Updated: Nov 13, 2020
Here's a quick guide for you, giving you some great hints and tips on how you can reach that next level as a photographer. We all want to reach that next level, whether that be from amateur to pro, or just generally wanting to get some better pictures, right?
Being incredibly observant is such a key skill for any photographer to have. This is to the point of OCD, absolute perfection. The more observant and keen you are to ensure everything in your frame is looking great, the more aesthetically pleasing the image will be. This is something that applies to all genres, whether that be hair going in someones face for a portrait, or a pylon line going through your landscape shot.
I get it, its really easy sometimes to get excited about your shots, and let rip snapping away. Taking that second or however long it may be to really look at your photo, scan it for anything that may be distracting etc, it can make a massive difference. This is something you will naturally learn over time anyway. Trust me, once you've done a whole shoot with a model, got home and realised her hair was all over her face for the majority of the shots- you won't be doing it again!
Observance is a key skill to keep in mind when taking any photo, the more you embrace it the better your photos will get. Perfection is the goal!
If you aren't already editing your photos, then starting to is going to take your photos to the next level straight away! I've wrote about this more here! Editing is so important in modern day photography, I personally don't know any successful current day photographers that don't edit their pictures, even just a bit!
Editing, like observance is a key skill in itself! The more you do it the better you'll get. The first time you try and edit something you will find yourself very confused. We all were trust me! I've made a few tutorial videos on Lightroom (the software I would 100% recommend personally). Please see them below if you want to learn or sharpen your existing skills!
The main objectives when editing are to make your photos look better - eg pulling shadows out where the photo is too dark, and to create a consistent style. To make sure you are making your photos look better you can always press y while editing in Lightroom to compare the before and after edit. Creating a consistent style is a lot easier with presets, whether you make your own or use someone else's, presets are very important. Do certain things to every photo- like for example I crush the blacks in all my photos.
Creating a style is key to making you a better photographer as people will eventually look at your photos and know they are yours. Just from the colour schemes etc. The first skill of observance also ties into editing. Make sure everything is looking perfect in post too!
Understanding light and how it will effect your photos is fundamental to your success. There's a good reason people get up early for that sunrise light or go out late to catch those sunsets. The more you shoot the more you will understand how important this is. There are lots of different kinds of light and a lot of photographers will use them to complement their styles.
Constantly experimenting with and being conscious of the lighting situations you have, in each one of your photographs is how you get better. Pre planning for lighting is so important ie working out when the best time is going to be in certain spot to get the best lighting. Studio lighting is different and a lot of experimentation is what is going to get you better.
I go into a lot more detail about this here!
This is another defining factor of the quality your photographs will have. Combined with light, these two factors will make or break an image. There are many guides and rules on photo composition- which work great. My advice to you would be to follow them at the start. Then when you are comfortable with them, break them (and still use them where appropriate).
Composition can add so much to a photo- where you want the viewers eye to rest, depth, I mean I could go on but I hope you get the message that composition is so important. When you start considering this, studying the rules and putting them into practice. You will be well on your way to becoming a great photographer.
Composition goes hand in hand with observance, combining these two skills is an art and can certainly be tricky at times. The more you do it the better you will become!
I have wrote about composition in more depth, specifically for landscape photography here!
Mastering your Settings
I know it's not the most fun area of photography, learning about aperture, ISO and shutter speed. You unlock so much creative power when you learn all of these settings and know them inside out. I've been shooting for 7 years and still brush up and try to master each one of these settings as much as I can.
But honestly, when you get to a certain point all the learning is totally worth it. Shooting in automatic is so limited. You won't get the best out of your camera by using this setting. You may even mess up some shots while learning. But like I say trust me, totally worth it.
I have made a tutorial on how to learn these basic settings so make sure to check it out here!
First things first, by taking inspiration I don't mean copying. Copying someone else's work is not cool! However, taking inspiration is! This can help so much whenever you have a creative block, which I have wrote more about here.
You can learn and grow so much looking at other photographers work and getting inspired by it. Most if not all photographers do this. We all look at each others work and try to learn something from it. This is definitely one of the most powerful ways of growing as a photographer. Try to find some people at a similar skill level to you, reach out to them and grow together. Then find people at the top of the mountain (so to speak) and keep on checking out there work, learn from it. You will be surprised how much you can take from it!
Here's a list of some "top of the mountain" photographers work for you to go check out...
Locations to photographers are what ingredients are to chefs. Finding some great locations is a sure fire way to get some great photos. The more research you do the better. Personally I spend about an hour each day researching new places. A lot of the time you can come across these spots when you are out shooting. There are many different ways of finding new spots, I have made a video about that here!
When you combine this with everything I mentioned before you are sure to be an unstoppable force. Make sure you keep note of all of your locations. I use a google map to plot all of my points and keep everything organised there.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
My last point, and probably the most important one! The more you practice the better you will become. Like anything photography is a skill. They say 10,000 hours is needed to master anything. So yeah, get out there and shoot. Put all of these different factors into consideration and practice using them! I can't begin to stress how important this is. Out of everything this is where you will see the most improvement. As William Blake famously said "Any fool who persists at his folly will become wise."
Thank you for reading, and make sure you put all of these factors into practice as you are sure to see a difference in your photography immediately. If you have any questions don't hesitate to let me know in my facebook group here!