Five Ways to Check If Your Photography Skills Are Progressing

It can be hard to measure long-term progress in photography, as we grow in slow, small steps. But it's important to know how far you've come and where you still need work, and this helpful video will give you five ways to check just how much progress you've made.

Coming to you from Mark Denney, this great video will give you some ways to evaluate how far your photography skills have progressed. Personally, I've found one thing that's a reliable indicator is the amount of intentionality I have in the various steps of the process. When I was first starting out, I spent a lot of time pushing sliders around until I happened upon a good result or shooting hundreds of photos and relying on the statistical likelihood of something good being in the set, but as I progressed, it became less a matter of trying to happen upon a good result and more knowing what the result I wanted was and taking control of the process to get there. That's of course not to say that there's no longer room for experimentation, but I've found it to be a good measure of where I feel secure and where I could use some improvement. Check out the video above for more ways to evaluate yourself. 

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7 Comments

Michael Jin's picture

One way to check. Take a photo you've taken recently and a photo you took a year ago. Is the newer one better? You're making progress...

That sounds like a truism but the thing is with photography is you can luck into a great snap at any time. There's images from my first year with a camera that I have in my portfolio that I'd be happy to have taken yesterday. But while that's the case there's no doubting that my consistentcy and overall quality have improved. I think it's indeed a hard thing to measure.

Michael Jin's picture

I guess that it depends on why you consider that photo from your first year to be good. If it's good because heaven was smiling on you and you just happened to have a serendipitous moment of perfect light, subject movement/expression, etc. then yeah, that happens and there's not much that you can do about that.

If it's good because you intentionally identified a subject or scene, thought through the composition, framed it accordingly, and executed it technically, and you say you would be happy to have taken it yesterday (To me, that implies that you don't believe that you'd have taken it better if you did so yesterday), then I think that represents a problem from a progression standpoint.

It is true that it's a difficult thing to measure since there are plenty of facets to a photograph that can make it good and it's possible to progress technically, but not grow creatively and vice versa. I do think that the word you used, "consistency" is key, though. Very few people knock it out of the park all of the time, but good photographers will consistently be producing high quality work—even if they might not all be masterpieces.

It's easy for me to "knock it out of the park all of the time" because I'm in the parking lot. I can drop the ball out of the park. ;-)

Adam Lee's picture

His 5th suggestion would have been better re-enforced if he'd shown the old post processing and then shown how the same photo would look now after re-editing it in his current style.

I use the “Oh shit” technique. When I review my photos the less “Oh shit” I say the better I’m becoming....

Brian Pernicone's picture

I agree with what you write about intentionality. I'm similar in that I generally put most of my photos through a similar process in Lightroom. If my usual edits don't achieve the look I wanted, then I might experiment further (and sometimes I do so just for kicks), but because I "see" the finished image in my mind as I compose my shot, my process pretty reliably gets the intended result.

I've also found that I'm far more aware now of what is happening behind my subject and at the edges of my frame than I used to be. That intentionality, taking a moment to look beyond the subject and take in the entirety of the frame, has improved my photography immeasurably.