10 tips to improve your photography

Stephanie Bryan Photography - 10 tips to improve your photography

You have this fancy camera and maybe a lens or two, but still feel like you're struggling to get the images that make your heart burst with happiness. Sound familiar? I can totally relate. I remember feeling that EXACT SAME WAY when I first got my Canon Rebel many years ago. I knew what I wanted my images to look like, but seriously had no clue how to get there. I felt lost and confused and frustrated. All I really wanted was someone to come and teach me everything I needed to know. I took a photography class (which was an epic fail) and felt even more lost. Then I started at the basics and tried to learn everything I could about photography to improve my skills. If you're feeling stuck or lost, then these 10 tips are for you!! Make a list of which ones you might need to work on and then dive head first into that list! I promise you will continue to get better and better everyday!

1. Learn how to shoot in manual mode.

It might sound crazy and scary, but shooting in manual mode is going to take your photography to the next level. Manual mode gives YOU the control over your image instead of your camera and I promise you manual mode is where it's at. If you've never moved out of Auto, no worries at all! I recommend starting in aperture mode with the intention to learn how your camera works and then move over to manual mode once you have the hang of aperture mode and how it changes your camera settings. 

Check out this blog post to see HOW to make the switch to manual mode!

2. Know how you camera works.

This goes right along with manual mode and knowing HOW your camera works is going to be key to improving your photography. Grab a cup of coffee, your camera + your camera's manual and spend the day getting to know your camera. Read about the different functions of your camera and how they work. The manual does an AWESOME job of explaining what the various functions are, how to change them and what they can do for your images!!  

Important functions to learn: white balance, focusing modes, metering modes.

3. Know the exposure triangle.

Part of shooting in manual mode is knowing what aperture, shutter speed and ISO are and how to make them work for your images. Having full control of these settings is going to let you create your images the way you visualize them! 

4. Study your favorite images + images from your favorite artists.

I mentioned this yesterday when we chatted about "finding your style" and it I think it totally applies here. Having artists and people who inspire you are so important. By studying their work and dissecting what you love most about their art, you will begin to hone in on what style you like. I definitely AM NOT suggesting you copy another person's work or try to recreate a shot EXACTLY as they created it. That's no fun. Instead, look at the elements of their work (like lighting, composition, framing, lines, etc...) and let those INSPIRE you. 

5. Learn your editing programs.

I'm sure many of you have Lightroom and/or Photoshop but are too scared to even up the programs up! There really is nothing scary about these applications and figuring out WHAT they can do for you will be life changing. Since I shoot only in RAW, I am able to tweak my images in Lightroom and Photoshop to bring back details, etc... These editing tools are there to help you can definitely help give your work that "pop" you might be looking for. Take a little while to play around in the programs and see what the different tools do. I always recommend just pulling up a photo and playing around without the intention of a finished piece you will post on Instagram or Facebook. Use this time to learn, play, tweak.

(I have a ton of Lightroom and Photoshop tutorials over on my Tutorials page.)

6. Take your camera everywhere.

Stick your camera in your purse or bag and take it everywhere you go. Pull it out in grocery stores and libraries and playgrounds and parks. Experiment with different lighting situations and angles. Again, use this time to play around and learn your camera; not necessarily to end up with an amazing photo. Click, click, click and then delete, delete, delete. The only way to learn and improve is to practice....

7. Practice, practice + then practice some more.

Yep! That brings up to practice. Shooting and practicing are SO important. NO ONE picks up a camera on day 1 and is a pro. I promise you. It takes time, energy and effort to learn your camera, your style and how you want to create your images! Practicing will not only help you figure out the different modes and functions of your camera, but it will inspire you keep practicing. If there's one aspect you love (like backlit images), then spend a week shooting in backlighting. Shoot, shoot, shoot and keep on shooting. The more you practice, the better your photography will get!

8. Take a photography class.

There are SO many classes out there that cover everything photography related. From beginner classes to advanced creative classes, you will be able to find anything you are looking for. Pick an area you are interested in and dive right in! I always recommend freeing your calendar and REALLY giving a class your 100% attention (or as much attention as you possibly can). Online classes are amazing and you really do get out what you put in. If you download a class and let it sit on your desktop without even opening it, you probably aren't going to be inspired or take away very much. BUT - if you put in the effort, shoot everyday (as typically recommended) and connect with teachers/students, I promise it will be an amazing experience. 

9. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.

Thinking outside the box and trying something new has helped me improve my photography in so many ways. It took me a while to figure out that my shooting style and creative style is different from many others. It took me a while to stop comparing my "beautiful" to someone else's beautiful. Every photographer is on a different journey and no two photographers started at the exact same time and studied the same material. Use your practice time to do something that scares you and it will only make you stronger!

10. Learn from your mistakes.

For every one image I post on my blog or Instagram, there are AT LEAST 1000000 bad images to go along with that. I obviously don't post those bad images anywhere, but I can guarantee you that almost everyone who shoots consistently creates work that they just don't love. I don't love every shot I take. More than 90% of the time, the shot doesn't come out how I envisioned it or either my subjects weren't willing to cooperative. That's ok. Everyone makes mistakes and has bad shots. Everyone overexposes and misses focus and runs out of SD card space. It happens. Learn from these mistakes and then MOVE on. 

And there ya go! 10 tips to take your photography to the next level! Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope I've inspired you to try something new!!