There are so many articles published online as well as in photography magazines and books on tips and tricks to quickly improve photography. There are many variety of techniques or special methods to help the photographer to get better shots, or achieve photographs nearer to the perceived standard of "perfection". Many would pay thousands and thousands of dollars to attend workshops or photography training by the photography gurus. Some go extra lengths to achieve that status and to be claimed a "pro". I believe I am the weird one out from the norm. I rarely read photography magazines, I do read tips and tricks of photography online, but honestly, when it comes to real life shooting, practical photography can be so different.
All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko Lenses 45mm F1.8 and 12-50mm F3.5-6.3
High Above the Ground. 45mm F1.8
Left Behind. 45mm F1.8
Let me share a few small things which I have learned along the way.
1) Improving Photography Skills Takes Time. Lots, and lots, and lots of time
The main mistake that many photographers (new ones, of course) did was to expect sudden jump or improvement in their photography, especially after they spend hundreds on photography books or even more attending some professional photography workshops. The truth is the same with learning everything else, it takes unquantifiable amount of time to practise and practise until you get it right. Some people may get it faster than the other, but if you have clocked enough time doing something, somehow you will find a way to get it right eventually, no matter how slow a learner you are. It took me YEARS to be able to shoot on the street comfortably, I did not just miraculously walk up to stranger and be able to take close up portraits of them. Patience is a very important virtue (in photography as well as life in general). You have to be patient with yourself. Give yourself time to learn. Give yourself time to make mistakes, and improve from them. Give yourself enough time to grow. Growth cannot be forced, and it will come if you have put enough time and effort.
2) Practise Until You Get It Right, and then Continue Practising Until You Never Get It Wrong Ever Again
I always shoot at the same location. I go to the same streets. I shoot at some macro shooting locations again and again, for countless times already. I have shot the same sunrise scene for many times (ok I lied, I could never wake up that early). A lot of young photographer I observed would take pride and satisfaction when they have achieved something too early. You managed to understand the concept of wireless flash photography, and you have executed your first flash portraiture session. Then you show off, and you claim that you have accomplished certain level of photography. Good, that is one step forward, and one improvement which is worth celebrating. However, that is not the end of the journey, in fact you have just started. There are so many more things to be picked up along the never-ending learning curve in photography and being content too early will not do you good in your further growth. A lot of people do not see this, because all they cared was to show off how good they are in their photography skills. You have done it right, good for you, now lets do it again, and again and again until you will never ever get it wrong again. This is especially true in insect macro photography.
Fruit Seller. 45mm F1.8
Hidden alley. 45mm F1.8
Blowing. 12-50mm kit lens
Eggs. 45mm F1.8
Meat. 12-50mm kit lens
Vegetables. 12-50mm kit lens
3) Shoot What You Love, and Love What You Shoot
Peer pressure can be a dangerous thing for photography. When everyone is doing the same thing you will be compelled to do that as well. Forcing yourself to take up something you do not like will not do good for your growth in photography. Everyone has different preferences, likes and dislikes. Find the subject that you love and you will be happier shooting that subject again and again. It can get lonely sometimes, but eventually when you are starting to show that you are betting better in what you are doing, you will be the one introducing the peer pressure in the group and before you know it people will start to want to do what you are doing! The bottomline is, you must enjoy shooting in order to be able to make the best of what you are doing. Start by shooting your favourite things. I like live music performance (indie bands) so you will see me being out there enjoying myself, banging my head to the heavy live music and merrily snapping away.
4) Your Heart Matters More than Your Mind
Often many photographers get too carried away with camera technicalities that they have forgotten to feel the image with their heart, before clicking the shutter button. I also suffer from this, as I always thought of the shutter speed, ISO setting and aperture choices, as well as composition style, focal length and a heck lot of other parameters to control while shooting. As we have always been reminded photography is a lot about what we see, how we see things and how we translate what we see into photographs. If we only see the things we shoot with our minds, the photographs will come out dry, heartless and meaningless. Our hearts can add strong emotion and different level of meaning to a photograph, if we just stop thinking about all the technical perfection mess and just consider the subject itself. The stronger images are not the kind of images that you will awe over the lack of high ISO noise, or superior dynamic range, or better sharpness and accurate white balance. The impact-ful images usually will be able to pull some strings of your heart with gut-wrenching emotions, or drop your jaw looking at something completely unbelievable, or chuckle and smile at an photography with a joke or satirical meaning behind it. The extra "oooomph" in the photograph always, always comes from the heart.
Friendly Stranger. 45mm F1.8
Legs. 45mm f1.8
High. 45mm F1.8
Market People. 45mm F1.8
Shopper. 45mm F1.8
Hidden Alley 2. 45mm F1.8
The Broom. 45mm F1.8
5) Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes, Because You Only Improve With Your Mistakes
Photographers, even very fresh photographers have ego issues. Generally. Even myself included. Period. Photographers do not like to have their photographs criticized, even though they openly said they accept feedback and suggestions to improve. Photographers do not like to have their mistakes pointed out, and would do whatever they can to show that their images are flawless and that they can do very well. Photographers will make you enemy number one if you said in whatever small way, their equipment (camera or lens) is not good enough or inferior to whatever other better system you would recommend to them. Ultimately, and obviously photographers do not want to admit that they are human. Humans make mistakes, ALL the time. These photographers also fail to realize that by hiding all their mistakes and not confronting them, they will learn a lot slower and their progress will be stunted. You have to allow yourself to make mistakes. Only through many, many, many failures will you be able to achieve success.
Some more truths? Getting better gear won't improve your photography by much (it will help in some areas, but just a small, minor part that it is negligible actually). You won't improve in a short time, you may continue to read and attend workshops, but at the same time make sure you shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot some more, allow yourself time to learn from mistakes and grow. Do not rush. Photography learning cannot be forced. There are no shortcuts. You will improve, as long as you have an open mind and heart, and willing to go the distance.
Flowers. 45mm F1.8
Raja Indra Putra with his OM-D E-M1!!!!
Like everyone else, I have a long way to go. No worries, because I know, I will have the time of my life shooting all the way. Lets shoot more, and complain less!