You can improve your skills in any endeavor with the proper motivation. In photography, you can produce significantly better images by taking the time to determine what your strengths are, and where your skills may be lacking.
From time to time I like to review my best photos from the past year, and determine what makes them so good. How you choose to define “best” is a personal choice. It may be the photos which got the best feedback on Flickr, or from your family and friends. If you are professional photographer, it might be the photos which were licensed most often.
No matter how you determine what your best photos are, your next step is to set a goal to top these photos in the coming year. In this article, I will break down my 5 favorite steps to producing your best photographs.
1. Inspire Yourself
What inspires you on a daily basis? When you dream, what do you dream about? If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would that be? We all have our best success tackling tasks which we have a strong personal interest in. Photography is no different.
Make a list of your favorite things in life, and try to incorporate them into ideas of photography subjects. If serenity makes you most happy, consider photography subjects which match this demeanor. You will naturally push yourself to work harder at shots which cover your favorite subjects, and personal motivation is the first step to producing a photo which exceeds your previous best shot.
2. Seek Feedback
Seeking feedback is not easy. Whenever we do, we expose ourselves to inevitable criticisms. It is important we learn to recognize constructive criticism, and to embrace it. There is an old saying that no matter how good you are at something, there is someone who does it better. That same person is capable of teaching you ways to immediately improve your work.
Join online communities related to photography such as Flickr, and various photography communities. As you do, you will quickly recognize the forum members who have the highest knowledge and skill level. These are the people you want to connect with, and listen to when they lend advice.
My two favorite photography forums are the Digital Photography School and Fred Miranda forums. Both have an unusually high level of posting quality, and both are moderated to keep a positive vibe.
3. Take Advantage of Vacations
Vacations are wonderful for photography. They often whisk us away to exotic locations which fuel our creativity. Just getting away from the daily grind of work and responsibility can free you up to shoot with an enhanced level of creativity and awareness.
Another way to utilize a vacation is to use it as a deadline. You can do this by identifying a new photography technique which you need to learn, or significantly improve upon, to push your photos to new heights. Circle the vacation dates on your calendar, and set a goal to learn your technique prior to these dates.
Techniques could include learning how to shoot silhouettes against sunsets, recognizing interesting compositions better, or just about anything. It could even be getting better at using your new lens. Once you get to your vacation destination, don’t waste time. Immediately begin employing what you have learned. Think of your new skill as an important new tool, and you as a master tradesman.
4. Learn From the Past
Remember earlier when we began our process by identifying our best photos? We can also learn a lot by identifying unsuccessful photos. What made these poorer images fall short of expectations? Did we mess up the lighting, or get the composition wrong? Did we fill the frame properly?
Related to our previous point about setting deadlines for improving a technique, I like to keep an electronic notebook in Google Drive of techniques I need to improve on, or ideas I have for future shots. This keeps me organized, and keeps me in touch with areas which need improving.
5. Always Learn Something New
When you love something, you want to learn more about it. With photography there is an endless supply of resources for pushing yourself forward. Books, websites, and photography clubs are just some of the ways you can tap the knowledge of other photographers.
Make note of photographers who have a style which you can identify with. I love Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding” books. He is highly motivational, but what most excites me most about his photography is his use of rich colors and interesting compositions. His eye finds subjects where so many miss them.
Improving your photography and producing your best work to date is easier when you are motivated and inspired. Choose subjects which deeply interest you, seek constructive criticism from knowledgeable photographers, and practice photography on a regular basis. In no time you will be producing photos which surpass your previous expectations, and raising expectations for future images.
Now it is up to you. Get Shooting!
About Guest Author:
Daniel Padavona is the lead photographer for Warmpicture Stock Photos. Daniel writes a photography blog for Warmpicture, and enjoys helping other photographers improve their skills. He shoots with Canon equipment, and loves the 5D line of cameras.