The BEST way to Dramatically Improve your Photography Skills – Photography Techniques

- November 25, 2016

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261 Comments

The best way to dramatically Improve your photography skills is with practice! When we were kids we learned the phrase – practice makes perfect. That phrase has been around for ages and it is still around and won’t go away any time soon. The reason – it is sage advice. Practice is how to take better pictures.
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The best athletes are the best – not just because of genetics – but because of a dedication to practice. The best musicians are the best – not because they were born with a talent, but because of practice. How did you learn how to ride a bike? Practice. How did you learn how to drive a car? Practice.

I promise you – the BEST photographers are the best – not because they were born with an extra creative gene in their DNA – but because of practice. Practice makes perfect. Being a skilled photographer is the same thing as being a skilled athlete. It doesn’t just happen because you want it to. It is the result of practicing the best photography techniques.

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When I was 15 years old, I got my first motor drive for my very used Nikon F camera body. I had a Nikkor 200mm lens and I desperately wanted to learn how to take great sports photographs at my high school. One of my early idols was Sports Illustrated Photographer Neil Leifer. I would come home from school day after day and load a 36 exposure roll of black and white film. For those of you not around in the film days – you could buy film in 100ft long bulk rolls and then use reloadable film cartridges to load your own rolls of film. I would walk down to the end of my street where there was a busier roadway and take a seat on the curb. I would practice follow-focus as cars came up the road. My task was to keep the front passenger bumper in focus as the car approached and then passed me. I would do this for about 15 minutes and then put the roll of film in the camera and I would shoot the entire roll on the next car. Remember – no auto exposure – no auto focus – no zoom lens – just a 35mm Nikon F with a motor drive that sounded like a machine gun and a 200mm lens. I would then run home to my darkroom that my Dad had helped me build in the basement and develop the roll of film. I never printed these photos – but…. I did go frame by frame with a magnifying loupe to see how many were in tack sharp focus – and I kept a chart on my darkroom wall so that I could track my progress. Yeah – total geek. When I was 18 I won my first of several awards for newspaper sports photography.

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Comments (261)

  • Great simple advice for all of us!

    Paul D - 1 week ago

  • Love, love, love this video! Thank you for these!

    Bill Killillay - 1 week ago

  • Hey Joe, just want to say that your approach to photography tips and tutorials is great, I think you inspire a lot of people.

    I would love to see a tutorial based on some practice tips like the one you mentioned about speedlights and a mannequin.

    Santiago Umaña - 2 weeks ago

  • Usually my best work is when I'm shooting while with my family or just on my own. I find that without the pressures of getting the necessary shots for the client I can be much more creative, sometimes wildly creative, sometimes the photos are really "out there" but through those exercises I'm able to build my own style and bring some of those techniques into my work for paying clients. If I only practiced while working I would never try as creative an approach as I could otherwise and I'd lose out on the opportunities to broaden my technical abilities & hone my individual style. It also makes paid work much more enjoyable when implementing new techniques learned while not under any pressure. Thanks again for the wonderful videos and positive reinforcement.

    Melnick Studios Inc. - 3 weeks ago

  • Very useful pieces of advice, Joe. And you are right about practicing, especially when you refer to the visual database that every photographer has to gather along with practicing. This is a great video, very informative, simple, straight to the point. Thank you, again.

    gabriel leite - 4 weeks ago

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