I was asked recently be an enthusiastic beginner photographer, “What would you say is your number piece of advice that would help make me a better photographer?”
“Just one?” I replied with a strained expression. I couldn't come up with just one thing and leave it at that, as if I'm somehow qualified to make such a profound statement about photography that it would transform a budding hobbyist into a sagacious professional.
But I don't mind sharing what I do know, as I did that day with the inquisitive photographer and as I am doing here today. These are some of the things that I have learned and have held most dear throughout my journey so far in photography. Take all 51 items with a grain of salt; I am not putting forth any unimpeachable pronouncements, just hoping to spread some inspiration and encouragement.
Photo by Jason Devaun
- Don’t think about taking the photo, just take it.
- Learn the rules. Understand the rules. Break the rules.
- Spend more time taking photos than money acquiring new gear with which to take those photos.
- You will never know it all; be open to the wisdom and experiences of others.
- Print your photos — your favorites, at least. And print them big.
- Get it right in camera rather than trying to compensate for poor technique in post. But…
- Don’t be ashamed to use post-processing. All photos are “processed” in one way or another.
- Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone.
- Be your own worst critic.
- Technical perfection is often overrated.
- Be open to constructive criticism from others.
- Light — natural or artificial — is everything. Learn to use it to your creative advantage.
- Talking about photography can be fun, inspiring, and insightful. Actually practicing photography is even more rewarding.
- You don’t need to go to school to be a good photographer, but you do need an education.
- Don’t get caught up in comparisons. Let your work shine on its own merits.
- Always be prepared: extra batteries, second body, rain protection, etc.
- You are not your camera — be sure to give yourself (your eye) proper credit.
- Revisit your older work from time to time. It’s an enlightening means of self-evaluation.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes, they are wonderful learning tools.
- Know your camera intimately, it’ll make you a more efficient photographer.
- Experimentation is the cornerstone of good art.
- A more expensive camera isn’t the answer to uninspiring images.
- Learn to trust your own judgement.
- Never fall for the idea that you’ve “arrived” as a photographer. You can always get better.
- Simplify your life — downsizing your gear can maximize your creativity.
- Backup, backup, backup! Losing your work is devastating…not that I would know, and I don’t want to find out.
- Own a wide angle and/or macro lens.
- Shooting film teaches discipline.
- Film is not better than digital. It’s just different.
- Study the master photographers and the images they have created.
- Don’t be satisfied with simply making a photo. Aim to make a connection with the person, place, or thing you are photographing.
- Shoot what makes you happy, you will eventually find your audience.
- If you think the only way to find interesting subjects is to travel, you’re not looking hard enough.
- Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Take heed, photographers.
- Even if you strongly prefer natural light (like I do), learn to use a flash.
- Always shoot raw.
- Know your rights when shooting in public.
- Never allow composition to become an afterthought.
- Invest in a good tripod.
- Be generous with your knowledge of photography — share what you know with anyone who asks.
- Spend more on quality glass than on camera bodies; the value of a good lens will outlast just about any camera.
- Learn how to read a histogram.
- Don’t expect to make a living from photography just because you’re good at it.
- If boosting ISO means getting the shot, do it. A little noise never hurt anyone.
- Mirrorless, DSLR, mobile device — use what works for you and don’t apologize for it.
- Be part of a community. Forgive my bias, but lightstalking.com is great choice!
- Think of establishing your personal style as a journey rather than a destination.
- Presets are good for you. Use them.
- Know how to shoot in manual even if it’s not your preferred shooting mode.
- Celebrate what you’re good at as a photographer.
- Have fun. It’s difficult — if not impossible — to fully tap into your creativity when you don’t enjoy what you’re doing.
What We Recommend to Improve Your Photography Fast
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