The first tip is to enjoy the editing part. As much as many photographers these days say, “shoot more”, “edit less”, “wouldn’t you rather spend your time photographing than editing” and yada, yada, yada you have to learn some proper editing techniques. Editing is absolutely essential to digital photography as the work in the darkroom is to the analogue photographers. Those people thinking a photo straight out of the camera and un-edited is somehow better, truer or whatever excuse they can find to not edit their photos are cheating themselves. Even the best photojournalists apply some kind of post-processing to enhance the story.
What you shoot is a digital file, it’s a digital negative. It’s light absorbed on a sensor, which the nice guys at your favourite camera brand have managed to put into a digital file, which is shown as an image on your monitor. It’s data manifested into an image, that’s it. If you’re shooting jpegs the picture profile you’re using has been calibrated from the factory to treat that data in a certain way. No matter how you approach that file some processing has been applied, which has been decided by humans working in these factories. You cannot avoid some kind of post-processing because it’s a fundamental part of digital photography.
Taking a photo in RAW you have all the data available, which the camera caught. But, just as a painter choose what and how he paints his canvas it’s your job as a photographer to decide what colours and tones you want to emphasize, as to tell the story you want to tell. The effects, colours and tones used can differ from photographer to photographer, style to style and field to field. Some prefer to only do minor retouching, some apply black and white and some again make major edits. Some try to make an edit, which is close to what he or she saw in the moment, while other photographers have other goals. None of these techniques or goals are more right or wrong than others. It is all about working with intention, which I’ll come back to later. Editing is a part of the digital photographic process period.
As you progress through the craft you might work in a team where someone else edits your photo or you might have dialled in the settings you want in your picture profile, but some sort of editing is happening. It’s just a part of the process nothing more, nothing less. Learn to edit as to deliver your message and fulfil your vision and you might as well enjoy it. When you enjoy it you experiment and then you evolve!
The 2nd tip is to get in touch with other photographers who can criticize your work. Or even better in review groups with photographers who preferably is better than you. I’d also say aim for a good diversity in the members. The members do not all necessarily have to be landscape photographers if you are but make sure they’ve got something to say and know what they’re doing. AND BE GRATEFUL FOR CRITICISM! People might not be right in their critics, but in 99% of the cases, they are. You can make group chats on Instagram, Facebook groups or fora’s on some homepages. How you go about it is up to you, but I’d suggest keeping the groups tight with a max of 10 people who you want to work with.
Tip number 3 is to realize that Photography is a subject like any other, with a lot of theoretical information available. Whether it’s math, chemistry, language, music, painting, sports or any other school subject there’s a theoretical level and a practical level, which work together and influence each other. Photography is not just about go shooting. In that case, it becomes happy triggering without thought or goal. That in itself is not a bad thing and can work therapeutic, but for improving your craft I’d say don’t just go and shoot. Study art. More than just on YouTube. YouTube is a good start but study classic art – read a book on the subject. If the famous artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello Santi, Rembrandt, Dali, Van Gogh, Monet or Picasso knew how much focus, the rule of thirds get in photography they’d scream out in horror and disbelief! Do you think Michelangelo used the rule of thirds to paint the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel? Of course not!
A couple of directions I can point you in when it comes to digging beyond the rules of thirds is Gestalt Theory, which is a psychological theory for visual perception.
Dynamic symmetry, which is a complex tool and method for composition based on Gestalt Theory.
And a third which is Color Theory.
My 4th tip is to photograph with intention! Tell a story, display a feeling, use the artistic tools to guide, stimulate and touch the viewer – just do something which is not just “it’s pretty” *click*. Guy Tal has some excellent blogs on his work. Check them out!
The last tip I want to share is to get smarter and search for knowledge in other artistic fields. Going to this “meta-level” you’ll learn what makes an artist an artist, what goes beyond or actually before photography as a craft. The past year or so I’ve really enjoyed watching YouTube videos on screenwriting, which obviously hones my skills as a vlogger/video maker, but most importantly I’ve really observed a change in the way I think about my landscape photography. How filmmaking and photography are so much alike in terms of using or misusing certain effects to tell a story, translating a feeling or delivering a message. Some of my favorite channels in no particular order on this subject are:
You, of course, don’t need specifically to study screenwriting, but you could also watch a lot Bob Ross videos on oil painting… or maybe something on music writing. Who knows what you’ll learn and what you can apply to your photography!
So that was the five tips. Enjoy editing, constructive criticism, study art, photograph with intention and study other crafts of art. I hope these five tips have given you some direction.
About the Author
Mads Peter Iversen is a fine art landscape photographer from Denmark. You can see more of his work on his website, Facebookpage, Instagram and YouTube channel. This article was also published here and shared with permission.