Even if you are satisfied with your photos and make great ones – there’s always room for improvement. But sometimes, you can feel like you’re running in circles. If you feel you’re stuck in a rut with your work, you should watch this great video from Peter McKinnon. It could change your point of view, make you go on with your work, and what’s more – become better at it.
Peter mentions three main issues that may be blocking you from becoming better photographers. Do you think these prevent you from improving as well?
1. Social media
Social media is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be a great way to being a part of the community, sharing knowledge, promoting your work, making contacts and friends. I can hardly imagine a photographer who doesn’t have an account on at least one social network.
On the other hand, all these people and their photos could make you feel inadequate. If you follow photographers from all over the world and those who travel a lot – you’ll see incredible photos from all over the world as well. It could make you feel stuck in your place of living and limited in your photography. That’s how I sometimes feel when I see all those incredible photos of Aurora Borealis on the Internet.
If this is how you feel – well, you should just stop scrolling through that feed and sigh when stunning photos of exotic places appear on the screen. I don’t think you should stop looking at these pictures – but you should switch focus. Have in mind that other people may be looking at your photos thinking how creative you are, and how incredible photos you make in the place where you live. And it’s pretty difficult to take stunning photos if you’ve lived somewhere for a long time, as most of us get used to the environment.
I’d add that you should look at the other aspects of photos – the story they tell, the composition, light, editing… whatever it is that you prefer. This way you will learn from other images, no matter if they were taken in Hawaii or the photographer’s local park. A good photo is a good photo, no matter the location.
2. The digital medium itself
I’ve heard this often and read a lot of articles about it. Digital photography gave us so many options on one hand, but on the other – it made us lazier.
In film photography, the number of shots you can take is severely limited. And no matter how annoying this may be (especially if you started off with a digital camera), it has its advantages. It makes you think before you take the shot, dedicate your time to planning the composition and setting the camera correctly. You can’t just take 50 shots and choose the best one – you need to do your best to make that one shot count. Personally, I love to shoot film from time to time just to remind myself to stop, think and set everything properly before I push the shutter button. But Peter has a good solution that doesn’t make you change your digital camera for a film camera.
You can take a smaller SD card of 2GB, which will give you 50-60 RAW shots. This could also make you slow down and think the photos through before you take them. Of course, you don’t need to do it regularly, but it can be a good exercise to hone your skills and push yourself towards improvement.
3. Too many options
Having a lot of gear is certainly a necessity when you’re a professional. Even if you’re not, you may want to have a perfect piece of equipment for every type of shot you want to take. But where’s the challenge in that?
Peter suggests that having too much gear reduces your creativity and problem-solving skills. There’s no challenge to overcome and nothing new to learn – and you can learn both if you manage to beat the limitation and if you don’t. So, next time you go out for a shoot, don’t bring an entire photo bag and all the gear you can take (if it’s not a paid photo shoot, of course).
For your next photo walk, limit yourself to one lens and one camera, and see what you can come up with. I do this from time to time, and I usually get something good I didn’t hope for. Of course, I sometimes do it on purpose, and sometimes because I easily forget stuff and my head is in the clouds, but oh well. 🙂 Either way, this limitation can actually be liberation.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut or find excuses not to do something. But with some proper motivation and the right approach, it shouldn’t be hard to find new inspiration and grow as a photographer. Leave comfort zone from time to time, try a new genre or new editing style. The beauty of photography is that you can learn new things your entire life, and I believe we should never stop learning. And always try to turn those limitations into possibilities.
[Why you aren’t taking better photos | Peter McKinnon]