All photographers experience what I call the “Photographer Blues” every now and again. It’s that feeling that our photos aren’t good enough. One component is what is called “Photographer Envy”. That’s when you look at the work of other photographers and feel that your work is inferior. It’s completely natural to look at other photographers and compare your work to theirs. You shouldn’t however become despondent but rather become motivated. Remember, there will always be someone that’s better than you. Try and be the best that you can be. Don’t try and be someone else.
This is not a tutorial on how to become a good photographer, but a few tips to help you improve.
Take more time
I know many photographers who just aim and shoot. You don’t get the best shots by being in a hurry or not thinking it through. Unlike other advice, I would say shoot LESS not MORE. Be more selective. Take more time. Don’t hurry. I know some photographers that shoot 500 frames with the hope that a few of them will be good. Well that is like shooting a shotgun and hoping you hit something. A good photographer will rather walk away from a mediocre opportunity than trying to squeeze something out of it. If it’s the right opportunity you will know it.
Good opportunities are few and far between. Stop trying to think that every shot has to be an award-winning shot. It doesn’t work that way.
Plan your shots properly
You can’t just aim and shoot and think you’re going to get a great shot. It just doesn’t work that way. Getting a good shot is not “luck”. If the light is not right, don’t shoot. Come back at another time. Plan you angles and do a few test shots first. Look at the result and if it’s not right then do it again.
Shoot multiple exposures
Shoot the same shot with multiple exposures. Even the best photographer don’t get it right all the time. When you get back to the PC you can look at all the exposures and choose the right one or combine them when you edit. This way you won’t be disappointed that you got the exposure wrong. Remember, it’s always better to get the best possible exposure with the shot than trying to fix it afterwards.
Don’t shoot RAW
I find shooting RAW a waste of time. The gain in quality and editing capability is so small that it just doesn’t justify the editing time. Streamline your workflow to give you more time to do a professional editing job.
Almost ALL unedited shots look crap
A camera just doesn’t capture what you see effectively. If you look at the unedited shots of professional photographers you will be shocked how similar they look to yours! You need to see the potential in a shot, but that potential is only realized in the edit.
It’s all in the Edit
Ye it’s true. It’s all about the edit. I would say that 70% of the final product is in the editing. Don’t skimp on the time to edit. Don’t skimp on software and learn the tools of the trade. I spend 1 minute taking the shot and 2 hours editing. The camera today is actually a very small part of the end product.
You need Photoshop. Don’t even think about it. There is nothing that beats Photoshop, ok? Got it?
You need lots of Photoshop Actions. These are plugins that automate post processing. Many are free, but the really good ones cost money. Invest in a few really good Actions. It makes everything so much easier and faster.
Learn, learn, learn
We all know about aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc. That’s the easy stuff. You need to learn about cross processing, levels, HDR and all the other cool stuff you can do with your images during the edit.
Don’t be afraid to ask people around you if they think your photos are cool. You will soon judge their reactions. If they flip out then it’s good. If they smile nicely and tell you it’s very nice, then it’s crap. Go back to the drawing board and do it again.
Save you PSD files
Always keep the layered PSD files safe. I think I have gone back to my old photos a thousand times to re do some of them. Especially if you get some new actions or learn a new trick. Then you can take that old, mediocre photo and turn it into something special.
Submit your photos to something like Pixoto. The community votes for the best photos and it gives a quick and fairly objective indication if your photo is special or not. There are many flaws with the system but I only use it as a fairly crude bench marking tool to identify those images that are truly special and have potential.
Develop a style
You need your own style. That’s the most difficult part. If you’re just like everyone else then your photos won’t stand out. I can’t help you with that unfortunately. It’s something you will discover after many, many years of practice. But if you keep going, then you will get there and one day, people will start to recognize your photos. That’s when you have arrived. Until then, keep trying!