By Ricardo Da Cunha
The following 5 tips represent the top 5 things that have helped me the most to develop as a photographer and I continually refer to these to further my development. I hope they too can help you along your own journey.
1. It sounds simple but it’s true; looking at good photographs will make you a better photographer. Study images captured by the best photographers in your field.
Personally I’ve found continually looking at other photographers’ work and studying what it is that appeals to me in images that I like to have led to the most improvement in my photography. I really recommend you to be stern in which images you study – don’t study good photographs but rather only study ‘great’ photographs. A great photograph will make you stop and take notice and capture your interest. When looking at such images ask yourself the following questions:
1) What elements immediately appeal to you in the image? Is it the light? The subject? The composition? Perhaps it was the low angle viewpoint? Understand what it is that you like so much from the image and then set out to include these elements in your own work. Be careful however as to not try and emulate the style of any of these great images. Learn from them but then apply what you have learnt to develop your own unique style.
2) Observe the time of day that the image was captured. Was it at pre-dawn or after sunrise? Try and establish a trend and then set-out to shoot during the same times of the day
3) Observe the direction of lighting; is the light hitting the subject from the back, front or is the subject side lit?
4) What subject continually makes for a strong image?
There are numerous online sources where you can seek out great photographs but none better in my opinion than www.500px.com. Simply visit the ‘Popular’ and ‘Editors Choice’ sections and choose your respective genre (i.e. Landscapes). There is even an iPhone App that you can download so that you can be inspired whilst you’re on the go.
2. Only show your very best images – not just images you’re reasonably happy with but images you feel proud to show. There was once a question asked in a presentation by a successful photographer and they were asked a simple question from one of the audience members. The question was: “how to do you become a great photographer?” The successful photographer’s answer was then just as equally simple; “never show anyone your bad photos”. I think this is very true. If you’re in two minds or not sure about an image then such an image is just not good enough! Only show images that you’re absolutely convinced that they are a hero shot. Showing only 3 very strong images is much better than showing 20 good images. The old golden rule still remains; quality is better than quantity.
3. This third rule is more applicable to Landscape Photography. In order to improve as a Landscape Photographer you need to be incredibly persistent! If you visit a scene and you’ve captured an image that you’re not quite happy with because the lighting conditions may have not been the best, then don’t settle; return to the same location until you capture an image of the same scene in amazing light. If you speak to any seasoned Landscape Photographer they will tell you that most of their trips and those painful early pre-dawn starts prove fruitless… Accept that you are not always going to come back with images to share and if you’re finding that you’re capturing a worthwhile image on each of your shoots then it’s not because you’re lucky but rather your quality expectations are not high enough! It takes years to build a collection of images that you can feel proud of and I have the up most respect for successful landscape photographers for this very reason as I have a somewhat understanding of just how much effort has gone into producing their collection of images.
4. Learn as much as you can about your favoured genre of photography. It’s very true. Identify your favourite photographers in your area and don’t be afraid to contact them about receiving some paid for knowledge sharing. Don’t expect that these photographers will just tell you everything that they know for free and instead respect that these photographers need to make a living from what they do.
5. Finally my last tip is to just simply get out there and shoot! Learn by doing! Stop talking about it and just do it! Achieve better results through committed action. There will be many frustrations and mistakes along the way but mistakes are another word for experience. For each failed shoot a lesson will be learnt and this is what will greatly help you become a better photographer. I’ve made my share of mistakes and I’m quite sure I’ll continue to make a few more as I get more experienced but I can tell you that I am much better for each mistake that I’ve made.
Please share these tips with others who might also benefit from them.
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