What Makes Us Better Photographers?

It is always an interesting process to go back and review old photographs. Over the past year or so I’ve reviewed tens of thousands of my images as I searched for photographs to include in various eBook projects. Throughout these image review sessions I often found myself asking the question, “What was I thinking?” as I pressed the delete key. The many hours spent in front of my computer screens reviewing old images has culminated in one, simple question. What makes us better photographers?

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/100, ISO-800, microscopic mode

Buying new camera gear can provide specific photographic capabilities that were not available to us in the past. Does a new photographic capability created by our camera gear make us better photographers?

Oyster catcher in flight, Tairua New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 220 mm, efov 594 mm, f/5.6, 1/1250, ISO-500

As we use our existing camera equipment more, we have the opportunity to better understand its strengths and weaknesses. Does the opportunity for increased equipment knowledge make us better photographers?

California Quail near Coromandel Town, New Zealand, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO-560

Working with similar subject matter over time also presents us with opportunities to increase our knowledge of that specific subject matter. Is that a factor in what makes us better photographers?

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 6.7-13 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 6.7 mm, efov 18 mm, f/5.6, -1 step, 1/1600, ISO-160

What about working on our post processing skills? Is this what makes us better photographers, or is this just a related issue that is not a fundamental photographic skill?

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 20.3 mm, efov 54.8 mm, f/8, 1/10, ISO-160

How important are our composition skills? Can we improve them over time? Or, are we all limited by our innate abilities to see and interpret the world around us?

Frame 9, Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-500

What role does luck play in what makes us better photographers? Is being in the right place at the right time a major determinant in our success? Can we create our own ‘luck’? Is luck when preparation meets opportunity?

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/400, ISO-800

What is it about a particular photographic opportunity that causes some of us to create an image, while others may ignore it? What is it that compels each of us to press the shutter release on our camera?

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikon 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 12 mm, efov 32 mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-400

Ultimately is what makes us better photographers only based on skills? Does it have an attitudinal foundation? Or, is it a combination of both? Does inspiration come into play? If so, how and where do we find it?

The road to self-improvement is seldom well defined. Sometimes it may even look like we are at the end of the road. How do we unlock the gate so we can keep growing?

What has helped you become a better photographer?

Technical Note:
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held using camera gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. If you like our website please let your friends and associates know about our work. Linking to this site or to specific articles is allowed with proper acknowledgement. Reproducing articles, or any of the images contained in them, on another website or in any social media posting is a Copyright infringement.

My intent is to keep this photography blog advertising free. If you enjoyed this article and/or my website and would like to support my work, you can purchase an eBook, or make a modest $10 donation through PayPal. Both are most appreciated. You can use the Donate button below. Larger donations can be made to tom@tomstirr.com through PayPal.

As a reminder to our Canadian readers, you can get a special 5% discount when ordering Tamron or Rokinon lenses and other products directly from the Amplis Store.

Article is Copyright 2019 Thomas Stirr. All images are Copyright 2018-2019 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!

4 thoughts on “What Makes Us Better Photographers?”

  1. I guess (my 1st camera was 26 years ago)… time, learning how to ‘look’ and how to ‘see’, looking to my own pictures just like you describe in the post, rethinking/evaluating what do i actually know vs what i understand of the technique/art/etc …
    and definitely reading your tips and others like you 😉
    So Thanks

  2. Tom,

    I guess it’s a combination of the things you mentioned. Sometimes, it’s great to luck out on good light, good timing, etc. though as Louis Pasteur said, “Luck favors the prepared…”
    A new camera or photography gear can jumpstart flagging creativity though it’s not a great alibi in all instances — a creative eye can take an interesting capture even with a pinhole or smartphone camera. Your Olympus purchase, however, is warranted, much like when I wanted to go into more serious birding and the Nikon B700 was a boon; or when I shifted to Sony mirrorless from a Nikon full-frame so I can just attach it to a Peak Design clip on my backpack’s strap so I can take pictures while hiking/climbing and not be so frightful of banging/dropping the camera.

    IMHO, at the heart of the matter, I guess the fact that skills matter much is drowned out by bells and whistles, marketing hype, high-fallutin’ sales pitches.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *