The (not so) Secret to Better Photography

How do you become a better photographer?

Do you need better gear? More expensive gear?

Do you need to take classes or go to school?

Do you need to read all the photography books you can get your hands on?

The answer is…

No. Well, technically not no. More like kinda.

While all of the above things can certainly help (and we all have to start somewhere), the best thing you can do to become a better photographer is to

PRACTICE. (And then practice some more. And some more…)

I know it sounds silly, trite and obvious, but even if you do have the best gear available, have a degree in photography and have read a gazillion books, you won’t get any better as a photographer if you just sit on your tushy.

If you find yourself doing some of the above things and not spending time shooting, you’ve really only managed to spend a lot of money and time and that’s not gonna get you very far.

Hiking Trail near Berthoud, Colorado (Photo: Kim Olson)

The long path to better photos will have peaks and valleys.

No Substitute for Practice

 

For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” –Aristotle

 

Humans learn better by doing. Once we actually do something ourselves, we start to understand the why and the how and eventually a lot of what once seemed foreign to us now seems like second nature.

Our minds and bodies intuitively know how to work in tandem to setup the camera and get the shot we want (or at least we have a better and better chance the more we practice).

Other Things Do Help

I’m not saying reading and studying other photographers’ work is useless. On the contrary. I think it’s incredibly useful and enlightening.

I just want to emphasize and stress the absolute importance of practicing photography yourself.

What About School?

A photographer friend of mine was telling me how someone had asked her for advice on getting started in photography. This person told my friend she was looking at going to some fancy school that would ultimately end up costing her about $90,000. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a helluva lot of money to spend on something you can essentially teach yourself.

The beauty of photography is it’s not like some fields where you really need to get a degree. Like engineers. Or doctors. Their skills are very technical and specialized and being self-taught isn’t gonna fly.

With photography it’s different. It’s more subjective and personal and to a degree there’s no right or wrong way to take a photo.

Final Thoughts

In the end, you can read what looks interesting, take classes if you like and buy lots of gear if you’re rich, but my advice is to spend more time practicing. You’ll see the best results after you’ve taken 1,000 photos. And then 1,000 more.

Sometimes it’ll feel like you’re not getting anywhere. It’ll be like you’re hiking up a mountain with tons of valleys. You’ll go up for a while, then reach a valley, and you’ll feel as if you’re moving backwards. But even though it sometimes feels like you’re not making progress, so long as you’re taking photos you’re definitely improving, even if you don’t see it.

If it ever feels like an uphill battle, don’t give up. I can bet that if you continue to practice regularly, you’ll start to notice a difference in the images you take now versus the ones you did when you first started.

I’m a huge fan of quotes, so I’d like to leave you with another favorite of mine before you get out and go shooting:

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” -Confucius

 

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