how-to

Improve your photography in 2019

Yellow Arrow

With the new year at our doorsteps, it is time not only to revisit our creative achievements of the past twelve months, but also to think about how we want to evolve photographically in  2019.

What is it that you aspire? Do you want to expand your creative view by exploring a new genre? Are you looking to improve the technical aspects of your photography? Do you want to study the masters? Have you been sneaking around that new camera or other piece of gear that you hope will jump-start your motivation to shoot better pictures or simply shoot more? Or are you seeking some recognition for your work, beyond the friendly comments of the peers following your blog or your social media accounts?

Whatever it is, this is a good time to set yourself some photographic goals for the new year. Time has never been better.  Excellent cameras have become very affordable and the latest smartphones are 24/7 companions that allow everyone to do serious and high quality photography wherever you are.

Focus on education, not on new gear

With the growing numbers of aspiring photographers, the amount of educational and inspirational information has vastly increased. Photography magazines, how-to books, websites and blogs provide a wealth of technical knowledge and inspiration for just about every genre of photography that you can imagine, and most of those resources are free. Thanks to this resources, improving  the technical and artistic aspects of your photography is not difficult at all if you learn to differentiate the wheat from the chaff. And if you want to take your education a step further, invest in either a web based training made available by professionals or join an in-person photography workshop, which will give yourself also the opportunity to build a network of peers. All this requires much fewer investments than a decent piece of gear and will definitely help to improve your photography more than buying the next generation camera body or a new lens.

Find a new genre you want to explore

Think about if you want to explore an area of photography that you haven’t yet practiced. Landscape, portrait work with available light or strobes, boudoir, street photography, macro, wildlife, fashion, travel, documentary; there are plenty areas to choose from. While all of those genres seem attractive, some come with caveats that are not easy to overcome (e.g. getting yourself models for portrait/fashion shootings, getting up in the middle of the night to catch the golden hours of landscape photography),  so the genres that eventually attract you will narrow down themselves. And if you really want to become good at something you need to focus. Most great artists / scientists have been or are specialists of some sorts. Sure there are exceptions. Bryan Adams is a great Rock Star and also a well-known photographer, but in music he focuses on Rock and in his photography on portraits and fashion.

Shoot, shoot, shoot

I’m sure you have heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s Book “Outliers: The story of success” in which the author writes extensively about the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. I believe there is a certain truth to this thesis. So go out and shoot. The more you shoot, and try to implement the things you learned from studying the theory, into your practical photography, the better you will become. Master your gear and the technicalities first, then improve your creative focus.  Then your way of shooting will become second nature, you walk through your days with a “photographic eye”, picturing in front of your eyes what your lens would see. You fall into repetitive patterns that will also show in your images, will eventually show your style.

Find Inspiration

There is nothing wrong by finding inspiration in other photographers work. Browsing Instagram, 500px, flickr and the likes lets you find lots of images that attract you visually or even from a technical point of view. This goes also for finding inspirations in photography magazines or books. Once a genre attracts you, you can research it in more depth by finding image sharing platform users, websites or blogs that focus on a particular genre. Compare images, find common elements in images “that turn you on”. Identify the names of masters of the genres that attract you, look at their published images and books and study their work in more detail. There is nothing wrong in trying to replicate their work for yourself in order to understand and master their techniques. Then use the acquired skills to create your own variations or take it to a complete new level. Have faith in yourself of developing something new out of “external” inspiration.

Go out and shoot – and shoot what you want to shoot

The best goal for the new year is simply to go out and shoot.  And shoot what your heart tells you to shoot. Shoot for yourself, not for an audience. Shoot the scenes that you yourself want to capture, where your senses tell you to press the shutter because something in front of your lens stirs your emotions. Don’t take images because you assume they generate lots of likes on the social networks or image platforms. Repetitively capturing what inspires you personally is the best way to find a focal point for your photography, discover the style of images that are satisfying for yourself as a creator, an artist. And the best motivation to go out and do more photography is when your own results “turn you on”.

Use the new year to broaden your photographic horizons with an open mind. If you explore, experiment and work with dedication and passion, and if you are your own hardest critic, your photography will certainly improve and you will find and evolve your own style. Enjoy it as a journey, and don’t be afraid of any turns your photographic road will take.

For a quick start check out all my tips and inspirations around photography in my free Learning Center.

I wish you a great and creative 2019

Marcus

Related Posts:

Gear & Camera Settings for Street Photography

My Eric Kim Workshop Experience

My Photography Equipment Checklist

Little woes of a traveling photographer

His last match – and how I captured it

TSV Feucht A-Jugend 03

1/1000 sec @ f/4, ISO 640, 210 mm

I don’t shoot much sports, and of the more than 400 posts published on the “Streets of Nuremberg”, less than a handful were about sports photography. But yesterday was a kind of special day, as the Big Boy played his last career soccer match, and of course I needed to properly capture this on a sensor, as I did also with his very first match, exactly 4628 days ago. He went out in style, scoring a goal in the 2:1 win of his team that also secured promotion of the squad into the next higher league for next year’s team.

To see a few images from yesterday’s game, learn about my photographic approach to get a few decent sports photos plus a trip down memory lane to Big Boys’s first match 13 years ago, continue after the jump….

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Instant Inspiration (23) – Hidden Street Portrait

Flower Power

Flower Power | Nuremberg | 2018 | 1/10 sec @ f/4 – ISO 200

After my rather moody last post it is time for a colorful new edition of my “Instant Inspirations”, something for you to try to overcome photographers block or if you simply want to give your photography a new angle. The 23rd episode is for those of my readers who would like to get more into Street Photography, but are hesitant to shoot obvious street portraits of people or even asking interesting looking subjects to “make” their portrait.

For starts, you can try to shoot people who are engulfed in their every day business, unaware of the photographer aiming the camera at them. Obviously, using a longer lens (or zoom) does help not to get too close. But even with a wide angle lens, the camera up at the eye, you can wander through shops, bars or your local market, looking for interesting scenes, people, gestures, colors, patterns – and press the shutter when something catches your eye and gets your creative juices flowing. Move naturally, shoot, and trust me you will not be noticed.

Bar Work-3

Lost in Thoughts | 2018 | 1/60 sec @ f/5.6 – ISO 320

Try different focal lengths, apertures and shutter speeds. Experiment, shoot with the curiosity of a child. Have fun.

Share your results by posting links in the comments section.

For all other episodes of my “Instant Inspirations” as well as my “Street Photography Quick Tips” head over to my free Learning Center.

Have a great Friday

Marcus

Related Posts:

Instant Inspiration (4) – Juxtaposition

Instant Inspiration (3) – Silhouettes

Instant Inspiration (2) – Motion Blur

Instant Inspiration (I) – Get Down Low

World Cup fever and some thoughts on composition

Playing Ball

Playing Ball | Seattle | 2018 | 1/500 sec @ f/6.3 and ISO 200

In less than 72 hours the FIFA World Cup will be upon us. Strangely, here in Germany it is still pretty quiet around the Nation’s favorite sports team, and we are far away from the euphoric mood that rocked our country four years ago and that culminated in one huge party when Germany won the final against Argentina for our fourth World Title. Maybe it has to do with the meager results in the test matches leading up to the tournament. Maybe it has to do with the host country Russia, which is not really known as a soccer nation. I myself am rather bearish on our chances for defending the cup.

But at least we have a chance, as opposed to the US team that didn’t even make it through the qualifiers. Maybe players like this highly skilled soccer dad would have helped the Team USA to make the tournament. His dedication for the ball and the fun he had with his kids was contagious. Eleven guys like him would make for a formidable squad, I’m very sure.

Photographically I worked the scene a bit with this guy. In the first image I intentionally used the unsharp faces of the kids enjoying their ice cream to frame the soccer player as they passed directly in front of my lens, shooting at the long end of my 12-100mm F/4 zoom. This creative composition element created depth in the image, served as a frame for the main subject and also provided a juxtaposition between savoring food and doing sports. My other photos from the scene you can find after the jump… (more…)

Street Photography Quick Tip (15)

Hey What's Up

1/125 sec @ f/2,5 and ISO 200, 25mm focal length

Street Photography Quick Tip 15 – Get close for more intense street portraits

In time for the weekend, here is episode 15 of my Street Photography Quick Tips, my short, easy to read and easy to use tips that I think could help you while shooting in the streets. Today’s post is about taking close up street portraits.  For a few, hopefully inspirational images continue after the jump… (more…)

Off Topic – Studio Anywhere

Portrait of Teenager Daniel

Daniel | Porto Ferraio | 2016

With today’s post I’m venturing far away from my usual posts around Street- and Travel Photography. But vacation time is not only time for intensified photography around documenting our family trip to Italy.

Holidays means also having finally time for a lot of (photography) related reading of books, blogs and websites to get fresh doses of inspiration. And also having time to try out a few things off your usual beaten paths.

In this case I decided to do some portrait photography with my (more or less willing) family. First victim up was my son Daniel. To see more and learn how this studio-like portrait was taken without help of any flash on a 1m stretch of white wall inside our rented apartment’s bedroom continue reading after the jump.

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Finding your photographic style

Drinks before the Show

Drinks before the Show | Hamburg | 2016

In today’s world photography has become mainstream. Excellent cameras have become very affordable and smartphones are 24/7 companions that allow everyone to do serious photography on the spot.

Each second thousands of photos are uploaded to social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and image platforms (flickr, 500px). And all of us who contribute to this never-ending stream of photographic output hope that somehow our work finds some recognition.

With the growing numbers of aspiring photographers also the amount of educational and inspirational information has vastly increased. Photography magazines, how-to books, websites and blogs provide a wealth of technical knowledge and inspiration for just about every genre of photography that you can imagine. Thanks to this resources teaching yourself the technical and artistic aspects of photography (and even the business side if you want to look at that as well) is not difficult at all if you learn to differentiate the wheat from the chaff. I’m not saying that this replaces the need for a professional education (if you really want to work as a professional photographer you should have a proper one) but for all us aspiring wannabe professionals who dream about generating some cash out of our hobby one day the training material available online or what you can pick up by attending workshops is more than sufficient to get us properly started.

With affordable gear, a wealth of information and inspiration available remains the question what to shoot. I for myself feel attracted to all sorts of genres. Landscape, portrait work with available light or strobes, boudoir, street photography, macro, wildlife, fashion, travel, documentary, you name it. I have tried most of them to some degree or other. Even bought gear (ever heard of GAS – gear acquisition syndrome) to being able to properly do it, inspired by one article or another in one of my many photography magazines, books or on a blog or photography portal site.

The thing is, all of this is nice, some come with caveats that are not easy to overcome (e.g. getting yourself models for portrait/fashion shootings, getting up in the middle of the night to catch the golden hours of landscape photography) so the genres that eventually attract you will narrow down themselves. And if you really want to become good at something you need to focus. Most great artists / scientists have been or are specialists of some sorts. Sure there are exceptions. Bryan Adams is a great Rock Star and also a well-known photographer, but in music he focuses on Rock and in his photography on portraits and fashion.

So how do you focus, how do you find the style of photography that suits your aspirations, that allows you to become good enough that you yourself are satisfied with the results. And again, as long as you don’t have to make a living out of your photography your own judgement of your results is the only relevant criteria. If in addition to that your work finds whatever recognition on social media, image sharing platforms, websites or photography magazines that is just icing on the cake.

The road to discovering your individual style as a photographer is a very personal one. But there are some things can help you and that have certainly helped me. Find out more after the jump. (more…)

Little woes of a traveling photographer

Stortorget

Stortorget | Stockholm | 2016

You have been looking forward to this weekend trip to a fancy city  that you always wanted to see. Time is limited, you only have a couple of days. You are travelling with your partner who is not all that much into photography.  You don’t want to spoil the getaway by constantly logging behind, hunting for that perfect photo opportunity, that better angle, fumbling with your gear to change to the more appropriate lens.

And besides taking the marquee shots of well-known attractions (and that everybody back home expects from you)  you are looking for those special shots that you expect from yourself, because after all your are not after the tourist snap shots, for you are a photographer.

You arrive at your destination, it is great to be there, the sights and sounds are awesome, the food tastes great, you take the “must-have” shots, but photographically you just don’t get into the right groove, into your creative flow. And somehow this frustrates you because your own expectations towards yourself are otherwise and you know you won’t have a chance to get back to this city anytime soon when the photographic circumstances might be better. Sounds familiar? Continue reading after the jump. (more…)