should always be a big part of your images. The more you conceptualize your images, the better the results you’ll achieve.
12. Challenge yourself
Challenge yourself with personal assignments. Challenge yourself to only shoot with film for a month, challenge yourself in the hardest way you can manage. With few resources, you can achieve amazing images.
If you don’t believe me, please check out the work of Alexey Titarenko. He created amazing images during and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991-1992 using very limited resources.
13. Shoot in the rain
Don’t be afraid to shoot in the rain. By challenging yourself to shoot in the rain, you’ll achieve images that tell a deeper story about urbanism and humankind. Look at this image by Rui Palha, and you’ll get my point.
14. Get away from social media for a while
Social media works in a very curious way, so you need to stop publishing everything on social media. Give your images the space and fermentation they deserve. After some months, the most magnificent images will still be poking at your eyes – and those few keepers are the ones you should publish if you really want to.
Stay away from the immediacy policy and the right-away tendencies that plague social media. Shoot for yourself first, not for the people living in your phones.
15. Embrace your backyard
You don’t need to travel to legendary locations in order to achieve the images you’ll be proud of. Your hometown has an enormous potential, explore it, capture it, and embrace your backyard. Juice it out, believe me, there are infinite stories cooking at your block. Traveling is beautiful, but is not the only way of capturing great images.
Feel inspired and get creative once again. This guide by Kent DuFault will reignite your true photography passions you've always had…The Creativity Catalogue.
- Why Daily/Weekly Photo Projects are Good for Your Photography by Dzvonko Petrovski
- How to Find Time for Your Photography Passion by Rachael Towne
- Always Have A Camera With You – Here’s A Great Reason Why by Federico Alegria