How many times have you looked at an image and said to yourself… Wow what a fabulous shot, I wish I was that good…? Come on, be honest with yourself, how many times? Well let me tell you that you can be that good, or at least pretty close. All you need is confidence in your photography skills and a lot of practice. Yep, it’s that simple.
I can hear you saying: So Mr. wise guy, how do I gain this elusive confidence?
I’m glad you asked…
There are only two ways I know of to accomplish that. The first is wake up one morning and find that you have miraculously been turned into the next Ansel Adams! If that happens, you better run down and buy a lottery ticket.
OK, that leaves us with number two. Now pay close attention here: the secret is… you must get better at what you want to do in photography! No two ways about it.
Wait, don’t you dare click that back button on me, it’s really very simple and a lot more fun than you might think. At least it is for me and that’s what this is about. Some of the important things I have done and continue to do to build my confidence and make better images. Let’s get started.
1: Learn your camera.
Every camera whether it be a DSLR, point & shoot or even your cell phone comes with an owner’s manual. You know that little booklet that can put you to sleep faster than a political speech. Open that baby up and let’s get started: Whoa, those groans are deafening! Trust me, it’s not that bad. What I did was take it one item at a time.
The manual will show you how to change the settings on your camera but it’s not very good at explaining why. So what I did, and I’m sure many others have also, is to focus on one thing and learn how to change that setting in my sleep.
Practice it for days if you have to but be able to do it without thinking. Then go online and do a search for that function and find some articles that explain when and why you would use it.
I did that with each function on my camera until they all became second nature. Sure it takes time and effort but it’s worth it in the end. You will focus on the shot and not on changing some setting.
2: Shoot every day.
I have not found an alternative for this one. It’s so important to understand how minor changes in light, composition and camera settings affect the image. The only way to do that is shoot! You will have many more bad shots than good ones. (Remember the Delete button is our friend) That’s how you learn.
I keep a pocket notebook with me and jot down my settings and a little blurb about time of day, sunny, cloudy etc, for each shot. Then I compare it with the images when I get them into the computer. That may sound excessive to some but photography has become a passion with me and I strive daily to get better at it. Even if you’re not as obsessed as I am, It really doesn’t take that much time and the education is priceless.
I’m blessed to live in an area of the country that has awesome scenery so I can go just about anywhere to shoot. But you know sometimes you don’t want to go anyplace. You would be amazed at how many shots I have of weeds in my back yard. Anything works for learning.
You may think you don’t have anything interesting around you to shoot. But that would be a mistake. As you get deeper into photography, you’ll look at the world around you differently. You’ll understand that every place has beauty; you just need to look at it with different eyes.
3: Study other’s images.
As you get more confident and practiced in your skills you will understand what the photographer has done to draw viewers into their image. How they use light, leading lines, cropping, DOF etc to make the image almost jump off the page. It’s magic! But guess what, you’re starting to master some of that magic and your images are getting better because of it.
See an image you really like, study it and go out and try to duplicate what you liked about it. Don’t give up; keep trying until you are happy with the result.
I know no better place to learn from others than the “I Love Photography Group”. There is such a wealth of information posted in that group daily; a person could never take it all in. I try but what can I say, I’m strange…
I hear ya; you’re so busy with everything I’ve said already when do I expect you to read? We all have the same amount of time in a day. It comes down to how you choose to use it. Don’t get me wrong, believe me, I understand life gets in the way. We all have more than our share of obligations so time does get tight.
But you remember those blogs where you found help with understanding your camera settings; well they can teach you many more things. So when you can, squeeze in a few minutes to learn and try something new. And may I recommend this very blog to get you started…
I know this is very basic and there is a world of information on this subject along with so many photographers more experienced than I. But I hope I was able to help a few of you to take some easy new steps and get that confidence growing.
Am I there yet? Not even close. But just between you, me and the fence post I’m getting better with every click of the shudder…
About The Author
Chuck Summers is an amateur photographer living with his wife in scenic Northern New Mexico. A self professed landscape junky who enjoys bringing the beauty of New Mexico to the world through his images.
He’s a semi-retired custom woodworker that can be found most days’ ankle deep in sawdust daydreaming about his next photo walk.