In this post, I’ll show you how to become a great photographer by following a few easy rules.
I specifically reveal my 12-step strategy for developing both your technical (i.e., settings, composition, editing) and aesthetic talents (i.e., your personal photographic voice).
You will become an excellent photographer if you read this post attentively, follow my approach, and put in the effort.
Step 1: Look at the light
When seeking to improve their photography skills, most people focus solely on their camera settings. They delve right into technical aspects like aperture, shutter speed, and autofocus modes.
And it’s true: those settings have a purpose.
However, starting with camera settings, in my opinion, will confuse you – since the camera is only a tool that can capture light.
Instead, when it comes to photography, the first thing you should consider is light, not your camera. Make it a habit to ask yourself the following questions every time you go outside:
- What time of day is it?
- How strong is the light?
- Is it sunny or cloudy?
- What direction is the light coming from?
- Where are the artificial light sources and what colors do they give off?
You’ll soon be continuously conscious of the light. You’ll be able to tell its quality and direction. That’s a fantastic position to be in.
After all, how you photograph and the settings you employ will be influenced by the lighting. Even a tiny shift in the direction of your light source may drastically alter the appearance of an image. You won’t be able to learn how to operate your camera effectively until you first understand light.
To begin with something light. Only then should you proceed to the following step…
Step 2: Learn your camera settings
Every photograph is the result of a half-dozen (or more!) camera settings, which include:
- Shutter speed
- Shooting modes
- Autofocus modes
- Metering modes
- White balance modes
Discover what each of these options means and how to change them on your camera. You don’t need to know everything about each option at first, but you should grasp how they will affect your images and which settings work best as starting points.
That way, when you find a wonderful photo opportunity, you’ll know how to modify essential elements like sharpness, depth of field, brightness, and more. And you’ll get the photo you’re looking for.
It may appear like taking a single photograph is a lot of labor, and it is. However, if you begin shooting in this manner, it will become second nature. It’s the same as learning to shoot a basketball or swing a golf club. Doing it correctly may seem awkward and strange at first, but it will come naturally and fast, and you will be better equipped to achieve outstanding outcomes.
Here’s a simple hint for moving on with settings:
Take your camera out of Auto mode and try Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, or Manual mode. Aperture Priority is frequently a smart place to start since it allows you to manipulate exposure factors while letting the camera perform some of the heavy liftings. However, if you’re keen to learn more about exposure, you might try switching to Manual mode right immediately.
Step 3: Learn to carefully compose your shots
Now that you’ve mastered the fundamental camera settings, it’s time to move on to the slightly more artistic side of becoming a great photographer:
Most inexperienced photographers have a horrible tendency of looking up, seeing something fascinating, photographing it fast, and moving on. Experienced photographers, on the other hand, may typically scrutinize a fascinating sight for many minutes before determining what to put in the frame. Only when they’ve established the best composition do they shoot a photograph.
Now, composing might be difficult, especially when you’re just beginning out. And you don’t have to tackle it alone; instead, master compositional tools like the rule of thirds, the law of odds, symmetry, leading lines, and so on.
Then, when confronted with an intriguing image, take a deep breath. Consider several compositional factors. Which side should you take? Where should you put your key topic? Should you use more pieces to create a more complicated composition?
Always remember that the distinction between a photograph and a piece of art is one of mind. In fact, taking a step to the left may be the difference between a good shot and a spectacular image.
After you’ve taken a photo, look at it on the LCD of your camera, as well as on your computer at home. Consider the composition. What do you enjoy? What might you have done differently? Your creative talents will improve with time, and you’ll see interesting compositions everywhere.
Step 4: Learn to use color
Color, or the absence thereof, is a crucial aspect of photography. If you can figure out how to utilize it to your advantage, your photographs will instantly improve. But how can you cultivate your color “sight”?
Begin by studying a color wheel. Examine how the colors interact with one another. Which colors go well together? What impact do you obtain when you mix them? Also, what do the various hues represent? Which colors make the viewer feel more relaxed, and which colors make them feel more agitated?
Then, when you’re out and about, have a look around. As you pass past, take note of the many hues. Consider how they operate (or do not work) together.
Examine how the light changes hues as well. It is possible for light to be chilly, warm, or even green. Learn how to detect these color casts and how they influence the scene.
You may also enhance your color sense by modifying. Experiment with different color temperatures to determine whether you prefer warmer or cooler visuals. Desaturate your images first, then add a little saturation to see how you like them. And then play with the contrast to see how it changes the colors.
Step 5: Learn how to edit your photos.
You may not want to hear this, but if you want to be a good photographer, you must also learn to be a good editor.
Editing is critical to creating your vision, and the finest photographers combine their photo and editing talents to achieve amazing end products.
I recommend that you subscribe to Lightroom Classic because it is the industry standard and works great for so many photographers. However, you may also look into Luminar, Capture One, and ON1 Photo RAW, all of which provide a wealth of options for the aspiring photographer.
Remember that editing your images will require a lot of experimenting, especially initially, so practice frequently and don’t get frustrated if things don’t go your way. Simply said, do everything you can to learn from your failures! Try recreating the appearance of your favorite photographs for a fun task to gain a sense of how the editing was done.
Finally, be conscientious about keeping your archive organized. A little time invested each time you upload a picture will save you a lot of time in the long run. Create Collections based on concepts that you build over time, and start your good photographs (Lightroom offers one through five stars) to make them easier to discover. Seeing your work in an orderly manner can help you develop your abilities far faster than a jumbled archive!
Step 6: Print your photos
Nowadays, amateurs seldom print their images – but this is a mistake for several reasons.
It’s one thing to see how your photographs appear on a computer display. And seeing them in their ultimate, printed form is a whole other experience. A print allows you to see how the light, color, and camera settings all contributed to the final image. Mark my words: it’ll teach you a lot about shooting.
I encourage that you experiment with different printing media and examine your prints under varied lighting conditions. However, I do not advocate doing the printing yourself. Prints can be ordered from a local printer or a trustworthy internet provider. If you discover that you enjoy printing and want to do it all the time, you may want to consider purchasing your own printer – but as a beginner, you should stick to sending your images to be printed.
Make a photographic corkboard as well. I swear by a 36 by 48-inch board that sits next to my workstation. Fill it with 5 x 7 and 4 x 6 prints and keep changing it. Examine how the photos relate to one another, which ones hold your attention the longest, and which you lose interest in. Make use of this as a printing playground!
Step 7: Photograph constantly
You’re in a good spot if you’ve made it this far. You know what you’re doing; your prints are stunning, and your photographs are well-composed. You may even be a good photographer. But how do you improve as a photographer? How can you achieve greatness?
The following stage is to learn how to take distinctive and fascinating images. It is now time to put in more effort to consider what connects with you in photography and what makes photographs stick out in your mind.
And it all starts with constantly photographing.
Many individuals only carry their cameras on holidays or travels. They visit sites designed expressly for photography, such as mountain ranges, zoos, gardens, safaris, attractive villages, and cities with beautiful architecture. And, while this is admirable, push yourself even further. Take shots whenever you can, even if it’s in the middle of the day. If you can’t bring your main camera, utilize your smartphone.
Great images may be taken in the most unexpected settings by the finest photographers. Put this into practice. Go to a random area – or even a site you believe will be unsuitable for photography – and find out how to shoot an intriguing shot. This will be extremely beneficial to your progress. You may understand light and camera settings like a pro, but if you aren’t out photography in a range of conditions on a semi-regular basis, you are undervaluing yourself as a photographer.
Step 8: View the work of other photographers
You should be actively attempting to build your own voice and style at this time. And one of the finest methods to accomplish this? Examine the work of others.
Visit galleries, get photography books, and study the work of renowned photographers. The internet is a great place to look at photography, but it’s also a great way to become lost. Galleries and bookstores are carefully chosen for a purpose. Consider the pictures, how they were created, and the environment in which they were created. Sometimes photographs will strike you regardless of context, but other times it is vital to understand the photographer and the history behind the image. At the very least, it will broaden your appreciation.
Imitate the many styles of photographers you admire. Then, choose your favorite aspects from several photographers and combine them to create your own style.
Invest in some prints. The average home has a lot of walls – more than enough for a lot of painters!
Yes, there is something rewarding about viewing a picture and then attempting to recreate it for yourself. However, it is critical to recognize and respect the efforts of others. Look at a lot of photographs and you’ll start to establish your own style.
Finally, reading about topics unrelated to photography is one of my favorite methods to get inspired. Learn about the subject of your shot. Read poetry, current events, or anything else. This is about developing your voice outside of photography, which will help you build your voice inside it.
Step 9: Immerse yourself in a subject or area
Did you know that some photographers have been photographing in the same location for almost 40 years? You don’t have to go that far, but focusing on a specific subject or area and running with it can help you improve tremendously.
For example, you might photograph:
- Your surrounding neighborhood
- Your backyard
- Nearby lakes
You may really select anything as long as it’s somewhat specific. Instead of photographing “the streets of New York,” you might photograph “the streets of SoHo” or even “Manhattan bridges.”
Then return to the same location or topic at different times and in varied lighting to continue capturing it. This is critical for your development since it will help you to know the region or subject like the back of your hand. Your photographs will gain depth, and you’ll be able to identify what you actually enjoy about a shot.
Step 10: Find a small group with whom you can share your work
The internet is a fantastic tool for sharing your work, but it is also a highly impersonal medium. Every day, everyone views thousands of photographs from hundreds of people. While it is possible to grow through online criticism, getting a good critique of your photographs might be difficult.
So gather a few folks and form a group that looks at tangible photos every now and then. You ultimately want to shoot for yourself, but seeing how people react to your photographs is beneficial to your development. The more people become acquainted with your work and your style, the more useful their comments and suggestions will be.
It is important to note that your critique group does not have to be made up entirely of photographers. They can be friends, artists, or even romantic partners. A good, critical critique from your spouse may be extremely important – and while it can be difficult to hear at times, it will be beneficial in the long run.
Step 11: Put together an edit of similar images
One of the most appealing features of Lightroom is the ability to create image collections outside of your standard file structure. (Other apps enable you to do this as well – and at the absolute least, you can group photographs by altering the file structure on your desktop.)
Begin grouping and sequencing photographs that are related to one another. Make a project out of them. All of the photographs in this article are related to one another, however, they were captured throughout time rather than all at once. You can do the same thing.
It’s worth noting that, while you may plan projects from the start, most projects and ideas emerge organically throughout the course of a day’s filming. So go through your work, look for trends, and start working on new projects. After a while, you’ll have a few projects running at the same time, and you could even wind up with a few completed items to add to your portfolio!
Step 12: Really develop your photographic voice
The final stage in becoming a decent, excellent, or even outstanding photographer is developing your own voice – but if you follow the previous 11 steps, your voice will come effortlessly.
You may, of course, think about your voice and pay attention to it as you improve. But don’t push it. Allow it to come to you gradually.
Don’t worry if you’ve gotten to this point in your photographic career and your voice still hasn’t evolved. Instead, go through a couple of these stages again, notably Step 7 (Continuously photograph), Step 8 (View the work of other photographers), and Step 9. (Immerse yourself in a subject or area).
You will ultimately find your voice. And you’ll become a fantastic photographer.
You can fast learn how to operate your camera, but you will not become a great photographer overnight. Take your time, strive to develop a little bit every day, and you’ll make enormous advances in a few years.