Sorry – none of these tips involve buying a magic camera. But if you try them, based on my own experience, they will help you become much better at producing images that matter.
1. Stop comparing your gear against anyone else’s gear. It doesn’t matter that Ernie in your local camera club has a better lens. All that matters is what he does with his lens and you do with your lens. Almost any lens you can buy today is better than those made 50 years ago. Some very iconic photographs were made with gear you’d scoff at today. Stop obsessing over gear.
2. Try to understand what it means to have vision. I’m not talking about the gift of sight. I’m talking about the ability to slow life/time down and to FIND things to photograph that others would pass on. Start with the icons. Photograph in places like Yosemite and Yellowstone. You’ll easily find the places where great images are made. Once you find out what those places look like, practice using the same VISION you used to make those images in smaller venues where the great stuff is less obvious.
3. Go on a photo walk – but don’t take your camera. Ansel Adams did this weekly. He’d go out scouting with nothing more than a #90 yellow Wratten filter, a notebook, a pen and a cardboard cutout that approximated his various lenses. He’d walk about taking notes, looking for subjects and how the light struck them at various times of day and various times of year. He’d explore. He didn’t take the camera because it got in the way of his ability to “see” what he later wanted to photograph.
4. Care about, know about, think about, dream about, learn about, talk about and downright fall in love with your subjects. If you shoot landscapes, know all that there is to know about the landscape. If you shoot wildlife, learn all that you can about your subjects. If you make people portraits, try to see the people who sit in front of your camera as real human beings with the same goals, hopes and aspirations for a successful, happy life as you. If you can do this, your photos will stand out from the crowd.
5. Stop thinking about about the reward and spend all your time thinking about the journey. You’ve probably heard this expressed in other ways. Here’s an example: When you were a little kid, one of the best things about going on vacation with your family was the expectation – the counting down the days. The actual event is usually a little less glorious than you think it will be. It’s the journey that matters. In photography, taking stock of all the little things you learn and experience along the way does eventually, after ten thousand mistakes and many years, turn you into a master photographer.
If you haven’t yet started thinking in these terms – try starting today. I am rooting for you.