learn digital photography

How to become a better digital photographer, even if you're already a professional photographer.

Professional Digital Photographers observe, shoot, and analyze.

I’ve been in the professional photography business for a long time. When I was first starting out, I used to spend hours and hours looking through old professional photography books and new copies of the "Black Book" and "Work Book" (professional photography directories). I would go through and find photos that I really liked. I would study the photos and try to figure out WHY I liked them. I would go back time and time again to answer little questions that I would think of later.

The professional photographer's eye...

Was the main subject's shadow soft or hard? Was the main light from "behind" or from "in front" of the subject in the photograph? What was the overall color pallet of the photo? What type of perspective / camera lens did I think the photographer used? Did the photographer use minimum focus, or was everything in focus? Was there anything in the way of special effects used? If so, how did the photographer do that? How many lights were used? What shape was the highlight, round or square? Did it even matter to the shot? Did I like the shot because of the subject matter (scantily clad hot babe?), the lighting, or the novel composition? Or was it even something else. How high was the photographic light source?

Were there long or short shadows? How much of the photographic subject was in shadow? Were there cast shadows in the frame of the picture from objects outside the photos? Was the environment real or was a set constructed for the shot? Was the crop of the photo "tight" or loose? I would keep leafing through the books and keep asking questions. If you keep "observing" and experimenting yourself, you’ll improve.

Professional digital photographers shoot, shoot, shoot...

One way to get better at shooting like a professional photographer, is to shoot more. Now in the era of professional digital photography, you really don’t have much of an excuse not to shoot more than you do now. Don’t wait for someone to hire you to photograph something. Do it on your own. I know that there are other things in your life demanding your time too, but if you want to get better at this thing called photography, you’re going to have to work at it. It’s all about priorities. From time to time there is something I like to do and I think that you might want to give this a try. Find a shot or a photographic technique that you really admire and try to copy it. Yes, that’s right, I said copy it, exactly, if you can. But isn’t that illegal, you might ask.? Not if you don’t show anybody, it isn’t. Besides, you probably won’t be able to copy it exactly enough to make it illegal, anyways. What you will do though, is learn a heck of a lot. You might even invent another way to do the intended technique or even invent a new technique of your own. Trust me, it’s a great way to learn new techniques and to improve on other aspects of photography too. You’ll find solutions to problems you never even knew you would have in the first place.

Don’t be too worried about failing. (unless your client objects – details, details) Failure is a great tool if you learn to use it correctly. If you keep swinging at the ball, you’re bound to learn how to hit the thing sooner or later. Take the time to really look at your attempts / experiments. How could you have made the shot better? Forget the excuses, jobs will always bring with them limitations. The really good professional photographers produce great photos even with the client or reality imposed limitations.

Mediocre professional photographers make excuses, good photographers overcome the barriers and make the shot great. Maybe not all the time, everyone can have a bad day.

It’s just that the really good photographers have less than everyone else. And when they do make mistakes, they have the ability to learn from them so that the next time a similar situation should come up, they know for sure what doesn’t work and have probably already figured out what will probably work.

That’s how you really learn to light and to be a better professional digital photographer.

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