12 Ways to Improve Your Photography

7 min read

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improve skills as a photographer.

How to improve your photography is a common topic. No matter who you are, it’s likely that you want to make your photos look even better. If you improve your work, you increase your chances of attracting attention and getting clients. This can be very motivating.

So how do you actually improve your work? There are many ways you can achieve this without stressing yourself out.

1. Make a List of Things That Inspire You

close-up shot of flower in front of black background.
Even if your inspiration is common, like flower photography, write it down anyway. Just because a specific genre is popular doesn’t mean you can’t pursue it successfully.

This might seem insignificant, but it can have a huge impact on your work. If you know your style and your taste, you might find it easier to improve within a short period of time.

Start with a sheet of paper. Put your phone and computer away. This will help you avoid distractions and help you connect with your artistic side. Write down everything that inspires you, no matter how small it is. It can be a quote you recently read, a genre of movies you like, or another photographer. It can be completely unrelated to art.

2. Expose Yourself to What Inspires You

wide photo of movie selection on a TV screen in a minimalistic room.
Movies are a great source of inspiration for many photographers. All the creative visuals in a film can help you come up with new ways of taking photos.

Now that you have a better understanding of what fulfils your creative side, expose yourself to it. Watch films that move you, read books, join photography groups, and so on. This might make it easier for you to come up with new photography project ideas for growing as a photographer.

Inspiration is an important driving force in everyone’s life. You don’t need to be inspired all the time, but you should give yourself opportunities to feel that way.

3. Leave Your Comfort Zone

monochrome portrait of model posing in a makeshift studio.

This is a common tip when it comes to improvement. In fact, it’s so common that photographers ignore it altogether. (I’m guilty of this as well!) This so-called “comfort zone” doesn’t need to be some grand adventure in which your risk your life. It can be simple. Consistent little steps can help you a lot.

Take photos of something new. Leave your preferred genre and experiment with something that intrigues you. Try a new editing technique. Make small changes in your life to see big results.

4. Why Do You Want to Improve Your Photography?

shot of photographer improving his landscape photography in a snowy area.

What is driving you to become a more outstanding photographer? Make sure you’re motivated by the right things. If you just want to become rich and famous, you might get discouraged pretty quickly.

There should be something authentic and passionate that drives you forward. In my experience, this has helped me understand myself better. That, in turn, had led to a lot of improvement. So what motivates you? Do you want to grow your business or be on the same level as your favourite photographers? Is it both? Whatever your goals are, make sure they come from an authentic place.

5. Ask for Constructive Criticism

photo of a man and woman having a discussion outdoors.

Constructive criticism can be an incredible source of help. You can ask your friends for advice, even if they’re not creative. You can also join a group, whether offline or online, and ask for guidance from professionals. Looking at your work from someone else’s perspective can help you understand exactly where you need to improve.

Alternatively, you can hire a professional photographer to assess your work and give you unbiased feedback. Make sure you admire that photographer’s work before you hire them. This might sound like common sense, but it’s something that we can easily forget to do.

6. Love the Photographer You Are Right Now

man improving his film photography skills with a Polaroid camera.

It’s easy to get caught up in dreams and goals. They are important parts of our lives, but they don’t have to be everything. Appreciate who you are as an artist right now, too.

Make a mental list of things that you like about yourself. Admire your hard work. Look at how far you’ve come! The fact that you want to improve already says so much about you. Be proud of yourself. This will make it easier for you to learn from your mistakes throughout your journey.

7. Avoid Anything That Discourages You

image of person looking for inspiration on their tablet.
If you feel that you’re addicted to social media, find healthy replacements for it. Websites like Pinterest, which are technically social media, can inspire you without making you feel bad about yourself. You can find lots of easy tricks there that can help you improve your photography.

In an extremely busy world, it’s important to be picky about your activities. Social media, busy personal lives, and creative obstacles can all get in the way of your improvement. You might be spending more time wishing you were someone else than actually improving. This is something many photographers (and people in general) struggle with, so don’t worry if you can relate to this.

The key is to be careful with your time. Avoid social media if it discourages you. Take breaks from daily activities that drain you. This will give you more time to meditate on what you need to improve as a photographer.

8. What Is Standing in Your Way?

long exposure photo of fireworks exploding above a lake.

Understand what’s really in the way. If you’re not sure what exactly is stopping you, you might not be able to improve quickly. Make sure that your problem isn’t an abstract and unsolvable thing.

Common obstacles are:

  • Comparing yourself to others all the time
  • Not having enough editing experience
  • Not knowing enough about camera settings
  • Pressuring yourself too much
  • Worrying that you’re not good enough

9. Figure Out What Kind of Learner You Are

man smiling while recording a podcast in his studio.
Podcasts are a fantastic way to learn about other photographer’s stories and get inspired to improve your photography.

Everyone has a different way of absorbing information. Some people are visual thinkers, while others prefer to listen. If you find your ideal learning method, you’ll find it easier to improve.

Thankfully, there are resources for every kind of learner in the world! If you like listening, subscribe to a few photography podcasts.

If you’re more visual, you can watch tutorials on YouTube. If reading is your thing, invest in a few photography books. Experiment with different learning resources to find what works best for you.

10. Have a Healthy Balance Between Learning and Doing

photo of woman improving her photography on the beach.
Even if you’re not sure where you’re going with your work, take photos anyway. One of the best ways to improve your photography is to take lots of photographs. The more you practise, the more lessons you’ll learn. This might make it easier for you to improve consistently.

Learning and doing are both important. Unfortunately, absorbing photography knowledge all day isn’t going to perfect your photography skills. (That would be awesome, though.)

Treat learning resources like your guides. They’re always going to be there to inspire and teach you. Trust the power of practice. When you learn something new, put it into practice. Experiment with new techniques. These methods might make it very easy for you to take your photography skills to the next level.

11. Take Advantage of What You Already Have

photographers taking landscape photos of London.
You can also improve your photography by taking photos with friends and family. Taking photos with someone you know can make your photoshoots more enjoyable. Your friends’ creative feedback might help you come up with unique ideas. In this case, two can definitely be better than one!

You don’t need to upgrade your equipment to take better photos. New camera gear is a huge plus, but it’s not necessarily going to guarantee success. Photographer Alexandra Sophie has taken incredible photos for Vogue, Swarovski, and other brands with very limited equipment.

So take advantage of what you already have. Make the most of your equipment and surroundings. If you can’t shoot outdoors, find creative ways to take indoor pictures. Use everyday objects as foregrounds. Create DIY backgrounds. If you’re on a budget, you can still improve on a phenomenal level.

12. Remember That Perfectionism Isn’t Everything

close-up image of hand holding a Yashica film camera.

Perfectionism is the desire to make everything look incredible. In some cases, it prevents photographers from making any progress at all. They’re comfortable in their bubble and are unwilling to try anything new. The problem is that they’re afraid of making mistakes and taking “bad” photos. I’ve been there.

If you can relate to this, keep these things in mind:

  • Just start. If you’re feeling paralysed by the what-ifs of the world, take a deep breath and start.
  • Accept the fact that you’ll never be perfect. Instead, try to enjoy the process of creating new things, even if they don’t turn out perfect. In time, you’ll notice progress.
  • Realise that mistakes are valuable opportunities to learn. Every mistake usually comes with a lesson. Collectively, these lessons can help you take impressive photographs.
  • Embrace the growth mindset. There’s always going to be something new to learn. What that means for you is constant progress, which can be a wonderful thing. Try to be more of a lifelong learner than a perfect photographer. You’ll feel less pressured that way.

Wanting to become a more skilled photographer is a brilliant feeling. If you feel stuck where you are, make sure you experiment with every option on this list. Reach out to people, try new genres, and do a little soul-searching. These can all bring you closer to becoming an even better version of the photographer that you are.

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Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.

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