December is the time of the year when I look back on the year that was and look forward on the year that can be. Here are my top ten practical and inspirational tips to grow your photography skills.
1. Back up your photos and videos
You should be able to walk away from your creative space each night with confidence that your media files are backed up and safe from a malfunction, theft or a fire. Don’t put your trust in a second drive backup that is backed up and stored in a fireproof safe somewhere in your office or house. This is just took risky. Instead, use a cloud-based backup storage service to simply the process. I would suggest checking out Google Drive, DropBox, Adobe Creative Cloud, Carbonite, iDrive, Amazon Prime, SOS Online Backup, SpiderOakONE, Acronis, and BackBlaze to name a few.
2. Take the camera with you more often
One of my biggest regrets over the past year has been leaving my camera stored safely at home when I left the house. I’ve missed too many photo opportunities to mention and I look back with regret. Even if you’re not interested in carrying a DSLR around with you all the time, then why not make use of the camera that’s on your phone and most likely with you all of the time? If you don’t have a camera with you, then you can’t improve your photography skills and you’ll miss countless moments worth capturing.
3. Create a monthly photo essay
I’ve watched a lot of vlogs about photography, techniques and unique destinations on YouTube this year. One of the recurring themes in those vlogs if that the vloggers are particularly skilled at visual storytelling by being aware of the stories that surround them in their everyday life. Make the resolution to capture your daily experiences by putting together a compressed short visual essay with only 5-10 images that visually describe to a stranger what you did on that day, that vacation, or at that event.
4. Print your work
For me, personally, if I don’t print an image it has not made the cut to represent my best work. It really has nothing to do with archival reasons but the real reason is that it’s emotional. Seeing and holding onto something tangible can be mesmerizing and infinitely more satisfying that viewing your photo on a screen.
5. Update your portfolio
Do not underestimate the importance of maintaining your portfolio. Potential clients will assess your artistic skills based on your portfolio. Do not fall into the trap of showing only photos that you are emotionally attached to from a decade ago when most of your best work is stored on your computer. Set aside some time and find your best work and add it to your portfolio. While you are adding photos to your portfolio also take time to remove some old images that don’t represent your current style or skill level. Be ruthless. Otherwise, you’ll be missing opportunities.
6. Do some research before you shoot
As a travel photographer, you don’t always have the luxury of time. Therefore, you need to plan your trip in as much detail as possible to give you the best possible chance of capturing everything you need to. As soon as I book a trip, I immediately begin researching the destination online and make a list of potential photos that I want to capture and how they will determine my travel itinerary. It’s also important to view photo sites like 500px, Instagram, Flickr and Photoshelter to see what other photographers have shot before and then come up with a plan to make your photos better.
7. Stop using auto mode
I agree that it’s easy to fall into the trap of using the Auto Mode. It is like training wheels for bicycles but they are meant to teach you how to do it on your own but eventually they have to go away. I urge your to make this they year to take the time to learn the fundamentals of the important camera settings, such as setting shutter speeds, how apertures can change the look of your photos, and whey manually setting white balance will improve your shots.
8. Use a handheld light meter or the histogram on the camera
I am one of the first people to support the value of shooting in RAW format. It is very forgiving but it also makes people too reliant on the attitude of “I’ll fix it later.” There have been many examples this past year where even the RAW file format has revealed its limitations in good photos that could have been great photos. I’ve learned my lesson and instead of too often ignoring white balance and proper exposure at the scene, I plan on using my handheld light meter. If you don’t have one, then at the very least shoot a photo and then check the histogram on your camera.
9. Shoot during the golden hour
The golden hour is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the Sun is higher in the sky. Professional photographers claim that it adds a quality to images that can’t be replicated no matter how many actions, filters, or textures you use.
Professional photographers claim that many of their best pictures of scenes, from urban to rural, beaches to deserts, are taken shortly after dawn and just before sunset. At these times, streams of light cast magical effects on fields, buildings, trees, mountains, and water. These amazing hues that saturate the landscape are softer, warmer enable photographers to get capture better images even with simple composition.
10. Include more people
While I was shooting in Iceland this past summer, I spent a lot of time waiting for tourists to walk out of my scene. Although it was initially frustrating, over time I learned about the value of including people in photos. The scenes in Iceland are simply majestic but many of those landscapes are improved by including a person in them. My challenge to you is to learn the ways that people can make your photos even better. And don’t forget, every once in awhile, don’t be afraid to jump in your own photo, too.