The myth of quick and easy ways to improve your photography

January 18, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Quick and easy ways to improve your photography, 10 easy ways to better photography, 5 easy ways to improve your photography skills.  We see these headlines all the time.  I'll let you in on a secret.  There are no easy or quick ways to better photography.  These headlines are to get you to read the article because so many people are looking for the "sure-fire" quick road to success.  Just like the "get rich quick" books.  

Better photography skills are not easy, nor are they quick.  Better photography skills takes work on your part.  I also hear the old adage, "practice makes perfect".  Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent.  I will also say that perfect is an unattainable goal.  If your goal is to learn to take perfect photographs you will fail.  I believe your goal should be to improve and refine your photographs.  

Some of the things that I have read that photographers professes to be a quick and easy way to improve you photography is to "know your gear".  How long to you think it will take to know and be able to instantly recall the settings and operation of your camera and gear?  A day, a week, a year?  Longer?  The manual on my last two cameras, the Nikon D300s and the Nikon D750, are over 400 pages and 500 pages long respectively.  Do I need to memorize the manuals and know every single function?  No, but even those functions I use every day will take some time and require some work.  Learning even the basic functions will not only require you to read about it but also to use them, adjust them, practice them.  

Learning your gear takes time and practice with the gear.  Do you think the golfer who only plays golf once a week for a few hours will ever get very good?  Probably not.  Do you think the pro golfer goes out buys new golf clubs just before the big tournament and uses them to play the tournament? They know how to use their previous equipment, after all it just golf clubs.  

I read a blog on "eight simple ways" to better photography.  Number one on the list, "refine your vision".  Can you refine your vision in one day, one week, one year?  Probably not.  Not to totally pick on the author because it was a very good article and they gave some good advice and exercises.  In fact, it was one of the best I read.  The author even mentioned that practice makes perfect myth, bad practice just reinforces bad habits.  I also understand why they chose the title as they did, to gather readers.  Potential readers will search for such stories.  They are looking for that simple, quick "get rich" scheme.  

Here is my list of ways to improve your photography.

1.  Get a mentor.  Even if you have to pay for their time.  Find a person who is a better photographer than you are currently.   You want to find someone who will push you to do more, to get better.  Find someone who isn't locked into one mindset, who is open to new things, because you don't want to be a copy of them, you want to be your own good photographer.

2.  Learn to visualize.  Learn to look at a subject, a scene, the lighting to create the image you have in your mind to fulfill your vision.  You don't want to just be a button pusher, a "Hey that looks pretty.  I'll point my camera and just push the button."  You probably will never get that image you imaged by doing photography that way.  How do you learn to do this?  You learn to do this by knowing your gear, by studying light, composition, and listening to your emotions.  

3.  Learn your gear.  Don't read the manual.  Manuals aren't designed that way.  Keep your manual with you when you  are learning your camera.  When you need to know how to do something look it up.  Manuals are meant to be resource material.  Some things like lenses have very small manuals, if any, so how do you learn them.  You use them.  Use them in auto focus, manual focus, up close, far away.  Use them in bright light, use them in low light.  

4.  Study light.  Start paying attention to light and shadows.  Without light there is not photography.  Light is the basic driving force behind photography.  Light is everywhere. At first you may have to consciously think about it and make yourself see the light but eventually you will just see it.  You can study light by studying photographs of others.  Study the photograph don't just look at it.  There is a difference between looking and actually seeing.  

5.  Study good photography.  Study good photography.  Nothing bothers me more than what I see in many online forums where others share their photographs and see bad to mediocre photography that gets the "This is great!", "Wonderful capture", etc. comments.  These sorts of things become confusing to beginning or even some upcoming photographers.  I have always said if you want "likes" on you photographs take photographs of babies (humans or animals), scantly dressed or nude sexy people, or sunsets/sunrises.  It often doesn't matter how poorly done these are others will praise it.  This isn't to say don't photograph these things but learn to recognize good from bad or even mediocre.  Find photographers and online forums full of great photographs, study those works.  

6.  Never stop learning.  Never ever stop learning new things or trying new techniques.  I once read an interview of a famous photographer who said that he looks at his photographs and asks himself if he could have done that same photograph 5 years ago.  If his answer was yes, then it was time to "re-invent" himself.  

There are many other points I could make but I feel these cover what I believe to be the greatest paths to better photography.  



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