1. Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more.
This is the most obvious tip, but it merits being stated first. I improved massively in my first year of “serious” photography when I went out every. Single. Weekend. I lived the Weekend Warrior life outside my then job, shooting after work in the afternoons or hitting up a sunrise before work began. I know you aren’t all going to have the same schedule and there may be a lot more going on in your life – just put any extra time you have toward shooting, even if that is just once a month.
2. Educate yourself.
We are in the information age – you can’t claim you don’t have enough time when you could be watching a ten minute YouTube video while you eat on your lunch break. There are scores of places online you can read quality articles about every aspect of photography. Put aside the same time each week to do some education and stick to it!
3. Find a group of like-minded photographers.
Not only will you have a crew to go on epic adventures with and share memories with, but being around other photographers pushes you to be your absolute best and inspires your creativity greatly. I have learned so much more from my fellow photographers, both in capturing and in editing photographs, than I ever would have just watching YouTube videos or reading articles. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to share your own ideas and tips.
4. Keep evolving your editing style.
Once you get the technical side of photography down, editing is where you will really begin to set your work apart and develop your style. While there is something to be said for consistent editing, if you aren’t experimenting and playing with different features in Lightroom and Photoshop you won’t advance much past your current style. I’ve lost track of the number of times my style has changed (or I like to think that it is slowly transforming into more and more of MY unique style).
5. Sleep less, shoot more.
I’m not a doctor, nor would the doctors I know condone this tip, but some of the best light you’re going to capture is at the same time you could be sleeping. Sunrises, sunsets, and stars, and Milky Way photography all require you to set that alarm clock earlier than you would like, but I promise you it will be worth it.
6. Shoot in a new location.
Challenge yourself constantly. If you always shoot waterfalls, go and try shooting a mountain scene. If you always shoot landscapes, try your hand at portraits in landscapes. Exploring new places will inspire your eye and teach you how to find the beauty in all sorts of places.
7. Shoot in an old location.
Contrary to the last tip, returning to a location you’ve shot before is immensely valuable. The first time you were at a location, you probably got that big hero shot and called it a day. Now you are back again – what do you shoot this time? Unless it’s seasonally different (e.g. there is snow there now), getting the same shot doesn’t quite feel right. You’ll start looking at new angles, new compositions, and this is where you’ll really begin to improve rapidly.
8. Switch up your favorite lens.
We all have our favorite lens, don’t lie to me. I challenge you to leave that lens at home. Gasp! No really, I sometimes get stuck shooting wide angle over and over, and ignore that there is a really awesome scene off in the distance I could capture with a long zoom, which might end up being a stronger composition and more interesting than the scene in front of me.
9. Play with different effects.
This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy the latest filters (although if you can invest in some filters, playing with long shutter speeds can really transform a scene), this just means try anything and everything you can think of. Double exposure shots. High dynamic range (HDR). Super long shutter speeds. Camera movement during those long exposure shots. Although some of these techniques are overdone and may not result in the greatest image, I think learning HOW to do these can open up your mind to other ideas or help you learn a new editing skill that could be helpful in a different situation.
10. Give your GAS a break.
What?? GAS, or Gear Acquisition Syndrome, is where you want to buy the latest and greatest gear. Will it make your photography better? Honestly, hard no. You may think “if I only had X I would be so much better” but working with the gear you have and still getting that shot will make you much better and much more creative photographer. Instead of spending money on gear, spend it on education – circling back to item number 2 – this could be online courses, a workshop, etc. You will improve your photography so much more with knowledge than with gear.
11. Find your inspiration in others.
Scroll through Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, whatever it is – and find photographs and photographers that inspire you. Once you see the shot you admire, don’t just keep scrolling. Take a hard look at it and try to identify what EXACTLY you like about it or what makes it good. Is it something about their composition? The colors? The style? What is their style exactly? Answering these and other questions will improve your eye and start to get you thinking about what you can do to improve your own photography the next time you are out shooting.
12. Stop caring what other people think.
This is a difficult one, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t often care about what other people think. It’s more a matter of learning to turn that little voice down in your head that is embarrassed or scared or anxious more and more, until one day you stop caring at all. Share your work, put yourself out there and trust that the people that matter the most will be there to support you and your work, and if they don’t, find people who will. You are your own unique voice and you have your own unique eye, so let yourself shine. Now go out and make this your best photo year yet!
Comment below if this guide helped or inspired you to improve your photography, or let me know what you would like to learn about next. And definitely don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to be notified of future blog posts, upcoming workshops, shop sales, and more! Plus, get 5 free Lightroom presets and my free travel packing checklist when you sign up!