7 Affordable Ways to Expand Your Photography Skills


The potential challenges associated with being a photographer are many; some of the obstacles one has to overcome are creative in nature, while others are related to finances. Yep, inspiration and money — or, a lack of either, to be more precise — conspire to make an artist's life that much more difficult.

Being good at just about anything usually requires strong problem solving skills. It's wonderful if you consider yourself a good photographer, but your goal is to be ever growing in your craft, isn’t it? But what happens when your spring of inspiration has run dry or when your budget won’t accommodate the new lighting kit or new lens you’ve had your eye on? Do you just resign yourself to stunted creative growth? Of course not.

Here are a few ideas that will help guide your evolution as a photographer while, mercifully, taking it easy on your wallet.

Spend the Day with a New (Different) Lens

You know there’s that one lens you’ve been dying to get your hands on but simply can’t yet afford. Well, there’s no reason you can’t actually spend a little time with it; you might have a photographer friend who happens to own the lens you want and is also willing to let you borrow it. If not, you can rent a lens, either from a local photography shop or from an online vendor.

Different is good, different can be inspiring. A different lens will present you with new creative opportunities and, as an added bonus, you can make a hands-on assessment of a lens and determine whether it will really be worth your hear earned, long saved money.

Find a New Subject to Photograph

Ladybird by wwarby, on Flickr

Habit and comfort go hand-in-hand; most of our habits exist because we find comfort in the repetition of certain behaviors. One of the downsides of this becomes apparent when you find yourself feeling bored and uninspired. You may feel you excel at black and white street photographer and take significant pride in the quality of your work, but that’s no guarantee you won’t find yourself feeling restless or strangely unfulfilled.

Try something new. This doesn’t mean you have to stop street photography altogether, but give yourself a bit of a break and consider all the other intriguing subjects that are there for the taking; insects, architecture, flowers, landscapes, motor sports. Each of these subjects requires a different skill set, which you will be forced to acquire and refine to achieve results that meet your already high standards.

Create a Portfolio

Putting together a photography portfolio is something that can be done on the cheap (or even for free) and requires you to do some critical thinking: you have to critique your own work and select your best images, and then you’ll need to make some important determinations about sequencing and visual presentation. While the most meaningful assessment of final product will be your own, there’s great value in discovering how others respond to various elements of your work.

Take on a Photo Project

Calendar by -Ebelien-, on Flickr

All it takes is a quick Web search if you’re in need of ideas: a 365 project, a 52 weeks project, a color-a-day project. Photography projects force you to make photos on a regular basis and quickly get you thinking and seeing creatively.

Enter a Photo Contest

Photo contests are a great way to get some of your work seen by others — you’ll be judged, of course, but the feedback you receive from unbiased professionals can be a valuable asset moving forward, assuming you’re open to constructive criticism. Many worthwhile contests require a small entry fee, but you will also have the chance to win some pretty cool prizes.

Find a Photography Buddy

Grabbing your camera and setting out a photo adventure all by your lonesome has its advantages and is probably therapeutic for many individuals. But having a partner to shoot with can be a fun change of pace; it can be enlightening to see how someone else perceives and captures the same subjects. Furthermore, when you’re feeling uninspired or unmotivated, the encouragement and gentle prodding of a friend is exactly what you need.

Visit Galleries and Exhibits

There’s just something about viewing artwork in person; there’s a significant sensory and perceptual difference as opposed to viewing images online. You should make it a point to occasionally go out and see for yourself — it won’t cost you much, if anything. Obviously it’s not an activity that involves any shooting on your part, but viewing the work of others who excel in the field is a tremendous educational opportunity; you will likely come away with some new ideas, not to mention feeling inspired and refreshed.

How do you stay inspired without spending a fortune? Share your ideas below.

About Author

Jason Little is a photographer, author and stock shooter. You can see Jason’s photography on his Website or his Instagram feed.

Thanks for writing this, these are great questions to ask when your idea bank runs dry, or your lulled into complacency.

My biggest idea bank would have to be music. Putting in a track and changing my environment, putting myself out of routine, is my usual “go to” strategy.

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