I’m often asked my general or best tips for improving at photography and while these are questions that can’t be answered without more information about the person asking, I do have some general tips and things that helped me immensely and can be applied pretty universally. I came to realise that most, if not all of my tips aren’t really related to photography or gear, but about the process and person instead.
An alarm clock and schedule
For a long time I shot almost nothing but mid-day light and night shots. The thing I was best at in my first year of photography was Light Trails. I’d like to say this was because it was something I was personally interested in and specifically went out of my way to shoot but in reality it’s mostly because those are the only times I was out shooting. Whether working (or in most cases, sleeping) I completely ignored sunrise and morning light and it wasn’t until I forced myself to take this omission seriously that I increased the width and breadth of my photography in no small measure. The two most popular times of day to shoot are Sunrise and Sunset and no matter what anyone tells you they’re both very unique and have their own palette and light. Excluding one from your repertoire means cutting out one of the best times of day to shoot and handicapping what you have access to and often simply by getting up earlier means you have access to a whole new range of photos. Not just the light and colours change but the types of wildlife you see, the way people dress and what they’re doing, the light and shadows in the streets do a complete 180 and you have twice the shots that you had before in almost any genre.
Take this seriously and set your alarm for early in the morning and schedule yourself time to go out and shoot- after all, the early photographer shoots the worm.
A car/willingness to travel
Being poor photographer is both a blessing and a curse. It limits your access and schedule and thus restricts the content you have available to you but at the same time it narrows your focus and forces you to get creative with what you have available. So it’s with a pinch of salt that I highlight this piece, but getting a car or simply travelling more, both locally and abroad is hugely important. I’ve come to realise that exploring new places is deeply rewarding and mentally enriching for human beings, perhaps in part as an evolutionary reward for those who survived in times of hardship or perhaps simply because it takes us back to that feeling of finding and learning about new places as a child. Whatever the case, being in new and unknown places is something that sets us in a different frame of mind- of being open to new surroundings and details and even cultures. This frame of mind is what we’re often striving for with photography so we can intuitively narrow in on great shots.
Whether finding new places means travelling across the world or simply walking a mile further out of your town or city than you have before to find a new section of woods or a new part of town, just being willing to find new things is a big part of growth as a photographer.