There are many things that you can do to improve your photography in 2021. However, I believe that there are three steps that you can take that are far and away the best as helping you get to the next level with your photography. If you do these three things consistently, you are guaranteed to improve.
1. Shoot, shoot and then shoot some more.
By far, the best way to improve your photography is to simply go out and shoot. Now you might think that this is obvious (and, truth to tell, it is). But even so, this is still the best thing you can do to get better at the craft.
But what that means is, you have to do it actively and on a consistent basis. If you’re a landscape photographer like I am, it means getting up before dawn and braving out in the dark and cold to get somewhere in time for golden hour. If you’re a portrait photographer, it means arranging to have clients or models to photograph and planning the logistics of when and where, what the model should wear, etc. Whatever type of photography you do, you have to put in the effort to make it possible for you to actually go out and shoot.
1a. Do Self-Critique
Yeah, I know I’m cheating a bit by adding this in, but I believe that self-critique is an important part of shooting. After you finish making your photographs and culling your shots, don’t be so quick to delete the shots that aren’t keepers. Go through them and try to understand why they aren’t keepers. Sometimes, the answer will be obvious (the shot is wildly out of focus, the exposure was wrong, etc.). Other times, the reasons why your mind rejected it will be more subtle. Go through them with a critical eye and try to find out just *why* they don’t work. This will give you some ideas on what to avoid for the next shot. Likewise, it would be good to go through the keepers and try to identify why they are keepers. This can provide inspiration for new ideas on future shoots.
2. Get Some Education
One of my constant personal motivations is self-improvement. I’m always looking for a way to make myself better at the things that I enjoy doing, and one of the best ways to do that is through education.
Thankfully, for us photographers, there are any number of ways to tap into the knowledge of experts in the field. There are endless YouTube videos available covering just about all aspects of photography (including my own fledgling YouTube channel) from advice on which camera to buy, to shooting, post-processing and all sorts of niches that you can specialize in. There are also podcasts that cover photography. Some of my favorite photography podcasters are Nick Page, Brent Bergham and, for all the news that goes on in the world of photography, Sharky James.
In addition, there are plenty of sites that offer paid courses as well, including one of my favorites, Creative Live, which has plenty of courses on photography, Photoshop, Lightroom and all sorts of other (non-photography) related subjects.
You can easily find a photographer and/or post-processor whose style inspires you and you can learn from them. Among the people whom I have learned from (and paid to do so) are Brooke Shaden, Nick Page, Rikard Rodin, Blake Rudis and Unmesh Dinda.*
I try to make sure to watch at least one video or one lesson every day whether it is on photography, Photoshop or some other field I am interested in. So go ahead, search for an aspect of photography that you are interested in or that you are having difficulty with and master it.
3. Join A Photography Group
Another great way to improve your photography is to join a group of photographers. Joining a group is a wonderful idea because it provides you with several benefits:
A. It gives you access to people who can provide feedback on your photography.
- You can see the work of other photographers from whom you can draw inspiration.
- It forces you to go out and shoot, since they will expect to see new photos from you.
D. You can make some new friends.
The group that I belong to is called 52 Frames. The idea behind 52 Frames is that you have to go out and shoot a photo based on the weekly challenge (this week is “Self Portrait”). The only real rule of the group is that you have to actually shoot the photo during the week — you can’t shoot in advance for a future challenge and you can’t just pull a shot out of your archives.
I’ve been a member of 52 Frames since 2013. It’s a great bunch of folks and have photographers from all over the world at all skill levels — from the raw beginners to the polished professionals. Feel free to go take a look and if you join, tell them that Zev sent you.
Do you have any other tips for improving your photography? What has been the biggest help in your photographic journey? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
*I have not paid for Unmesh’s content, but he is fabulous in teaching Photoshop and he has so much available on YouTube for free.