Are you looking for ways to up your photography game? Would you like to make a commitment to getting better at it? If you answered yes to both of these, read on. Photography is a funny business: intensely visual and cerebral and very physical at the same time, both reactive and proactive, incredibly creative and really technical, relying on instinct, but based on solid foundations.
There is no other way to grow your photography than to truly commit to practice, practice and practice some more and nothing is better for that, than creating a healthy photography habit. Here are our 5 steps to building one:
Dust the cobwebs off your camera
And I mean, literally. If you’ve not used your camera for a while, there’s bound to be some dust on the lens and elsewhere – get it nice and sparkling. Charge your battery ( and the spare one if you have one – you’ll thank yourself). Download all the photos from your existing memory cards and reformat them in your camera ( you’ll find that option in your menu) – this will help make sure all the data from the card is really gone and prolong the health of your card. Check your settings – especially the bits that may have got changed along the way like exposure compensation, white balance, file format etc – you want your camera back to neutral so you don’t have to worry about getting odd results. A reset back to the factory settings can be a good thing if you can’t remember what you’d done to your camera in the past.
Set yourself some goals
It’s up to you what they are, just make sure you have some. Pick short term goals ( I will learn and practice a new technique this month ) over long term, lofty aims ( I want to be like Annie Leibovitz one day). Having goals focuses your mind and makes getting out and about with your camera more purposeful ( = more likely to actually happen). You could join a 52 or 365project group online ( committing to upload one photo a week or a day – we are running one of these for our alumni students) to keep you shooting frequently. Do a course to skill up in a specific area or systematise your knowledge. Make sure to make yourself accountable for it in some way – don’t just take the photos – at the very least download them back onto your computer or upload to the internet – online photography clubs are great for this as you always get lots of encouragement and help along the way.
Look at photos
No, not just yours, although review is an important part of this process – look at what other photographers are doing and get inspired. Critically evaluating other’s work helps you find styles which speak to you more than others, find photographers who share a vision you have for your own photos and learn from them. When you come across an image that makes you pause, ask yourself – why am I drawn to this image? What makes it more attractive to me than the others? How was it achieved? Lots of photographers post their work on sites like Flickr or 500px and you can review the settings they used to take a photo but most photographers will be thrilled if you contact them to ask more questions about how they arrived at that image. Use a Pinterest board to gather inspirations from the net and see if you can recreate some techniques or styles.
Find your “go to” shots and grow beyond them
We all have them. Have a look through your photo archives – I can almost guarantee you will find a lot of photos that look very much alike. Perhaps you favour a head and shoulders portrait – look carefully, you’ll find almost identical shots in a range of sceneries with a range of facial expressions. Or maybe you only ever shoot at a really wide aperture and forget that the range or apertures on your lens was put there for a reason. Nothing wrong with having a ‘go to’ shot as such, but wouldn’t it be great to try something new? See something new? Get a fresh perspective? Challenge yourself NOT TO do your favourite thing for a day or a week or to the the opposite of where your normal style takes you – shake things up! Even if you end up going back to your default style afterwards – you’ll have learned along the way.
I know, yawn, boring, but oh so necessary. I know so many aspiring photographers who neglect that and end up never sorting through ( or sometimes even downloading!) the images they take, never learning from them, never having the chance to display their work proudly. It’s enough to fall back behind a little and with today’s possibilities of taking a few hundred images per shoot, the prospect of wading your way through hundreds of images sounds just south of exciting. Get in the habit of downloading ( and backing up) your photos as soon as you get home from shooting. Select and review your best images. You don’t even need a big system – axe the obviously bad ones, flag or star the good ones and put them in a “best of shootX” album and archive the rest. You’re never going to want to look through the ‘just OK’ photos – keep your time and attention for the best!
Photography is such an amazing discipline. It keeps you learning and growing and gives you another language with which to process the world. Give it a chance, catch that photography bug, truly SEE the beauty around you!
With all our best New Year’s wishes!
May your photography take you places you never knew existed.
Ania and the Photography for Parents team xxx