Peter Vanosdall

Once I get that new Camera, I’ll take Great Photos!

It seems that photographers are in an arms race, trying to out muscle each other with the latest DSLR or Mirrorless shooter.

I’m sure this is at least partially due to marketing from the major camera manufacturers, but I’ve met many photographers with adequate cameras who are looking to take ‘better’ photos and believe that requires them to upgrade to a better camera.

I’ll admit, I have been considering upgrading my camera, perhaps the a6500, or maybe the a7rII?

The fact is, better images don’t come from better cameras, but more experienced photographers and sometimes better lenses (in most cases).

Where does experience come from? You guessed it, practice!

I’m saying this to myself as much as anyone else; If you want to take better photos, you have to practice taking good photos. (of course, once your camera starts to limit your photography, it is certainly time to find something new.)

Peter Vanosdall
A couple years of experience can make a big difference. Right image is taken a few years after the one on the left, same camera.

I’ve shot almost 50,000 images on my Sony a6000 in less than three years. But just shooting lots of photos isn’t the key, its about quality practice – putting yourself in situations with good light, interesting subject, and then trying to achieve certain photos or learn new techniques.

Just bringing your camera along and snapping some casual shots in the middle of the day likely won’t improve your skills very much.

Anders Ericsson and Malcolm Gladwell are two authors who have a lot of interesting things to say about practice, with Malcolm introducing the popular 10,000 hour rule. I particularly appreciate their ideas on deliberate or purposeful practice.

Deliberate practice is the structured activity done with the specific goal of improvement. In other words, putting a certain amount of planning and effort into shooting photos, and even focusing on certain techniques or types of photos.

There are four basic parts to Deliberate Practice:

  1. You have to be Motivated
  2. The Practice should Match your Skill Level
  3. You should Get Feedback on your Results
  4. Repeat the Practice

This article offers some additional details.

How does that translate to photography? Well first you have to be self motivated to improve. No one else can improve for you. Then consider where you are at, what you already know, and think about what you want to learn, or get better at.

For me, I have always enjoyed shooting long exposure photos. I remember one of the first times I tried shooting car trails on a busy highway at night. I spent a few hours beforehand looking up how to do it, and then familiarizing myself with what settings I needed on my camera.  I ended up with some acceptable results, but also continued to return and practice many times.

Peter Vanosdall
Practicing makes a difference! Left image is one of the first tries at light trails, right image is a more recent photo.

The third part of deliberate practice is to get feedback. I have, on a few occasions, received honest feedback and it has been very helpful in continuing to improve my photography.But I’ll be honest, I typically just share my photos on Instagram or Facebook which generates a lot of really encouraging feedback that I appreciate, but not usually critical feedback which is beneficial. (If you would like feedback from me, or better yet, give me feedback about my photos, I am always open to that.)

And finally, repeat, as often as you can, until you become proficient.

One technique I’ve found very useful for improving my photos has been to visualize the final image, and then try to create it. I don’t always succeed, especially not on the first try, but it gives my motivation to keep trying until I do, or at least get close.

I hope this gives you some motivation to shoot photos and deliberately practice and improve!

I’ll leave you with this quote from Malcolm Gladwell:

“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

Thanks for reading!

Practice is more Important than the latest Camera
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