I’ve been making photos for about 10 years but only in the last 5 years have a made a concerted effort to improve my craft. As I've looked over the photos I've taken over the years i can definitely see a huge improvement. I can even see the difference from last year to today. After thinking about this, I decided to put together a list of the top 5 things I've learned over the years.
#1 ) You must know your gear inside and out!
The more you know about your gear, the less distracted you are when you are shooting pictures, therefore you can focus more on the art. Your camera should feel like an extension of your arm and you should know how to adjust the settings quickly. There is nothing like being in a situation where you missed a shot because you were fidgeting with your gear. Other than maybe landscape photography, in most cases you have a limited time to get the shot. If you are shooting with a client, the last thing they want to do is sit around while you try and figure out how to work your gear. Also If you are shooting action or street photography, you only have a brief moment to get the shot so invest the time to learn your camera settings.
If you dont understand the photography basics, do a quick google search on shutter speed, ISO and Apeture to start. Then get out your camera manual or download it from the internet and start with page 1. You can also subscribe to a service like lynda.com or skillshare.com that offer a wide array of on demand coursework.
#2) G.A.S is a real thing.
G.A.S. or Gear Acquisition Syndrome is definitely real. These days, new camera gear comes out more often than it did 10 or 20 years ago. With blogs, youtube, and social media, its easy to get caught up in having the latest and the greatest gear available. The problem is you never get to know the gear that you already have and you end up wasting money. If you are constantly reading about all the new camera gear or you buy gear that you don’t need “just in case” then you might have G.A.S. If you are a street photographer, you don’t need 5 other lenses designed for landscape photography and vice versa. One way to get over this is to find a local camera store and rent the equipment that you are lusting after. You can also try an online source like www.borrowlenses.com'. After you rent it you might realize you don’t want it as much as you thought or maybe it will satisfy that craving.
#3) Don't give away your services for free (or at a discount).
As humans we have a tendency to want to help out a friend or family member. Thats very nice but, we also have to make money. If you continually give away your service for free or at a discount, people will automatically place less value on your services. Your time is valuable and for those who don't want to pay, send them to someone else who might give them a cheaper rate. I would rather work less and make more money than to work for free or at a discount. If you do give a discounted rate, make sure you give them an invoice that shows what your FULL rate is and the discount that you gave them so that there is no confusion as to what you time is worth. Remember, creating the photos are only half of it. You have to consider, your equipment, your travel time, and the time it takes to edit and sent the pictures afterwards. If you shoot an event for 2 hours you should automatically add another 2-3 hours for post processing work as well.
#4) Create as much as possible.
The only way to get better is to continuously shoot and to shoot daily and often. If you are street photographer get out and take a walk and shoot. I you are a landscape photographer go for a hike. One thing that works for me is to have a plan when going out. For example, pick a particular feature from your camera or a particular subject matter and focus on that. One day, go take a picture of bridges and see if you can capture pictures of bridges in a unique way. You could try focusing on a single color and see how many things you can find that have the color blue. If its is people, pull out your portrait lens and see how may people you can convince to let you make their portrait. As mentioned in number 1 above, you must know your gear in and out and one of the ways you can do that is to keep shooting.
#5) It is less about the camera and more about the art!
A nice and shiny new camera lens is a great thing but that doesn’t make you a great photographer. Have you ever heard someone say thats a great picture, you must have a nice camera? Some of the best photographers out there shoot with entry level cameras, older gear or even film cameras. Check out this article on fstoppers.com and you will see some of the most amazing pictures taken with entry level cameras. Also check out this article on time.com showing the best iPhone photography of 2016. So stop making excuses that you are waiting for that next lens or that next camera body to get that shot. If you are a skilled photographer the gear becomes secondary once you learn the ins and outs of how to use it. After that, the art takes over. As the saying goes “what is the best camera for taking photos? It is the one thats with you right now.
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