I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent. I go for anything new that might improve the past.—Clara Barton
Earlier this year, we published an article, 5 Reasons You Can’t Take A Good Picture. Apparently no one was paying any attention. I’ve watched in silent horror this year as some of the worst photographs I’ve ever seen have crossed my screen. I would love to see you improve, I really would, not just in terms of photography, but in terms of life. Granted, we all need to improve, but some of you really need to make more of an effort.
So it is with today’s photo. Our friend Haley recently improved her life by tossing off a relationship, among other things. Why? The relationship was holding her back, keeping her from being who and what she wants to be, what she wants to explore. She’ll enter the new year better positioned to make decisions that benefit her rather than conforming to someone else’s ideas.
We hope you’ll pay attention to today’s list. When you improve, the world improves, and we definitely need a better world.
10 Ways To Improve Yourself & Your Photography At The Same Time
Know your equipment.
I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who read the manual for their camera. The print tends to be too small and the vocabulary too boring. Yet, I’ve met too many alleged photographers who had absolutely no idea how to work their camera beyond snapping the shutter button. The more we know about our equipment, the more we can do with it. The same applies to anything else one might be doing. Ignorance leads to error. This may be the most obvious way to improve.
Understand the rules before breaking them.
Photography has a lot of rules and about half of them need to be broken on any given image. We did a whole week earlier this year on breaking the rules. What is important, however, is that we understand the rules before breaking them. Why is the rule there? When does it apply? Under what conditions should it be discarded? This is even more true outside photography. Break a photo rule and you might get a bad picture. Break a life rule and someone may wind up dead. Definitely not a good thing.
Show some respect.
One of the things that I’ve seen this year that causes my blood pressure to rise is a general lack of respect for anything or anyone at any time. I see it in photographers shoving cameras and using drones in places they don’t belong. I see it in contracts that unfairly restrain photographers. I see it in the general attitude of people regarding anyone who is different in any way. Want to combat terrorism and violence? Start by showing some respect so that people aren’t as likely to feel marginalized.
Understand the consequences.
Sometimes there are choices to be made where neither option is really what you want. Say you need more light in a picture. Do you adjust the shutter speed, the aperture, or the ISO? Any of those can increase the amount of light getting to the media, but there are consequences to each one that, depending on the situation, might ruin the photograph. Life is full of choices and sometimes we don’t have long to make a decision. There are always consequences; understand what they are before continuing.
Seems like a rather obvious thing, doesn’t it? Granted, there is auto-focus and that’s supposed to take care of the problem, isn’t it? Wrong. Focus applies not only to the clarity of the content but the clarity of the concept as well. Photography is a means of communication and expression. If we look at a picture and don’t understand what you’re trying to say, then it’s not a good picture, is it? We often clutter both our lives and our photographs with things that distract from what we’re trying to say. Clarity is a wonderful means of improvement.
Worry less about everyone else.
I have probably received no fewer than fifty invitations to social media sites devoted to photography this past year. I joined two. Why? Because I don’t have time to be looking at other people’s pictures. It’s not that I’m not interested in what others are doing, but because millions of new photographs are added to the Internet every day and there’s just no good way to cull through the ones actually worthwhile. The same applies to most everything else on the Internet. We do better when we focus less on what everyone else is doing and instead put our attention more on how to improve what we’re doing.
Getting stuck in a rut is extremely easy. I know because I manage to do it a couple of times every year. We get comfortable with a location or a style and we use it again and again and suddenly everything starts looking the same. Oops. Sure, being creative, stretching your own style can be difficult and maybe even involve learning something new. The effort is worth the trouble, though. Improving leads us forward.
Don’t be so serious about everything.
I’ll admit that I’m looking in the mirror to some degree on this one, but I also know too many photographers who get so bogged down in everything about their photograph being perfect that their production rate suffers and the photos they produce don’t look real. Life isn’t perfect and coming at it with a bit of humor isn’t a bad approach. Go ahead, laugh a little, especially when it’s laughing at yourself. So the catch in the model’s eyes isn’t perfectly balanced. Anyone who’s paying attention to such inane details is missing the joy of the whole. Let go.
Involve your friends.
I have some colleagues who only shoot with professional models from recognized agencies. Sure, there’s a time and a place for going to all that trouble, but to make the claim, as some do, that only such work is acceptable is pure bullshit. I enjoy working with friends. The best pictures I have, including those published, have been with friends. Friends enrich our lives in so many ways, there’s no reason to shut them out.
I know too many photographers who go through life with their face stuck in their viewfinder. We all probably saw the viral video of the wedding photographer who backed herself off a dock and into the water. One colleague even managed to break his leg as he walked across a field with the camera to his face, resulting in not seeing the giant hole into which he stepped. There’s a lot going on in this crazy world, children, and there’s no way to keep up with it all. Pay attention to what’s happening around you, though, and the things that effect you the most. Otherwise, you’re likely to get hurt.
Improving is something we should always try to do. That’s why Tuesday is our last post for this year. We’ll take some time to make things better. At least, we hope they’re better. Keep watching.