Photography is one of those disciplines that come with a great road to endure, and by embracing it, you can help define your own voice. We all have been worried at some point of our career about defining that particular style in Photography that can be so tangible, that it will be easy for the crowd to recognize one of your images without looking at its caption.
Improving skills is really important for all those committed amateur photographers that are passionate about getting better as time goes by. I think the adjective “amateur” has an underestimated look thanks to its counterpart word “professional”. Let’s define first what is professional and what is amateur. The dilemma is easy to solve, any Professional Photographer is anybody that makes its most significant monthly income thanks to Photography. And a respectable Amateur Photographer is anybody who is passionate and disciplined about photography. The definition of the word Amateur is simple: "any person who engages in a pursuit, on an unpaid basis." Covered that, let’s talk about the simple roadmap we all have to follow in order to improve our skills.
Learn about Further Rule of Thirds Composition
Composition is definitely one of the most important elements in photography. It is indeed the most tangible asset in photography if you like. Composition is demanded by the readers' eyes, and is the photographer who decides, how and which of the elements are inside one shot. The rule of thirds is indeed important in Photography, but is not the only road to take aesthetically composed pictures. Let's talk about other concepts in the broad family of Composition:
- Line: There are horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines that can be used to enhance the compositional character of an image. Further from these physical and strong lines, there are organic and implied lines as well. Organic lines are those created by nature, and implied lines are those that we as readers can feel on an image, like those we feel between two subjects looking at each other.
- Forms: Forms can be hard to include in composition, because they require a deeper level of technical mastery. This happens because forms can travel in between the abstract and the objective. The level of abstraction in a form can be achieved with exposure variables like aperture and shutter speed.
- Simplification: Simplification requires minimizing the amount of elements in a frame, to its minimum valuable expression. By doing this, you will be able to leave the right amount of elements, resulting in a richer message with less distractions in it.
- Rhythm: In chaos you find complexity, and inside simplicity lives tranquility. Rhythm is defined by symmetry and patterns in the composition.
- Negative Space: Let's not be afraid of negative space. This can be a great balance in the composition, and it helps empathizing the real message of the image.
- Rule of Odds: Groups of 3 or 5 elements are more interesting compositions than those with groups of 2 or 4 elements. This might be subjective, but I really think it can help creating balance in compositions.
- Rule of Space: This peculiar rule refers to a subject juxtaposed with a negative space, and when done right, it can really level up the visual quality of your images' messages.
- Sub-framing: Sub framing is simply taking an object or subject in your image and framing it with lines within the composition is just like having a picture in a picture.
Select your future “all-time favorite” Masters
In our modern times full of immediacy and endless rivers of photographs upload to the social media, we need some quality break. Look the Master's work. The great Masters may be loved or hated; but their legacy is something that we should constantly embrace as our best source of learning. Invest in books instead of gear, and the reason why is because many images of the Great Masters are just found on Photo Books, and even if they can be all found, there is a great sense of Contemplation when looking images in a physical way instead of the monitor’s screen.
If you are lacking of knowledge, you can refer to Magnum for great Social Documentary Photographers to find a handful of your next favorite photographers:
After doing so, study them as your best source of constant learning.
Learn about RAW Development
Developing for me is like the 50% and shooting is the other 50% of the whole photograph. RAW development is considered a non-destructive way of treating files. And it is also the equivalent of the dark room processing. Have fun with the development; build your own voice thanks to the richness you can achieve when developing with the same passion you took those pictures with.
Define a Workflow
Workflow is something you’ll eventually hear when walking the road of Photography. There is no exact recipe for creating or defining this. So, you must define it scope for yourselves, and it is simple to define. You just need to contemplate the whole amount of tasks you do on average from the moment you plan a photo, to the final deployment of the image. This will allow you to standardize non-creative tasks, so you can focus your energy on the real creative tasks.
Commit to Reduced Equipment and Practice
By reducing your equipment to less gear, you’ll position yourself into challenges that will demand creative solutions.
These are just elements that I consider to be important when it comes to improve the current skills of any Passionate Amateur Photographer. You can embrace them all or just one, but whatever you do, practice, practice and practice. Always carry a camera with you. Don't underestimate your phone; it can be a very powerful camera too. Be prepared to be amazed by the vernacular and “everyday” aspects in life, so you can be always extremely sensitive to moments that deserve to be captured and recorded for posterity. Forget about the new brand new gear, and embrace your current gear as the most powerful tool in your hands.