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Why and How: Improving Your Photos in 15 Steps – Part 2

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Landscape in black and white of the Sand Dunes in Death Valley. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Landscape in black and white of the Sand Dunes in Death Valley.

Tip #1: Creating Photos That Look Like You

The main principle of artistic photography is to photograph what you see, but then to portray what you see in such a way that it reveals your thoughts and beliefs.

I recommend that you remember this principle so that you can return to it when in the field. It can be used as a motto.

The impact of this principle is extremely important.

When taking photos, do not try to copy what has already been done. Take pictures that resemble you, for you are unique. Take photos that reflect who you really are. Your personality should be manifested in your work.

I used to say that interesting photographs reflect the soul of their photographer.

Be yourself. Do not try to be someone you are not.

It is for this reason that I recommend that you define your artistic approach and your motto. These two elements, which are at the base of your artistry, will create a decisive path which you will follow throughout your photographic career.

Tip #2: Perfectly Mastering the Technique

As I often say during my nature photo workshops, “Technique is a necessary but not sufficient condition for creating interesting photos.”

You must first understand how your photographic equipment works and perfectly master your camera, lenses, tripod, flash, etc.

You must know all the settings of your camera and know how and when to use them in any condition that you may encounter in the field.

If you do not invest time into learning, you will question yourself and your abilities during the photo sessions. This causes you to waste time and may also miss pictures that were interesting. This is what I explained in the paragraph dedicated to the part devoted to timing (T).

Next, you need to master the techniques of photo processing. The more you master them the better your photos will be in the field. In fact, you will know the parameters for the conditions of light for achieving the desired contrast balance.

Finally, in the case of wildlife photography, you absolutely must know camouflage techniques, such as how to approach an animal without disturbance and how to use a ground blind for photographing wild animals “up close”, particularly in Europe.

Never forget that technique allows you to consolidate the foundations of your photographic building.

The more you master your technique, the more creative and productive you will be in reaching your goals for your photo collections and series.

Tip #3: Seek Inspiration

Once you have developed an impeccable technical skill, you must seek photographic inspiration. Once you are on the field, your environment will inspire you with new ideas for composing concepts, framing, and choosing your photographic element.

In order to be aware of your surroundings so that you can be inspired, you must first practice a state of calm and tranquility. You must be mindful of who you are, why you want to create these photos and how you are going to accomplish your goals.

Inspiration is difficult to define. To reach this slightly ecstatic state, you must isolate yourself, reflect, and write down your ideas.

Some good advice I often give to a photographer who wants to be inspired is to read books or magazines. I recommend that you study the work of other photographers. Do not hesitate to take the time to study lesser known photographers because they have often laid the foundations of modern techniques, particularly in compositions and framing. Returning to the roots is always a good basis for inspiration.

Social networks are also an excellent support for finding inspiration. Although magazines often publish the same photographers, some of which are more interesting than others, these same magazines and publishing houses help to increase the value of photographers’ work. When a photographer’s work is accredited by being included in a publication, the value of that work or of the photographer may increase.

Another source of inspiration is to browse the work of those who are not presented in the mainstream photography world. Many lesser known photographers do interesting and exciting photographic work. They have websites and they publish their photographs on social networks. I highly recommend that you research such photographers, for they can be a unique source.

Inspiration should allow you to create your own style, to experiment, and to think differently. You should not copy. Draw your own path. Mark your own progress by recognizing similar works that others have established. You do not have to reinvent the wheel of your own creative style.

Tip #4: Create Images That Produce an Emotional Impact

Never forget that if you want to create interesting photographs thar are meaningful and which reflect your soul, you must evoke a visual response.

The essential rule I always applied on the field is to create photographic projects that reflect my emotions and my soul.

When defining your photo project, your photo collection or even your photo series, you must be guided by your photographic artistry and your motto. They are the ones who define and mark out the path of your creations.

Your photographs must have an emotional impact.

You must be able to transcribe the emotions that resonate from your core. It is for this reason that your compositions and your framing must be well constructed. All the photographic elements chosen in your scene will help convey the message you have chosen. Translate your emotions with a strong visual response.

Tip #5: Create Images Based off Your Experiences

Always keep in mind that it is your experiences that create your images and not vice versa.

I have met so many photographers who believe that their photographs validate the experiences they live. This is a serious mistake.

The more you encounter interesting experiences, the more your character and soul become different and unique. In addition, you will strengthen your motto. I believe that this is the purpose of life. But that is a debate for another day.

In conclusion, the more experiences you have, whether good or bad, the more you will be able to discuss, explain, and feel. Your photographs will be more explicit, clear, and interesting.

When I speak of experiences, I do not mean that you must travel to the ends of the earth to experience extraordinary situations. I often say that most people believe that the grass is greener in the neighbor's garden without looking at the tree they have in their own yard.

Learn to create the extraordinary out of the ordinary.

One of the most beautiful and greatest photographic experience is to transcend the ordinary and make it extraordinary. You can learn to do this little by little. You will see a noticeable upheaval in the creation of your photographs.

Tip #6: Expanding Beyond Illustrative Images

If you really want to create strong photos that appeal to an audience and above all create photos that will last over time, challenge yourself to go beyond the simple illustrative photo.

I recommend that you communicate your photographic vision with others. Talk. Express yourself. Do not hesitate to show your photos. If what you create inspires and pleases you, you will likely encounter an interested audience because you can defend your project and support its ideas.

Illustrative photographs have only one purpose: to illustrate a written statement. Nobody ever looks at the author of the picture except the one who has taken it.

99% of illustrative photographers do not exist. Nobody knows their names. The illustrative photo follows the information age. Today, as everything progresses quickly in society, illustrative photographs are forgotten as quickly as they are seen. I find that there is nothing more frustrating that trying to remember a photograph that has been forgotten.

You may be like many photographers. You probably think that because you see a certain type of image, that this is the type of photography that needs to be created. This is a serious mistake. As information is saturated in digital and paper form, illustrative photography is everywhere. Does that make it an interesting topic? I think that the answer is no.

You must certainly have within you your own universe, dreams, and desires. Translate these things into photography. Do not fall for ease. Even worse, copying what seems to be fashionable would be a fatal mistake. The right attitude to hold is to be yourself.

Tip #7: Photographing Iconic Scenes with a Single Idea

If you like to share your photographs on social networks and if you like to show that you are visiting the iconic scenes of the world, try to do so while staying within your photographic vision.

Photographing an iconic scene because it is iconic is useless. Your audience will certainly look at it. But the photograph will be forgotten as quickly as it was viewed.

The reason is simple. As I already mentioned in another article, we are all interested in only one thing: ourselves.

If looking at a photograph allows us to understand ourselves better, to situate ourselves better, to learn something new that we can take advantage of, or to learn about ourselves, we will spend time analyzing and looking at it.

I can tell you this because I myself have experienced how it feels to take the photograph of an iconic scene just to show that you were there, and to discover that it only interests your own ego. No one else will be interested because this scene does not bring anything to others.

You should always use these iconic scenes to serve your photographic artistry and your emotions.

Tip #8: Look at Nature in a Different Way

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I Want to Help You to Create Interesting Photos