It is not difficult to get an okay shot as an advanced photographer. The problem is not seeing the things that would bring your photography even up to a world-class level. What if I would tell you that there exists a tiny subgenre in photography that makes not only most of the things you have to improve visible for you but also makes you a better photographer in all genres of photography?
My latest video is about that one often overlooked type of photography that can make you a better photographer, and it doesn’t matter if you are a landscape photographer, a portrait photographer, a street photographer, or whatever you might prefer to photograph. This article is not meant to change your preferences; it is just all about showing you how engaging with this one subgenre of photography could improve your photography. Get your mind open and join me on an excursion to something different.
Cheating With Bokeh
This is just one of dozens of photography mistakes, but a fantastic example, as I see this so often. And I have to put my own hands up here, as I did this so many times by myself, especially in the first 10 years of my photography in the 1990s. It is so easy to photograph any subject with an open aperture. Unused things around the subject get blurry, and we don’t have to care about them anymore, right?
Not really. If you engage deeper with composition you know, that there are lots of things to be considered like balance, flow, or visual weight, for instance. World-class photographers don’t only engage with the subject, they engage with the entire scene, and the background, even if it is blurry bokeh, is part of the composition and can support or destroy the story your image should tell.
Considering Each Part of the Composition
Getting to the next level in photography means developing a sense of considering the whole scene. Each element is important, including the not-so-obvious ones. But how can we develop such a sense? The good news is, that this is something that gets developed automatically over many years. But I already had photographers in my workshops with more than 15 years of experience who still struggled with this one important thing. So, in the case that you are interested in a rocket-fast development and improvement, let’s dive into an excursion of something different that was a big game-changer for my improvement.
Landscape Photography Makes More Visible
Landscape photography? If you photograph portraits, wildlife, or sports scenes, you might ask yourself now how landscape photography can help you to improve in your specific genre. Well, the thing is in landscape photography, we want to get the entire scene sharp in most cases, especially when we want to photograph a vista scene.
When you want to photograph a vista, you can’t use a typical figure-ground association, as you are used to in most of the other genres of photography. There is simply not always a clear subject in front of a backdrop. This can be quite tricky if you have never tried to photograph in that way. There is nothing we can make blurry. Each part of the scene should add to the composition. It is tricky in the beginning, but having this skill will help you to improve your ability to see compositions. Landscape photography forces you to engage with the whole scene, with every single element in the composition, even the very small ones. In my case, it brought me to engage with elements I have simply not recognized before, even in the bokeh.
Have you ever heard the sentence: “I’m good at photographing everything, except landscapes, but I don’t know why?" This is the reason: the affected photographers simply don’t engage with the whole scene. They don’t work on the entire composition.
I’m not saying you should change from your genre to landscape photography. But photographing landscapes for a while or at least from time to time can massively boost your ability to fine-tune compositions. You will start to see things in your portrait, wildlife, street, or astrophotography compositions you have never recognized before. And this gives you a fantastic chance to improve your overall photography.
Woodland Photography Makes Everything Visible
Ready to go even one step further? It is easy to get an okay shot of a wider vista when the sun is going down and dunks the entire landscape in subtle reds. But why do so many photographers struggling with woodland?
The problem with woodland photography is simply that the forest is the place where we have the biggest amount of chaos on our planet. There are so many branches, sticks, and roots. All the elements, lines, and shapes overlap each other. We have to bring order to the chaos— a skill that is used in each other genre of photography as well, but you don’t need that for getting an okay shot there. You need it to make world-class work. If it is not autumn time, the color contrast is missing, as everything is green in spring and summer or orange shortly before winter. Woodland photography will train your ability to see compositions and stories even more than landscape photography does — but everywhere, not only in a forest!
This Is Your Big Chance
It is quite easy to get an okay shot in landscape photography, but it is so difficult to get just an okay shot in woodland photography. And now, here comes the shock: getting a masterpiece in woodland photography is not more difficult than in landscape photography or in any other genre of photography. Woodland photography is just the ticket to make all your compositional mistakes visible to you.
This is your chance to work on those particular things that make you better. Photographing woodlands for a while can be a massive game-changer for you. Give it a chance and don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work in the beginning. It takes a while to get it, and it is normal that you don’t always have a masterpiece in your bag when you are headed home.
Many more reasons why woodland photography makes you a better photographer, with lots of tips, are revealed in the video above.