How to get better in photography

Have you wondered why there are so many low quality pictures posted by beginners? It happens so often because the photographer doesn’t realize that his work is uninspiring. The trouble starts when a person takes camera and imagines himself as a gifted creator so sure of himself that he thinks the amount of creative energy will compensate the lack of knowledge. And when he gets first negative reaction from internet, whether it is a social media post or a blog, he gets really offended. 

How to get better in photography

It so much better when a beginner asks himself questions about his own work. What is wrong with my pictures? Where can I improve? How do I do this? If you just start asking questions yourself, then it means you are already on the right track. 

The problem with the photography in general is that it is deceptively simple. Especially in modern era, where you just have to point and shoot and camera does everything for you. I will share some ideas and influences I had as a photographer during 9 years of photography experience, and I hope it will make you better at what you do.

We are getting so used to the world we live in that we stop noticing how beautiful it is. The search for different stories opens up more opportunities for a photographer. This meticulous approach always pays off, in my opinion. Look everywhere! Even old boots might be photogenic, just like in Van Gogh’s painting. 

Learning to see

It is very useful to visit beautiful or unusual places. It should challenge your sense of beauty. Don’t make this feeling fall asleep! It will help you find an inconceivable amount of photographic ideas that you can use to create memorable stories.

Once I decided to go for a long walk near the port in my city. Making my way through industrial beauty, I spotted an interesting looking barge. The day was a Sunday morning and the streets were empty, but I rushed there as if it was my last chance to see what this barge was about. It turned out it was a metal workshop. It looked like the whole place existed separately from the world, and right there, I knew that it would be a perfect place to shoot a love story. I could use this to show the contrast between cold metal world of workshop and warm and passionate relationship of a couple. 

It is not enough to spot something pretty, you have to see the place through the lens of photography. Like any artist, you apply this vision to the limitations and characteristics of your camera. Later, this will help you determine the situation: when a photo shoot can happen or if it requires sophisticated solutions. Sometimes simple flash and reflector can solve a problem, but sometimes you have to be patient. I remember waiting for clouds to hide the blinding sun to make a portrait or there was one time, when tourists flooded the background. My model and I had to wait for them to clear the area. It is very important to choose the best time for a photo shoot. 

Areas of interest

Passion evokes passion. Once your passion for a particular subject awakens, it will fill your pictures with life. Everything you do has an impact on a viewer. The hard work you have put into the pictures you make sends a strong message and makes the viewer to empathize with your passion. 

Ask yourself, what subject fascinates you most? For example, you are interested in people and their inner worlds or their originality. If so, then you may become a good portrait photographer, because main requirements for this are attention and respect for your models. 

Maybe you are an open-minded and communicative person. You love the thrill of the party and when there is a lot going on, then shooting weddings is perfect for you! 

Think of it, a good nature photographer rarely will be good at shooting sports and likewise. It is the difference in inclinations. 

You love the city life and you like to observe the flow of life within concrete jungle. Street photography might be just perfect for you! Get inspired by the great Henri Cartier-Bresson. His work will forever be imprinted in your mind! Here’s a quote from the master that I read from time to time to get inspired for a new project: “To take a photograph is to hold one’s breath when all faculties converge in a face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy…. It is putting one‚ head, one‚ eye, and one‚ heart on the same axis.”

Find Your Self-expression

Photography, like other fine art, is a communication tool. The communication between an artist and a viewer. Pictures that accurately represent the reality and have no personality of the author will not affect viewer in any emotional way. Photography aims to satisfy the aesthetic needs of a human. That is why before every project I am constantly asking myself questions. Does it have something unusual? I always try to underline the most important details in my pictures and remove anything unnecessary. I always say to my listeners: don’t be afraid to say want you want to say, express yourself and make your pictures as if it is a link between you and a viewer. For example, I love big puddles that are formed after rain in parks or on empty city streets. I use them to picture reflection of a couple standing close to each other. This is my way in expressing the way I see love and it is unusual picture to make. My clients love these pictures!

Have Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is a key to success. No creative activity is possible without it.  Enthusiasm is usually much more crucial than any knowledge or experience, because it itself produces both of them. On the other hand, knowledge and experience are powerless if you have no enthusiasm! It makes me wake up before dawn and go to a shooting spot to capture the scene with beautiful rising sun!

Sometimes it can be draining to maintain enthusiasm throughout the day. The more time you spend exploring your favorite photography subjects, the less you need to feed your inspiration. You’ll be constantly looking how to stimulate your imagination, and as a result, you’ll be getting better and better each day. 

However, remember to spend your energy only on subject that drives you to do photoshoots that will excite you and viewer imagination! I remember having a great order from a business client, who asked me to do business portraits for his company. I needed money at that time so I agreed to do it, though I had very little experience in this. For this shoot, I spent countless hours on preparing for a photo shoot only to find that I have no interest in this type of photography whatsoever. I had to decline very good offer, but deep inside I knew I made the right choice. I decided to focus on lifestyle family photography. And after 8 years I still enjoy every photo shoot I do.

Accepting Criticism

You have to become your own worst critic. Shoot with passion and judge your work fairly. It may sound as a cliché but you have to learn from the best. Find a photographer you really like and try to do a photo shoot that is as good or even better.  There is no shame when you try to copy someone’s work when you start learning. 

Try to expand the criticism of your work. There are many photography forums and specialized web services where you can find precious feedback to your work.  Forums are especially great for asking questions you don’t yet fully understand. Don’t be shy to ask fundamental questions about lightening and composition. I have always loved learning and I was absorbing new information like a sponge from different forums. There I were discussing many things with artists, painters, photographers and just hobbyists. All in all, people have always been my source of inspiration. After all this time I’m still there learning stuff and making educational posts. 

This picture was has covers many topics I discussed above. I wanted to mix up a pretty girl and a lot of books in a picture. A contrast between beauty and knowledge, which is represented by books and bookshelf background. This is my self-expression. Portraits is one of my areas of interest, so I had to work with my model going through different emotions before to finally captured that smile that I wanted. While editing I recognized a minor mistake I made, there is not quite enough detail in shadows. It can make a viewer wonder about her arms’ placement. This is my criticism, and I‘d be glad to hear your thoughts about it.

Photo Editing

For editing, I chose Rockshutter’s Duotone collection II, because I love to apply blending modes on these presets, especially Soft Light. I sued Duotone 37 with Soft Light blending mode, then reduced yellow color of the skin using Infinity collection’s preset. After that, I applied Emerald shadows preset to the background for nice green looking shadows. Picture’s ready!