One of the great things about photography as a hobby is that you can take whatever level you want and be happy where your photography is, even if it is just snapping away with your phone. But you may eventually want to take your craft up to that next level, and while new gear can certainly help make that next step, photography is one of those things that you don’t always need that next best thing. All cameras are the same idea, a dark box that allows you to capture images, freeze time, if you will, onto some form of medium. Getting a film camera or a digital camera won’t automatically improve you as a photographer; you are the only one who can improve your own craft. So that’s what I’m going to be talking about today, are ways that I’ve come across and one to help improve my own craft. And I hope that they inspire you to get out and work towards improving your own craft.
Change Up Your Gear
While the gear doesn’t always make the picture changing out for a different piece, your usual kit might help inspire something different. If you’re always shooting with a rangefinder, try an SLR! Always shooting film, pick up a digital! Yes, even your phone can help; I know I’ve done several hikes where I’ve only brought my phone and got some amazing results. But you don’t have to stop at your camera. If you always shoot a wide-angle lens, try a normal or telephoto! Or vice versa! There’s also a lot of fun when switching from zoom to prime or prime to zoom. Go with a half-frame camera, or shoot 6×6 on medium format or your phone. Even give a shot at a toy camera or toy lens. Primarily a colour shooter? Try shooting in black & white, and yes, I mean you to digital shooters; you can set your camera to B&W mode and shoot that way! Try a new camera app on your phone, Fimo, Hipstamatic or something a little more ‘pro’.
Try a different genre
We all get stuck in a rut shooting the same thing over and over again. And while many of us have gotten used to not only having our ability to get out and shoot hindered, we’ve also faced limitations on freedom of movement. Thankfully, where I live, I could get out frequently, but I also put personal limits on how far I could travel for photography. However, I did start to explore other genres. I’m primarily an urban shooter; I love old buildings, architecture, and things that tell and story and won’t complain if you point a camera at them. But there’s something to be said about getting out and shooting landscape or trying to stage a still life. Or, if you’re up to the challenge, try some portraits or even street photography. You may find you like the genre, or you could find you hate it and never want to try it again. Either way, you’ve tried something new, and that in itself is an excellent step forward in improvement.
Put the Camera Down
Sometimes the best way to improve your photography is to put the camera down. I often find that after I go a whole week doing nothing but getting out and shooting. And while I do enjoy that, afterwards, I find I need to recharge and not pick up the camera. But I also don’t stop with the practice of photography. While I’m not outshooting, I take the time to learn and seek inspiration elsewhere. You could pick up a book read about other photographers, see if you cannot find inspiration in their works. Not much into reading, take an online or in-person course, many community colleges have excellent continuing education classes on photography, plus there is a tonne of online learning platforms. Over on Skillshare, one amazing photography, Kyle McDougall offers up several excellent classes. But you can also head over to YouTube and find other photographers. And you don’t have to do this to learn something new; you can even watch their work to get inspiration. In addition to Kyle, I tend to watch videos from Mat, Jess, Aly, John, Todd, and others!
You absolutely don’t have to do any of this; if you’re happy where your photography is at the moment, then more power to you, keep going. Remember, skill or level has no bearing on the personal enjoyment and fulfilment of any hobby. But if you feel that you could do better and be happier and be more fulfilled, then, by all means, work towards improving your craft. Although personally, I find the best way to improve your work, stop, think twice before pressing that shutter, and apply it to all means, mediums, and situations.