Recently I was presented the question, “How does one improve as a photographer? This question came from a well seasoned photographer and it got me thinking of the things I’ve done in the past. While the things listed below worked for me they may not work for everyone. Which leads me to wonder what do you do to improve as a photographer when you feel you’ve hit a wall?
10 Ways To Improve as a Photographer
- Cut off participation on photo critique forums. Over time many of the submitted photos start to emulate each other converging into a common style versus diverging to original work.
- Begin viewing art web sites more frequently to get inspiration from contemporary artists
- Begin going to more museums and traveling exhibits to see the work of other artists (not just photographers)
- Begin looking at and reading classic and contemporary art books
- Force yourself to use different lenses
- Intentionally avoided taking the same types of shots by recognizing one’s habits in the field
- Identify and start personal art projects that you’ll find fulfilling even if they’re unlikely to resonate with others
- Monitor new technologies (hardware, software or even things out of left field that are unrelated) to see if they might be creatively applied to make something new and never before seen.
- Take a lot of iPhone photos as a creative white board to see things you might pass over otherwise
- Ask yourself “What if…?” a lot and try to formulate something new from your basic curiosity.
As I see it this desire to continually improve is healthy and a great sign. I see far too many photographers (well known big names) fall into the habit of trying to reproduce work they had success with many years earlier. Photography is moving at such a fast pace that these older styles and techniques are now easily reproduced by lesser experienced photographers. The result is people losing respect for them or just becoming jaded by them. I wrote about this a bit here in The Subtlety of Greatness and Today’s Loss of Appreciation.
Now more than ever it really takes a lot of skill, self-discipline and motivation to dig deeper and push farther. Great photographers are always pushing the limits and having seen this in my study of photography over the years it has served as a very strong source of motivation.
Personally I can’t help but think if you’re not looking back at your older work and being dissatisfied you’re not growing as a photographer. This is why I run the Best of Photos 20XX blog project. Every year I look back and think I should trash my old photos. It’s not where I want to be. The day I lose that feeling is the day I know I’m done. There should always be new creative horizons to aim for and explore.