How to Improve Your Photography – Where to Start?

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If you are reading this article then I’m going to make a couple of assumptions. First that you want to learn how to improve your photography skills and second that you are comparatively new to photography and are still learning the basics. If either or both of these things apply then this is the article for you. I will be writing on more advanced topics as well, but you’ve got to establish the foundations first.

What Do You Need to Learn Photography?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Well you need yourself and you need some form of camera. That’s pretty much it. In a pinch any sort of camera will do, including a smartphone but for maximum flexibility you’re going to want some sort of interchangeable lens system (any format will do).

Learning the basics of photography is actually very easy. Yes if you’re interested there can be physics and math, but it’s really not neccessary to understand all of that in order to take great photos.

  • Can anyone learn photography?
    • Absolutely Anyone can master the basics if they have an interest.
  • Can I learn photography on my own?
    • Yes you can. There are advantages to having someone to guide you or provide constructive criticism, but you can find that on the internet if you go looking. Photography can be either a group or solo hobby, whichever you prefer.
  • How long will it take to learn photography?
    • You can learn the basics in a few weeks, it will take your life to master it.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Which leads me nicely onto the single most important thing to understand as you work to improve your photography skills. Practice is the key to getting better. The old Malcolm Gladwell quote about it taking 10,000 hours of practice to become a master isn’t literrally true, but it’s essence is true. The rules and techniques of photography are all pretty simple, but mastering them requires you to apply them repeatedly and do it in a conscious manner.

In short if you want to get better at photography, you’re going to need to take a lot of photos, but more than that, you’re going to need to think about each photo you take. It is easy, particularly with modern cameras and their almost unlimited storage, to just keep hitting the button and taking photos but if you don’t think before you click then you won’t be able to learn from what you’ve done.

If you want to improve your photography quickly then you need think before each shot you take and ask yourself “what is it that I want from this photo?”, “what am I trying to capture in the image?” At this stage you may only have a very general feeling of what that is, but it’s enough to build from. Keep the answers to those questions in mind because you’ll need them for the next step.

Learn From Your Mistakes and Your Successes

When you get back in front of a computer either later that day or the next day, you need to all the photos you took. You could do this on your phone in a pinch, but the tiny screen size is not well suited for this sort of activity. You want to be able to see the flaws in your photos so you can ask yourself several questions:

  • Did I achieve what I wanted with this photo?
  • Is it blurry when I wanted it to be sharp?
  • Can I clearly see the focus element of the image?
  • Does it capture the feeling that I was going for?

You want to be as honest with yourself as you can be when reviewing the images. If they’re just flat out bad (out of focus, so dim you can’t see anything) you’re going to delete them and not keep them. If they’re okay but not what you pictured in your head then you’ll want to look at them more closely to see what could be done differently. Future articles will help you do that.

At this stage it is normal to feel a bit frustrated with the photos that you take, particularly if you are comparing them to the ones you see online. Keep in mind that most people only share their best work on the internet and they may well have been practicing photography for years. But over time, using this method of practicing and applying the techniques that I’m going to discuss, you will rapidly improve.

The point of reviewing your photos critically is not to make you feel bad about your abilities, but simply to identify where you need to improve. In some cases the issue isn’t even the photo but just that the feeling you had needs to be teased out of the raw photo via editing and we’ll talk about that in another article as well.

Future Articles

Upcoming articles in Photography 101 will include the following topics, but this is by no means the full list.






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