Almost all of us want to improve our photography. Regardless of whether you are a hobbyist, aspiring professional, or if you have been a pro for several decades, there's always more to learn. Creating better images should always be at the forefront of our mind. It doesn't matter where you are in your photographic journey or what genre interests you, here are five things that I think can help to improve your photography.
1. Be Self-Aware
This is one of the biggest contributors to improving in any field. Being self-aware enough to understand where you sit in the grand scheme of things is so important. Knowing where you are, where you are trying to get to, and then working backward to find the missing links is going to help you hugely. Unfortunately, if you are not self-aware, you probably won’t know. The moment I started to look inwardly at what wasn't working photography-wise was the day I realized. I spent a lot of time wondering why other photographers were getting the work I wanted instead of me. After a long hard look in the mirror, I realized that I was the one who needed up my game and not that the rest of the world was wrong. If you're guilty of always blaming clients not getting your style, your geographic location, being poor, or people just being jerks, maybe ask a really good friend if the issue might be you.
2. Talk to Your Peers
Talking to your peers is a great way to improve your photography. Having a mentor can be a great way to fast track your way to your end goal. I know a few really good professional photographs who I talk to in order to get advice, feedback, and general pep talks. However, I try to balance this out with people that I respect from outside of the photography world. I find the mixture of the two really helps me to find the right path. Being outside of the business is often the best vantage point to troubleshoot from.
3. Read Around the Subject
If you spend all day reading gear reviews and lighting technique articles, you'll probably find yourself in a bit of a rut. If not, believe me, it's on the way. To progress in any field it helps to have a broader knowledge from outside of it. This can come in many forms. I found that I made massive leaps in progress by reading in the most bizarre fields. Immerse yourself in life, in culture, and in anything that takes you outside of yourself. From the go-to social media books to the way an author describes a person in a story. You need to know more than photography to be a photographer.
4. Take Time Away
Shooting every day is not a great way to progress. You need time to learn, research, read, think, process, and discuss. I don’t think the 365 projects are particularly productive ways to get better at photography, but maybe that wasn’t the original idea behind them. Nevertheless, I see a lot of people using these as a means to improve their shooting. Taking time to reflect and take in new information will do you far more good than trying to cram in a new photograph each day.
5. Understand What Matters
Understanding what makes a great photograph will save you a lot of time (and irritation). There's a sense of desperation in incessantly scanning new areas of research and technical pixel peeping; it's a crutch. It won't make your photography better. What will is taking the time to appreciate what makes a great photograph in your field. Study other photographers work, think about why they chose their subject, what got them excited, why they didn't take it a different way, and hell, just enjoy it. Photography is essentially just recording the human experience behind the lens. Thinking about what happened between the photographer, the camera, and the subject at the very moment the shutter was released is pretty much the nub of it all.
I am still on my journey, and I always will be, so if you have any great tips to becoming a better photographer please do share them.