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Learning Week - Day 6: Things can only get better! | Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Family Photographer

Updated: Jul 17, 2018

Happy Saturday everyone! Hope it’s been a sunny one where you are.

We spent all day in the garden - only taking a break for a two hour nap in the afternoon (I may or may not have taken the opportunity to catch up on sleep too!) - but, now that baby is down for the night and the sun has set, duty calls.

Learning Week’s Day Six is here and today’s topic is improving your work!

If you read my Introduction post, you might remember me critiquing my personal learning ‘style’ (lack of) in the early days - which lead me to falling out of love with photography for some time - through disillusion really.

So now that I am back in love with photography and breath it most spare moments, I make sure I take the time to learn and improve.

Today I will offer my techniques for learning, improving and being able to self-critique and process critique of others’.

Learn the basics and understand what you like.

Become comfortable in knowing that what you enjoy doing and seeing come out of your camera may not be to everyone’s liking and it may not even be conventionally accepted as ‘right’, but as long as you enjoy producing this, you will continue working on your skill and this is paramount.

The moment you start looking at others’ and listening to the ‘regulations’, but stop ‘feeling’ your work, you will likely stop making progress and put the camera down.

There is such thing as ‘Rule of Thirds’ when it comes to positioning your subject within a frame and in summary, this means that you ‘should’ aim to have the ‘focal point’ of the image placed in the 1/3 of the frame - to left or right and top/bottom.

However, I regularly choose to break this rule, because sometimes centre positioning just suits it better in my eyes and this is perfectly ok. Rules need to be broken - now and then - and if it keeps you going.

Having said this, I do love the ‘Rule of Thirds’ positioning theory and follow it quite a lot...

Be confident in pursuing your vision.

You may look back at the images in a few years' time and cringe at the positioning (or a million other things), but as long as it nourished your desire to learn and encouraged progress, that's all that matters.

Find and follow the leaders

I have noticed incredible improvement in my work and surge in desire to learn over the last couple of years and I credit a large part of it to finding and connect with some role models.

This includes friends, who do photography and enable me to bounce ideas or just have informal chats with, or some incredible photographers I follow on social media or those, who I have the privilege to interact with and learn from purposefully.

So my advice is don't compare yourself to others to the detriment of your art, find some greats to follow and network with and use this as encouragement. If you see someone doing something amazing, don't feel demotivated, because your work is lightyears away from looking like this - ask them questions on how they achieve their skill or find out how they got to where they are. Getting good is a graft, all those people you admire have (likely) spent the time and effort (and money) learning from other greats, researching, 'trailing and erroring' ideas to get to where they are.

The other day I saw one of the photographers I follow use #NewTricksReprise18 to share some quirky ideas on how to inject a little unusual into everyday imagery and one of their tips was to use a phone screen to add a reflection into an image. I gave this a go and really enjoyed the experiment

Try, try again

Without me applying this tip to myself, I wouldn't be where I am right now, but I know there would be a wondering: 'what if?', so I am glad I decided to give myself another chance.

Taking some time off may be an option, if you feel like you are in a bit of a rut with your images.

Trying something new could be another option - take yourself out of your comfort zone, take images of something new: animals, wildlife, scenery, children, couples, macro, self portraiture (this is brilliant for allowing yourself to be as honest as you want and not feeling too exposed at sharing ideas with others - for as long as you want!).

There are also a lot of brilliant projects going around to keep the motivation rolling.

You could do a 365 Project - taking a photo every day, a 52 Project - every week or something a little more guided - completing a 'Scavenger Hunt' of images within a week/month/year/season.


I will be launching my own Scavenger Hunt on the 1st of June to follow through the summer, so hope you join me!


Once you start receiving feedback (whether on request or people volunteering their piece of mind), make sure you listen carefully. Be sure to separate constructive criticism from opinions (though, they, of course, matter too!) - such as your images are cropped too tight or you NEED TO utilise the Rule of Thirds (easy target for examples today) more etc. I admire a few photographers, who thrive on being rule-breakers. They produce amazing imagery using out of focus style, underexposing, overexposing... you name it! Them breaking the rules makes them stand out from the crowd, but, to be fair to them, they absolutely ROCK their chosen style of rule-breaking and it's pretty obvious how much effort goes into every unfocused/displaced/mis-centred image.

My point is, listen to every piece of advice offered, take it onboard, but be smart about it. Don't lose the 'you' in process.

I have been repeatedly told I crop too close. But this is my vision. The more emotive images need to be tightly cropped in my eyes. I do remember this opinion every time I crop an image, I might 'rescue' a few pixels at each edge, but I don't completely overhaul my final decision - it just doesn't sit right with me.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, whether you are doing this for a job or capturing a period in time (childhood moments, relationship milestones, day to day memories), my 2p of advice is to not get hung up on perfection.

There is more to an image than great positioning and a funky edit.

This picture was taken in the nearby woods and is technically not perfect whatsoever (I would actually not have shared it on my work-related page, if it weren't for making this point!) - he's got a tree 'coming out' of his head, he is holding a neon bottle of bubbles and there is no eye contact nor any other interesting interaction - my son just couldn't get out of those bluebells quick enough, so this was the only snap I got. But, we enjoyed such a wonderful afternoon of exploring that day, seeing this photo takes me back. As a mother, this is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing about imagery.

The saddest boy to ever stand amongst bluebells...

Here's another photo I took on that day, which I am a LOT happier about technically, just to clear the air and set my OCD eye at ease!

Can you spot the Rule of Thirds in action here?

I hope to see you back tomorrow for the closing Learning Week blog post!

It's been a quick, but busy week of musings, hope you've enjoyed the ramblings and maybe even took something away from it.

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