Photography books, schools, websites, and even your local camera clubs are your main source of help when it comes to improving your craft. There is a lot of information on photography that can be found due to the abundance of resources available everywhere these days. But there are some unusual things you can do to improve your craft that you won’t often read in photography forums or common sources.
Here are a few of these uncommon strategies that can help you improve your photography:
Study anything other than photography
Learning photography is like learning any other subject like marketing or psychology. There are majors and there are electives – things that directly relate to what you want to learn, and skills which, although not required, will help you become better. In photography, it’s not just your so-called photographic eye that you need to improve.
Gaining traits like patience and discipline will take you far in your quest to better photography. You can learn these things by studying a different craft like painting. Or you can get better understanding about form, texture, and style by learning how to sculpt. You can also do things like cooking and surfing. Patience was something I acquired when I was learning how to surf since I had to wait for the right waves. It helped me a lot in capturing the right photos with high-action travel photography.
Delete Your Photos
I know there are those of you who would probably frown at the idea of deleting your photographs. Some of us love keeping photos that we don’t really use and we say, ‘oh I’ll use that someday', or ‘I can still fix that photo later'. However, the idea that you can salvage a photo for future use has no real purpose, unless of course you want to learn Photoshop more than photography. And even if you could, it’s easier to improve by taking more photos instead of ‘fixing’ old ones.
Go over the photo files you keep on your computer and start deleting those pictures you don’t really need. If you have thousands of files, do some spring cleaning and keep only the best. And from now on, if you're not sure if you like it, I suggest you delete it.
Limit Your Gear
Some will agree with me and some won’t, but carrying a lot of gear can sometimes be very distracting. But from time to time try to be MacGyver and make do with what you have. Or if you have 5 lenses, carry only 2 during a personal project.
Your ability to still take great photographs will arise even if you’re limited with gear. Yes, you may miss a lot of opportunities, but in the end, you gain a better understanding of your gear and how to utilize it effectively. Just imagine being at Masterchef and Chef Ramsey takes away one of your most important ingredients. It forces you to be creative.
Study What You’re Shooting
Learning photography isn't just about learning about lighting, gear, and composition. It is also about understanding your subject, what affects it, and how it reacts.
If you’re interested in baby photography, learning about how babies behave, and knowing their attributes will help you a lot in your execution. If it's travel, researching about a place will help you a lot to gain a better understanding about culture, what people like, and what they don’t like so you can take photos effectively. The best car photographers are those who passionate about cars, because they understand what to look for in car images. Studying your subjects will give you better perspectives in taking photographs.
Some of the best students are teachers. There is a certain motivation that allows teachers to want to learn more. I have taught and have given talks about travel photography and I always end up learning a whole lot more than what I am teaching. I am not saying you have to get a teaching job to be a better photographer. But when you are able, find someone who would like to know more about photography. Share with them a thing or two about what you know and perhaps you will discover even more about what you are sharing. Maybe you can teach some kids or a colleague who wants to learn. When someone asks for a photo critique, share your insights. You can start with them.
There are a lot of other things you can do to be better at photography. Some of these things are quite obvious while the rest you need to discover. What is important is that you are open to learn from different sources. You don’t have to follow everything to the dot. In some instances, you can simply learn a thing or two and move on to the next lesson. More importantly, perfect practice makes perfect.