With 2014 coming to an end, it is time for some reflection. And of course, when I blog, I want you to be intrigued, help you grow, entertain you, or share some beauty. This blog however, will be for myself. Because in some situations, I get really stuck and don’t know how to grow. Putting words on paper helps me structure thoughts. Hopefully, you can help me out here! So please leave a comment and be brutally honest!
For some reason, when I see a picture made by someone else, there are a few things I would have done differently. I always have some suggestions or ideas to share. But when it comes to my own pictures, I find it hard to learn how to improve. And this is not because I am an annoying guy (well maybe I am) or find nothing to improve at my own pictures. It is just because I somehow black-out and really to much live in the moment.
Whenever I take a picture and I don’t like it, I am temped to retake it quite quickly which doesn’t lead to the desired results. The last few years, I have spent a lot of time looking to improve myself. Not just as a photographer, but also as a person and a professional. One thing I have learned, is being self-critical is great, if you are honest. Be too soft on yourself and your growth won’t be efficient, but if you are too hard on yourself, you’ll be miserable. Here are a few tips to help you improve yourself. Take note, that reflecting is a repeating process!
Where are you now and where do you want to be?
First thing to do, is define where you are now, and set goals where you want to be. Look at your pictures and tell what you like about them, and what you would like to improve. When you’re looking for improvements on your photos, try to act like it is someone else’s photo. Maybe you’ll get an idea of your growing goals this way. It is really important to make these goals somehow “S.M.A.R.T.“. Which is difficult and sometimes impossible, but a goal to “become a better photographer” isn’t measurable. Take a look at your favorite photographers and try to be a little more specific: “I want to learn how to lead the eye trough a picture”, or “I want my landscape photographs to look like Craig Parry“. Take a look at your favorite photographers and try to bring to words, what you like about their pictures.
Understand what your goals mean
When settings goals, try to understand what your goals mean. In order to make beautiful pictures, you have to understand what beauty means and you need some basic knowledge of photography, like:
- How does a DSLR work?
- What settings to use?
- How does exposure work (shutter speed, aperture and ISO)
- Where to focus?
- What do we consider beautiful?
- What do colors do to a picture?
- How does light affect a picture?
What are your problems?
Like I stated above, reflecting yourself is a repeating process. While reflecting, try to understand what your problems are in photography. Compare two of your similar pictures and try to tell why you like one more than the other. Is your problem related to colors? Depth in pictures? Does your picture tell a story? Is your subject in one picture more clear than in the other picture? Always ask yourself, why do I like or dislike one picture (The Power of Why)?
Work on it (but take small steps at a time)!
Now you have learned a little bit about yourself and your pictures, work on it! Go out and take pictures and keep in mind what you want to achieve. Practice makes perfect. One idea to help you out, is to take notes after each photo shoot, about what you liked and would like to work on. Improving is an endless journey, and you can’t remember all your lessons learned a year ago, so take notes! Take small steps at a time, perfecting one skill and then another will lead to a great set of skills. Trying to learn everything at once probably will lead to a large set of average skills.
Take a step back
While working on your photography skills. It is important to regularly reflect. Every time you go out to take pictures, look at your previous shoot and compare results. Be critical and honest! It is also a good idea, to compare the pictures of your most recent shoot, to (similar) pictures you took a year ago. What have you learned in this year and how did you improve? Again, try to be specific, for example: “A year ago I tried to take a picture of a scene, but did not have a subject. My pictures include a subject now”, or “my colors are better because I started to shoot at the Golden Hour“.
Let others reflect and go back to the first step
Like I stated above, advising others on their pictures, can be easier than criticizing your own work. I believe one of the reasons is you are to close at your work and you need a certain distance for a complete view. That’s why it is very important to let others criticize your work (and feel free to criticize mine). Don’t reject their comments (even if they don’t know a thing about photography). It might hurt (that’s why you should also ask for some positive feedback), but you will learn. Again, take notes!
After others criticized your work, go back to the first step, because like I said: improvement is an endless repeating journey. Make sure you compliment yourself on your work and be happy with what you do! And if you feel you are not learning because you keep making mistakes: Improving is making new mistakes.