Every new photographer strives to become better. But what are the signs that your photography is improving?
When you’re first starting out its very much an uphill battle.
Your photos look very bland, you’re struggling with the technical aspect of photography. Plus you are still coming to grips with the equipment.
Sounds hard but, but if you keep on practising your photography will get much better.
I remember when I started taking photos. There was a brief period I shot with a film camera that I borrowed.
Motor sports is what i was into. I went to a racetrack fired off 10 rolls of 36 exposures. Back then we used to go to the chemist to develop our photos.
I remember this day very clearly, and i still have the photos. When I opened up the envelope with the 360 photos.
I wasn’t completely disappointed, my brother had set up the camera in Auto so my exposures of the cars were good and the photos were sharp.
But, and this is a huge BUT The photos just came across as blah, boring photos is the only way I could describe the photos.
There was no pre visualisation to the photos. I wasn’t trying to be creative in anyway. I was simply just too new of a photographer to know any better.
Fast forward 14 years and I can see there are definitely huge improvements to my photography. The signs are all there.
You can tell thought has gone into my photos. I pray visualise my photos, I’m comfortable with my equipment, my editing is better and I am happy with the majority photos I take in difficult lighting conditions.
Here is a list of 10 signs that your photography is improving and you don’t even know unless you think about it.
1. It has become second nature to pre visualise all your photos
This without a doubt would have to be the biggest sign that your photography is improving. Your photos start to evolve from simple snapshots to well-crafted and thought out photographs.
There is a saying that if you do something 10,000 times you become a professional at it. Yeah, I think this is very true if you do something enough times you will start to workout your mistakes and start improving,
I think that pre visualising your photos before you go out and even press the shutter is one of those things you learn over time. No beginner is expected to start taking photos like Ansel Adam’s or Henri Cartier-Bresson.
It’s a process that we all go through when we start taking photos. We start reviewing our photos and we start to think of ways how we can make them better.
And before you know it you’re daydreaming about photos that you want to take. And it’s surprising how simple this process is in the sense that when you first start out you’re pretty much just pressing the shutter and just hoping for the best.
As you improve, as you take my more photos you start to think of small adjustments that will make the photo better. Such as photographs from a different angle, making sure that your background a clean for even cropping the photo differently in camera, by using your feet to move closer.
2. You no longer say I will fix it later in photoshop or lightroom
If you visit any Facebook photography group or any photography forum on the internet for that matter. There is a common theme to some of the post that new photographers are posting.
How do I fix this photo?
What you’ll see is photos that are technically incorrect . It’s over or under exposed by 3 stops, it’s not sharp , distractions that could be avoided and the list goes on.
I know that I was guilty of those things when I first started out.
It’s understandable because as a new photographer your understanding is I take a photo and I use software such as Photoshop or Lightroom to edit it.
The question is at what point do I try and not to edit a photo because it’s not worth my time.
As you improve, the editing of your photos also changes. From trying to correct out of focus photos or photos that are severely over or under exposed.
To knowing when to use tools such Curves, the dodge and burn to finesse an image as opposed to fix. And that is the difference when you start to understand how to use your editing software correctly use it to it just the so tree thought across rather than fix a photo.
Understand that adjusting the exposure and recovering highlights and shadows is there to help you. rather than fix something that could’ve been solved prior to pressing the shutter.
Get creative with your photography and join our weekly photo challenge
3. You take less photos and are happy with them
The term spray and pray gets thrown around quite loosely for photographers that take a lot of photos and hope that one of them will be good.
There is some truth to that but there’s also the idea that. But you need to also work the scene.
The difference is when you spray and pray you’re basically taking a photo adjusting settings, take another photo adjusting setting and it just keeps on going on and on and on.
Or your ability to take a sharp photo is poor and you taking multiple photos of the same thing and I hope that one of them will be sharp.
Now, When you work a scene. Your exposure, aperture, shutter speed are pretty much already set, it’s just a matter of you getting the right composition in camera.
So the process might then be taking a photo at a particular angle and then you change it up by going little bit lower or even stepping closer or further away you’re actually working the scene and trying to getting the best composition.
The more experience you have you end up taking less photos of a scene and you are generally happier with the outcome.
4. You no longer think a new camera or lens will make you a better photographer
It’s so hard not to lust over new camera gear. We can thank the camera manufacturers for that because their advertising is so good, they have influences within the photography industry that are taking these amazing photos and the first thing comes to mind, Is “man if only I could have that camera or that lens it will make me a better photographer”
There was a time that it was actually true. Over 10 years ago when digital cameras we’re starting to progress on a 12 month or 18 months cycle.
Features such as megapixels and ISO was a big thing because Improvements we’re starting to become bigger and bigger with every camera release.
Now I think we’ve reached a certain level, a Plateau if you will. The sensors have enough megapixels, we have high ISO that allows us to basically shoots in a cave, and be comfortably in getting something usable and the image quality from those sensors is absolutely awesome.
The optics in lenses have also improved as well to keep up with the image quality that our cameras are now producing.
I think it’s a sign that your photography is improving if that equipment no longer becomes an excuse for your lack of photography ability.
Camera and lens technology is now at such a point that you can pick up almost any camera and provided that you can technically take a good photo it will look good and produce a good print. Unlike a few years ago where we were limited by ISO.
I currently still use the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 1D Mark IV for my photography. I still print my work in gorgeous albums that my clients absolutely love and rave about. When I Post online and I’ve resized it to 2000 pixels will the new 50 megapixel camera make my photos look better photographer?
When you start going out and photographing with whatever camera you have. It may be a mobile phone, a point and shoot or a DSRL and the results that you are producing are consistent and you are happy with the results.
It’s safe to say you no longer are using the excuse of “you need new equipment to be a better photographer.
5. You bring less equipment when you’re out photographing
This comes back to pre visualising your photos. Have a fair idea as to what you want the photo to be look like.
Your equipment selection will become simple and as a result you’ll start bringing less equipment out with you.
I see a lot of your photographers basically bring a big bag with almost everything they own equipment wise inside it. From multiple lenses to filters and tripods, all sorts of accessories just in case.
Example, spend a little bit of time pre visualising your photo. If you know that you’ll be nice and close your subject. Then don’t really need 70 – 200mm. A 24-70mm or 35 mm or even a 24 mm would be more than sufficient.
The same could be said if you’re doing landscape photography during dusk. You know that because of the low light you need to bring a tripod, one camera, cable release and possibly one lens the rest of the your equipment leave at home.
6. You spend less time editing your photos
When I first started I used to spend a lot of time working on my photos. I’ll be perfectly honest a lot of the time it was time spent trying to fix problems that I caused because of bad technique while out photographing.
Over time as I became a better photographer. The effort spent editing was much less. I invested time into learning new editing techniques and how much I could go with a photo before it became unrealistic.
Now I have a rule that I try to get 70% – 90% of the photo done in camera and only spend less time in lightroom and photoshop and simply doing small tweaks to finesse the photo and make it more like what I had seen or visualized in my head.
It’s a skill that we learn over time and will become complimentary to our photos.
7. When you look back at old photos, you notice improvement and consistency
This without a doubt would have to be the biggest ego boost When it comes to judging if you photography has improved.
Looking back at old photos that you took years ago when you were just starting out. Hopefully you’ll see major changes in your photography. Your photos have evolved from simple snapshots to carefully thought out images.
Looking back at old photos is also a good way to just remind yourself, where you came from.
Sometimes if we’re having a bad day not getting the photos you expect to get while out photographing. It’s an excellent visual learning tool.
I remember photographing a sporting event, a gymnastics competition. I found it extremely difficult to get my exposures correct because it was such dimly lit hall, keeping the athletes sharp and also there was a black background and I just couldn’t quite to get the separation that I needed.
I used those photos as a learning experience and the next time when I photographed events in a similar environment. My exposures and angles were much better. I shot different angles to utilise different backgrounds and as a result the exposure in my photos were much better and sharper.
All ways keep your old photos even if they are really bad and make you cringe.
8. You have become more comfortable with your camera
Becoming comfortable with your camera equipment will happen over time and it will only happen the more you use your equipment.
I remember the first digital SLR that I owned. ISO 1600 was usable, if you bumped it to ISO 3200 it was a nightmare to clean up in Photoshop or Lightroom.
A small limitation like that force me to change the way I photographed indoors. This meant that I knew exactly when to reach for my flash or even not to take the photo at all.
The easiest way to becoming more comfortable with your camera equipment is simpler to use it everyday make it become a part of you, knowing where the dial and buttons are so you don’t have to lift your eye from the viewfinder.
To be able to change your ISO, aperture, shutter speed without having to move your face away from your camera and keeping engage with your subject is a good thing to learn.
9. You understand your subjects better
Another sign of you photography is improving is that you start to understand your subjects better. It doesn’t have to be a human it can also be an object like a bowl of fruit or architectural feature like a building. The more you photograph your subject the better the results you’ll get.
Photography is all about light. Understanding how light falls on your subjects, how it interacts with your subjects is key.
If you are photograph something that is stationary like a landscape or a building or some sort of Still Life. Try photographing the scene or object over a course of a day and see what the light does to the subject.
When you’re photographing people it’s slightly different. Been able to pull emotions from them is what will result in a better of photo.
The majority people that you photograph more than likely will not want their photo taken. It’s up to you, the photographer, too make them forget about the camera and just to concentrate on something else.
Take for instance photographing a bride and groom on their wedding day. It’s key for you to get them to forget about you and been able to put them at ease quickly, this is crucial to getting a photo that is pleasing. Make them laugh, get them to interact with each other.
10. You’re comfortable printing your photos
Printing photos is a great learning tool. When I first started printing photos it was of sports. And boy did I make mistakes.
I thought I need to photograph everything at f 2.8 and as a result caused a lot of photos to have missed focus. The photos looked fantastic, when they were viewed on a screen they looked perfect.
But it wasn’t until I printed off the photos that I could see the sharpness was not the best or the focus was slightly off because I as a person was running towards me I had focused on their chest which was at a different plane compared to their face even though the photo was still very usable. You could tell there was a slight softness to the face compared to their jersey.
If your photo is not technically correct and you print it. You will be punished for having a photo that he’s not perfect.
There is some leeway, but remember if your photo is not sharp, well exposed and cropped in a pleasing way your photos are going to look terrible printed.
What are some of the signs that you see in your photography that you have noticed an improvement in? Do you see any of the signs that I’ve spoken about today? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear what has improved in your photography.