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8 ways to make photography practice purposeful

8 ways to make photography practice purposefulPhotography is a wonderful thing.  It can take on so many different meanings for people.  When you are learning the basics of photography, it can be challenging to focus on the creative aspects.  And I think the creative parts are the most rewarding.  One of the most overlooked ways to improve your photography techniques is practice.

Here are 8 ways to make photography practice purposeful.

1.  Pick one skill at a time to focus on.

When you are learning the technical rules like how the exposure triangle works or the rules of composition it can be easy to get overwhelmed.  One way to overcome that is to pick one piece of all the technical info to practice at a time.  You can choose a set amount of time like one week and focus on learning all about setting White Balance in your camera or shooting just in Aperture mode so you can see how the f stop impacts your final image results.  There are so many things to choose to work on that narrowing it down to just one skill at a time will allow you the chance to master something before moving on to another.

2.  Practice daily.

There is a reason why that old saying “practice makes perfect” is still around.  And it is mainly because it is true.  Annoying maybe but probably fairly accurate.  When you practice photography daily it becomes second nature to set your exposure or get impactful compositions.  There are a ton of ways to practice daily too.  You can jump in with a group doing a Project 365 where everyone is sharing daily.  If being a part of a group or sharing online isn’t your thing then set up some personal goals for yourself so you can stay motivated and on track.  There are lots of great lists that are mostly and/or seasonal to give you ideas for shooting daily.

3.  Experiment (learning comes from failure- reference CL podcast with Joe McNally)

Allow yourself the space to experiment when you are practicing.  This is the time to try out something new like freelensing or backlighting.  You don’t want to be practicing setting your White Balance using Kelvin during an important family event or a milestone.  The time to experiment, even with the technical parts, is when you are shooting daily your life around you.  Try setting up some parameters like staying in one room and photographing the light throughout the day or picking a pet and photographing him on a walk everyday for a week.  It’s totally okay to fail.  Learning comes from the failure.  And there are some really great fun ways to experiment with photography.  You can find all kinds of creative inspiration and projects to inspire you to try new things with your photography.  If you are looking for some ideas be sure to grab my list of 9 ways to get creative with your photography in the resource library.

4.  Develop your post processing skills.

Really learning post processing can take your straight out of camera photos to a whole new level.  While it is always best practice to strive for the most technically sound image in camera, editing your images will give them that final finished look.  If you learn a good solid workflow with a couple of extras it will set you up for success.  Everything from uploading, culling your images from a session, to editing, saving, resizing for sharing all takes time.  If you get it down to a system then it will make your life easier.  Learning how to do the basics like white balance and exposure adjustments are skills you need but learning how to do the extras like adding a matte layer or using a gradient to make a sky pop will help too.  And once you learn a workflow that works for you editing will go quickly too.

5.  Think about your WHY and let that guide your motivation.

Why do you pick up your camera?  What is it about photography that makes you happy? If you can keep your focus on the why then it will help you stay motivated plus guide how you choose to practice photography.  Here are some examples.  If you want to document your family life & you spend a lot of time indoors then it will help you to figure out what the light is like at different times of the day at home.  If you want to make sure to photograph all the sports your kids play, then you may want to try renting a few different lenses until you figure out which one is best for photographing their games.  Think about what you love and how you want to photograph it then work through all the ways you can practice that genre.

6.  Work towards developing a photography project.

This one can be something that happens naturally over time or it can be something that you purposefully choose.  I love the beach.  And I like the challenge of finding new ways to document this love.  These two things led me to create a series of images with movement at the beach.  It didn’t start out as an intentional project but once I realized I was starting a collection, it became intentional.  You can make a project out of almost anything.  Here are a few ideas for projects that will help you will purposeful photography practice:

  • Project 365
  • Project 52
  • Self Portrait project
  • food photography
  • macro
  • just the details
  • nature

If you are looking for some more ideas for photography projects, you can check out my Pinterest board with some really creative projects or you can find some inspiration with 9 must read books for creatives.

7.  Look over your work and analyze.

Sometimes just sitting down and looking through the photos you have taken with a critical eye can be all you need to pick out a few areas for improvement.  You can look through a set of images from one time frame or even your top 20 favorites right now.  Think about what can be improved.  Is it composition?  Or lighting?  Or do you need to work on editing skills?  If you can pair up with a friend it can be good to look at each other’s photos and share some constructive criticism.  Talking through my photos with photography friends has been such a tremendous part of my growth.  It can be hard to see past the people and places we love in our images to see them with a critical eye.  But, if you ask someone who you trust for their input they might see things you don’t see.  I’ve even gotten some good feedback from my husband a few times and he isn’t into photography at all.  Analyzing what is working and where you need improvement will help you focus as you practice.

8.  Slow down.

It is so easy with digital cameras to just keep clicking the shutter.  But there are benefits to slowing down.  You can even tell yourself to shoot like it’s film.  Give yourself a predetermined number of shutter clicks to get the images you are after.  Then really look at all four corners of the frame before you press the shutter.  Make sure that everything in the frame is there for a reason & be intentional about it.

Hopefully these 8 ways to make photography practice purposeful have sparked some ideas for you and inspired you to pick up your camera!

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