How to be a better photographer is a question I am asked all the time by my students or from random inquiries on the internet. This is a topic that could fill a book; however, I wanted to blog about this topic today because it comes up so much. My answers come from my core beliefs on the learning process in photography and are in no way meant to be the only way. I share them with you today because I think everyone who wants to learn how to be a better photographer has the power within them. So here are my five top tips in order of importance.
Discipline. Learning photography is like learning a musical instrument or a sport. The more you practice, the better you become. Learning photography is so much easier today than it was years ago because of the internet. There are thousands of courses on YouTube; www.lynda.com; www.udemy.com and my website www.studio2point8.com. I encourage those to want to learn how to be a better photographer to spend 30 minutes per day learning a skill on the internet and practicing 30 minutes a day with a camera. Time and excuses are usually the issues here. That I can’t help with but suggest you find an extra hour in the day. How long should this go on? All I can say is that after 40 years of being a photographer, I am still learning something new every day.
Get off Auto Mode. Start with learning how to shoot in aperture priority or shutter priority first. There are plenty of courses on this topic. I offer in-person courses and an online course on How to Take Creative Control of Your SLR Camera on my website. There are other courses available as well. If you need hands-on training, I suggest you go to an in-person class, just make sure you will be learning through shooting, not just listening to lectures all day. If you choose an online course, look for one that is interactive, so you can practice what you learn. The next step is to learn how to shoot in manual mode. This requires a good understanding of exposure and the exposure triangle. This does not happen overnight and could take several months of practice.
Learn About Art. Go to museums and art galleries or Google the best-selling art. Learn how to compose using the rule of thirds. Learn about color harmony by understanding the color wheel. Discover how great paintings are made using foreground and background elements to build depth in the image. Find out what type of art inspires you and use that to help cultivate your passion as an artist. Of course, there is much more to learn about art and these are just the basics.
See the Light. Practice shooting in all types of light including the time of day and the type of light. Types of light include overcast, full sun, shade, and back-light. The first thing you should do before you even snap the shutter is to know what direction the light is coming from. One of the best lighting tips I ever got was from a painter. He said that before he started painting he would write on the canvas what direction the light was coming from. Every paint stroke was influenced by that decision. Learn the difference between flat light and directional lighting. Only you can do this through trial and error. Begin to find a type of light that you love and you will soon be cultivating your own personal style.
See What Others Cannot See. The best photographs are those that pop out because of their uniqueness. Although this is last on my list, I must emphasize the importance of this tip. When I teach a class, I always find one person in my class who stands out because they see things differently and capture it with their camera. He or she may not know how to use all their camera’s features yet, but they have the eye. In my own life, I have discovered the “picture inside the picture”. I rarely photograph a scene, but dissect it and photograph the intimate parts of nature. One of the best techniques I have learned is to use long exposures because you are capturing something that cannot be seen by the eye.
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For more information on DSLR photography check out the online course.
To view my portrait photography site visit Lightscapes Portrait Studio.
To view my fine art photography site visit Mary Buck Photography.