Advanced Tips for Better Photography

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By Steve Russell

This is the third article about Tips for Better Photography. In early October Tiffany offered a list of five Beginner Tips for Better Photography and then a couple of weeks later she and I collaborated on ten Intermediate Tips for Better Photography. Of course, that means that I get/have to write the article on Advanced Tips for Better Photography.

This article is really meant for the intermediate photographer that is trying to move up the spectrum of photographic ability. You’ll also notice that there aren’t any formulas here. All of this is conceptual. By the time you’re ready to be considered an advance photographer, you know your equipment like the back of your hand. You can operate your camera and change any of the settings as easily as you operate the remote control for your television. At this level it’s time to define yourself as a photographer.

1. Who are you trying to please? – The answer isn’t the same in every situation. Sometimes it’s you the photographer. However, there are times when the answer is a client, or a hoped to be client or stock photography. If you have a client or if you’re capturing images you hope to be able to sell, it’s imperative that you consider what the client will like. Sometimes artists like to push the envelope and produce art that has never been done before. That’s fine because if people didn’t do that there would have never been a Picasso or Dali or Van Gough. In photography there’s a very limited market for over the top approaches. Again, keep in mind who you’re trying to please.

2. Develop your own style. – Some of developing your own style will come naturally and some of it will require you to think about it and practicing what you’re trying to convey as your style. Ansel Adams had his own style. Annie Leibovitz has her own style. I’ve had other people, instructors and professionals, tell me that I have a recognizable style and I work at developing it further. You may already have your own style and if you do, you may or may not be aware of it. Look at your work and recognize what works for you and capitalize on that style.

3. Make the image communicate to the viewer. – One mark of a good image is that the viewer can look at it and understand what the photographer was trying to convey. It may be a mood or an emotion. It could be the lighting that talks to the viewer, or the physical position of the subject. What does the photo of crocus blossoms in the snow say to you? What about the two images below? If the image doesn’t convey something, then it’s just a snapshot. It doesn’t demonstrate your skill as a photographer.

4. Study the work of others. – Visit the web sites of well-known and respected photographers. Look for their style and identify it – they’ll have one. Look closely at the images and see if they “talk” to you. Understand what the photographer was trying to say to the viewer. The old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” “Is the photo you just captured or are viewing worth a thousand words?” Also remember that every photo you take won’t quite be there, but the ones that are will appeal to a larger number of people.

5. Enter juried competitions. – This is a great way to learn what is good and what is bad about your photography. Be forewarned that you’ll need really thick skin to listen to someone, a judge that you might consider to be overblown and pompous, rip your prized image to pieces. However, if you can get beyond the sensitive feelings we all possess and listen to the critique, it will help you become a better photographer.

6. Get advice from other photographers – For the most part when another photographer tells you what’s wrong with one of your photos, they’re trying to help you become a better photographer. You may not like the message, but if someone doesn’t point out the flaws, regardless of how minor they may be, you’ll end up thinking you work is better than it really is. Sometimes, if someone points out a weakness in the photo, it’s something that can be corrected in your digital darkroom.

7. Listen to your clients – If you want to sell your work, it has to be work the buyer wants to buy. Pay attention to what they buy and encourage them to tell you what they like or don’t like about an image. While each client is probably going to like different things about particular images, when you put it all together, a pattern will likely emerge and you’ll be well on the road to becoming a much better photographer; at least in the eyes of potential buyers of your work.

8. Study, learn and practice. – This is applicable at all stages of photography ability. As with anything in life, when you stop trying to learn, you stagnate. When you stop practicing, you become rusty. I believe that one of the reasons that serious photography is so appealing to so many people is that there is always room to improve, to get better, to capture that once in a lifetime shot.

Photography can be a hobby or a business but you’ll really begin to excel when it becomes a passion. We, as humans, are always better at something when we are passionate about it. If you are passionate about photography, you are well on your way to becoming accomplished if you aren’t already.

Photo Credits:
Crocus in Snow by Bobbytee on Flickr Commons
All other photos by Steve Russell

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  • Moe

    What an awesome article!  Thank you so much for all you guys do.  It’s much appreciated.

  • Manish Paul Simon

    Advice like never before :)

  • Alex A


  • Kristi

    Great article–thanks for taking the time to put it together! Good reminders of what we should be doing every day to better our skillset!
    Have a great Dreamcicle Day!
    Kristi Church
    Dreamcicle Studios