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5 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY

Do you feel a bit stuck in your photography? Do not worry. The best thing about this art form is that no matter how good we are at it there is always more to learn. We've created a list of five easy ways for you to keep improving your art.


TIP #1 : STUDY COLOUR THEORY

man smoking cigarette
Combining colours while lighting with gels

Did you know that every colour has its own complementary? Did you know that in photos blue items will appear farther away while red ones appear closer to the viewer? Did you know different tones evoke completely different emotions?

Like any person inclined towards the arts you might already have an instinctual idea of which colours go well together and which ones do not, but there is a point in every photographer’s life in which the only way to get better is to put aside your instincts, sit down and dig deep into raw theory. When we do not study colour theory, we only scratch the surface of the potential our art can achieve. A good place to start is this free lecture by international fashion photographer Joanna Kustra on "The Secrets of Colour Grading" in which she offers some brief insight into the colour wheel and how she purposely combines colours in her shoots. Mastering this allows her to stylise her models correctly, portray mood and also know off the top of her head what outfits to select according to the backdrops available. "I always ask my models to bring either red or purple if we're shooting in green nature, as I know it would make them pop no matter what" she says during the lecture.

Some good literature to get started on the subject is Basic Colour Theory by Kandinsky. Investigating what colours look richer on different skin tones or skin bases is also not a bad idea, that way you can have an easier time choosing outfits according to your model.

If you're just starting to learn this, it's not a bad idea to buy yourself a colour wheel and place it in your work space. Eventually combining colours effectively will become a second nature, but until that day comes some extra reminders always come in handy.


TIP #2 ONLY PAY ATTENTION TO THE MASTERS

Man wearing a dress with stripes in the background
Playing with geometry during a fashion campaign

Nowadays there are many people with a professional camera and an Instagram account, but the limited number of actual masters of light is still the same as it's always been. It is easy for one to get wrapped up in the noise of social media, comparing our work to that of other aspiring artists in our area. We must remember that our time looking at other people’s work should be a time of study, not of pointless scrolling or, even worse, of comparing yourself to others. Go on the internet and look at lists of the top photographers in your field. Go over their work, there is a reason why they are the best. From now on, try to only pay attention to other artist on their level instead of concerning yourself with what the rest of the amateurs like you are doing (unless its to offer your support for their projects). We are all trying to learn and get better, but the only way of doing so is looking up to the masters, not other people on our level. And don't compare your work, both to other amateurs or to the masters. After all, the only race we are running is against ourselves.


TIP #3 ASK FOR CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK

woman in suit
Playing with dramatic lighting

Being told you are wrong is not something anybody enjoys. Somehow, it is even worse when we are told there is something wrong with a piece of work we have dedicated hours to. However, how else is one supposed to improve? It is important to surround yourself with other photographers who are willing to give you not just praise but also constructive feedback. It is not about bringing each other down, but about checking each other’s blind spots so we can continue growing and improving. I once got told by a fellow traveller I showed my art to that my images were too saturated. If you scroll down on my personal IG you can tell that he was right, and hearing that sped up the process of me correcting that.

A way to taker this a step further is by booking a mentorship session from an artist you admire. Top photographers charge these sessions a large amount of money, because their skills and experience are a rare commodity. Still, even though the insight of a master would be priceless, if you can't afford that asking any of your friends to review your portfolio is a good staring point.

TIP #4 STUDY OLD MASTERPIECES

old painting analysis
analysis of vanity fair group photoshoot

Have you ever looked at those huge celebrity group shots -such as the ones Annie Leibovitz is so famous for- and wondered how on Earth could they make a piece with so many elements look so balanced? The answer is simple: composition. Just as colour theory, you barely scratch the surface of everything composition has to offer if you remain on what you know instinctively. In these gigantic group sessions, Annie and other master photographers use their knowledge on shapes and direction to craft the perfect poses in advance for each of the models. Once they reach the set, they're all told exactly what to do and each individual shot is composite to create the final image. The result is a rich photo, full of lines that subconsciously guide the viewer and, by consequence, appeal to everybody. This Youtube video that analyses the composition techniques used in one of her group shots explains it perfectly.

However, the best source to study composition is not Oscar celebrity group shots, but the old art masterpieces, specially from the Renaissance period. Just as photographers plan their composite group shots in advance, painters spent years mastering composition in order to be able to represent complex imagery in the most balanced and appealing way-a controlled form of chaos. Going through lectures that analyse these paintings (and eventually doing our own analysis) is an amazing way to learn more about composition. Youtuber Tavis Leaf Glover is one of the many people offering lots of free content on this matter, with his entire channel being dedicated to composition in photography and old paintings.


TIP #5 TRY ONE PHOTOGRAPHY CHALLENGE A MONTH

man in a dress
Playing with motion blur

We have already spoken repeatedly about the importance of having a play day once a month, regardless of your level of expertise, to simply experiment with light. What we want to suggest now is to also embark on a photography challenge once every 30 days. While the play date is related to the kind of work one wishes to have in one’s portfolio, the challenge should be completely unrelated to your line of work. This way it forces you to approach types of photography you're unfamiliar with, exercising creativity muscles you normally would not use. This might lead you to learn new skills you can go back and apply to the type of photography you normally shoot or it might even awaken a new passion in you.

Here are a few examples to get you started:

- Imitate the work of a famous digital photographer you admire.

- Imitate the work of a film black and white photographer.

- Ask a friend to choose a random object and design a campaign for it

- Ask a friend to choose a specific emotion and create an image that expresses it

- Photograph the process of cooking scrambled eggs in a stylish way

- Give your pet or your friend’s pet a photoshoot while remaining loyal to your style

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