How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by lindsaywood, May 30, 2017.

  1. If you'd like to take better pictures and memorize moments in your life in a more professional.
    [FONT=arial, sans-serif]How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?[/FONT]
  2. All I know is some people think I've never been educated at all.

    In many of these cases, I reciprocate the feeling.

    Again, better is not a word that can be defined without some kind of reference point. What do you mean by it?

    A "better" picture of an Elvis candle? I just don't know.
    Tim_Lookingbill likes this.
  3. You can educate yourself through online correspondence courses, online classes, actually going to school for it, reading books on the subject, apprenticing with experienced photographers, or through just practice. The last one I don't recommend as learning from experienced photographers will allow you to avoid a multitude of hard lessons through mistakes.
  4. Depends on how you define what a better picture looks like and whether you want it to say something in a unique way about the world or just function as eye candy.

    If you define a better picture on whether it can be used commercially for weddings, advertising, etc. (not as fine art hanging in a gallery approved by a cultural committee) then you'ld need to develop a business head about you in addition because there is a lot of competition in the commercial photography field and success doesn't really depend on if those images meet some quality standard to make money. I have seen some of the most mediocre photos by working professionals locally and online so I'm having to assume it must be they have a very good business sense about them.

    If you define a better photo by how it shows your unique take on the world, I'ld suggest you grab a camera and start learning how to capture that unique vision. That's how I did it but then I have a graphic arts background as a cartoonist and illustrator that started when I was six years old so I developed a way of seeing that started very early.

    Also it helps to have a basic understanding on how to communicate with image language through the use of composition, color harmonies, light and shadows and becoming aware of those image elements in your surroundings and how to spot them.
    Wouter Willemse likes this.
  5. 1. Practice
    2. Looking at photography books. Not necessarily how-to books, but books of photographs.
    3. Going to museums and looking at paintings. Teaches me a lot about color usage, composition, narrative, symbolism, texture, depth, focus, subject matter, etc.
    4. Talk about your work with both photographers and non-photographers seeking honest reaction. Reaction can be as telling as criticism.
    5. Watch movies carefully.
  6. SCL


    I think Fred G's comments are much to the point. If you're looking for technical guidance, not necessarily artistic interpretation, I'd start with books, like Ansel Adams' "The Negative", "Light, Science & Magic", and even something really simple like Hedgecoe's "The Photographer's Handbook". If you live near a large metropolitan area, absolutely go to museums and art institutes - many offer audio guided tours in which you can learn about things like light and shadow, composition, color, etc. This is where you begin to get an understanding of artistic interpretation. Of course somewhere along the line, you need to practice what you learn and see elsewhere...not copying it, but practicing the nuances you discovered. Like anything one hopes to do well, once you have a basic understanding....practice, practice, practice, ask questions on sites like this, show some of your work for critique, and pay attention to the constructive criticism, even if you don't agree with it.
    Wouter Willemse likes this.
  7. Copying can become a blinder in any creative field.

    For instance I now hang out at DeviantArt on occasion and notice quite a few young folks can't seem to distinguish between what being an artist entails as apposed to being anime/manga fans. They ask how to improve their drawing skills and become better artists while their gallery is filled with nothing but copied anime/manga pop art figures. Nothing else.

    When you point this out to them, they don't seem to take it very well and some will argue with you. Other established professional artists (usually working in the gaming arts field) will show them old Burne Hogarth and George Bridgeman anatomy drawing books where they get excuses indicating that this isn't the kind of work they're interested in.

    There's nothing you can do to get them to shake the anime/manga style of interpreting the world. It's downright weird!
    Last edited: May 30, 2017
  8. It used to be said. "If you want to write, read" -- I'll add "voraciously" to that. As stated in previous posts, look at lots of photos, art, and life. Identify aspects you admire in others' work. Collect "shards" , bits and pieces, ideas, sensibilities that you can assemble into a template for your own work. Once you have begun, keep adjusting that template based on new input and personal satisfaction with aspects of your own work. Never stop.
  9. I would separate the technical from the artistic. This is the left-brain - right-brain issue.

    Technical is books, internet, classes, etc.
    - For some of us, like me, technical is the easy side of photography.
    You do certain things in a certain way to get a desired result.
    In some ways the technical side is like a formula.

    Artistic is more difficult.
    - You have to train your eye to see. And that is VERY difficult for some of us. Some people can just look at a scene and know how to shoot it. Others like me, have to look HARD, walk about, and still we have trouble getting a good image.
    - As was mentioned, go to museums to look at photos, paintings and drawings. What makes a certain photo/painting/drawing look good? Is it composition, lighting, color, or what? This is training your eye to see. Just because a photo or painting is over 100 years old does not make it irrelevant. Bring a notebook with you so that you can take notes on ideas. I would repeat the museum visits every few months. As you gain experience, you may see more in the same photo/painting/drawing, than you saw the first time.
    - There are books on composition and images that can teach you the basics.

    • Now go out and SHOOT.
    • But do NOT shoot like a digital shooter, firing off a LOT of shots, on the shoot 20 to get 1 approach.
    • You want to shoot ONE frame at a time. Each frame is important.
    • What you want to do is look at the scene, and determine the shot or shots to capture the scene, and shoot them.
      And write down each shot, what you saw, what you wanted to get out and make the viewer of your image see. This is so that you can later determine how it came out.
    • Then at home, critique the image. This is both a technical and artistic critique, but try to keep them separate. Did you get the image that you set out to shoot, did you discover something else, what worked and what did not work, were there surprises, etc ?
    • Now go out and SHOOT some more, and repeat the cycle.
    Depending on what you want to shoot, you can also give yourself challenges.
    Spend a day or week shooting for one subject.
    • A scene with an apple.
    • Something blue.
    • A scene with water in it.
    • A street sign.
    The challenge is to get a GOOD image with the challenge item in the image.

    gud luk
  10. +1 to most of the comments above. You don't have any images in your gallery, so it is hard to evaluate where you stand today. For me, my photography has improved more in the last 5 years, using rapid feedback digital, than it did in the previous 20 years in film. Granted, I was very parsimonious with film, processing, and printing, while I have become a profligate shooter in digital. But, every exposure is very intentional. The goal is to identify a specific idea or technique I want to perfect, and then work in a very directed fashion to, first, explore, then learn, and finally master the skill or technique. I find I learn the fastest when I reduce the variables to a single item, and then manipulate that item and discover how it impacts my images, leaving all else the same. This can apply to every aspect of photography, including exposure settings, white balance, composition, subject, time of day, etc.

    Book learning is a good way to start. You can't really begin exploring the practical side until you understand what the variables are and how to manipulate them. Playing with your camera with book (or YouTube) in hand will get you a long way, but really going out and shooting and then being brutally critical of your own work will get you the furthest fastest. Going out with accomplished photographers is also good, but only if they are willing to explain what they are doing and why they are doing it.
  11. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    Just my half-groat's worth - I've been interested in photography for almost half a century now. Attended a management course at the London College of Printing, but discovered that the Photography class was far more interesting (!). Talked with some of the lecturers there, one of whom gave me advice that has helped me a great deal. He suggested not only reading books, but also looking at as many photographs as I could - both the ones that I liked, and the ones which did not appeal.

    He asked me to work out what either did or did not appeal to me in the images, and then to try to work out how I would have approached taking the same image. No thought of either artistic merit, or financial worth - just for my own benefit, to produce an image that I liked.

    You may find this is helpful to you.
    AJG and Tim_Lookingbill like this.
  12. As usual, Fred is spot on. Look at the visual work of others. Understand what you like and why you like it. Figure out how it was done. Try to emulate it and then try again and again. Go back to the beginning and repeat the process again and again.
  13. I am still trying to understand why folks who give advice here continue to point to one person as being "spot on" or "on point" but yet don't give a "Like" to their response.

    And then at the same time by drawing attention to one contributor as giving the best advice not realize they are implying the rest of the contributors aren't offering as valuable or helpful information.

    What is with you people? Why do you do this? Why not just offer your advice and move on?

    I'll make it official. Every contributor to the thread has given very valuable and useful advice.
    Last edited: May 31, 2017
    Tony Parsons and DavidTriplett like this.
  14. IN addition to the above advice, which cover the vital parts, there are three items I'd like to emphasise (they're covered above more or less):

    1. Watch light and shadows. Sounds stupid, but look how light changes between sunrise and sundown, and how shadows change. If possible, try to work with studio lights you can control to study well how subjects can change just with a change in light.
    2. Set yourself goals - per image, and later on also per series. In line with what Gary said, don't fire off 100s of shots, but restrain yourself, and train your eye first. If you find a scene that appeals to you, start to think ahead on how the photo should look for you. Start moving around and look closely how light and shadows work on your subject, and at which point you think it shows your subject best. Only then take a photo....Pre-visualising a scene may seem easy, but no suck luck; things that are impressive, emotional or overwhelming in front of your eyes sometimes do not translate at all to a photo. It's also learning when to walk away from a photo, as much as learning when to make one.
    3. Get the technical basics down; get really familiar with your camera. If you can operate your camera blind-folded, you can focus better on composition, lighting etc. If you need to fiddle with buttons or hunt down things in a menu for each shot, not only may you miss great moments, but you'll also loose your focus on the scene. It's simply freeing up your mind. So, in my view, getting first very familiar with setting exposure and the focus system of your camera are vital skills to tackle first.
    There is no perfect recipe how to do it; we're all different and we all learn in different ways. Find people who can give you honest, constructive feedback and be (very) critical of yourself. Compliments are nice and a always a good boost, but don't get complacent and continue to search to be better every single time you pick your camera up.
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  15. Good advice Wouter. Your equipment should become invisible in your process. Just as a fine musician can concentrate on the music (practice) instead of the instrument, it should be the same with your camera, lenses, software, etc.

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