I teach, write and talk a lot about photography – traditional, digital and iPhone photography. Many people approach me to ask how to learn to be a better photographer. People who have been photographing for some time may find they are struggling in their quest to making great images. They ask if purchasing a “better camera” would help them become better photographers. Stand back, because that vexes me to no end.
No amount of fancy camera gear will guarantee that you become a better photographer
Why do I find this so cage-rattling? People will surely disagree, but in general, it’s not about the camera and photographic accouterments. At the very least, camera gear is secondary to a good grasp of the photographic principles of Composition, Light and Exposure.
Yes, if you shoot with an iPhone, there are several physical limitations that can hamper what you can achieve photographically with the hardware. However, armed with the photographic understanding I speak of will help you understand those limitations better. You will understand why certain effects – like narrow depth-of-field – cannot be achieved in-camera, and you'll gain an understanding of how you can exploit those limitations for more compelling iPhone photos.
Learning to develop your “photographer's eye” is paramount to becoming a better photographer
What does being a “good photographer” even mean? It’s kind of vague because, in reality, how good, bad, or indifferent a photo is, is very subjective. If you are a typical photo-buff, and you’re not using your camera for money-making assignments, you want to make images that are not only pleasing to you, but perhaps even compelling to your audience. You know… the kind of photo that makes a viewer linger on it a bit longer than usual to allow the imagery to soak in.
I’m talking about the type of photo that compels people to make harebrained remarks like “Wow! What a great shot! You must have an expensive camera!!” In a way, it’s nice to get that type of compliment because it tells you that your image stands above all the rest. However, it also says that the people uttering such things really have no clue as to what it means to be a “good photographer.”
A compelling photograph makes the viewer pause for that second look
And so it is with many who go about taking lots of pictures – whether with their iPhones or their DSLR cameras. They may often find that they are disappointed with their photos – some of that je ne sais quoi is missing from their photography. They appease that feeling by acquiring a new camera to “help them become a better photographer.” Their heart is in the right place, but the action they take is misguided.
OK, so the essence of this article consists of recommending two or three ways to learn about those elements and techniques that will help you towards your goal of becoming a better photographer without spending any money on camera gear.
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