Perhaps winter is the least favoured month of all, but I actually like it. I…
At the beginning of a photography journey, nobody believes they can take beautiful photos. Neither did I. In fact, I thought I would always shoot in auto mode and would never master manual mode.
I never believed either that one day I will shoot food or still life images, let alone product photos. I often thought, I’m not creative enough to come up with ideas or to style a scene by myself.
But the truth is you can get better at photography (and styling) and you will. You just have to focus on a few things. One step at the time.
Of course, everybody has different experiences on their photography journey, but here is what helped me to improve my photography.
1. Shooting as often as you can
You probably heard it many times that you should practice photography every day. I would slightly rephrase it to as often as you can and feel like.
If you are not in the mood, not inspired or have other things to do, you won’t be able to focus on your photography and then it just becomes a pressure.
There’s no need for that. What you want is to enjoy taking pictures and, more importantly, to play.
For a long time I couldn’t get my head around the word “play”. I wanted all my photos to be perfect. And whereas not putting up with a photo can drive you to do better, it can also make you stressed and frustrated. And soon all you’ll notice is that you start criticising yourself.
Therefore, it’s very important to celebrate every baby-steps you make along your photography journey and to enjoy what you’re doing. Even if you are your biggest critic.
Enjoy just playing with your camera when you go on a country walk and take a few photos for fun. Celebrate this baby-step. Because in the end it will help you get better at photography.
These occasions can help to relax, and interestingly, you may learn something whilst you are playing. Doesn’t that sound great?
Having said that, it’s important to shoot as often as you can. If you only use your camera once a month, that won’t help you getting better at photography.
Try to make a plan and say you’ll shoot every week when you go out. Or that you will style one scene and shoot a still life or food photo every week. Make a habit of this.
2. Observing and understanding light
It may sound obvious, but it’s more important than you think. When I started to take pictures, I didn’t even understand in which position the sun should be.
Understanding light is one of the most important thing in photography. If you nail it, you will be able to work better indoors and outdoors, use natural or artificial light and direct light.
Once you start making an effort and pay attention to light, you will pick up on more and more beautiful topics for your photo, which are naturally presented to you by light. Beautiful shadows in a cloister, for example. Or how a sun hits a building or a glass of drink.
Don’t skip this very important step on your photography journey. And when you think you understand light, only after that moment will you truly understand light.
3. Editing your photos
When I started to edit my photos and share them on social media, filters and presets were already very fashionable. Some marketing experts advised using one if you wanted to achieve a consistent look.
I decided to follow what photographers advised: not to use any presets. Why?
Because that’s the only way to understand photo editing, getting better at it and to achieve your own signature style.
I remember, at first I started to use Lightroom Mobile on my phone. I was frustrated with all the different options and buttons and I didn’t have a clue what was what.
But I didn’t give up. In my free time, I watched tutorials, and I edited a lot. I was experimenting a lot.
Of course, there are always new editing trends, so there’s no such thing as the final editing style. And if you work for clients, you have to know how to achieve the look their brief requires.
But that’s fine because as soon as you get the hang of editing, editing will become much faster and enjoyable. So from frustration I went to loving editing.
4. Be yourself
We get inspired all the time on social media, online or on Pinterest. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
However, when it comes to visiting places, taking pictures of a building or styling a scene for a food or still life image, try to be yourself and be creative.
Many photographers suggest there’s nothing wrong with copying others and trying to replicate a photo somebody had already taken.
I’m not convinced that’s the best way of getting better and developing a photographic eye.
I believe you will get much better at photography if you push yourself to be you. If you constantly try to copy or follow what others are doing, then you’ll end up being somebody else.
Do some research and explore unknown places. Don’t follow the crowd or post a picture of the same Insta-famous cottage just because it will get you more likes.
Try to style a scene with your props, with your style. Just because somebody is using rustic crockery, it doesn’t mean you too have to. Especially if your style is different.
The same goes for editing. Don’t edit like somebody you like on Instagram. Very often, it will turn out later that your (editing) style is totally different. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
There are many photographers and creatives whose photos and style I absolutely love. And I did try to edit my photos in their styles, but it didn’t feel right. When I looked at how my grid would look like in another style, I just said to myself: “That’s not me.”
To give you an example, I love dark academia or desaturated or even warm and soft tone photos. But my style is colourful. I know, desaturated and dark is very trendy but that’s just not who I am. I am as colourful as the photo below. And we have to be brave to work in the style that feels right for us.
5. Spending less time on social media
I had a period when I was sucked in by social media and spend an awful lot of time with scrolling, getting inspired by others and just commenting here and there.
I thought that would help me grow my audience as well as grow as a photographer. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
Spending a lot of time on social media can be very useful if you are a social media manager or an influencer who wants to get a business to promote services and products.
But as a photographer, I think it can be damaging. First, it can damage your self-confidence as much as you can get inspired.
Second, just by chatting on the Gram will not make you practice more or spend more time on your editing.
Since last year, I deliberately started to spend less time on Instagram so that I can create more. So that I don’t get distracted or influenced by social media. Now I only catch up on Instagram once a week, and that’s enough.
Of course, we are all different, but giving myself more time to create allowed me to be more focused and balanced and even more creative.
It’s actually very simple to convince yourself to spend less (or more) time on social media. If your goal is to become a better photographer, then ask yourself the question:
Will it help me to shoot more and practice more if I spend hours and hours on social media?
I’m sure the answer will be no.
Well, that’s 5 things that helped me to improve my photography. Hope it’ll also help you. If you’d like to share what helped you to become a better photographer, please do share, I’d love to hear them.
BEFORE YOU GO…
If you’d like to learn how to take stunning food and still life photographs, visual storytelling and creative editing, my 1-to-1 in person photography and styling workshop is for you.
Join the waiting list to find out when the registration opens. This doesn’t mean commitment for attending the workshop.