Much to the chagrin of professional photographers, we have reached a point in time where anyone with a smartphone fancies themselves as an expert. Hopefully, you can appreciate the value of a professional and will hire them accordingly as and when required. In the meantime, that is absolutely no reason not to improve yourself as a photographer. You may be the type that points and clicks, and there is nothing wrong with that. Alternatively, you may be the kind of person that appreciates photography for the creative art form that it is.
In this feature, we tackle the idea of introducing more artistry into your photography. The underlying technology does not matter – you may well just use your smartphone camera. This feature is more about your approach and various techniques you can try out for improved results.
1. Be Patient When Viewing Your Pictures
If you have a passion for photography, the chances are that you take dozens or even hundreds of photos each day. The first virtue in improvement here is patience. Browse your pictures too soon after the fact, and you’ll be influenced by the vivid mental image of being there. You’ll also have an emotional attachment to each one that can inhibit your ability to sort and filter effectively. Ideally, you’ll want to wait a couple of days before you decide which ones to keep, but more time is always better. If you have the luxury of a couple of months before you revisit a shoot, take it.
2. Keep All but the Worst Shots
Even seasoned professionals take bad photos. They may be blurred, they might cut off the subject, or you may even have your finger over the lens – it happens to the best of us. However, perceptions change, and you may spot something on your camera roll that may not fall into the conventional category of a great shot, but is worth keeping hold of.
3. Go Analogue
A paid professional photographer would not dare turn up to a paid assignment with an analogue camera and rolls of film, not least due to the impression it leaves. However, it can be a cathartic, educational experience to bring out the oldies on occasion. For one, you lose the infinite storage capacity of digital cameras, forcing you only to take the shots in which you are most confident.
4. Draw Inspiration from Others
If your goal is to move on from a point and click photographer to an artist, there is never any harm in keeping an eye out for what others do. You may find a style you love, and you do not need to be entirely unique. Even if you find something you do not know how to replicate, there are enough photography communities out there to find answers and tips to emulate your favourite style.
5. Explore Other Artistic Ventures
Photography is just one form of artistic impression, but you may well find that your artistry improves when you explore other opportunities and possibilities. If you immerse yourself in the techniques and styles of painting, you might pick up more valuable information on framing and lighting than any photography course would teach as you are directly involved in the creation. This, in turn, can influence your approach to photography and help you to find your style.
6. Be Open to Feedback
It never feels good to be told that you’re not very good. However, if you think you’re doing everything right and nobody passes comment to the contrary, you limit yourself from optimal self-improvement. You do not necessarily need to go out to the public for opinions either. If in your research, you have come across a photographer you admire, there is no harm in trying to garner their professional opinion. Assuming they are not already internationally famous or very busy, the fact that you’ve asked for their opinion will be enough of an ego boost to receive an answer.
7. Think Twice About Every Shot
You may take the volume approach – take as many photos as you can and sort through them later to pick out the best ones. If you are a professional and paid for your time, this may not be feasible, and it is far better to focus on getting it right first time. If your subject does not move, like a building, take a moment to consider your approach. Think about how you would take the shot, and then try to think of a completely different approach. Unless you’re lost in the wilderness, you will not be the first to photograph your subject matter, nor will you be the last. However, a short period of thinking may well lead to a photographic interpretation unlike anything seen before.
8. Get into the Photographer Mindset
If you’re an amateur, it is not necessarily easy to think like a photographer. However, there is a certain love for the craft that often contributes to the best results. If you reach a point where you don’t enjoy what you’re doing and don’t rely on it for an income, it may be time to take a step back, reprioritise and find a new way for photography to inspire you.
9. Education Trumps Equipment
If you observe the pros, they generally have multiple cameras and bags full of equipment. Technology is now at a point, however, where the tech rarely holds you back from the capture of the perfect image. Even if your tech is cheap or outdated, if you are still learning, a good book or course may represent far more value than a new lens.
10. Improve Your Technical Prowess
The chances are that your stock of equipment will grow along with your prowess. The more you know about what your camera is capable of, the more opportunities you have to make your photographs stand out in the crowd. Artistry is a personal thing, but better technology always helps with the end result.