I am going to write in this article about 10 ways that we can all improve our photography in 2018. I am talking about things that will help us all take better photographs in 2018, whilst spending less time on the distractions that take us away from working on the actual photographs themselves.
Taking better photographs is what it is all about after all.
Some of the things I write about in this article are things that I have learned along the way, and some are things that I know I need to work on to improve my photography in 2018.
I am going to listen to my own advice for once, and act on all 10 of these things (yes even the lessons I have learned – there is always room for improvement!), and ask you all to join me and do the same.
I am going to schedule a review article to see how I got on.
Please get in touch with any thoughts or other ideas that you have which will help us all Improve our Photography in 2018 (yes, I have deliberately worked in Improve Photography – clever eh!).
1 – Go out more and take photographs.
This is my first and most important recommendation. Just get out and take photos. In my opinion this is the single biggest thing you can do to improve your photography.
When I say go out and take photographs I mean go out more and take photographs – not go out and take more photographs. There is a difference. Check out my bulging Lightroom catalogue for proof that less is indeed more. Quality over quantity.
If you listen to lots of photographers you will hear the same thing. Sitting staring at your PC/ Mac/ iPad/ Phone/ Netflix/ Amazon Prime/ YouTube/ anything electrical within the confines of the four walls you call home is not the best way to improve your photography.
Please allow me to get back to the absolute fundamentals here. What exactly is photography? Don’t worry – this will make sense.
Photography is defined as
“The art or practice of taking and processing photographs” in the Oxford Living Dictionaries.
Photography is not defined as
- “Spending all your time looking at gear on WEX Photo Video or Jessops. Or for you folks across the pond in the USA B&H Adorama”.
Nor is it defined as
- “Watching used gear on eBay waiting for a bargain price on a piece of kit you probably don’t need anyway”.
Neither is it
- The practise of reading endless reviews of cameras, lenses and gear on line, analysing the most minute details and features.
- Hammering your Amazon Prime account.
It is, I repeat,
“The practise of taking and processing photographs.”
So, there you go. Remember this piece of advice only and your photography will improve. (But read point 3 below about processing).
2 – Think about composition more than anything else.
Now I have convinced you to get out more and take photos this is the next most important piece of advice I can give you that will help you improve your photography in 2018.
- Think about your composition.
- Learn about composition.
- Study composition.
Practise all those lovely “rules of photography”, and once you have learned the rules you will be in a much better position to break them.
Composition after all is about the content of a photograph, and surely the most important thing in a photograph is the content? Sure a photograph needs to be technically correctly captured, but ask yourself this question – which makes a better photograph
- Great composition?
- Technical correctness.
I will let you answer that yourselves.
Look at other peoples’ work. See how other photographers have composed images. This is much more important than all that technical gear stuff.
This might sound a bit out there but look at the great painters work. You might not be interested in painting but trust me on one thing – the old masters knew how to use light. Check out the article on Improve Photography on Rembrandt Lighting while I am on the subject.
If you only do two of the 10 things I suggest this year do these first two.
- Get out more and take photographs.
- Really work on your composition.
If you want more ideas though read on!
3 – Don’t spend forever processing.
This can be a really big time consumer and source of frustration. Learn the software you have. Use one software package and learn it inside out before getting anything else (refer to a previous article of mine for the list of software I have bought but never use).
Once you know how to use a programme work on a style that you can call your own. But don’t spend forever on this (the processing not the style).
Make the images look the best you can, but do not make the image processing the main point of your photography.
I have quite a stringent processing workflow for my architectural photography, mainly because as well as an artistic process architectural photography is in itself a technical discipline requiring technical correctness and consistency of look, style and quality. As well of course as great composition.
When I process landscape and travel photography work though I can get rid of these technical restraints, and can really enjoy my processing.
When you have an image that you are happy my suggestion is this – make a print and move on.
Move on to something else. Another image.
And look at the print at your leisure. Why do prints? See point 7 for the answer.
Photography is a creative process, and I think that people like you and I get the most out of photography by getting out and taking pictures.
We all spend too much time staring at devices – we all need to get off our backsides, stop staring at our computers/ phones/ tablets and take photos. And get some lovely fresh air.
Lets do this together – lets stop tweaking those sliders so obsessively.
One last thought on this subject – there comes a point where a photo does not improve, it just becomes different. Learn where the line is between finished work and needless tinkering.
If you do not work commercially try this as an experiment – give yourself 2 hours to produce 10 images. The steps will include
- Importing the images into Lightroom/ your software of choice.
- Selecting 10 images.
- Editing 10 images.
- Adding metadata, title, caption, keywords, then renaming the files.
- Exporting the images for issue to a notional client.
- Sorting out the filing and indexing of the images.
Try this and you will get my point. This is what I have to so day in day out. This is the commercial reality. I have to get images done quickly but technically correctly.
Please just try this once and see how you get on, but promise me you will stick to 2 hours and 10 images.
And then think about all that tinkering.
How good does it feel to set yourself a deadline and work to it?
4 – Don’t spend time trying to get likes etc.
Get honest critiques of your work. Not from your family. You can get honest portfolio critiques from Jim and the good folk at Improve Photography.
But do not consciously spend time trying to get likes on any platform. It will not help you. I have learnt this. I have wasted time doing this – chasing likes and social media appreciation. And what has it got me?
In my humble opinion likes on social media are as valuable as yesterdays news. We are conditioned to to do this, but how many people prove actual benefits from this?
This is a bit of a pet hate of mine, which I could rant on about indefinitely – in fact I might do an article titled “10 reasons why I hate social media!”
Work on your photography – don’t chase fleeting online approval from someone who has given your work at most 2 seconds of their attention.
Trust me on this – it might not be a popular opinion, but I believe I am right.
5 – Practise, practise, practise.
The more you practise, the better you get. I would like to provide an analogy.
Think of your favourite sportsman or sportswoman. Go on, jut bear with me here. A real, world-class sports person at the top of their game.
- A world record holder.
- An Olympic gold medal winner.
- The golden boot winner at the FIFA World Cup (football that is. And sorry all you folk in the USA, that is football, not soccer!).
Got someone in mind? Good.
How do you think they became the best? Luck?
No. A level of ability no doubt. But also, and I would say without exception, the drive and ambition to practise, practise, practise.
I like this saying (is it a saying, or have I made it up?).
The more I practise, the luckier I get.
In photography terms this can relate to pretty much anything. The more you practise the more you
- Know your gear
- Are able to adapt to changing circumstances
- Know what makes a great composition
- Get the shots you need
- Enjoy taking photographs.
If you stop and think about this one for a second. The more you practise, the easier it becomes, the better the pictures you take. And what does that lead to?
More enjoyment and better photography.
Trust me I have never loved my photography more than I do right now.
6 – Don’t worry about noise – no one else does
A quick one. Shoot at the lowest ISO you can to give yourself the highest quality image sure. But make sure the ISO is fast enough to allow you to get a sharp photo.
This is the point.
If someone looks a a blurry image, they know it is a blurry image.
If someone looks at a tack sharp but noisy image the chances are they will not notice the noise.
Who knows about noise? Photographers. Most normal people do not know what noise is, nor do they care.
It is just us photographers who worry about noise.
A case in point. I have just issued an image to a client.
Circumstances meant that I had to shoot his image handheld, so pushed the ISO a lot. My client by the way is an architect. Architects have a real eye for details. It is in their DNA.
Did he notice the noise? No. What he saw was a tack sharp image.
Case closed your honour.
7 – Don’t compare yourself to other photographers.
Your beginning is completely different to someone else’s middle.
If you have just started taking photographs you should not expect to be as good as someone who has being doing the same for years and years.
You don’t expect to take up a sport and be the best straight away do you?
You don’t start a new subject at school and expect to know it all straight away and pass an exam?
No of course not.
So why you should expect photography to be an instant success?
Unless you are a genius that is. And the last time I looked I wasn’t….
By all means look at other photographers work, and learn from the images that they have produced. And aim to be better than all those great photographers out there.
But do not be intimidated by other peoples’ great photographs. Do not be frustrated if your photographs are not as good as other peoples.
While I am talking about other photographers I have a confession to make.
I don’t really look at other photographers work any more if I am being completely honest. And if you asked me who my favourite photographer was I could not answer you. I don’t have one. Apart from Jim Harmer of course!
Look at other peoples work if you want to. And if you don’t don’t. I don’t.
When I go to a location I want a clear idea of what I am going to photograph – I do not want to arrive at a location with lots of other peoples images in my head. Of course for most of my work this is not a problem as I am photographing buildings that the public do not get to photograph.
8 – Print your photographs
Stop staring at your monitor/ device. Print some photos. Put them on the wall. Enjoy them. Hold physical prints in your hands.
Yes – actual prints.
I don’t have a printer, and have never printed my own work. Shocking I know. I have had a selection of my photos printed as postcards, which was great.
Here they are above my monitor on my unnaturally tidy desk. Well this was just the beginning (it is dark as I polish off this article!).
And this was just the beginning. I have visited my local printer down here in Poole. Yes – you heard me right.
I have actually travelled and spoken to an actual person, had a face to face conversation.
We should all do more of this, rather than just ordering online.
And I have discussed how he wants to receive the files, and next week I am going to get some prints done. And I can’t wait. I am going to get some commercial architectural photography work printed, and also some personal stuff.
Go on – get some prints done. You don’t have to spend a lot of money if you don’t want to – get them from anywhere – just get some actual prints that you can look at.
I guarantee it will make a difference to how you view your photographs.
9 – Don’t worry about gear, but learn everything about what you have. And use it.
Gear is not important.
I will qualify that.
You need gear to take photographs. Buy the best camera gear you can afford, and that is the most appropriate for your needs.
Buy accessories that will help you Improve your photography. I am really strict about this these days – I only buy something if I really need it and the item in question answers a specific need and will help me to take better photographs.
If not, I don’t buy it.
I have bought lots of things in the past that I did not need or use. They are all in a box in a cupboard. Every year I look at the stuff and see if I really need it. And then do a really liberating thing – I either bin the stuff or sell it on eBay.
If I have not used something in a year I do not need it. This works pretty well for me, and the number of things that end up in my box of shame is getting less and less year on year.
Buy the things you can afford and need, then use them. Get to know them. And ignore all those people who say you must have the latest and greatest shiny new multi megapixel all singing all dancing piece of kit.
Can I prove this? Yes.
Look at these pictures.
One was taken with a Canon G11.
One was taken with a Canon 350D.
One was taken with a Canon 50D.
Can you tell which photo was taken with which device?
Get my point?
10 – Don’t worry what other people say – be different.
Fail. Make mistakes. And don’t worry about.
I keep on making mistakes. I have made so many mistakes I should be a genius by now. But making mistakes brings with it real learning.
So just get out there and do what you want, do different things and see what happens. Some things will work. Some won’t.
Go out, make mistakes, fail. Post things. Share things. Don’t be constrained by conventions and what everyone else says.
Find your way, whatever it is. I have produced and shared online some awful stuff. I do not follow the conventions on lots of things – I just do what I do and don’t think about what everyone else is doing.
If anything, I wish I could be a lot more original and different – this is definitely something for me to work on in 2018.
Photography is a creative process, don’t forget that. Be creative and try new things.
One thing that I have learn is this.
I am no good at judging which photographs constitute my best work. Photographs that I think are great can completely bomb on social media, and ones that I think are awful prove to be more popular than I should have ever imagined.
Try new things, get them out there and see what happens. But
DO NOT CHASE LIKES/ THUMBS UP/ CLICKS/ ANY POSITIVE SOCIAL MEDIA FEEDBACK.
Don’t avoid it sure, but don’t make it the be all and end all either.
Just do what you want to, and learn from doing this.
And learn from these things.
11 – Enjoy your photography.
I know, I said 10 ways to improve your photography in 2018. But I had to sneak this one in. Act on the 10 things I have written about here and there is a fair chance that you will enjoy your photography more.
If you enjoy something you will probably do a better job than if you didn’t.
If you find that there are things that bug you every time you go out and shoot work them out and see how much more enjoyable your photography will be without these irritations we all suffer.
I enjoy my photography now more than ever. Even my commercial architectural photography work.
Yes, there are times when it is hard work, but I still enjoy the challenge of taking pictures, importing them to my computer and seeing if I achieved my goals.
Whatever your level of photography make sure you enjoy this wonderful thing called photography – if you are reading this then I guess you are trying to improve your photography. Enjoying what you do will help.
That is 10 things that, if we all think about them and act on them can help us to improve our photography in 2018.
Some of these things I have written about are things that I have learnt to so, and some of them are things that I will work on during 2018.
Please let me know what you think of the 10 things I have come up with, and suggestions for a follow up article in 2018 which I would be delighted to write – anyone who comes up with a suggestion that I use will get a mention in this article!
And lets all meet back again online at the back end of 2018 and compare notes on how we did.
Thanks again for reading, and here’s to a great 2018 for all of us.