At an exhibition, I was asked by a boy who was just starting to photograph: “Quite spontaneously: What are the most important things to improve myself in photography?”
It was such a direct question and I had been dealing with photography for so long, but do you think I had a simple and short answer? I paused and decided to think seriously about it, to give a satisfactory answer. “I’ll come back to you,” I replied.
How to answer such a question? By looking back: Back to my negatives, my prints, my methods, successes, mistakes and, to put it briefly, my personal career in photography.
After this examination (a good source, how not to make it) I put together a list, reduced it to the essentials and had found the answers. Also with the risk of sounding somewhat authoritarian, here are the …
21 ways to improve your own photography
- Photograph more, print more, rework more. I mean that seriously. The best thing about producing more is not simply to have more photos, but to practice. In addition to practicing, the “more” also has a second effect: happiness. In photography, a photo created by happiness is as much as one that was previously planned well. More? What does more? If you’re not picking out ten prints for an exhibition nine and using only one, you’re not critical enough. If you do not make 100 images to print only one of them, then you’re not energetic enough.
- If I could only recommend one thing that would improve most photos more than anything else, then I would recommend sticking a thick dot in the middle of the viewfinder. So you can not see what is there. Avoid a central picture composition whenever it is possible. Whenever I see a motif, what is the center of the picture, then I know the photographer is uncertain. Unsure about his picture and unsure why he is doing art. We do not make art to show how something looks. For this you only need eyes (or a lens). Art should have meaning, reflect emotions, radiate energy and contain a certain magic. Do not just show what the motive is, but show what it is not, what it means, why it exists, for whom it is, where it is, and when it is. Imagine a novel consisting only of descriptions; Without action, motivation, depth or dramaturgy, a novel would be just a catalog of object descriptions. In photographs it is the same.
- Think two-dimensional. You do not make a picture of something, you do something – and what you do is two-dimensional. If you find it hard to learn this, use your screen on the camera. Or make a sketch in front of the picture to see how it will look. Learn to see edges and shapes and not details and colors. Squeeze her eyes together and let the details of the world blur. See your picture composition first as large surfaces and let the camera arouse the details. Composition is about surfaces and the textures show the details.
- The best telephoto lens in the world is your feet. Go closer. Closer. Take longer-angle lenses and go closer. The best photos are almost always those in which the viewer feels directly in the world of the picture. The easiest way is to use a far-angled lens closer to the subject or the scenery. Surely not every good picture with a wide angle has emerged. But if 30% of your pictures with a wide-angle lens and 70% with a telephoto lens were created, then this relationship and your pictures will improve rapidly.
- Photography is partly art and partly technique. It involves the heart but is created by optics, chemistry, electronics and the laws of physics. The technical part is influenced by a set of variables and is much easier to learn by reducing the number of variables. Limit yourself to the essentials. Use only a few cameras and learn how the camera behaves. Better equipment does not make better photos. Always remember: the grandest photos of the story were made with more primitive cameras than those you have at the moment.
- Work in projects. Take a lot of pictures and look more closely. Take the time to take pictures that you have photographed. Look at your pictures and look for the things that make these pictures special. Think about what you want to say with your photo. Think of your first photography round as a warm-up training, a notebook with sketches. If you work on it again, you will see new aspects. See your recent photos as a lesson. Each project requires intensive study. Read, study, ask questions, look at the work of those before you. Think, ask again, and take notes. A completed project that does not include a good portion of notes is probably a project that was not considered enough before printing.
- Rebuild your equipment. Each image, each project is best created with a certain set of tools. Look at what you’re up to and look for the tools that fit. If you need constantly new equipment, then read again Tip # 5.
- Take part in workshops. Read books. Search for tips from experienced photographers. You do not have to reinvent the wheel. If you want to take great photos, check out great photos and speak with great photographers. Be an assistant for a while. Make the task of reproducing great photos as best as possible. If you are successful, delete these photos and do not show them to anyone. Learn from the masters, but do not like them. Ask not for the masters, but ask what they have been looking for. This depends on …:
- Work through compulsive learning. In order to see further than others, you have to stand on the shoulders of those who worked before you. Great photographers and artists before you have created works that still stand today as a testament to their creativity. To carry her torch, you have to walk her way. Do not be discouraged if it takes years. It also took years for them. Look at the story. Look at their principles, rules, stereotypes and techniques. Answer your questions.
- Finish it. Do not allow your files to remain as in a warehouse for good art. Finish work on it. To quote a movie: If you finish it, they will come. There is a universal law of spectators that says that if you end a work the universe can not allow it to remain unseen. Possibilities will unfold as if by magic. Once you are old, you can look back and see what projects were your best. If your best project was the tenth, you could only do it because you finished the nine projects before. There is no faster and more efficient way to do the work so that the next job is probably your best so far. Finish it, put it aside and continue.
- Creativity does not work after the clock. The ideas come and go by themselves. Prepare for it. Always take a dictation machine or a notepad with you. Photograph or at least think about photography every day. Your ideas come in the most impossible situations. Write it down.
- Lay the photography aside and start making art. The highest purpose of photography as art is communication through images with your fellow human beings. Artful photography is not there to impress collectors and curators. The real job is to communicate you. On the way, you give the viewer a picture that lets him look into your world and thus also on you. If your work does not move someone, it moves nothing.
- Develop your own photographic education. Read books, check out exhibitions, subscribe to photo magazines (mostly the magazines with good photos are not photomagazine) and develop your own thought-provoking gallery with photos, photographers and preferences. The more you know about other photographers, the more you know about yourself. This helps to recognize whether you are walking your own way or walking along the path of someone else.
- Ignore advice from others when they tell you how to make it like them. Of course this also includes this list. More precisely, however, it is about photocritics. There is no more useless criticism than “If that was my photo, then I would …”. It is not her photo, so the advice is completely illogical. The best critics will tell you what they see in your photo and leave it to you, whether it is their interpretation and whether you have achieved your goal with the ideas of your picture or not.
- Wait a while before you publish your work. Set up a place at home or in the studio, where you can attach many pictures. Keep them there, look at them repeatedly, at different times of day, in different light, in different moods. Observe how your reaction to a picture changes with time. Think about the idea you had when creating this image. Perhaps you develop the picture again, rework it differently or photograph it again completely completely. This is good and shows that the picture speaks to you and you also listen.
- Do not rely on promises and find your own way. Do not let anything stop you from creating your art. Be independent. Do not rely on the generosity of others, this is a trap. You are the only one who is more important to your pictures than everyone else. Artistic life is a path for which one must be willing to pay.
- Think carefully about your goals. What is more important to you: earning your livelihood or spreading your work? Is it more important to you that your images like the masses or are the pictures you have to make? If you are lucky, these goals fall together. If not, it simplifies everything else, to know what is more important to you. There is no right or wrong here. But it only brings you together when the goals are overlapping.
- Photographing is not a group activity. Learn to work alone. Learn to work without distractions. Turn off the music. Surround yourself with silence. The creativity in us speaks softly. To hear them, you must be in a quiet place.
- Do not photograph what is photogenic. Take a picture of what interests you, even if that is impossible. It is as good as impossible to make a good picture of something that does not interest you. Feeling for the motive, how it reacts with the light, how it moves and changes, how it makes you feel – that is the motive of your work and not what can be seen in the picture. There are no boring motifs, but there are many boring photos, made by bored photographers. If you feel something, then, with time and surrender, this feeling will also show in your work.
- Think about it. Think from the point of view of your motive. Think from the viewer’s point of view. Think about what you want to say. Think about how the picture will look with time. Think about what is at the edges, what is inside and what is outside the photo. Remember what you said. Remember what you did not say. Most importantly, be aware of when you think and when you stop thinking. Art without thought is incomplete. Art with thoughts is incomplete. Making art means both and more than just making beautiful pictures.
- Art is not about art: art revolves around life. To become a better artist, you have to become a better person first. Not morally, but in understanding. The greatest artist is not the one with the best technique but the one with the greatest heart.
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