Learning to take better pictures can be a lesson in frustration, especially in the social media driven world that we live in. We are constantly bombarded with beautiful images. We want to take beautiful photos too but when we click the button, it looks NOTHING like what we saw in our head.
I've often thought about how lucky I was to learn photography "pre" social media. When I took my photos, I didn't compare them to anything but my last photo. I gauged my progress ONLY on two things: 1) Did it look how I wanted it to look? 2) Did the result complete the assignment? That's it. Things were so much simpler back in the day (back in the day being 2004.)
how to take better pictures
I am currently reading the Bobby Bones book, "Fail Until You Don't: Fight Grind Repeat." It's a really good book on tenacity and learning from your failures to keep moving forward. I'm going to take some liberty here and I'm going to call my version "Shoot. Evaluate. Repeat."
#1 Get out there and shoot
To take better photos, you have to take photos. Let me repeat...to take better photos you have to take photos. I know, duh!! But let me throw out a few things I've heard over the years.
"I know what I want in my head but I know I won't get it so I didn't take any pictures."
"My pictures aren't any good."
"My pictures aren't as good as yours."
I think this really comes down to anything in life that you are interested in doing, learning, or pursuing...you have to put yourself out there. If you want to be a photographer (or just take better photos of your kids) you have to take photos. If you want to be a teacher, you have to teach. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to start a business. If you wait to do any of these things until you are a master, you'll never do it.
So, while this may seem elementary, the old adage practice makes progress is 100% true in photo land.
One way to practice is to intentionally join a photography project or start your own personal project. There are many examples (and you can find a lot of them on Pinterest) out there. Here at The Big Girl School, we are starting a Project 52. This is simply a photo a week for 52 weeks. Each week has a different theme or prompt. It can be interpreted any way you like. Artistically, literally, humorously, abstractly...the choice is yours and it is meant to spur your creativity, develop your eye, and get you to use your camera on a regular basis. I've put together a list of prompts if you'd like to join us. You can download it here or pin it on Pinterest. We'll be sharing in our Facebook group each week. There is only one rule: the photo must be taken in 2019. That's it. You can shoot ahead if you'd like but you can't pull something from your archives.
take better pictures this year:
Ideas to help you start
#2 ask for feedback
It can be super scary to ask for feedback. It's the next step in putting yourself out there. You can ask for "cc" which stands for constructive criticism. You are asking someone to tell you what is good about the photo and what could be improved. I'll be honest, you won't always get the answer you were expecting.
But it is the only way you will grow! Here are some examples of constructive criticism that I've received and it has changed the way I shoot:
I posted a picture of my nephew which I just thought was awesome. My feedback was "Cute photo but it is blurry." (I had no idea it was blurry...and it absolutely was. You can bet I paid attention to that in the future.)
I asked for feedback on a dance photo that I thought was the bomb.com. I asked for feedback from an extremely accomplished photographer. Her feedback was that the photo had lovely elements but was lacking any emotional connection (ouch!) I later submitted that same photo for awards and accreditation and it did not score as professional standard (and this was reviewed by SEVERAL accomplished photographers.) My lesson here was very valuable. Just because the lighting, posing, and the technicalities of a photo are near perfect, that doesn't mean it will resonate with the viewer. There is always more to learn even after you master the basics.
I posted a series of headshots that I took and someone wrote "every expression is exactly.the.same." Huh? Hadn't noticed that before. Now I do. Thanks.
So you can see that asking for feedback isn't always warm and fuzzy but as long as the feedback is given with the intention to help the person asking for feedback grow, then it is good feedback. We can't always see our own photos with a critical eye. We are too close to it.
Years from now (assuming you stick with it) you'll look back at your early photos and what you thought was really good back then probably wasn't as good as you thought. The gratifying thing is that you will see GROWTH and that is exciting. If you are like me, some of the photos will make you cringe (and that's a good thing.)
But you won't see growth if you don't shoot (see #1 above.)
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What's cool about photography is that you never really master it. Sure you might get really good at the technicalities, but there are always ways to improve. You can improve your composition, your artistic voice, your connection with your subject and viewer, your editing (on my personal growth list,) the possibilities are endless.
By being tenacious and sticking with it even when you feel uninspired you will continue to take better photos. The key is to not give up. There will be days when you feel like your photos suck. But then, there will days when you get the money shot and your heart just explodes with excitement. It's those little incremental breakthroughs that keep you going and keep you coming back for more.
See the list below for ideas to help you get out and shoot this year. Join our Facebook group if you need a safe, gentle place to ask for feedback. We'll help you take better pictures.
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Andrea Ferenchik, Founder
Andrea started The Big Girl School because she loves sharing her passion of photography with other women. As a former trainer at Microsoft and current professional photographer, she has the unique ability to break down technical jargon of the camera into easy to understand language. She loves nothing more than to see her students grow and thrive in their photographic journey.
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