The Easy Way to Take Better Pictures and Improve your Photography

Do you ever look back at your old work and are blown away at how talented you are? ? It may happen, but it’s more likely you’ll be amazed at how far you come.

I have been photographing with intent for over 20 years, professionally for 17, and I still improve every day. More importantly, I still shoot with the objective to improve!

(Keep reading to the end- I have a prompt to help YOU improve your pictures!)

books in a free library stand, with the glass covered in winter frost

There are lots of ways to better your photography work… You can take workshops, online courses, read books, or find a great mentor (ahem, shameless plug here) but in between those investments, the easiest way to improve your photography is by simply taking pictures. Every day, weekly, as often as possible!

Give yourself a weekly or monthly prompt geared toward a skill that you want to develop, and work on that skill until you can see clearly that your work is better. I prefer to do these photography exercises with the support of a group of photographers, so we can hold each other accountable and build each other up. This is why this year in 2021 I decided to participate in a 52 week photo project geared toward creating better documentary photography. (You can join us if you like– all are welcome!)

barbie laying face down on top of sheet music on the ground

Month 1’s theme was Found Still Life… so for the entire month of January I directed my eyes toward the way that objects together told a story. The key was that I couldn’t place or manipulate themself; I had to just find them that way.

Friends, this is harder than it sounds. I think we are trained to follow the high energy moments: people laughing, being dramatic or wild. We all know these pictures: they are the scrollstoppers on your Instagram app! It’s hard enough to take a quiet photo with a person in it, and people naturally add loads of interest to a picture. Found still life requires us to take quiet photos that have a lot of interest, too… but it has to stand on its own.

abstract picture of snow on a green bush

So what should you photograph as Found Still Life?

Photograph what interests you first, and then afterward question yourself: Why do I find this scene interesting? What made me take the picture? Then try to step outside of the photo and look at it as if your favorite photographer were seeing it for the first time. What does she/he think? What would she say?

This process of self-reflection will help you recognize what makes a successful still life, and eventually you will be able to identify all these things before taking the picture. The next time you will be able to take the picture with intent. This is the key to improving your photography: mindfully shooting with intent.

I have found that in found still life, I tend to look for:

  • repeating colors or a connecting theme
  • an unusual combination of items
  • patterns or abstractness
  • interesting light can set mood

But these things are what interest me. What interests YOU??

If you’re ready to dive deep into improving your photography, consider a 365 project: taking one picture per day. It’s great incentive to get you out taking pictures and framing the way you see light and moments. And of course this practice is the best way to improve! Happy to shadow your project or do one along with you. Reach out and we can chat more about it!

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