"I started uploading my pictures to social media and looking at examples of other people's photos. I could see with some of the popular photos on there, there was a big gap between what I was shooting in terms of both quality and skill. "
So what was the moment you realized the same? And what steps did you have to take to improve?
1. Pick Something to Specialize in, and Work Towards Improving Your Photos in That Area
Some photographers prefer to expand their skills and broaden their portfolio by pursuing multiple types of photography at the same time while others focus on perfecting a particular style throughout their careers.
Is newborn the best type of photography? Or is it portraits? What about macro or fashion photography? The answer is that there is no "best" genre of photography. Instead, you have to figure out which popular photography genre is the best fit for you.
2. Know Your Camera and Don’t Worry About Acquiring Expensive Gear: Focus on Learning
Get friendly with your camera until you understand it intimately. Then, when you are in the field and need to make changes quickly, you won’t have to think twice or have to look it up while your opportunity slips away. You need to read, study and experiment with various techniques that professional photographers talk about.
3. Study Images Until You Know WHY They Work
As you are browsing through images on the internet, in magazines, or books, take a few minutes to study the photos that catch your eye. (Learn How To Analyze Photographs)
Perhaps some people will disapprove of this, but a big part of going from "good" to "great" is being in the right places at the right time. Yes, it is possible to take great photos in your backyard, or even your living room, and doing so can definitely encourage creativity. However, getting out there and exploring new places is important. Quite frankly, the main issue with the photos is that the subject matter is simply boring.
"Speaking personally, I have been taking pictures around where I live recently, and I have been very happy with how a lot of them have come out. However, at the same time I've been going through and posting some of my old photos from Thailand and Italy, and even though I am currently using a much better camera than I had then, the subject matter of these older photos is just, to me at least, inherently more interesting, and I think I have a lot more material that I would consider "great" from these places."
5. Get Inspired
Compare your photos to other people's photos that are slightly better than yours. Very importantly, do not compare yourself to world famous photographers. That gap can be too big to overcome, you have to start small or you won't start at all.
Look at their photos and try to figure out why they were better than yours. Subject matter, composition, lighting and every now and then, editing (Analyze photographs). Then after that, focus on trying to capture an image slightly better than what they were able to capture.
And then keep on repeating that cycle until you took an image that is noticeably better than what they were able to pull off.
"At one point, I took eighty exposures over the course of three hours trying to get a self portrait just right, adjusting the lighting, composition and everything else until it was as good as I could possibly get it. I was beyond exhausted at the end, but comparing the first exposure to the 80th one? It was a huge difference."
Then find the next person that was slightly better than where you would just gotten to and keep on pushing. Get out there and shoot.
Trying to shoot a good picture once every few days isn't much experience. Trying to shoot a good picture a hundred times in a single day is a lot of experience.
6. Post Processing
Post-processing is the equivalent of the darkroom from the days we shot in film. Post processing plays a big role in today's photographic society. Whether it's used subtlety, or for major composites, it's definitely an important skill to know.
IMPORTANT: Don’t Rely on Editing to Fix Your Photos. A bad photo will always be a bad photo no matter how much you try to alter it. Skillful picture - taking should always have priority over editing. After all, editing can sometimes ruin your picture.
Make it a habit to check your composition and exposure before taking a picture.
7. Build Your Own Photography Space
Build a portfolio from people who are willing to let you work for free. Network with businesses that want/need your type of photography. Join Facebook groups, meet with other photographers in your area and set up shooting dates. Find out about art shows where you can show and sell your work.
"In the last year, we've built our local photography team of four people. The quantity doesn't matter—the key is that it's a strong team. Feeling the support from all sides has been critical to my personal happiness and kept me motivated."
7. Be Critical but Don’t Delete Photos You May Not Like Right Now
Don't upload everything you shoot! Be ruthlessly selective! If you take two hundred pictures in a day, whittle it down to the best two or three and upload those.
Don’t be quick to delete photos you may not like right now. You may have taken pictures while experimenting that you really think were “fails.” Here’s the thing about that. As you grow in your mastery, you may re-think some of those images; you may decide that part of a photograph is absolutely screaming at you; you can use technology to alter the picture and end up with a stunning photo after all.
8. Second Shooter
The best way to learn the ropes and jump start your own business or dream career is working alongside a professional in the niche that you are interested in. A lot of photographers are looking to do second shooting work in order to boost their portfolio or gain more experience and it is a great way to do that.
Being a better photographer happens gradually, there's no moment, but when you are under pressure to deliver the goods on a shoot and you realise that you know for sure the shots are good, or great even, you're golden.