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Cotton's Top Five Ways to GROW your Photo Skills

September 06, 2017

Cotton's Top Five Ways to GROW your Photo Skills

When looking to advance your abilities as a photographer, sometimes the next step can be unclear.  Enroll in some classes? Find a mentor? Get better equipment? Yes, yes and no, not necessarily. 

To help you forge your path to better photography, here are our top five tips to help you grow and develop your skills and your artistry. 


1. Meet your community

Whether it's joining a photography group or finding a mentor, one of our top recommendations is to talk to and to shoot with other photographers. Working alongside other professionals is one of the best ways to pick up tricks of the trade. The shared passion can also spark inspiration and it will undoubtedly encourage you to get out the camera more regularly.

To find a group of like-minded photographers, we suggest starting with social media and searching for Facebook groups in your area.  Or, use the location search on Instagram to find spots and shooters in your hood and then send them a message.  Many people are flattered when asked to share their knowledge and we find the photographic community is particularly inclusive and willing to help. 


2. Print your photos

While digital has transformed the photography world, not all of us can afford to work with top-grade computer equipment.  (Especially after you've already spent a bundle on your camera gear.) To get a true sense of your work, we suggest printing your photos. 

Printing your work can give you a clearer perspective on your inspiration, composition, and editing techniques and it can provide insight into areas that may require improvement. It can also help you become a more discerning photographer when you start asking yourself what images are actually worthy of printing. 

 

3. Create goals and sign up for jobs that challenge you

As with any skill, if you don't push yourself and if you don't practice, you won't improve. Whether it's deciding to pull out the camera daily, committing to selling a print by the end of the year, or working towards a gallery opening, setting a goal, and telling people about it, will make you more accountable.  The sharing part is key. 

Taking this one step further, we also recommend vying for jobs that seem just a step above your pay grade. Working for someone else, being accountable to them and working within certain time and financial constraints, are sure ways to push yourself.  

 

4. Learn all the functions on your camera and editing software

What does masking mean? What does low light noise reduction mean? What is back button focus? This seems like an obvious but you'd be surprised to learn just how many photographers don't fully explore all the functions of their gear. 

Today's equipment is truly astounding and yes, even overwhelming. But the more tools you have at your disposal, the more knowledge you have, and the better your work will be.  And once you have mastered the technology you can focus on the more artistic elements like lighting, composition, and editing. 

5. Tell the story

We have saved our most important tip for last. Every image should tell a story. And a good way to think about the story is to consider the questions and emotions the photo may evoke: How did that get there? How vast is that area? What is the subject in the photo thinking? What are they doing there? 

The more your photo can inspire the viewer to pause, to think or to feel, the more impactful and memorable your work will be. 

Have any additional tips to share on growing your photo skills? We'd love to hear from you!