These may be blindingly obvious. The challenge however is not knowing them but doing them. These are five things I am ‘committing’ to, to try and improve my photography. Thought I’d share and would welcome any comments to see what others do that improves their image making skills.
- Take more photographs. This may be the most obvious thing of all but it’s something I would guess even professionals struggle with sometimes. Henri Cartier-Bresson said “your first 10,000 photographs are your worst”. If you’re not up to your first 1000 even then you’d better get out there and start photographing. Try and make images, don’t just take snaps. Making an image requires thought and preparation. I find it helps if you put those images ‘out there’, whether it be showing friends or family or on a blog or via Facebook, Twitter or any of the photo hosting sites. Getting exposure gets comments (good and bad).
- Understand how your camera works. Modern cameras are technical marvels few of us really comprehend or appreciate. It’s easy to think you can put your DSLR onto ‘P’ (for professional mode, right) and let it make all the decisions for you but you shouldn’t. When I started with photography cameras barely had built-in light meters and certainly had no auto modes. ‘M’ was the only option. An understanding of the menu options on your camera, as well as how to access them quickly and seamlessly whilst you are making your images, is absolutely essential. Most cameras don’t come with printed manuals these days which I suspect means many of us don’t bother reading the the things. It’s always worth spending time with your cameras manual until you really understand its capabilities and how to get the best from it.
- Read something about photography, everyday. For me conventional photography magazines and books, those that make use of dead trees, are becoming a little tired. The internet seems to cater for much of my photographic needs when it comes to learning or getting reviews or looking at inspirational photographs. There is a wealth of stuff out there on photography, much of it free. I try and spend at least 30 minutes a day reading something new about photography whether it be looking at blogs I follow or searching for information on specific topics. If you are into four thirds or mirrorless cameras then take a look at some of the links I recommend here.
- Attend as many photography exhibitions as you can. Here in the UK London seems to get a disproportionally large share of photography exhibitions but if you search hard enough you’re bound to find something near to you. Looking at others photographs that someone has considered worthy of displaying (even if it is the photographer) is a great way to learn. Don’t just go to those exhibitions that display what you know or like. Occasionally go to see stuff you wouldn’t normally bother with. You might learn something new and will certainly get a different perspective on things. A good source of what’s on around the country can be found at the Royal Photographic Societies web site here. I occasionally post reviews of exhibitions I’ve attended such as here (though there is no guarantee they’ll still be on by the time you read them of course).
- Learn with other photographers. There are many photographers out there who are happy, for a fee of course, to provide the benefit of their experience to you in relatively small teaching groups. Also, some camera manufacturers sponsor and subsidise education sessions where they may or may not include use of their equipment as part of the training. The photographer Damian McGillicuddy and Olympus are but one example of this. Again, the RPS offers reasonably priced education and you may find local photography studios that do the same (for example the studio I use Tip Top Photography). I would highly recommend doing this once or even twice a year. Despite the vast wealth of information that is available on the internet there is nothing like being with other photographers and talking to them directly. Not only do you learn stuff on the day you often make long term relationships, possibly carried on through social networking tools such as Facebook or Twitter, that will continue to benefit everyone concerned.