We are all leading busy lives. So, finding time to dedicate to our photography can be a real challenge. But if we have any hope of improving our skills as a photographer, we need time and a reason to practice. Photographers get better by making photographs, over and over again. Most of them don’t have to be stellar images. What’s important is that the practices of seeing, composing and editing our images help us to develop important skills. Don’t wait for that vacation or a workshop you’ve scheduled for this summer. Try some of these simple and straight-forward suggestions today.
Get Out Before Sunrise
You don’t have to wait until vacation or a workshop to take advantage of great light. Explore your neighborhood or nearby commercial district and discover what the light has to offer. Yes, you might have to get up extra early on the weekend, but once you are out there, you will feel it’s well worth it.
Schedule a Regular Time Each Week to Photograph
Make your photography a part of your regular schedule by carving out time to make images. Whether it’s an hour or more, it will be time well spent. Commit to it as you would anything else that’s really important in your life that you feel has to get done.
Use a Fixed Focal Length Lens
Using a single fixed focal length like a 35mm or 50mm lens will not only teach you how to become familiar with the characteristics of that specific focal length, but also will encourage you to focus more on composition. Limit yourself to this focal length for at least 4 consecutive shooting sessions.
Explore the Shadows
Though we are often taught to look for the light, observing the shadows will tell you a lot about the quality of light as well as reveal potential subject matter. Meter the scene using both evaluative and spot metering and discover the differences that can result by photographing such scenes with a different metering system.
Set Your Camera to its Monochrome Picture Style
By eliminating color, you can explore the scene based on light, shadow, shape and negative space. Save your images as raw + jpeg to retain the original color file.
Photograph Everything but the Main Event
Go to a local event or venue like a parade, race track or a high school football game and photograph everything but the actual event. Create candid shots or portraits of the spectators. Consider making environmental photographs which include the larger space and the small details. There’s a lot more to photograph that you might have thought.
Take Your Camera Out at Night
Explore your community at night using a fast lens like a 50mm f/1.4. Make images in a local bar, music venue or coffee house. Remember to increase your ISO and watch your shutter speed. Don’t put your camera away after the sun has set. Record scenes with and without flash and discover how different those resulting images can look.
Photograph a Familiar Location at Different Times of Day or Weather
Even the most familiar and common scenes in your world can be transformed by the light and weather. Make photographs after a storm or at twilight to see how different the subject or scene can appear. Choose a location that’s a short distance from your home, which you have ready access to.
Create a Mini Portfolio
Practice your editing skills by choosing the best photographs of a particular genre of photography that you practice (portraits, landscape, etc). Create a small book or zine of 12, 15 or 20 photographs and produce a self-published book from Blurb, MagCloud or even a PDF. If you have Lightroom, use it’s convenient Book module to design it.
Practice a New Technique Multiple Times for a Month
Create several opportunities to practice HDR, panning, fill flash or whatever new technique you are trying to understand and master. Don’t just wait for an important event to try your hand at it. Practice will make perfect.