It’s almost the new year! 2020 is at the doorstep. This year is nearly over. You might be wondering how to improve your photography in 2020. Perhaps you feel that your pictures aren’t “good enough” and you wish you could make pictures like what you see others creating. Maybe you are in a rut and don’t know how to move forward. Or it could be that you always keep your camera in auto because you are intimidated by all of the different settings and you don’t really understand all of the technical stuff. Perhaps you just received your first “real” camera for Christmas and don’t know where to start. Whatever the reason, you want to become a better photographer in 2020. Well, this article is for you!
If you are not moving forward, you are moving backwards. No matter what your skill level is, you should always be striving to improve. You should be pushing yourself to be more technically proficient or to learn a new technique or to be more creative or to have a stronger vision. Throughout your life, and not just in 2020, you should be trying to become a better photographer. Keep working towards improvement. Don’t stand still, because you can’t.
Really, I’m in the same boat as you. I’m trying to become a better photographer in 2020. I’m pushing myself to improve my camera skills. My advice is aimed at myself just as much as you. We’re all in this together. I hope that you find the five tips below helpful in your quest to become a better photographer in 2020!
Tip #1 – Know Your Gear, Part 1: Read The Manual
This might sound silly and obvious, but it’s important to know your camera and other photography gear inside and out. You need to know what all of the different settings do. You need to know how to make adjustments. You need to know how it all works. Most people thumb through the manual when they first get a new camera or other gear, and never look at it again. It’s a very good idea to take a careful look at it during unboxing, but it’s also a good idea to revisit the manual every so often. Pull the booklet back out after owning the camera for three months, and again at the one-year mark. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find! If you are like me, you’ll learn new things each time that you do this. Knowing your gear is the necessary foundation for improving your photography.
Tip #2 – Know Your Gear, Part 2: Understand How It Works
Knowing how to change the aperture is one thing, but knowing how it will affect the picture is another. Those who have been doing photography for awhile likely have a good grasp on what all of the different settings do to a picture, but those who are inexperienced might have no idea. Even if you have a good grasp, it’s always beneficial to investigate more deeply, understand more precisely, and try new techniques. There are tons of people who don’t understand even the basics, and things like the exposure triangle are completely foreign to them. If you rely on the camera to guess what the right settings should be, you are basically crossing your fingers and wishing on a star that your picture will turn out well. If you intimately understand how your camera works and how different settings affect the image, you can ensure that your pictures turn out just as you want them to.
There are tons of great resources for learning different aspects of camera settings. Nowadays, with the internet, everything is right at your fingertips. Oftentimes the best way to learn is by doing, which means that you take your camera out of auto and play around with it. Spend some time experimenting with different apertures, different shutter speeds, different ISOs, etc.,etc., and compare the results. This is a learning process, so don’t worry that your pictures aren’t good yet. It takes a lot of time, but the time investment is well worth it. Whatever you are trying to learn, read up on it, then go out and do it, not being afraid to fail, but trying again and again until it’s second nature.
Tip #3 – Invest In Experiences
Camera companies want you to think that you need the latest and greatest gear to become a better photographer. If only you had more resolution, better auto-focus, a larger sensor, a faster lens, etc., your pictures would look amazing, and they don’t because you didn’t buy it. My advice is to use what you already have to the best of your ability, and spend the money on experiences instead of new gear. Travel! Go someplace amazing. It doesn’t have to be far. Even if you were only going to spend $500, that money could get you somewhere. Take your camera with you and use it. Take lots of pictures! It’s better to keep the gear that you own and really use it, than to buy new gear and not use it as much. Eventually it will make sense to “upgrade” to something new, and you’ll know when that time is, but for now spend your money on experiences and not gear.
Tip #4 – Find The Light
Photography requires light, so it should come as no surprise that great photography requires great light. “Great light” is a little difficult to define, and it varies greatly depending on the subject, but oftentimes you know it when you see it. You can find great light anytime of the day or night if you look hard enough, and most of the time you have to seek it to find it. You can sometimes even create your own great light if it does not naturally exist. The most obvious great light is found near sunrise and sunset, and that’s a great starting point for those searching for it. With practice and experience, you’ll more easily spot great light, recognizing how to best utilize it for stronger pictures. The key is to always actively look for great light, but it takes a lot of clicks of the shutter to be proficient at finding it.
Tip #5 – Be The Man Who Came Back
There was an article in the September 1955 issue of Arizona Highways magazine by photographer Chuck Abbott entitled You Have To Go Back To Get The Good Ones. In the article he addresses the very question of this blog post: how does one become a better photographer? His answer: be the man who came back. Return again and again to the same subject. Try the picture at a different time of day, in a different season, under different light, from a different angle, etc. Keep coming back to it over and over, and don’t stop, even if you are satisfied with the results. Press yourself to make a more interesting picture of something that you’ve photographed before. Be a better storyteller than the last time. Make a stronger composition than your previous attempts. This is the best piece of advice that I can give you: if you want to become a better photographer in 2020, be the person who came back.
Thank you, you have inspired me deeply.
You are welcome! I’m so glad to hear this!
Great tips, one can always learn something new, or re-learn something they have forgotten. I learn something new everyday. I read and re-read my manual constantly, like you said, I always pick up something new.
I found and downloaded the article by Chuck Abbott in Arizona Highways you referenced in tip #5. It was a great read and the photos were terrific. All the pictures taken with a 5X7 view camera using Ektachrome, and most gave the f-stop, shutter speed and lens. Having grown up with and shot with these films, there is just nothing quite like them. I think this is the reason I love my X-T3 and the nostalgic film sims.
I love Arizona Highways, especially the classic issues with legendary photographers like Chuck. Even the new issues are great, but there’s something special about the vintage ones.
just put 24mm 3.5 takumar on xt30, its like getting a new camera, as far as learn curve goes,
after full auto with 16mm 2.8… pushing me into learning things almost by accident…
like white balance. and I seem to get pretty cool grain shooting inside at f 8, 15th second,
tungsten, auto iso. your site is indeed inspiring, about shooting, not gear so much.
Thank you so much! I’m glad that you did that, you’ll have so much fun with it. I just love attaching old lenses to my X-T30.
Repeat Tip #3 in larger, bold, italicized type!
Too many people fall for that “buy the Alpha 7 first” idea and then either waste it by using it on simple setting all the time or don’t use it because they are intimidated by the camera.
Most of what makes a picture good is in the photographer, not the equipment. If you don’t learn to take good ‘snapshots’ you’ll never get that prize-winner.
Those are excellent points! I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me, “I have a [insert expensive camera here] but I have no idea how to use it.” It’s kind of putting the cart before the horse.
Come back. Like that.
Good inspirations here. Mine is the tip #5 … I have a place that gives me the chance to get back dayly or weekly. Can‘t wait to see my results at the end of 2020. Thank you.
I’ve been wanting to do something like that, photograph the same place every week for a year. I might just do that in 2020 too. Thank you for the input!
Excellent tips. Hope these will help me to be a better photographer and happy new year 2020!!
Happy new year!
Thanks. Good advice. I have just upgraded from XE2 to XT20, due to gear failure and a second-hand bargain. It has sparked me to just take pictures for enjoyment and post in various mediums such as Instagram or Fuji X forums. Will seek out more when I retire soon.
The X-T20 is an excellent camera, I’ve used it plenty myself. Enjoy retirement!