In November of last year I wrote about 10 ideas for improving our photography in 2018.
I thought is was worth revisiting this article 12 months on, and seeing how I got on. So how did I get on with my 10 ways to Improve your Photography in 2018? I fear not too well, but lets find out.
And please let me know how you have got on in the last 12 months improving your photography.
What was I talking about last year?
I was writing about things that will help you, me, all of us hopefully take better photographs in 2018 with less of the distractions that take us away from working on the actual photographs themselves.
1 – Go out more and take photographs.
This was 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.”
How did I get on?
Not too good.
I have managed to do quite a lot of travel photography, involving early mornings on foreign trips and photographing lots of sunrises.
I also managed to photograph most of the Greek Island of Paxos for something else I am working on.
And I have carried out plenty of commecial work.
But the one thing that I have not done is get out and about at home and take photos for myself – I have hardly done this in 2018 which is very frustrating to me. I seem to have spent much more time in my office writing and working on images that I have already taken.
A quick look at my Lightroom Catagloue tells me that in 2018 (to date) I have managed to get out and take personal photos in the UK 4 times.
4 times in one year.
That is not good.
Sure I have loads of photos from three foreign trips this year but very little from home, which is the one thing that I was looking to do more of – get out and about taking photos where I live.
By the way I live in the lovely county of Dorset here in England, with lots to go and see and photograph within an hour of my front doorstep.
Like Kimmeridge Bay – here it is.
I took this photo in 2008. And have not been back since…
I clearly need to get out more.
I made the point in my original article last year
Photography is defined as
“The art or practice of taking and processing photographs” in the Oxford Living Dictionaries.
I need to work on this in 2019.
This is what I am going to do – set myself a target.
One local location based personal photo shoot per month. That will (obviously) give me 12 sets of images, which will be a huge improvement.
OK – that is a plan number 1 for 2019.
2 – Think about composition more than anything else.
I have actually worked quite hard on this over the course of the year. I have been refining my commemcial work, trying to get down to the minimum number of image captures by absolutely nailing the composition first time.
And this has gone pretty well.
Over the course of the year I have achieved by Associateship with the British Instititue of Professional Photography.
This invloved a lot of time spent analysing the images that I had captured to come up with an architectural portfolio set of 40 images which I submitted to the BIPP.
This is one of those images, taken after I wrote the last article.
My work was critiqued by a Hasselbald Master no less, and I had to go to BIPP head office for a meeting to disusss my work.
My composition was discussed, and how much my work had improved since my first application for Licentiate membership some years ago.
It turns out I do not crop my photos at all. I did not know what. And once it was pointed out to me it was clear.
And my composition has improved a lot. I was aware of this as this is something I have been working on, not only when actually taking photos but also when I am out and about.
I have turned into one of those people who looks at most things in the context of “how could I best photograph that?” Seriously I do this all the time.
I see compositions all over the place – I am fine with this as my eyes are more open to my surroundings than they ever were.
The time I have spent studying and thinking about my compositions has resulted in me making better photographs, and also taking less photographs – much less which I hadn’t actually realised until I wrote this.
Working on my composition has been a big positive for me in 2017 and 2018 and something i will continue to work on in 2019.
3 – Don’t spend forever processing.
There were two strands to this point. The first was this.
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).
And what did I do? I started off the year just fine using Lightroom and nothing else.
Last month I got an email saying I can pre-order Aurora HDR 2019 if I buy the 2018 version by a certain date (which does not matter).
So what did I do?
I bought Aurora HDR two months ago.
And have I used it? Part from about 20 minutes playing with it no I have not.
Why do I do this?
Don’t get me wrong – I have absolutely nothing against Skylum, and I am sure Aurora HDR is a wonderful piece of software.
But I did not really want it, but still bought it.
I also bought the AI processing software Photolemur, which I haven’t used either.
I need to practice what I preach. I therefore promise not to buy any more software unless I have an actual need for it.
No new software in 2019.
And I will learn to use Aurora HDR and Photolemur.
And to make sure I do this I have scheduled a post on the Improve Photography publication calendar for 4th December to write about Aurora HDR 2019 – that is that sorted, and declared on the world wide web for all to see and judge me on.
The other strand to this point was spending forever and a day processing an image.
I set this challenge in my last article, which was this.
“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.”
I did this, and the images were fine. I managed slight improvements to them after that time but the 10 images I produced in the 2 hours I was happy with.
Did any of you try this (completely unscientific) experiment?
I have found my commercial architectural workflow has certainly got quicker this year, as I have a process and a plan and I find myself consistently sticking to it.
And another thing that has helped me is defining what I need to do and when I need to do it – I find that this focussing of the mind has made me much more productive. Or put it another way, doing one thing start to finish then moving on.
4 – Don’t spend time trying to get likes etc.
I wrote an article this year titled – Social Media for photographers – essential or waste of time?
This was one of most commented on articles I have written, and one that I thought I was going to get a hammering for.
A lot of you good folk seemed to agree with what I was saying. And this spurred me on to continue to make minimal effort with social media.
This is what I do.
Auto share blog posts from my main website to
Auto share Instagram posts to
- WordPress blog
- Anyhwere else that the App IFTT allows me to autopost.
I post to each of my Instagram accounts once a week, maybe twice on a slow week
And that is pretty much my social media activity done.
And this reduction in activity has not made any difference whatsoever to my business.
A big tick for me for this one in 2018 which I will take forward into 2019. Doing as little as possible that is.
So that is my plan – do less with social media in 2019!
5 – Practise, practise, practise.
In the original article I made this statement
“The more you practise, the better you get.”
Now I have to be honest here. I have not taken anywhere near as many photos, and have not been out anywhere near as much as I would have liked.
So practise to improve has not really happened for me. Sure I have worked on my composition, and the quality of my images has improved, but I have not produced the range of material that I had in mind at the start of the year.
I have continued to refine my architectural photography, and have practised with my travel photography, but nothing else.
In 2019 I am going to get out more – I have already committed to going out to take photos somewhere near home once a month (as a minimum).
The other thing I am going to do is practise the things that I don no t do that often.
In my line of work these include
More varied travel photography – not just sunrises. More street type stuff
Product photography – intricate technical stuff. Rather than just do this when a job comes in work at my craft and refine my technique to get better images.
Check this photo out which I took on Sunday – not bad and my client was absolutely delighted!
it is good to do new things.
Photography using flash. I hate flash, and the only way to stop hating flash is to learn to love it. And the only way to do that is to practise.
I don’t want to get out of my areas of expertise, but I do want to broaden my skills within these areas. Making myself improve at things I don’t want to do through practise really works for me.
How do you think I became such a gifted writer?
It’s ok – I’m joking!
Last thing on this point – one of my favourite sayings which I will repeat here.
The more I practise, the luckier I get.
6 – Don’t worry about noise – no one else does
And I didn’t. And guess what – no one said anything. Nothing.
Lets move on.
7 – Don’t compare yourself to other photographers.
I have found myself looking less and less at the work of other photographers.
I do not think that this is a good thing to be honest.
I have achieved my aim of not comparing myself to other photographers, but have gone too far down the road of me and no one else.
I need to rectify this.
I need to look at more work by other photographers – I need to broaden my mind.
I think I have become a bit arrogant and too content with what I think know.
Blimey – this is why I enjoy writing so much – it is like therapy to me! I hadn't realised that!
8 – Print your photographs
Done. I printed 40 images for my BIPP portfolio submission. 40 lovely 20 x 16” prints.
Not cheap mind but well worth it!
And I bought a big box to put them in. And let me tell you big boxes for photos are not cheap either!
I tried a folder and other more structured forms of storing the photos but none of them worked as they stopped me from doing the thing that I love doing with my big prints – laying them out at meetings with clients and letting them pick them up and hold them in their hands.
And I noticed things in the prints that I had not noticed before, which leads me nicely to a top tip.
Really really study a photo before committing it to paper!
This makes such a huge difference to how my images have been perceived and received – the experience of looking at a photo on an iPad screen just does not cut it against holding an actual print.
Get some prints done and put them in a box. And get them out and look at them. Hold them. Show them to other people.
Trust me – you will be amazed – well I hope so.
9 – Don’t worry about gear, but learn everything about what you have. And use it.
This is what I said last time.
“Gear is not important.
You need gear to take photographs. Buy the best camera gear you can afford, and that is the most appropriate for your needs.”
And nearly a year on I have bought some minor bits of kit that I needed for specific job, but all my core gear is the same.
Yes I know that my last article was titled “What are the 10 features I want my next camera to have?”
Which I think is fair enough but I still have the same gear that I had at the start of the year.
I am just a bit worried about my Canon 6D dying on me.
And also my ageing eyes.
Apart form that I used my Canon 6D and the same three lenses in all sorts of environments and locations without thinking about the camera itself throughout the last 12 months.
And only minor splashes on the beach and small drops to report!
10 – Don’t worry what other people say – be different.
I have made a tremendous success of this point. I have found myself now as we approach the end of the year to have gone off on some pretty major tangents. And these are good tangents that I will write about in 2019.
These tangents are about me doing something different, which feels good.
But I have sought advice from people I trust and followed that advice when offered.
And I keep making mistakes. But I keep learning from these mistakes.
11 – Enjoy your photography.
Yes this was point number 11.
And 12 months on I am still enjoying my photography. It is my passion, my hobby and my work.
Sure the structure of my business has changed significantly over the course of this year, but these changes are all positive and exciting.
And there is still nothing I enjoy more than
- Getting up at ridiculous’o’clock to photograph the sunrise
- Securing photographic commissions through the quality of my work
- Receiving that email from a delighted client
- Receving and answering comments on the Improve Photogrpahy website from the readers
These things still give me an enormous buzz.
I think it is fair to say that I enjoy my photography more now than I did 12 months ago – let's not forget that photography is a wonderful and special thing.
2018 has been a bit of a mixed bag for me photographically speaking. More good than bad but things that I can work on in 2019.
What about you good folk – how have you improved your photography in 2018?
And any ideas for other ways that we can all improve our photography will be gratefully received.