It’s that time of the year when photographers should look back on the year that was and look forward to the year that can be.
Here are a few practical and inspirational tips to improve your photography.
1. Spend more time working with the gear that you have rather than thinking about the gear that you want to have next.
Seriously, today’s cameras and lenses are so powerful and capable that they will most likely be able to do the job 99% of the time. And the more you concentrate on what you have, the better you’ll get at finding ways to make it work. I still regularly shoot with up to 65-year-old manual film cameras and get great results.
2. Make the point of reducing gear whenever possible.
One camera & one fixed focal length lens can be an eye-opener of what you can really do with such a reduced setup. And while you may have to move more to get the desired framing than you would have to with a zoom lens or by switching focal length, you get the added benefit of changing the perspective more often and getting new angles of view. Don’t get carried away by what shots you have missed by not having an 18-300mm reach at hand, but rather focus on what you can capture with what you have.
3. Find a personal project that you want to work on.
Make sure this is manageable and something that is of interest to you. You can start a daily image as a 365 project or a 52-week (1 photo per week) project. And make the project public on social media like a tumbler blog. This way you feel a bit more pressure to stick to it and you may create an audience for your work along the way. And you have the added benefit that you can always go back at a later time to look at what you have created.
4. Improve your visual storytelling skills by creating a monthly photo essay.
You will brush up your skills in visual storytelling and be more aware of the stories that surround you in your everyday life. Make the point to capture your daily events by putting together a compressed short visual essay with only 5-8 images that visually describe to a stranger what you did on that day or that event.
5. Improve your photography by printing your work!
For me personally, a photo is not done until I have printed it. If I don’t print an image it has not made the cut to represent my best work. To have something tangible in your hands can be so rewarding to you and to others. Guests at my house always wander around looking at the latest work that I have created hanging on the walls or sitting on the shelves. Today’s printers are very powerful, fairly affordable and often have profiles for popular print papers available. There is little hassle and instant gratification when the print is in your hands shortly after you pushed the button.
6. Look at photos that inspire you and study them closely to what it is that really attracts you?
Is it the framing, the leading lines, the color or the B&W contrast? And what about the story in the image? I just gave a speech on street photography and showed the audience what kind of stories are hidden in some images. You can see a lot of these images for free online. But I have started to only wish for photo books for my birthday and Christmas presents for a few years now. And regularly picking one of them up and studying it is often an inspiration for me.
7. Start to shoot a roll of film every once in a while.
Basic manual film cameras can be found for $10. And if you ask around you may have a relative or a friend who has one sitting in a drawer and may just give it to you. There are still plenty of analog films that are being produced today, so you have a fairly good selection of B&W, color negative and slide film to choose from. You may find out how much more selective you are with only 12 – 36 exposures per roll of film and how much more you are focused on the scene and the perfect moment rather than checking camera menus or chimping results on the LCD. And you will probably value the good shots more than the ones from your digital camera.
8. Improve by always, always, always taking a camera with you!
If you don’t have a camera with you, you can’t improve your photography and you’ll miss countless moments worth capturing.