It’s a new year and the beginning of a new decade. All of which means – opportunity. Opportunity to become a better photographer. Opportunity to improve your photography skills and even improve your ability to make money as a photographer if that is your goal.
2019 was a great year for photographers and photography. Lots of cool new gear. No camera companies went out of business and Micro Four thirds is still a thing! Go figure.
Traditionally, this is the time of year where people make New Year’s Resolutions… and of course post them for the world to see on Facebook and Instagram as if the world will actually hold you accountable for these self-made promises that you will inevitably break within the first 30 days of the new year.
Look, I’m just keeping it real. Researchers have found that about 60 percent of us make New Year’s resolutions but only about 8 percent are successful in achieving them. In other words, statistically, the time and effort put into a New Year’s resolution is a waste of time.
That being said, I have decided to take a different approach and give you just three things that can have the biggest impact and help you improve your photography. The best part is these tips don’t cost money and you can accomplish these three things with your existing gear. (Will that new camera make you a better photographer?)
For those of you that have been following me for a while, these suggestions may sound familiar. The cool part is that I know some of you have followed them with great success and yet others are still looking for easier and lazier ways to get it done. This is the group that I am talking to now.
You won’t improve your photography if…
I am begging you – don’t be a zombie photographer and follow the crowds mindlessly if you really want to improve your photography. Please don’t watch chicken little videos that declare the end of a brand or format or photography in general. There is no value to being a pixel peeper. Don’t think that shooting film makes you special. Remember that you don’t need to be better than anyone else. Don’t be afraid to suck! As a matter of fact I have a whole video about that… But I digress…
The THREE MOST important things that you can do to improve your photography in 2024
Number 1: Take more pictures! LOTS more pictures.
Webster’s dictionary states that photography is the art or process of producing images. It is mind boggling how many people have thousands of dollars invested in camera equipment, but they don’t use it.
My personal favorites are the photography trolls in the Facebook Groups. They post comments degrading everyone’s photos – yet they never post any of their own – mainly because they don’t have any or at a minimum very few of any quality.
You simply cannot improve your photography if you don’t actually take pictures. LOTS of pictures. You have to learn to embrace failure. Seek out failure by experimenting and learn to solve problems and take more pictures. All the blog articles and classes and YouTube videos in the world will not make you a better photographer.
Number 2: Spend more time with the pictures that you don’t like then you do with the pictures than you do like.
We are all guilty of NOT doing this enough – if at all.
Hold yourself accountable! We all go out and shoot and come back to our computers – cull through a hundred or a thousand or several thousand images, narrow it down to the few that we are going to use, then we process those few images and post them on social media for all the world to stroke our egos. Then we either delete or just file away ALL of those hundreds or thousands of frames that we didn’t use.
What we should be doing is setting aside some time to look at those images that didn’t make the cut and ask WHY? Why don’t I like it? What could I have done to make it better? In other words, the exercise is to learn from our mistakes. Gosh… isn’t that one of those lessons we were first taught when we were little kids?
So many of the mistakes we make when we are shooting are because we are human and easily distracted. We think that we are good at multitasking, but the fact is we aren’t. Google the phrases Inattentional Blindness or Change Blindness or better yet – watch my video – Don’t Be Afraid to Suck and you can learn more about why we make those mistakes.
Tip Number 3: Create new habits around your mistakes and shortcomings.
Many of your mistakes will be recurring. You will make them more than once and with greater frequency than you would prefer.
When that is happening you have to do some honest self-evaluation.
Is it happening because you are being lazy and haven’t put in the time to read the manual or taken the time to practice? If that’s the case – then the solution is simple – get your head out of your butt and do the work.
If the problem is that you keep forgetting things or not noticing things, then the solution is actually achievable but it will take some discipline.
You have to create systems – steps – workflows
I’ll give you some examples… Let’s say that you find yourself retouching your portrait or modeling images and you routinely realize that you missed a ton of fly-away hairs that are making your shot look sloppy and now you are spending a crazy amount of time trying to retouch them out of your shot.
Get yourself a Dymo labeler or just a simple Post-It note. Put the notes on the back of your camera – on your lights on your computer screen if you are tethering – check for flyways?
Work on a mental reminder that makes the last thing you do before pressing the shutter – looking at your subjects’ hair.
Do you tend to underexpose your shots? Make a note and then the last step should always be to review your exposure.
Great photography always benefits from good habits
If you put in the effort to do steps #1 and #2 it will be a lot easier for you begin to build these habits – your own system so that you notice the little details and don’t forget to check for things that you routinely miss.
You see, you can improve your photography, and it doesn’t have to cost you money. It does however take effort. There are no shortcuts to great photography. The technology we have today allows us to make better photographs faster and with fewer skills – but it requires a solid understanding of photography and the techniques involved to consistently create great images.
I hope you found this information useful. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something! Because – “Your BEST shot is your NEXT shot!” — Joe Edelman