When I ask new or emerging photographer what their biggest struggle with photography is, the same thing comes up time and time again: lack of time.
I completely understand that it can sometimes be hard to find time to physically practise photography on a consistent basis - in fact, as I write this, I don't think I have picked up my camera for at least a couple of weeks either 😀.
Also, if you are anything like me, you will probably also find that the only meaningful time you really get to yourself is after the kids have gone to bed, which of course, isn't normally the time we want to whip the camera out and start taking photos!
The good news is you can still improve your photography skills without necessarily needing to have a camera in your hand. So if you find yourself with only a few minutes to spare during the day, or find that you get get most of your "free" time when everyone else is sound asleep, here are some other ways you can improve your skills without having to lift the camera to your eye.
#1 - Set some photography goals
The first way you can improve your skills is to have a think about where you are now, and where you want to be, and then make a plan for getting there!
Spending time creating some photography goals allows you to more intentional about what you need to focus on, and will save you precious time in the long run.
One of the things I hear a lot (from new photographers especially) is that you start reading one tutorial, which links to another, which links onto another, and before you know it you are reading about how to calibrate your monitor when you only really wanted to learn about white balance.
As fun as a Google surf can be, if you have a plan and a goal written out, you are far more likely to stick to it, and get more done in the little time you have.
Here’s what to do now:
Although you can be quite broad with your overall photography goals, I find it to be more helpful to break this down into smaller steps. Your overall goal might be to beautifully capture your day to day life, but there are so many different components to that it can become overwhelming. Think instead, what is the next step on my journey, and how can I achieve that? What tasks do I need to do in order to meet my goal? Then write them down! Review these goals regularly so you can see what you have achieved and what you still need to work on.
)If you want to see what a roadmap for learning photography looks like, check out the Auto to Awesome course - it's all laid out, step by step)
#2 - Read a tutorial
Leading on nicely from setting your goals is to spend some time reading a tutorial about something you want to learn.
Of course, I recommend that you come back here to stock up on your weekly dose of photography tutorials or inspiration (sometimes both wrapped up in one lovely blog post!) but of course you can visit some other sites too :)
I personally pin all the good photography tutorials I find to my Pinterest Boards: it's a great visual way to keep all your favourite tutorials in one place. That way when I do find myself with some time, I can see what I have pinned and not necessarily have to start the google merry go round :)
Plus, if you become a Live Snap Love subscriber (it's free!) you'll get sent my free beginners photography course as a thank you for signing up. The course gives you a sequence of tutorials that will help you take better photos in just one week, so you should make sure you sign up below!
Here’s what you can do now:
If you don’t already have an account with Pinterest, create one! It’s free and easy to use. When you've done that, hop on over to the Live Snap Love Pinterest page and start following the boards you are interested in. Pin some of the tutorials that you think would be most helpful onto your own boards. That way, whenever you get a few minutes peace to have a read, you have a handy list of tutorials in one place! Of course you can do this without Pinterest - you could create a list, or use Evernote, or save them to bookmarks - I just love the visual layout of Pinterest.
#3 - Learn how to edit your images
Editing your images is other skill in itself, and it is most definitely something that you will want to learn at some point, but it can also be a good way to see how you could have improved your shot in camera.
I suggest that once you have the basics in your camera mastered (like exposure, focus and white balance) then it’s a good idea to start learning to post process. You can do this in any problem you wish - the program I use most and recommend is Lightroom, which you can buy boxed or as part of the Adobe Photography Plan.
The reason for learning editing is not only because it will this improve your images overall (I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that nearly every photo will benefit from a little polish) but you will also learn more about how to take better photographs at the same time.
Often when I look at an image inside my editing program, I start to see some of the ways I could have improved the shot in camera. Maybe it was the fact that my exposure was a bit off, or that I should have pulled farther back to allow for a little “breathing room” for cropping, or how I could have improved the composition.
Editing also helps me to think about what my focal point of the image is, and what I can do to support that - again both in processing and when shooting.
Spending even ten minutes a day editing your images will firstly help you learn how to edit, but also how to improve the shots in camera, and think more about what you want to say in your images.
Not bad, eh?!
Here’s what you can do now:
If you don’t already have an editing program your first step is to obviously get one (you can read more about which editing program might be right for you here) but once you have, make it a goal to edit at least a few times a week. When looking at your images, try to think about what that particular image needs to make it shine, and what you could have done better in camera.
If you get, or have, Lightroom, and want a step by step guide to getting started with the program, then check out my course Launch into Lightroom. It teaches you everything you need to know to get organised and get a workflow in place (which is super important for photographers) and of course how to edit your photos! You will learn not just how to use the tools to edit, but how to look at your image to see exactly what it needs to make it shine.
#4 - Look at other photographers for inspiration
Believe or not, looking at work from other photographers can actually be a great way of improving your own photography skills.
Firstly, it can help you kick start an idea for a photograph during those times when you are feeling in a bit of a rut or just not that creative. I personally find that when I'm feeling a bit lack lustre in the creative department, a quick root about my child inspiration board on Pinterest does the trick getting me to start thinking of images I want to take.
It can also help you see which type of style you are drawn to - dark and moody, black and whites, light and airy, honest and gritty or heavily styled, so you can see which elements are appealing to you, and start to apply them to your own photos.
It can also be a fun place to start planning your dream session!
Here’s what you can do now:
Now you can put that Pinterest account you created to even more good use! Create a board JUST for photography inspiration so that you have something to refer to. (You can find my board for child photography inspiration right here if you want something to start you off) I've written about how to use Pinterest as a photographer before, so check out this guide for more information on how to use Pinterest for Photography Inspiration as to what you can do with your board once you have created it.
Chat with other photographers
Sometimes even just chatting with other photographers who are on the same journey as you can be really helpful in your quest for better photos. Critiquing others work, answering other people's questions or asking your own and reading the answers, can all help you understand a little bit more about photography.
I have found having a little support group of photographers to be such a boost on my photography journey (more than I would have first thought it would) so it something that I can encourage you to do even if you don’t feel like it is that important right now.
Here’s what to do now:
Find somewhere where you feel safe posting and asking questions. Something like the Clickin Moms forums can be very useful, but of course, you do pay a monthly fee to access them. The benefit of that is that the threads are listed by topic, so you can find a lot of threads that might be of interest to you.
If you register for any of my courses, you also have access to our private Facebook Groups. These are small, intimate groups where you can share your photos for feedback, meet photographers on the same journey and level as you, and of course, get advice from yours truly!
I hope you found this useful and find yourself doing at least ONE of the suggestions from this post today!