They say that ‘if you aim at nothing, you’ll usually hit it.’ So I encourage you to set some specific goals on your path to finding photography inspiration. Here are some tasty tips to inspire you – one for each month of the year which will help you improve your Dark Photography skills.
01 Print your images
Are your photographs destined to remain hidden on a dusty old hard drive forever, unseen by the world? Remember the buzz you once had in the pre-digital days (if you were around then), when you saw your photographs the first time in print?
Why not peruse your recent holiday snaps, and select your best work to be immortalized with ink on paper. Frame them and hang them on the walls in your home, or even give them away as gifts.
SnapFish is a great place to go to have your memories printed and bound. These make for some highly personalized gifts, and will strike a chord with even the least sentimental types.
02 Update your camera gear
There comes a time when your old digital camera just doesn’t do your photography skills sufficient justice anymore. While point-and-shoot cameras are convenient and cheaper, they are restricted by their simplicity and do little to provide for true photography inspiration. As a user, you will not be able to fully control the settings, and they have a smaller sensor size too.
Unfortunately, the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is still the truth when it comes to photographic equipment. Even a modestly priced entry-level DSLR and kit lens will produce sharper and bigger images. It will allow you to play with a wider aperture range, from at least f/4 to f/22, and a whole bunch of other settings.
If you’re into landscape photography, a sturdy tripod is a must. My preference is to go for a Manfrotto tripod, they are extremely sturdy, very well built, and by design, they’re able to take a range of heads for different situations. Another must is a polarising filter; this will help you take stunning photos as it is used to darken blue skies.
A shutter release (cable or remote) is invaluable and will prevent camera shake during longer exposures. This is where you get that horrible blurry look even when you know your lens was perfectly focused. Choosing the right kind of shutter release for certain conditions is critical. I’ll let you in on a few tips in some other articles that will help you make the right choice for the different types of photography you will be exposed to.
A decent kit bag will protect your expensive gear. You don’t have to go for the top of the line Lowepro here, but if you do you’ll get more than years out of your investment. I’ve had my Lowepro since 1994 and it still going strong! Not only will this keep your gear safer from potential damage (unlike a flimsy bag) it will also enable you to have much more efficient access to it.
There’s nothing quite like the buzz of a new piece of kit to get the fires of photography inspiration burning bright; besides, you’ve worked hard and deserve to treat yourself. No, this isn’t a treat at all, is it? This is necessary!
03 Subscribe to a photography magazine
The racks of most bookshops are stacked with numerous photography magazines. One of my favourites is Digital SLR Photography, which boasts a higher standard of writing than found in other titles from the UK. Of course, these days you can subscribe to digital versions of magazines, and download them to your mobile device of choice.
For the digital nomad this is a great way to be able to always have your library on hand with you to refer back to should you need. And let’s be honest; who want’s precious cabin baggage allowance consumed by magazines when you can view them on your chosen device that you’re going to have with you anyway?
04 Start a personal project
A popular pastime is to shoot a photo every day for 365 days. The idea is to force yourself into the habit of getting your camera out regularly, not just for holidays, or special occasions. Shoot ordinary events or items.
Dedicated 365 websites give tips and ideas. You could photograph a ‘selfie’ in the mirror to record your beard growth for 12 months, and then create a time lapse.
Another worthwhile project is to choose a specific number (e.g. 4) or a certain colour (e.g. blue). Walk around town for a day, only shooting this topic. You will be amazed at how such a focused assignment will hone your observation skills.
The ultimate would be to jump on with one of our challenges and see how you go there. These are designed to push your skills that bit more and foster photography inspiration. Through participating in the challenges here you’ll be able to put your strengths to work and measure yourself against the skills and abilities of others. The challenges are designed to be a safe place to learn and enhance your skills while exploring your style.
05 Enter a photography competition
Success in a local, national or even international competition is not only a huge boost to your confidence, and reputation – you may collect some fantastic prizes too. Competitions range from promotional gimmicks at local events to non-profit organisations and magazines which run these on an annual basis.
Competitions are a great way to expose your work to a wider audience, and broaden your skill set. The more prestigious competitions will normally charge an entry fee, particularly the umbrella organisations for professionals, where winners are highly acclaimed.
Do a Google search on photography competitions in my area, or photography competitions near me and see what comes up. Once you’ve found one that you like the look of, enter it and come back here to share with us in the forums the information about the competition. You may find others in the Dark Photography Tribe will be able to help (or they may even have entered the same competition themselves).
06 Get your work published
If you love to photograph in a specific niche and find your photography inspiration here (e.g. animals, gardens, fashion, children, or sports), and believe your images will withstand an editor’s scrutiny, why not reach out to them and email your favourite publication? Build a portfolio online to make it easy for them to view your work.
Many editors are consistently on the lookout for fresh takes on old topics. Follow up with a phone call, or better, a personal visit if you can. If you’re a competent wordsmith, even better, as you can often get paid more for quality writing than for just a handful of photos.
However, be warned: many editors are notorious for not replying, so you will need to be tenacious. Don’t give up! The team at Dark Photography are not to be discounted from your avenues of potential writing. Contact us to find out more and check out the criteria on what needs to be achieved for a submission to be published.
07 Learn how to post-process your pics
This is what often separates amateurish photos from professional-looking images: taking a few minutes in Photoshop or Lightroom and adjusting a few basic settings. Things like colour correction, sharpness, and exposure curves are easily done. So is straightening a wonky horizon, or cropping your picture into a more pleasing frame.
Photoshop and Lightroom are popular with hobbyists as they are cheaper, stripped-down versions of Adobe’s flagship software. Beginners may find Faststone Image Viewer a simple yet powerful program – and best of all, it’s free.
08 Push yourself
Very rarely do great images come easy, and for some, neither does truly moving photography inspiration. Persistence pays off, and sometimes it’s just a matter of staying around longer on location, waiting for the right light. Admittedly it can be tough when it gets late and you are tired and cold, but hang in there. Getting out of bed earlier for that stunning sunrise shot might be a push, but the beauty you’ll witness will make it worth the sacrifice.
One photographer that has a capacity to catch the light in such an impressive way is Ken Duncan. Watch the trailer for Chasing The Light below and see what photography inspiration you discover in the amazing ideas that come to mind for your next Dark Photography adventure.
As a passionate Photographer, Ken has put his hand to many projects over the years and I’d go so far as to say that you would have probably seen his work at some time and not even now it. Ken was interviewed on Living The Bucket Lists’s Inspiration Ninjas series and shares an insight into what drives him as a contemporary Photographer and an Australian Icon.
Find a Photographer who has work that you like the look of and see if you can figure out how they achieved the shots they did. See if you can re-create them in your own unique way. We would love to see what you have been able to achieve here. Join the forums and share your experiences.
Here’s a challenge; get out there and go the extra mile this year. Don’t settle for second best, even if it means embarking on solo missions when the family is sleeping or watching TV. Trust me, the sacrifice will be well and truly worth it.
09 Make money from your hobby
Nothing is more likely to fuel your photography inspiration than making some money along the way. There are numerous ways to earn a living from photography – it all depends on your skill level, personality type, and passions. While the market for more landscape calendars or greeting cards is saturated, there’s still room for tasteful stock images, particularly shots of people.
On-line micro-stock libraries such as iStockphoto.com will no longer provide a decent full-time income, but you could make some pocket money. Fortunately, there are still stock libraries that value their contributor’s images highly. If your images are accepted and sell regularly, you can expect to earn several thousand dollars every year, once you have built up a considerable body of quality work.
Of course, if you have the people skills and can think on your feet, wedding photography is where the real money is. As this competitive genre is seasonal, it can be supplemented by studio shoots, or baby portraiture.
10 Join the club
Photo albums have now been replaced with on-line galleries. Host sites include Google Photos or Yahoo’s Flickr, but if you’re serious, why not build your own personal website?
This is no longer such a daunting task, as it was a few years ago. Cloud-based hosts include clikpic.com and wix.com where beautiful templates make DIY web design a breeze. The only down side is that if you really want to rank in the search engines then you will struggle if you are using some of these platforms. On your next Google search pay attention to how many Wix and Weebly type sites show up.
Another option is to set up a profile on a site like Dark Photography where you can showcase your work and provide others with photography inspiration while retaining full control of your images. We will soon have a means for you to do this, so make sure you bookmark our site, or better still subscribe and we will let you know when you can take advantage of this amazing update.
However, if you and computers don’t mix, you can always find a like-minded community of real humans in a local camera club. Have a look at what Meet Ups are in your area.
11 Take a photography course
Our friends at Photography Masterclass have put this awesome course together. Take advantage of their amazing course that will catapult your photography skills so far forward that you’ll amaze all of your friends with what you can do. Before you know it you will be a source of photography inspiration to others!
These are broken down into logical chunks that are so easy to follow and put into action. You’ll learn everything from how to effectively use your camera, right through to how to present your finished work. There are over 11 hours of training here that is exceptional.
Let’s be honest, most folks will benefit from attending at least one photography course, especially when they’re starting out. This needn’t be a 4-year university degree. Check out your local high school – many offer night classes for adults, and are great value for money.
Alternatively, many pro photographers run seasonal workshops on portraiture, wildlife or landscapes. You don’t have to go to extraordinary expense to do this, just hit the road and explore your local area armed with some knowledge gained through an online course of your choice, or some techniques picked up in a couple of targeted and specific ebooks.
The greatest chance you could give yourself is to brush up on the skills that you believe you need in order to get to the goals that you have. We’re confident that you’ll get a great deal of value from the course offered by Photography Masterclass.
12 Go on tour
To really improve your photography, you need to grab your camera, and practise, practise, practise. Perhaps the best way to fast-track your camera skills is on an intense weekend shooting on location under the watchful eye of an experienced guide?
He will transport you to the best spots at the best time of day, in the best light. This will ensure you capture great images.
Watch this space! We will be hosting workshops in the field where you will be able to join us on short photography getaways to unique locations. Not only will this help with fueling your photography inspiration, you’ll also get personal time with us. You will be able to receive coaching on the entire spectrum of Dark Photography. Dates and locations are yet to be announced, in the meantime for more information you can contact us.