1. Shoot in Manual mode
When I first started my business, I photographed in Auto mode for the first six to eight months. The whole process of interacting with clients, photographing, editing, delivering images, and marketing a business was intimidating enough; the last thing I needed was to figure out my gear on the fly. So I pushed that button on my camera to Auto and happily clicked along. But once I gave myself the permission to fail, learn, and try Manual mode, I never looked back. Manual mode is more than just a button on your camera. It is a chance for you to really understand how exposure works by controlling shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO. The more you play around with these elements, the more you will learn about your own style of photography. I realized that I loved images that were clean and crisp. The images that were light and airy spoke to my style; they were the kind of images that I wanted to create. I realized that I needed to shoot wide open with a low ISO to get the look that I wanted. This meant I only had my shutter speed to play with.
I also learned the lowest shutter speed I could use while handholding my camera to get a crisp image in any situation. None of these would have been possible if I had let the camera dictate the settings for each scene (i.e., by shooting in Auto mode).
2. Learn about light in different situations
As a photographer, you need to not only see light but also need to learn the art of reading light: the type of light, the quality of light, and also how the light will affect your final image.
For the first few years of my business, I had a very limited knowledge of light. I did not even own an external flash, and so I limited myself to photographing in bright, open, natural light conditions. Living in Chicago, our summers are quite short, and fall is usually a mix of rain, thunderstorms and more rain. I learned very quickly that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and figure out how to photograph different lighting situations and do it confidently and creatively.
So the next time you are out and about, or even if you are in your home, pay attention to how the light changes as the day progresses. Photograph in each of these situations to understand how light affects the look and feel of your imagery.
3. Try creative shooting in your photography
There are many different ways to add a little creativity to your photography. Using double or triple exposures, shooting through elements, or even playing with shutter speed can be a way to deviate from the norm. All these techniques bring an element of uniqueness into your imagery and help you break up the monotony of your own work. These will help you improve your photography in the long run as you start thinking on your feet when you are out and about or even at a client shoot.
4. Experiment with different editing styles
Earlier I mentioned that I love light bright and airy style images. But that does not mean I don’t like moody images or those with a lot of contrast. I think there is a place for each type of image, and I encourage you to experiment and try out different editing styles.
While you might have a primary editing style, there is nothing stopping you from trying out other editing styles from time to time. This does not mean you are undecided; this just means that you like to get creative and experiment with your art. And that is a great way to learn editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop.
5. Start a daily practice and set up unique challenges
One of the best things I did for my photography and my mindset when I was just starting out was set up a daily practice.
Oftentimes, we are our biggest critic. We feel that the lighting has to be perfect, the subject has to be perfect, and the situation has to be perfect for us to create art. But that is far from the truth. In order to improve your photography, or anything for that matter, all you have to do is practice. Practice regularly and consistently.
If daily practice is not possible, that’s okay. Don’t let that stop you from creating consistently. Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it. Give yourself challenges like photographing food, photographing pets, macro photography, and more to get out and simply create. This will also help you train your eye to see images before you even take them.
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