How to improve in photography?

15 11 2009

First of all I want to thank you for sharing your experience and observations about using photo forums. The most discouraging reasons from posting your photos at such forums are:

  • it is too much time consuming,
  • you need to comment other photos to get some feedback on yours,
  • some forums are based on unwritten rule “give me nice comment and I’ll give nice comment to you”.

Most of you answered that mainly because of the first reason you don’t post your photos on photo forums no more or only seldom. This leads me to question: what do you do to improve your photography?

Practicing? OK, but how do you know that you do it right? Taking photo courses? All right, but that’s mainly one time event so it doesn’t tell you that you improve continually, right?

I’m really looking forward to your replies and while thinking about answer you can let your eyes wander over following image 😉


~ A Hazelnut Tree Leaf ~
1/100 sec. @ 100 mm, f/8, ISO 640

Technical information: the photo was taken with Canon EOS 450D and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens under natural conditions, hand held.

I took this shot in our garden last July when I was walking with a camera in my hand, looking for something interesting. I noticed this leaf and it attracted me by the way how it was lit by sun and how the veins in the leaf were dropping shadows.

Enjoy every warm day as winter will arrive soon!




9 responses

19 11 2009

Good morning Tomas. Your three points are absolutely true in most forums I have visited as well as on many blogs. And don’t get me wrong, that is OK. I think we have have to separate, in a sense, photo sharing forums and blogs from photo critiquing forum and blogs. When I encounter what I believe to be a photo sharing site or blog, I will say nice image and most of the time move on. The important thing here is that I’ve looked at your image and shared your experience. But there are other sites (I know I’ve mentioned before) that are truly critique sites. I will say that I learned more to improve my photography there than anywhere else. They don’t tolerate “nice images” for long before a moderator will jump in an remind the poster that critiques are more than just a “nice image” comment.

I also find that I look for fellow bloggers who critique and who’s critiques I trust. You, Tomas, are in that camp. You tell me what you truly feel and I value that. Anita does that as well. So do some others. So I find that very helpful.

And yes, I try to get out as much as possible and shoot just to try things. You follow my blog. You see the stuff I’ve been posting the last couple of weeks. Lots of experimentation there. I will say that I don’t post it if I don’t like it but I still want to know what others think. I am in the midst of a long “philosophic” discussion on the Lensbaby forum about what I see and like in Lensbaby images and why so many others seem to dislike the same thing.

I could go on and on but I’m afraid I drifted from you original question. So I will stop here.

19 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

Hi Ed and thanks for sharing your valuable experience. To photo forums – I’ve never really realized that there are photo sharing and photo critiquing forums even though I knew in my mind that there is this kind of border. I took all the forums as critiquing and then was surprised that on some of them you don’t receive any critique 🙂 You’re right also with blogs even though I think that the main intention of many blogs and bloggers is just to say something to others without a need to get any feedback. Just shout it out or show off something. Then I think that there is small portion of blogs and bloggers who use blog for gathering feedback on their work. The best think how to ask for the feedback is simply ask for it but since the blog is like news, every new post supersedes the older one the message may be easily forgotten.

I also found myself looking for other photographers who appreciate taking and giving honest critique rather then saying “Nice!” and I’m also glad for having you in this group of honest ones. When you mentioned your experiments I must say that sometimes it is really alluring to try it, too, and I must really strongly concentrate on resisting it and focusing on what I should do. I know that I can make average+ images but I want to make great images or superb images and that means a lot of hard work and that’s what I should do. Once I’ll know that I can do at least great images then I can afford myself to try something new. One needs to be hard on himself 😉

19 11 2009

First the image: I love the detail and texture of the upper right side. The lower left side is so dark I can hardly make out any details. The diagonal lines are great.

Second, to your question of how I improve my photography:
1. Practice, practice, practice–this is the reason I started my photoblog, to keep me taking photos.
2. Getting constructive critiques–this is a bit harder to achieve. I belong to a camera club where I get some critiques, but less than one per month. Bird Photographers Net is the place I get the most helpful critiques. I’ve learned a lot there about taking photos and about post-processing. I joined that forum specifically for the critiques, as I felt I needed them to continue growing as a photographer. Sometimes a responder will actually make adjustments to my photo to show me how to improve it, describing the steps involved. Excellent. Critiquing the images of others is also a learning process, as it forces me to look critically and be able to be specific about what works and what doesn’t. I’m very happy with that forum.
3. Becoming more critical myself of my work.

Thanks for posing this interesting and important question!

20 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

Thanks, Anita. I’m considering joining BPN because NPN ( doesn’t satisfy me and the critiques and advices on BPN seems to be really valuable. Practicing and being more critical to your own work is great but it doesn’t help much in my opinion. You can create images which are perfect to your eyes but still it doesn’t mean that they are good enough for others. Therefore I think that some outer insight is necessary on a way for beeing better photographer (and generaly in any profession).

20 11 2009
Barbara K

For me, posting twice a week to Aminus3 keeps me making images, which is important. It keeps the camera in my hand and keeps me seeing the world around me.

I think I mentioned earlier that I have availed myself of online courses: To sharpen my eye and approach, I might take a course by Bryan Peterson ‘The Art of Seeing’ or a Lensbaby or macro course by Tony Sweet or Kathleen Clemons. I’ve probably taken 8 such courses – if nothing else but to just have the ‘pressure of the assignment.’ I recently took one by Danilo Piccioni that really challenged by Photoshop skills! The Perfect Picture School of Photography and Better Photo are 2 great outfits and there are students from all over the world taking their classes.

Getting image critiques from people you trust and field workshops are invaluable. I try to do 3 workshops/tours a year. I live in a photographically challenged area, so I need to expand my horizons in that way.

Your leaf above has some out of focus issues, just due to the position of the camera position and f/stop. (What used to be referred to as ‘being parallel to the film plane!’) Your side-lighting did provide some great dimension, so a good eye for that!

20 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

It is interesting how simple posting photos on blog may become an engine for taking photos, isn’t it? In the beginning when I was establishing this blog, I was thinking that I want to show off my work and time will tell if someone will like it. I was quite surprised how quickly a small group of other talented photographers (where you belong, of course) created “around me” and now I want to make at least 1 post a week just to satisfy this group! And always when I just posted my last photos here I’m a bit nervous not knowing what I’ll post next time so it makes me looking with eyes wide open everywhere I go, searching for something interesting to shoot.

You’re right that you already mentioned online courses and to be honest I’d really like to take some but they are not cheap and as I recently bought a tripod I think that I don’t want to spent another 100-200$ for online photo course. Now it’s up to my wife to buy something for herself 😀 Or up to me to buy it for her.

Thanks also for your comment on the photo. What you said is 100% truth and I was aware of it when I posted it. I really like to take close-up and macro photos of various leaves but it seems that I’m still missing something. Either it looks too ordinary or it’s not good at all 😦

21 11 2009
Barbara K

Well, your wife is a fortunate woman in that you have her in mind with a future purchase!

And yes, keep shooting! I’m seeing better images from you of late, and that has to be partly because you are looking and shooting more often! It helps us all. You have a good eye, so keep snappin!

1 12 2009
Bob Towery

As for this image, it works in numerous ways. The play between light and dark is nice. It has good strong lines. Pleasing texture and tone. Lush greens. I think you have “wrung out” all you can from a simple subject.

As for improving, being committed to posting, and posting worthy images that show growth in skills is very helpful. Mainly I find interacting with other bloggers to be inspirational. I find many times when I am out shooting, I’ll see a particular scene that reminds of me of a fellow photographer/blogger that I follow. And then I say “what would Tomas do here?” I’m not always successful, but it does add to the experience.

For me, I would say “exposing myself” to others’ great work, and attempting to equal or better it, is what is helping me most. Not copy. See what they have done and do my own interpretation.

2 12 2009
Tomas Turecek

Thank you, Bob, for your valuable comment. Your attitude to shooting in the field is really interesting – to think about other photographers and how they would cope with the subject that attracted you. What I take from it is that I need, no, no, I MUST think more about the photo I want to achieve. Think more before and during shooting and also during post-processing. I very often find myself attracted by a subject and then only trying to find appealing composition and then it’s “only” pushing a trigger. I usually try to play with the subject, I’m looking for other interesting compositions and play with various f-stops. I dial down aperture to f/2.8 on my macro lens and look for something suitable for abstracts very often. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that I don’t think about the subject well enough and that I could exploit more from it. Post-processing (pp) is another case. As I’m thinking about it I tend to do quite little during pp and I usually want to show the image soon here o my blog and on photo critique forums but maybe If I would play with pp much more I could find enhancements which would make the image much better. I need to think more about it and especially during processing new images.

Thank you, Bob, for sharing your attitude which made me to think more about my own and which could help me to be better!

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