Consistency Is The Key

I notice a lot of photographers struggling to improve or be at the proficiency that they aspire to be, and that can usually be traced to one particular cause - not spending enough time shooting. They may spend time scrolling through thousands of images on Instagram, or watching tutorials or photography tips videos on YouTube, but they just did not use their camera enough. You can read all the photography books you want, attend the most prestigious and expensive workshops by celebrity photographers, but if you don't actually shoot, you will never get better. There is no secret really, in order to be the photographer that you want to be, all you need to do is to do the work, spend more time shooting and be super consistent. 

Image taken by Van Ligutom, used with permission. 

Many people are looking for shortcuts to improve their photography skills, they learn from the sifus or follow some famous photographers within their community, hoping to unlock some secrets that enable them to take the giant leap in photography growth. You can be open-minded and learn from multiple sources, and the information won't be put to use if you don't bring out your camera and press that shutter button. Accumulating knowledge can be useful, only if you put them to practice. You can read as much as you want about driving a car, but you won't be able to claim that you can drive one, until you actually drive one. Practical lessons and actually doing the work make all the difference. The teacher can show you the way, but you have to walk the path. There is just no other way. 

What people do not see is my consistency when it comes to my photography journey. When I got my first DSLR in 2008, which was an Olympus E-520, I will spend all my free time in the weekends (as I have a 9-5 day job) shooting at any subject that I can find. It took me many, many, many sessions to learn the exposure basics, composition, lighting, and all things photography. Even now, 17 years later, I still continuously learn and spend as much time as I can shooting. The learning process never ends, but the key to successfully apply what you learn is to actually shoot more. I always ask my friends who want to improve but don't know how and come to me for advise - how much time did you spend shooting every week? One day, in the weekend, a 2 hour photowalk? Is that sufficient for you to really go to the next level? 

I did not have the privilege to spend every single day breathing photography in the beginning as I had my day job. It took me some time to grow, and I admit I am not a fast learner, but I am persistent, and definitely, I am consistent. By the time my peers noticed my improvement in my photography work, half of them have quit photography. It just did not bring them enough joy any more, because they have become stagnant, and they claim "they have done everything, and there is nothing new to shoot anymore". That is so far from the truth. The remaining people who still shoot, some of them have lost interest and only come out once in a month, some got married and had other priorities in life which took over and photography has been thrown down at the bottom of their to-do list. 

If photography is not your priority, then how do you expect to improve? 

I am not saying you should place photography above anything else, there are other things in life that matter more, I don't deny that. However, if photography has become so unimportant to you, you should not be complaining about struggling to improve or not going anywhere with your photography progress. 

As I become more and more obsessed with photography, I spend more and more time, going out to shoot, trying out different genres, reading more books, meeting more photographers and consuming all new knowledge and ideas that I have gained. In order to go far with anything, you need to be somewhat obsessed with it. The more you spend time thinking, using your camera and producing images after images, you will have no choice but to grow. The improvement will not be drastic that you become a legendary National Geographic photographer level overnight. No, it happens so gradually that you don't even notice it, until a huge amount of time has passed, and you look back, you will see your growth. It takes time. It takes a lot of time. 

Much like weight loss journey, you can't just lose 20kg in days, or weeks. You can probably see some changes in 3 months, or half a year, and even so, to get to your goal, it may take a year or more. How do you get there? By staying consistent. You and people around you won't see the changes as days go by, but when you have been consistent over a year or two, there is no other way to go but to see results. 

Photography is a self-discovery journey. Your photography is about yourself. You need to give yourself a chance to know yourself better, and spend enough time with your camera to fully grow. Everyone's journey is different, you should not compare yourself with others, and you are free to choose your own direction and pace. 

People often ask me how to get better in photography. Well, my answers have always been the same. Spend more time shooting and be consistent. 

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