Associate Professor of Art & Photography.
How to Become a Better Photographer
I’d like to present to you several concrete ways to accomplish that goal.
The very first step is to want to learn more about photography. It all starts with the simple thought, “I want to become better at taking pictures” and then having the intention to see it through. Its about having curiosity and the desire to learn, to discover what new things await in the unfamiliar and unexplored territory of photography. It’s the state of mind where everything is new and exciting. You can feel the energy flowing through your blood stream and your brain! There’s a little bit of fear and apprehension but it won’t stop you because you really want to learn.
Once you get psyched up and you are in this frame of mind to get started, then comes the next step: to learn from someone who really knows a lot about photography.
Maybe there’s some special aspect of photography you want to learn? Maybe you want to learn nature photography, wedding photography, fine art photography? Whatever kind of photography it is, it would help you to find a photographer who has a lot of experience in the kind of photography that interests you most.
Take a class, find a teacher. You have heard the saying, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear?” This may be true, but sometimes it takes some extra effort on your part. Sometimes you have to go out and find that teacher!
And speaking of effort…. learning is an active principle, not a state of passivity where one sits back to be entertained with information. Once you find that teacher, take an active role in your learning. I encourage you to participate in your learning. When you are really hungry you don’t sit around waiting for someone to realize that you’re hungry and bring you food. No, you take action to get what you want! Learning needs the same approach!
If you are lucky enough to find a person to learn from, ask questions, think about what they teach you, and practice by taking some photos. In other words, participate in your learning.
The third tip is to feed your creativity by looking at as many photos as you can. Your brain is a sponge and it’ll soak up all the images that you put in it. Look, study, and enjoy. This whole process is a lot of fun. Look for images you like and take a little time to see them. Eventually you end up with mind full of visual impressions that are simmering and mixing around your brain to make a nutritious, creative stew to, literally, feed your creativity.
Every image you take in with your eyes will mesh together in your memory. In your brain, new creative pathways will form to inspire you to make images. With practice you will develop your own voice, your own vision of photography. At this point you might be passionately driven to experiment with your new ideas. Look at books, the internet, and magazines….give it a try!
The fourth method for improving is to simply practice. Take lots and lots and lots of pictures. Follow your creative muse, who is all pumped up from looking at pictures, and shoot lots of images. You will get batter at whatever you practice regularly, be it the violin, throwing a ball, running, or photography. Your creativity is a muscle that grows stronger by working out. Watching demonstrations, hearing lectures, looking at pictures, and shooting are all ways to build that muscle. You can even take pictures with you imagination if you don’t have a camera.
Tip number five is to let other people see your work and critique it. Have your teachers or a group of your peers look at a selection of your best images and get their input. Ask what’s visually working for them and what isn’t. Again, participate and be active. Ask questions; get a dialogue going because people are offering you something valuable when they critique your work.
If you have the opportunity to return the favor of critiquing someone else’s work, say something. Tell them what you think, what your eye sees, and how you think they might improve the image. Speak up and be helpful because this is also part of your practice of looking at images and becoming better at image making.
Follow these suggestions and I guarantee your photography will become more visually interesting and unique.
And I will leave you with this quote from photographer Ernst Haas, “There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.”