On becoming a better photographer

As photographers, we all want to become better at our craft.  It's a process that can happily be enjoyed for a lifetime if you want it to.

The old masters said this; if you want to become a better photographer then take lots of pictures.  Carry your camera everywhere. Take a picture every time you think "this might be a cool pic", or "I wonder if I could capture this". Do it immediately because you know the thought thats coming next: "nah, I don't need to pull out the camera".  There's something to be said about the discipline of making yourself pull out the camera and snap a photo, even if you're absolutely sure you won't use the photo or publish it.

It doesn't necessarily have to be a "street photography" style picture or convey some certain type of emotion that matches the style of photography you're going for.  I've shot plenty of stuff that will never make it to my portfolio, but that doesn't mean I think they're bad photos.  For instance, I want to focus primarily on portraits, but I enjoy shooting things on the street from time to time. A neat shot of something going on outside may not be your "style" but it's not all about the portfolio.  The point I want to make is that expanding your horizons will actually come back to make you a better photographer in your specialized field because you gain experience in other areas, but you realize that you have a broader view of looking at things. In turn you create your own outlook on life and photography that you carry into your personal style.

Taking lots of pictures is the best way to become a better photographer, because it forces you to progress.  It opens up your view and expands the way you see things. By broadening your view, you realize how to focus on what you want to make.  One thing I did was to commit to a photo-a-day project.  When I began to force myself to create, regardless of if I felt like it or not, I began to grow in way that would not have happened otherwise.  I realized I began looking at the world through an "imaginary" lens naturally instead of wondering if I could.  My minds eye became accustom to imagining the world through a lens, wondering constantly "how would this look through a specific lens? Would I expose for highlights or shadows? how would that effect the dynamic range and overall feel of the picture; considering the light, composition, and subjects?".  In doing this, it's impossible for me not to see the world in this way now.  I've even come to the point where I will see things when I leave my house that make me wish I had brought my camera.  For me, it opened up a new realm of photography to enjoy. A realm where I found pictures that I didn't have to take for a portfolio, or someone else, but simply ones that I could just take for me. Taking tons of photos, in a way, is wholly freeing and satisfying.