5 Reasons Why Your Photography Doesn't Improve

By Geoff Harris

Want to Improve Your Photography? 

Everyone who's interested in photography wants to improve as a photographer (or at least I hope they do). Unfortunately, there are many reasons why people don't improve. Here are five and what can be done about them.


Taking your camera with you when you can is important. Local museums (if they allow photography) are excellent places to train your eye for interesting compositions.

The camera stays in its bag

There's a hoary old joke that rather tickles me: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practise! It's a cliché, but the more you practise at something the better you get. It's the same with photography. I know from experience that if I don't take any photos for a week or two (yes, as long as that...) that I feel out-of-sorts and rusty when I finally pick up the camera again.

Life unfortunately gets in the way and photography sometimes has to take a back seat. So here's a challenge. Shoot at least one photo, every day, for a month. It doesn't matter what the subject is. The aim is to better understand your camera by the end of that month.

Collection of automobile gauges on display in the garage at Beamish Open-Air Museum, County Durham, England

Keep your camera manual with your camera. There will be times when you need to refer to it to correctly set a function.

The camera manual's too complicated

My first camera was a model of simplicity. The only controls were a shutter button, shutter speed dial and an aperture ring on the lens. Now cameras require manuals that could be used as offensive weapon and have menu systems that would make a NASA scientist blanch. It's no wonder people stick to Auto mode and never explore any other option.

The trick is to break the camera manual down into digestible chunks. Pick one aspect of your camera – a Picture Style possibly – and experiment with that and that only until it feels familiar. Then move on to another camera function and so on.

Portrait of a young woman, created at the NEC Focus on Imaging convention

Trying new things will help to keep your photography fresh and help you develop new skills.

I'm going to stick to what I know

It's all too easy to get into a rut, shooting the same thing over and over again. Why not? It produces pleasing results that family and friends will appreciate. However, it's not really expanding your capabilities as a photographer.

Challenging yourself to something unfamiliar will force you to learn new skills. And, if you succeed - which I'm sure you will by the way – you'll have more confidence in yourself and your photography.

Blackrock Cottage at the foot of Meall a’ Bhuird, Rannoch Moor with Buachaille Etive Mor (Stob Bearg) behind, Scottish Highlands, Scotland

I accidentally used the wrong aperture when I shot this photo. There's not quite enough depth of field to cover both the bothy and the background. Hey ho. I'll get it right next time.

I'm rubbish at photography. I keep making mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. I still make mistakes (photographically speaking, I'm perfect in all other respects). However, making mistakes can sap your confidence and discourage you from continuing at something.

There's no need for that to happen. Mistakes are part of the learning process. The key is to take the time and analyse why the mistake occurred and how it can be avoided in the future. And, if there's a little voice that tells you that you'll never get any better slap it round the chops and keep trying.

St. Mary's Lighthouse on the Northumbrian coast near the town of Whitley Bay, England. The lighthouse was completed in 1898 and remained in operation until 1984. Reaching the island, on which the lighthouse sits, is possible across a causeway only during low tide

Set personal time aside for your photography, either by yourself or with other photographers. Don't include people who have no interest in photography and may hurry you to move on.

Faster, faster!

Time is precious. Photographs should be taken as quickly as possible before moving on to something else. Right? Er, no. Photography isn't a race. By taking a machine-gun approach to photography you won't allow time for your creative side to kick in and do its thing.

Set time aside for your photography and don't allow it to be interrupted for anything other than an emergency. And, it's better to finish that time with one really great photo than scores of mediocre ones. Quality rather quantity should always be your goal.

If you would like to learn how to improve your  photography why not consider taking my 4 week online photography course,

An Introduction to Digital Photography Course

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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