Photography is a mind game. Drama, action, contrast, perspective, and timing are all indefinable artistic constructs of the human mind. Photography demands clarity of thought and purpose in order to achieve the highest levels of proficiency. Here are six life hacks to help you become a great photographer.
1. Practice yoga. Yoga and meditation are an ancient system of time-honored techniques to clear the mind and balance the body. Yoga encourages clarity, patience, and stillness. All these are wonderful things for the photographer. The better your balance and the calmer your hand, the more steadily you hold the camera, and the sharper your pictures are. If you can learn the skill of meditative action, then you will be a better nature photographer than you ever thought possible.
2. Focus. On the other hand, sometimes a strong cup of coffee is just the thing. A caffeinated drink will help you wake up and dial in, especially when it is time to select and edit pictures.
My personal preference is a cup of Jamaican blue mountain coffee from the folks over at Discount Coffee. It has high caffeine content but is not smooth enough to drink first thing in the morning with breakfast.
3. Simplify your picture taking style. Deliberately limit your technology to remove the distractions between you and the perfect picture. Leave your SLR at home and go out to work with a point and shoot camera. These cameras are uncomplicated and unforgiving. They will force you to think deeply about lighting and perspective. Their limited range will spur you to make hard choices about contrast and depth of field. The results will surprise you. Spend at least one day working with a Polaroid or a film camera. Not only will you gain a new appreciation for what photographers of previous generations went through in their quest for perfection, but you will absorb their myriad lessons about making each shot count. You will also learn a new appreciation for the tripod as a photographic accessory.
4. Study. Broaden your mind and expand your photographic horizons with the careful study of methodology and technique. Look at photography journals, purchase magazines, and make scrapbooks of tear sheets and inspirational photos. Find interesting pictures and put them where you can see them so that you will think about them often and notice things you would never notice any other way. Invest in a class or a workshop on photography. School will always have something new to teach you. Not only will you learn how to take great pictures, you will learn the terminology to describe them and discuss them. I like to refer to
Pinterest to get some inspiration for new photo ideas.
5. Adventure. Feed your imagination with inspiring journeys. If you can fly someplace amazing, then you should fly there. If you can’t afford it, then walk somewhere. People want to see pictures of amazing people doing amazing things. Be amazing. Do things worth photographing.
6. Compete. Do not be afraid to attend competitions and enter photography shows. Give your work the best presentation that you can. That includes nice printing, matting, and framing. Once you see how beautiful your work can be when it has been polished, perfected, and treated to the best finishing you will want to give that treatment to all your photographs. If you are looking for competitions and galleries in your area I recommend checking
Craigslist to see up and coming events.
Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist. Currently living and working in Argentina he focuses on social justice issues. Known internationally for capturing events in a documentary style with an eye towards the aesthetic, his work has appeared in CNN, USAToday, Huffington Post and others. A nomad at heart, he is always looking for that next gig which will take him over the next hill or around the next curve. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or visit his website, JourneyAmerica.org or email him today.
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