5 ways to improve your photography, today!

Do you want to take better photos? Of course, we all do!

The important question, though, isn’t if you want to take better photos but how to go about actually making them better.

In this article I’m going to briefly run down five of MY top ways that you can start to improve your photography no matter what skill level you’re currently at.

So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, read on and enjoy.

 

1. Re-read (or read) your camera manual.

Chances are there are many of us who, upon buying and opening a new camera, read or skim through the owner’s manual once then put it away never to be seen again.

And there’s at least a few of you who never read the manual at all.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing but since digital cameras can be packed with settings there’s a chance that you may be missing out on some useful features that haven’t been touched.

 

If you find that you spend most or all of your time in automatic modes or never venture into the configuration screens its possible that you may be missing out on some creative options.

Maybe you have a point and shoot camera that also has a Manual mode which you’ve never used.

Dig out that manual and give it a read because once you know how to put the camera in Manual mode and set your own aperture and shutter speeds there is a whole new world of creative photography available to you.

 

With a DSLR, the importance of reading the manual is kicked up a notch.

In addition to the various shooting modes (multiple automatic/scene modes, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program, Bulb, Manual, etc.) and settings menus, most DSLRs also have many custom functions that let you set even more options.

And guess what? They’re all explained in your manual!

 

2. Take a camera wherever you go.

Because you never know when something interesting, unusual, exciting or newsworthy is going to happen I recommend that you start carrying a camera with you at all times.

Now, it doesn’t have to be your big DSLR it can certainly be something smaller.  Personally, I used to take my Pentax A30 with me from time to time.

But now, thanks to the wonders of smartphone technology, I always have my HTC Incredible and its nice autofocus lens and 8-megapixel sensor with me.  So wherever I go I can take photographs or HD video.


Having a camera with you wherever you go will actually serve multiple purposes.

 

First, if something unexpected should happen you will be able to take that spur of the moment photograph that could turn out to be a spectacular or rare shot.

And hey, if you’re trying to get your name out there, all you need is one killer photo to get noticed and start attracting attention.

 

The second thing that can come from having a camera with you at all times is that you will probably be more likely to take more photographs.

In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell makes many references to the “10,000-hour rule”.

He says that the key to success in any field or at any skill is largely based on practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

For a photographer, carrying a camera with you at all times and spending the time to take more photos will only help you get better.

 

3. Challenge yourself.

Expand your repertoire by giving yourself photographic assignments or homework.

I imagine most people don’t wake up on the weekend and think to themselves “This is a great day to go photograph some shadows” or “I think I’ll go out in the snow and take a series of photos emphasizing high contrast this fine winter morning”.

I would be willing to bet, though, that photographers who do give themselves assignments like that have developed a better, more consistent eye for pleasing photographs.

Snowy Day Cardinals

Snowy Day Cardinals

 

To start, your assignments don’t have to be overwhelming or difficult.

Start off with something broad like trees or windows or something easy like that.

Make yourself photograph nothing but trees, windows or whatever in different settings, from different angles or in different lighting.

As time goes on, make your challenges more specific.

 

These assignments will force you to look for new and different ways to photograph subjects that you may already be used to shooting and they could open your eyes to subjects that you wouldn’t have thought of before.

To help get you started here are a few websites that run their own challenges for users to participate in:

 

4. Leave your comfort zone.

All of us have some things we’re pretty good at and other things that we could work on.

Our tendency is to focus on those things that we do well and leave the other skills on the back burner.

To really improve your photographic skills you should try leaving your comfort zone every once in a while.

 

Let’s say you take very good landscape or nature photos where your subject (like a mountain or tree) isn’t going anywhere fast.

You could choose to leave that comfort zone by offering to take photos at a niece, nephew or neighbor’s sporting event.

Not only will you gain more exposure for yourself and hopefully have some nice photos to present to your “client” but you may also pick up a new skill from the action photography that can translate to another area.

 

If you live and breathe long telephoto photography and aren’t much of a portrait person why not take only a standard or wide angle lens to your next family gathering, office party or other social event?

You’ll be forced to get up close and personal with your subjects and, who knows, it may give you the excuse for some face time with that cute girl (or guy) that you’ve had your eye on…probably not at the family gathering though.

 

5. Never stop learning.

Never assume that you know all there is to know about photography because you’re not even close.

Also, never assume that you can’t learn something new from someone else because you always can.

Simply put, if you stop learning you stop developing.

 

Your local or school library  probably has many books on photography that you’ve never read.  Each one of those books is a potential treasure chest of knowledge and ideas.

Honestly, even if you have read a particular book you will probably still be able to take some useful information from it the next time around.

And lets not forget about the wonderful photographs that fill those books.  Every image can be a great source of inspiration for your own photography.

 

Since most of us are spending so much time online now the first place you may want to look to continue your photographic education is to the web.

There are hundreds of good websites to help teach different aspects of photography.

The beauty of using web resources is that you have photographers from all skill levels to draw from.

You can go hang out in a beginner’s forum and share tips to get you started then click over to National Geographic’s website and read how-to articles written by leading professionals.

The sky is certainly the limit when it comes to learning about photography on the web.

To get you started, here’s a few places to check out:

 

So, there you have it.

A shortlist of five things you can start doing today to improve your photography.

Keep in mind that these are just MY thoughts on the subject and since there are as many different ideas on improving photographic skill as there are cameras in the world you’re bound to agree with some ideas and disagree with others.

If you like any of the suggestions I’ve talked about today or if you have some of your own, feel free to leave a comment and share your own ways to help us take better photos.

Thanks again for reading now go out and shoot!

Court.

Illinois Beach, Chicago, IL

Illinois Beach, Chicago, IL

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