IT DOESN’T SEEM ALL THAT LONG AGO WHEN I WAS FRESH OUT OF COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHY SCHOOL.
With a camera in my arsenal and a degree in my pocket, I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about being a photographer.
I mean, I spent 2 full years going to school, studying, learning, and practicing. I spent all day in class or in the studio – and sometimes both.
Photography was LIFE. But, portrait photography was a foreign matter to me – yet I didn’t know it yet.
It wasn’t until my 2nd son was born that I quickly became obsessed with learning how to take portraits.
I wanted to capture my kids together. I wanted to document their childhood with BEAUTIFUL photos – and mine weren’t winning any awards.
It wasn’t until I started taking more and more photos of my children that I discovered I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.
I saw so much talent online and I couldn’t figure out where I was going wrong.
I quickly learned that photographing still subjects and portraits are two very different concepts, and I was in over my head.
That’s when I turned to the internet to learn as much as I could so I would be able to capture and document my kid’s lives better than ever.
It took a lot of effort, but now I feel confident enough to share what helped me become a better photographer (so that maybe it can help you too!).
As silly as it may seem, I can attribute Pinterest for my discovery of portrait photography and editing.
I would spend hours looking at images of portraits and kids only to be amazed by the skills and professionalism they took on.
That’s when it hit me: “I could take photos like this.”
I pinned to my heart’s content and dove in straight into online tutorials and blog posts with information that helped me have a better understanding of this craft that was so foreign to me.
This landmine of information sparked a desire in me that I haven’t let die – it remains bright & burning and a HUGE reason why I started this blog to begin with!
If you aren’t looking on Pinterest to find the photography information you’re looking for, then you could be missing out.
Come follow me there & take a gander of the boards I have created and collected over the years to help spread the love of this vast sea of learning!
A HUGE aspect of learning photography and growing in your skills is by observation of others.
I can attribute a renowned sense of creativity a direct result from following and studying other photographers.
I started doing this when I dove in with Pinterest; slowly I became more attuned to the industry and came across many amazing artists that inspired me.
I was looking at dozens of photos every day. Photos that were perfect in creation and execution & how I wanted my work to expand.
Over time, my interests and stye evolved, but that is part of the process.
If I had closed myself in a box and never peered into the outside world of talent, I don’t believe I would be the same photographer I am now.
I turn to Pinterest daily to discover new talent and allow others to inspire me so I can always grow in my creativity and skills.
Blog posts and online tutorials are great in and of itself, but group forums are an AMAZING resource to utilize when you want to become a better photographer.
This is why I LOVE Facebook groups!
You can take a silent seat and simply observe and learn from others in the group, or you can play a more active role and ask questions to get a head start on your learning.
Facebook groups are great to ask questions, meet other photographers, discover new techniques, and put yourself out there.
But, be wary. Not all groups are created equal.
I’ve been in my fair share of negative groups where photographers act harsh, snarky, judgemental, and downright rude.
And while I firm believer in constructive criticism, there is a distinct line between constructive and downright nasty.
Which is why I have created my own Facebook group to avoid this behavior & make learning fun and supportive.
If you’re looking for a safe group to join & learn more about everyday photography, The Blooming Photographer welcomes you!
Expanding my education
I’d be lying if I said that I was a self-taught portrait photographer.
How can ANYONE be self-taught anyways? Unless you just bought a camera and figured out EVERYTHING about how photography works without looking at a single tutorial or resource. That would include the camera manual tips and any tips online. So no, nobody can really call themselves “self-taught.”
Okay, stepping off my soapbox now.
The thing that made the BIGGEST difference in becoming a better photographer was expanding my education.
Even though I spent 2 full years (no summers off) at a technical photography school, I still needed to learn. And I still do – daily.
I saw the greatest changes when I invested in myself. Being a business owner and photography instructor for the past 7 years, I have seen a trend when it comes to investing in education.
You value what you pay for.
When you put money on the table, you are far more likely to put the effort into practicing, learning, and growing!
As a student, I can attest to this. I don’t like dropping hundreds of dollars on education that I don’t absorb and try to apply to myself. Instead, I take action. The more action, the better I understand (and the more I improve).
As an instructor, I can attest to this. I have dealt out my fair share of FREE trainings, resources, and education. I have also dealt out my fair share of paid programs and tools (like presets and e-guides). The thing that I see is that the ones who sign up for the free stuff rarely value it to it’s core. On the other hand, my paying students do the work and get use out of my education and resources.
What it boils down to is this: when you have skin in the game, you are far more likely to advance yourself.
This is why I set aside a fund for on-going education. I keep a list of programs, books, and coaching that I KNOW that I need or that I want to learn. Once I have enough set aside, I will go full steam ahead.
If you want to see the quickest results in becoming a better photographer, try investing in yourself.
You might be surprised just how much quicker you learn something new.
Practice, practice, practice
Along with continuing education, the other thing that has proven the best results has been practice.
I tell my kids this all the time: you cannot expect to be the best if you don’t put the work in.
The same goes for improving photography. Once you learn a new skill, then get out there and practice it until it becomes second nature – like riding a bike or driving a car.
This goes for light, camera settings, working with clients, and just about every facet of your personal photography journey.
Paired with education, this by far helped me become a better photographer than anything else.
It just takes a little bit of trial, error, grit, and determination.
Take this self-portrait for example. Just 3 years earlier, my self-portrait skills were non-existant. But, by practicing my lighting, placement, focusing, and posing, I was able to take this maternity photo of myself.
You can check out this blog for some of my self-portrait tips.
All in all, if you want to become a better photographer, then you must take the action to make it happen.
So, what do you want to learn next?
Take better portraits & learn how to get creamy skin tones.
Learn how to get blurry backgrounds in your images.
How to interact & photograph shy kids + download the FREE posing guide.
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