If you wanted to improve your photography and you could do just one thing…what would it be? What, among all of the many possibilities, would help you create better images?
I Googled this question and here are some of the many ideas I found:
- Buy a better camera
- Take a Photoshop or Lightroom class
- Study the work of Photographers that you admire to get some new ideas
- Join a photo club
- Take a photo workshop
- Go to a great location that inspires you
- Study and better understand the rules of composition
- Learn more about your camera’s capability
- Get closer
- Learn to shoot in manual mode
- Use a tripod
- Slow down
- Learn more about light and the best light to photograph in
- Purchase prime lenses
- Develop a unique style
- Photograph things that no one else has photographed
- Deconstruct famous photographs to see why they work
- Experiment with different techniques
- Create images that are like the most popular ones on social media
- Have your work critiqued
- Learn new skills by recreating the photos that you admire
Some of these suggestions may be appropriate if your goal is to take better family and vacation photos. By all means learn more about your camera, Photoshop, and some compositional rules to help keep telephone poles from sticking out of head of your subjects!
But if your goal is to create images, not just take pictures, as a form of self-expression, then my suggestion would be to throw out all of the items on this list. Some are simply time wasters, some send you down the wrong path and others are actually harmful to the creative process.
Yes…you do need to know the basics on how to operate your camera and your post-processing software, but you certainly don’t need to be an expert to get started. Most of what I know about my camera and software, came about as I needed to do something specific.
For example: I have never needed to use layers and so I’ve never spent the time to learn them. But now I have a project that can only be done with layers and so I will learn it with the help of my friend John Barclay (whom I’ve been trying to help become a better photographer for years, but I fear it is hopeless!)
The items above are all red herrings and should be ignored, in my opinion.
Okay, it’s easy to tell people what NOT to do, but what would you recommend someone do to improve their photography?
If you could do just one thing to improve your photography, it would be to find and follow your Vision. That is the driving creative force behind all my images. It’s not the camera, the software, the location, the rules of composition, following photographic fads, or imitating others.
For me, it’s finding my Vision and following it. Knowing what I love and pursuing it. Ignoring what others are doing and creating images that I love, regardless of what anyone else thinks of them.
Nothing can compensate for a lack of Vision!
Shooting with a prime lens at the optimal aperture means nothing if you have a boring, lifeless image. And having the world’s most complicated post-processing routine will not help a poor and uninteresting composition.
I know because that’s the path I followed for so many years! I took that technical path because I didn’t think I had a Vision or any creative ability. I also followed that path because learning your camera and photoshop is not only fun, it’s straightforward and concrete.
And finding your Vision is the exact opposite of straightforward and concrete. First, Vision is such a difficult concept to understand (until you’ve found it, and then it’s so ridiculously simple). Second, there are no instruction manuals on how to go about finding your Vision. And Third, it takes a lot of difficult and sometimes painful introspection to find your Vision.
It took me 35 years to get to a point of even wanting to find out if I had a Vision, and then two long and hard years to do so.