Personal development - laptop graphic

Developing Your Own Skills as a Photographer

I’ve spent a lot of hours studying photography over the past few years. Actually from the moment I purchased my first DSLR, I quickly adapted to the idea of trying to learn something new each time I picked up my camera.

There are so many ways to learn things about photography now a days, whether you’re looking for free knowledge or premium. There is a difference between the two but I’m not going to get into that too much right now. What I really want to talk about is how one can learn so much, despite all the resources, and still need to develop on their own.

One of the first things I learned was that in order to be a professional photographer, you need to learn all the rules, and then break them to capture the types of photos your creative mind has to offer. I used to buy magazines that each month would offer then next best top 10 whatever stuff. Then I graduated to books that would talk more about composition, form, exposure, and the business. While I did understand the idea of learning the rules to be able to break them, I started to hear a lot of contradicting advice from some prominent industry photographers.

Lenses

Some professional photographers believe that prime lenses are always better than zoom ones. While there is much to debate on both sides of this argument, I personally do not believe either is true. For me it depends on what I’m shooting. If I was hired to do a job and could only use the available equipment provided, and that included only one prime or zoom lens and a camera body I would be able to do the job, but “how” I did the job would be different depending on the lens. Where I would stand, how close I would need to be, what angles do I feel would be complementary.

There are also debates about whether or not the kit lenses are actually worth using or completely worthless as a professional. For me, I’ve used my kit lenses and continue to whenever necessary. I’ve produced some pretty nice shots as long as I had adequate light with my kit lenses.

Software

Long before I decided to make photography a business and more than a hobby, I found myself dabbling in Photoshop. I quickly found it to be really extensive and hard to pick up and learn without proper teaching. Today I use Photoshop for some strategic tasks, but my main post editing software is Lightroom. These two pieces of software seem to be the main two that most photographers use. There are others within the Adobe Creative Cloud if you’d like to check them out.

Photography Gear

Everyone is selling gear these days. You can buy gear from vintage stores all the way to Amazon. Your prices will always vary, but one thing is for sure – you get what you pay for. I’ve learned the hard way by trying to play the cheap side with some of my gear and seeing first hand when knobs break off, things aren’t sturdy, things work slower, or are just really cheap quality.

If you’re just starting out, some purchases can be made on the cheap. One of my favorite buys are the Neewer flashes. At around $30 a piece, these flashes work great with fresh batteries and last a great deal in many of my conditions. However cheap brand modifiers and light boxes won’t last you more than a couple of shoots due to poorly made joints and knobs.

Practice and Learning

The more I pick up my camera and shoot the more comfortable I feel with it. To me, it should feel as though it were an extension of my body – like an appendage. I don’t think you can learn all there is to learn by just reading and watching videos, you do need to get out there for yourself in the field. And that’s the best part about developing. Seeing the difference on what you shot a week ago, a month ago, or a year ago, and compare that to what you’re doing now. That’s the true test of development. Your skills should always be improving. You’re creativity should always be evolving and pushing new highs. Photography is an art form, and being a photographer means you’re an artist. Learning from industry professionals is great, but paving your own creative lane is what will set you apart from other photographers in your neighborhood and eventually the industry.

I’d love to hear about how you developed your skills in photography. Whether you can add on to what I’ve said above or offer some new ideas, please comment below and lets start a dialog.