Forgot Password
Pentax Camera Forums Home

Show Printable Version Search this Thread
12-30-2011, 09:53 PM - 2 Likes   #1
Senior Member
applejax's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2008
Photos: Albums
Posts: 265
How do you push yourself to be a better photographer?

Was thinking lately about trying to find a photography class or club locally with the intent of improving my shots, which got me thinking...

What do you do to get better? Not just technically, but artistically? What intrigues you to look at things differently? We all have our "styles", what do you do to push yourself out of your comfort zone? Do you analyze other shots? Talk to other people?

What do you do to diversify your photographic style?

12-30-2011, 10:26 PM   #2
Veteran Member
Roob-N-Boots's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Palm Springs CA
Posts: 393
Nicely put, I have been wondering the same as well. I hope a lot of experienced photographers chime in.
12-30-2011, 10:54 PM   #3

Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Dallas / Yucatan
Posts: 1,044
I want to thank you for posing this question. I have come back to photography after many years.... after having been quite an enthusiast in my youth: my own darkroom, earning money from small weddings, HS sports pics for the small town newspapers, shooting hundreds of photos on B&W film a week, printing my own enlargements, reloading my own canisters, using 35mm and various larger formats on whatever old cameras I could cheaply put my hands upon, etc.

Now, many years later when I have more time and money, I find I need to re-acquire my "eye" for composition, work on color, light, etc. I'll think something looks good, then I'll think it looks hackneyed, then I'll think "how to best compose" and then.. .... well, you get the picture.

I'd love to hear from various people - beginners, experienced, pros, etc, - how they push their skills to get better, what sorts of little exercises they do, even what focal lengths they favor and why.

Thanks in advance to anyone who cares to share.
12-30-2011, 10:59 PM - 1 Like   #4
Brooke Meyer

What do you care about?

Step outside of where you are now, get involved with a local club, there's always talent and experience and community. Focus on what you care about. Listen and read and learn. Make lots of mistakes and figure out why. Learn about exposure and learn your gear so well its not an inhibitor. Artistically, take some art courses to learn about composition. Think like a painter. Its pretty much the same with any art form like dance or music, there are no shortcuts. Passion will be the motivator to learn the craft and then the direction for art will be yours. Go discover, go explore. If you find its not something that resonates with you, perfectly okay. If you find you just have to do it, you'll hardly notice all the effort you put in it.

I think all of us hunger for self expression of some kind. My wife is a wonderful cook and she is always trying new things. Our neighbors and family love coming to our house for meals. If I didn't get "OMG's" and smiles and tears from my customers when I deliver portraits, the money they paid me wouldn't be enough. What do you care about? What do you want to happen when people see your work?

12-30-2011, 11:15 PM   #5
Site Supporter
Site Supporter

Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Prince George, BC
Photos: Gallery | Albums
Posts: 2,809
I use the golf analogy for photography - it is that one shot out of the many in a round of golf that keeps you coming back for more punishment. Much the same can be said for photography. Eventually you will learn from your mistakes and the good shots will start outnumbering the bad.

12-30-2011, 11:31 PM   #6
Inactive Account

Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Tri-Cities, British Columbia
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,784
Aside from the technical aspect of "practice makes perfect", I spend a lot of time browsing Flickr, 500px, etc. and just observing critically what I like and don't like and hopefully some of the feedback I find myself thinking sticks for my future shots.
12-30-2011, 11:31 PM   #7
Veteran Member
Reportage's Avatar

Join Date: Feb 2009
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 739
Well...take your best shots and have it critic`ed by a well known photographer in the line you are going into either personally or through email/mail. The reply could take forever and could be demoralising but is a good start.

If you are lucky, could be a number of well known photographers in the same venue in which case all you need to do was ask the right questions at the right moment like I did.

From left to right; Mr Michael Yamashita, Gunther Deichmann, Michael Freeman, Unknown, Mr Steve Mccurry and Mr Manuel Librodo. Their presence made the event quite the talk of town in photography circles. Had Bryan Peterson and Scott Kelby also been in attendance, i think even i would not be able to get into the convention centre due to overcrowding.

Can pretty much guess the line i am going into.

Last edited by Reportage; 12-30-2011 at 11:59 PM.
12-30-2011, 11:36 PM   #8
Veteran Member
Bob from Aus's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Australia
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 1,091
Things i have done recently to make myself think more when I take photographs:
1. leave my zooms at home and only use primes
2. Take a prime lens that you wouldn't normally use and try and take an iconic photo of a location or a situation
3. Buy a new prime lens
4. Read introductory material again
5. Clean my kit
6. Go out with a photographic buddy
7. Share your photos with a photographic buddy
8. get dropped into the most ridiculous wedding shoot
9. develop a brag portfolio for 2011 that generates total envy
10. run introductory photography workshops for total novices and watch how a dozen people produce novel compositions.

12-31-2011, 12:54 AM   #9
Veteran Member
RioRico's Avatar

Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Limbo, California
Posts: 11,264
I'll look at this from the perspective of one who first pressed a shutter around 1955, who was raised to be in front of and behind cameras: There are many ways to grow photographically, and they depend on who you are and what you want to do. I grew up with composition, trained at home and in school. This 'took' better with my sisters than with I; they're both graphic artists, one professionally. I've worked as a photographer but it's not a career for me.

In some ways, moving fairly recently from digital P&S to dSLR has been a setback. Using a P&S frees one from technical minutiae; I could concentrate strictly on composition and let the digicam's programming handle the rest. This feeds from my background in drafting, mapmaking, block prints, display typography, and generally studying how graphics are constructed. DOF is a complication. Selecting a lens by focal length for certain effects is a complication. Maybe that's why my two favorite primes are the Vivitar-Komine 28/2 CFWA and the little CZJ Tessar 50/2.8 (alu, 12 iris blades): they're sharp and simple. Once I set the DOF, anything goes.

So, who I am? A student of composition. And what I want to do? Make interesting pictures. Those better pictures might be interestingly-detailed compositions, or lively shots of lively people, or just capturing weird stuff that pops up in front of me. I can see compositions in the viewfinder. What I *can't * do is pre-visualize scenes and construct them accordingly. I'm no art director. I just don't see fantasy images that way, at least not in ways I think I can reproduce.

So, how to grow as a photographer? Master the technology and techniques, of course. Learn how visual compositions have evolved over the last ten centuries, what the standards were and are and why. Take actual classes. As painters do, try to replicate images you admire. Give yourself challenges: everything of a period in one color, or with one lens, or with one theme, or that makes you uneasy. Whenever the voices in your head say DON'T SHOOT THAT, shoot it anyway. Decide if your photography is business or art or documentation or obsession or whatever, and pursue that whilst pursuing something entirely different at the same time.

The short version: study study study and practice practice practice. And photograph tofu; THAT is a challenge!

Last edited by RioRico; 12-31-2011 at 01:09 AM.
12-31-2011, 01:51 AM   #10
Veteran Member
magkelly's Avatar

Join Date: May 2010
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 5,900
I study. I watch videos. I read good photography books. Then I take what I am learning out into the field and try it. I have a couple of mentors too. They give me assignments to do, like I was in school. Even though I have graduated from my internship they still watch out over me and try to challenge me from time to time with some task. They'll also send me photos and ask me questions about it, about how a photographer lit it or whatever. I do that myself, look at photos I like, try to replicate the look of them myself, figure out how they are lit. For my own work with people I don't like to copy people directly but it's helpful sometimes to recreate certain situations with portraiture with my dolls to see how other photographers got there. I do that a lot with old Hollywood portraits actually because I love that kind of work and I find the lighting to be interesting.
12-31-2011, 03:05 AM   #11
Veteran Member

Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Flyover America
Posts: 4,475
QuoteOriginally posted by applejax Quote
How do you push yourself to be a better photographer?
By looking at "great" images and trying to understand why they are.
12-31-2011, 08:16 AM - 3 Likes   #12
Veteran Member
Mike Cash's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Japan
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 6,952
QuoteOriginally posted by applejax Quote
What do you do to get better?
To be perfectly honest.....nothing.

Not just technically, but artistically?
Lacking both artistic ability and artistic aspirations in addition to not approaching picture taking as "art"......again the answer is "nothing". Not feeling every shutter click has to be some sort of damned critically acclaimed artistic masterpiece, or attempt to "say" something or "express" myself is very liberating. My pictures are just pictures of stuff. If anybody wants to find "art" in them, they'll have to do it themselves, because I sure as hell don't feel any obligation, pressure, or desire to put it in there myself.

What intrigues you to look at things differently? We all have our "styles", what do you do to push yourself out of your comfort zone?
Once again....nothing.

Do you analyze other shots? Talk to other people?
It is probably The Ultimate Sin to admit this on a photography site, but I almost never look at other people's pictures. Unless I run across them in The Takumar Club thread or one of the other few places I hang out, chances are I'm not going to see them.

Why on earth would I want to be "influenced" by how others take their pictures? I may enjoy other's photos for what I see in them, if I like the subject, but if I'm going to look at how others did stuff so I can mimic it, then I may as well save my fime and effort and just look at their pictures if all I'm going to end up doing is taking the same things they are the same way they are. I may very well end up doing the same stuff and in the same way as somebody else anyway, but at least I have the bliss of doing it through ignorance.

In the century and a half since photography was invented, countless millions of people have taken countless billions of photos. I'm not vain enough to think that I'm somehow magically going to come up with something entirely new or unique that makes my stuff stand out from the unimaginably colossal mass of all that has come before, or that any of it is ever going to mean anything whatsoever to any but a very tiny number of people....and I'm comfortable with that.

What do you do to diversify your photographic style?
I would prefer to take pictures of such a variety of subjects in such a variety of ways that nobody could detect any discernible personal "style" to them whatsoever. I don't actually succeed at that, though. "Style" is a fancy word for "in a rut". I sort of cringe when anybody compliments my "style" or says they could recognize a picture as having come from me even before they saw my name attached to it.

Last edited by Mike Cash; 12-31-2011 at 08:23 AM.
12-31-2011, 08:41 AM   #13
Veteran Member

Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Iowa
Photos: Albums
Posts: 2,269
LOL... Mike, you're a man after my own heart.

I enjoy photography very much and though I try to take good pictures of stuff that interests me, it's a hobby so I don't worry about being the next Ansel Adams/Robert Frank/Annie Leibovitz/Richard Avedon, etc.

I do enjoy trying out new techniques and learning new tricks is a big part of the fun for me.

Last edited by GibbyTheMole; 12-31-2011 at 08:48 AM.
12-31-2011, 09:08 AM   #14
Veteran Member
Mike Cash's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Japan
Photos: Gallery
Posts: 6,952
QuoteOriginally posted by GibbyTheMole Quote
LOL... Mike, you're a man after my own heart.
Glad to hear it. I figured what I had to say would probably tick some people off. It still might....

I enjoy photography very much and though I try to take good pictures of stuff that interests me, it's a hobby so I don't worry about being the next Ansel Adams/Robert Frank/Annie Leibovitz/Richard Avedon, etc.
I recognize the names of Ansel and Annie, from having seen them bandied about it, but I couldn't pick them out of a line-up. Never heard of the other two.
12-31-2011, 09:54 AM   #15
Veteran Member

Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Missouri
Posts: 535
I believe there is a progression.
Modern technology is so good, almost anyone in auto modes can luck into a good shot if they press the shutter often enough, but for many there comes a point where they want to take control of the creative process and push beyond snapshots into creative photography. I believe most do not turn to creative photography at this point, but to creative processing, trying to create beautiful building upon poor foundations.
All along the way, the eye becomes more critical, and one begins to sense that although an exaggeration, the saying "garbage in-garbage out" has some basic truth to it, and that realy creativity lies in the basics of photography, which can't be learned in any profound sense in auto modes.
My advise it to put everything on manual for a year or so, including focus, and limit yourself to only two dozen or so shots per outing. Shot a prime lens, or a zoom locked at a certain focal length, until when you look at a scene, you see it framed at a certain focal length. These things slow you down and cause you to not only think the shot through, but also help you develop a "photographic vision."
Once one develops a solid understanding of how the three basics elements of a camera work in unison to interpret light, depth of field, hyperfocal distance and so forth; and how this all realtes to the creative mood of an image, they begin creating with photographic control for much more consistency than relying mostly upon the camera's technology and a rapid index finger.
At this point, one realizes that despite all the technicalogical advances in photography, what still sparates an outstanding images from thousands of snapshots is the same as it was 100 years ago: exactly what one puts into the frame and exactly when one snaps the shutter. That part is still totally up to the photographer.
And then one realizes there really is no substitute for good light, so they begin chasing good light, or introducing it through artificial means and often a combination of the two, whether in a studio or outdoors.
Improving one's photography today, I believe, is not so much learning to utilize advanced technology, as it is learning the basics that are hidden behind the auto functions. Then one can utilize certain trustworthy auto functions with a purpose and override them whenever the light dictates.
At the end of this photographic rainbow lies the light. It's basically all about the light.

  • Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook
  • Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter
  • Submit Thread to Digg Digg
Tags - Make this thread easier to find by adding keywords to it!
camera, photography, shots
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Macro Thanks for the Push! eaglem Post Your Photos! 6 10-30-2011 12:36 AM
Push proccessing in Rodinal PGillin Film Processing, Scanning, and Darkroom 2 02-13-2011 09:56 PM
Macro Final Push before winter ggeorge11 Post Your Photos! 3 11-30-2010 07:52 AM
To push or not to push jbinpg Pentax K-5 7 11-21-2010 05:03 AM
Macro Mmmmmmm Now if I Push Hard Enough... eaglem Post Your Photos! 2 11-13-2010 12:23 AM

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 12:13 AM. | See also:, part of our network of photo forums!
  • Red (Default)
  • Green
  • Gray
  • Dark
  • Dark Yellow
  • Dark Blue
  • Old Red
  • Old Green
  • Old Gray
  • Dial-Up Style
Hello! It's great to see you back on the forum! Have you considered joining the community?
Creating a FREE ACCOUNT takes under a minute, removes ads, and lets you post! [Dismiss]