Have you recently got a new camera? Or have you had one for a while but don’t know how to use it? Perhaps you’ve done photography for a while but lack inspiration and don’t produce the images you want to? Whatever your goals and ambitions are, the beginning of a new year is a great time to delve into something new. It’s the perfect time to put a little extra effort into becoming a better photographer.
The 7 tips shared below give you that first little push. You’ll be directed towards more specific techniques through the article, but also given crucial approaches that give you the inspiration to get out there capturing the best images.
#1 Invest time, not money
It’s easy to get carried away with camera gear and gadgets but the truth is that an camera won’t make you a better photographer. Beautiful images can be created with any type of camera; be it a smartphone, entry-level DSLR, or a point-and-shoot.
Sure, professional cameras are superior and deliver better file quality but that shouldn’t matter until you’re at a level where you’ve got ambitions to either make money from your photography or create large prints.
The camera has very little to say if your main outlet is web and social media.
Rather than investing money in advanced camera gear, I urge you to invest more time into your photography. Dedicated as much time as possible to go outside with your camera. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing, or harsh sunlight; grab your camera and play with it.
You won’t come home with amazing images each time. Heck, I’m thrilled if 1% of the images I take throughout the year make it into my portfolio!
The purpose of this exercise isn’t to create only stunning images. That’s not realistic. The purpose is to get comfortable behind the camera; learn how to adapt to any light or scenario, learn to recognize patterns in the weather, and learn to understand how different settings give different results.
It’s all about having fun and getting experience.
#2 Study the art of compositions
It doesn’t matter how great the light is or how good your Lightroom skills are; an image that lacks a solid composition won’t have the same impact as one that does. Sure, it might make someone stop up for a moment or two but it’s not going to be one that’s remembered.
Therefore, one of the steps to becoming a better photographer in 2021 is to study the art of compositions.
Recommended Reading: 5 Compositional Guidelines in Landscape Photography
Don’t get me wrong; you shouldn’t use every single compositional guideline at once, but you should learn what they are and when they are beneficial to use.
Sometimes the best rule is to break the rules.
#3 Ask for critique
We rarely receive honest and valuable feedback in this day and age. Most of the comments you get online goes along the line of “awesome shot”.
While this is a nice ego-boost, it has zero value for your creative growth. In fact, many of these comments are given only because the commenter wants you to check out their work too.
Try to find a photographer or group of photographers to share your work with instead of only listening to generic comments. A group that gives honest feedback is amongst the most valuable things you can have as a photographer.
You might not like everything they say but learn to listen. Constructive criticism is worth more than a million generic comments.
Make sure that you get feedback from someone you consider a better photographer than yourself. Someone you can learn from. If you don’t know anyone personally, it never hurts to send an email to some of your favorite photographers.
#4 Invest in learning
If you’re planning to invest money into your photography in 2021, it should be towards something educational. There are loads of useful articles, books, courses, webinars, and other resources for photographers. Just here on CaptureLandscapes, I’ve written more than 300 tutorials about landscape photography!
Purchasing an online course, or attending a photography workshop, won’t only teach you how to become a better photographer but it might also give you that extra motivational boost you need to grab the camera and head outside. Here are some of the most popular eBooks and courses on this website:
Try to learn something new even if you’ve been doing photography for a while; study a new technique, dig deeper into the world of compositions, improve your post-processing or attend a seminar with a photographer whose work you admire.
#5 Take time to understand the fundamental settings
There are few things more important to learn than the fundamental settings of photography.
Understanding what the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture is, and how they work together, is essential to become a better photographer. In fact, having this understanding can be the difference between getting a shot and not.
Light changes quickly and you don’t always have much time to sit down go through your settings. That’s why you want to be able to change them all without even looking at the camera. When you understand how the settings work you should practice this simple exercise from Ugo Cei.
#6 Get away from your comfort zone
Comfort zones can be a dangerous place to stay in for too long. It doesn’t matter if you’re just getting started with photography or if you’ve been doing it for decades, we all have them.
The ultra-wide-angle and a 6-Stop ND Filter was my comfort zone for a long time. I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to create a good image and that’s exactly what I did. It all became a routine that ultimately led to me forgetting to be creative. That’s when I challenged myself to leave the wide-angle behind and instead spend months focusing on intimate shots captured with a longer focal length.
Stepping out of my comfort zone and spending time focusing on something new was the best creative decision I’ve made in a long time and it made photography so much more fun again.
What is your comfort zone? What aspect of photography are you scared of trying? Tose are the fields you should challenge yourself with in 2021.
Maybe it means placing filters in front of your lens, heading out without a tripod, using a different focal length, or perhaps photographing during the night.
Whatever it is, push yourself and step away from your comfort zone.
#7 Find inspiration outside photography
Inspiration comes in a variety of ways. Sometimes it can be found at the most unexpected places.
I love browsing through the galleries of my favorite photographers (ideally on their websites) but I find that my biggest inspirational boosts are given to me when I’m looking at other types of art.
My painting skills are on the levels of an infant but certain paintings capture my attention and have me staring for a long time. When looking at such images, I look at how the artist uses light, colors, and shadows, how the composition guides the viewer through the image, and how the overall atmosphere contributes to the story.
While a painter has the advantage of starting with a blank canvas and the freedom to control all the elements within the frame, you got to ask yourself how these elements can be adapted to your photography.
How can we use the light or elements in front of us to capture the attention of viewers? How can we use colors? How can we take advantage of post-processing to emphasize a specific part of the image?
Resources and further reading to become a better photographer in 2021
Knowing where to begin is never easy. Therefore, I’ve collected some links to some of our most popular articles, courses, and resources that will help you become a better photographer in 2021:
For beginner photographers:
- Introductions to the Fundamentals of Landscape Photography [Article]
- A Comprehensive Introduction to Black and White Photography [Article]
- The Most Essential Equipment for Landscape Photography [Article]
- How to Set Up Your New Camera for Professional Results [Article]
- A Comprehensive Introduction to Landscape Photography [eBook]
For intermediate photographers:
- Ultimate Guide to Long Exposure Photography [Article]
- How to Master White Balance Like a Pro [Article]
- 5 Compositional Guidelines to Know in Landscape Photography [Article]
- Into The Light – The Complete Suite [Video Course]
For advanced photographers:
- The Ultimate Focus Stacking Guide for Landscape Photography [Article]
- Graduated ND Filters or Multiple Exposures: What is Best? [Article]
- The Importance of Calibrating Your Monitor [Article]
- Star Photography Masterclass [eBook]
The most important thing I’m urging you to do in 2021 is to have fun with your photography. Never forget why you started photography in the first place and don’t look at it as something you need to do. It should always stay something you want to do.
It can be frustrating to go out day after day and not coming home with great images but that’s part of the process. Trust me, none of your favorite photographers capture award-winning images every time they press the shutter button. For every great image they take, there are hundreds of bad.
I also urge you to slow down and take the time to enjoy being outdoors. Enjoy the scenery. Walk around and explore it before even taking your camera out. Sometimes the best exercise is to not take an image at all.
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