1) Be Persistent
The mark of a true artist lies in their ability to make something out of nothing. This, of course, isn’t always possible when we first begin our creative endeavors. Over time however, one can learn to develop and strengthen their photographic eye. Largely considered one of the most influential photographers of the last century, Henri Cartier-Bresson said “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” Unfortunately some photographers give up too soon, frustrated by results that don’t meet their expectations. Allow me to let you in on a little known truth: overnight success is a myth. Most anyone who has accomplished something worthwhile first paid their dues with splendid effort and persistence.
“You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.” Amanda Palmer
2) Reconnect With Your Sense of Wonder
By allowing your inquisitive mind to guide the composition, you are reconnecting with your sense of wonder. I can remember summer days as a child in the woods of Pennsylvania, turning over countless stones to uncover salamanders. I studied each one, marveling at their unique spots and fantastic color variations. We all operated in a similar fashion at one point, only to adopt a hurried approach later on. After training thousands of photographers, I’ve learned that it’s never too late to renew your vision. If you’re looking to make a big impact in your work right now, this is your chance. While a photographer merely looks for pictures, the visual detective works to reveal truth through their lens.
3) Question Your Camera Settings
We’ve grown accustomed to quickly searching for answers. It’s no longer necessary to even type the query. Just say, “Ok Google/Siri, what’s the best aperture for landscapes”? You’ll typically receive dozens—if not hundreds—of results in mere seconds. While this has its advantages, it can also limit your imagination. For example, almost every article on effective landscape photography calls for a small aperture with maximum depth of field. While it may be sound advice for those who want everything sharp from near to far, there are alternatives to consider as well. What kind of images would you specifically like to make?
“One eye sees, the other feels.” Paul Klee
4) Strive for WOW
The wow factor is something all artists strive to achieve. Whether you’re focusing on painting, photography, or drawing, the goal is the same. You want people to look at your work and have a big reaction. A gasp, a sigh, an exclamation point—all of these reveal the viewer’s emotional connection with your art.
5) Fill Your Frame
One of the most interesting ways I’ve heard composition explained was during a lecture by artist Judi Betts. She asked the audience, “If you invited me to your home for a pasta dinner, would you just put one piece of spaghetti on the plate?” People shook their heads from side to side, commenting how they’d fill the plate. The same concept is helpful in photography. By adding more visual interest, you are creating a feast for the eyes. The foreground elements can be just about anything, including flowers, boulders, leaves, or sea shells. Think of your image as a dinner plate and fill it up!