It’s a question I hear often; “how do I become a better photographer?” Honestly, it’s a question that’s on most photographers minds… regardless of whether they’re a novice shooting their first DSLR or a seasoned pro still hoping to take things up another level or two. All too many people think the answer lies in buying the latest and greatest gear available. While it’s true that technology is always advancing, the really big improvements to ones work usually has more to do with changes in technique and knowledge than anything else. The truth is that most of us never truely master the equipment we have in our hands today, let alone that which comes along tomorrow. With these ideas in mind, the following are some suggestions of how you may improve your nature & wildlife photography.
The shutter goes click. The exposure settings were on the mark, the focus perfect. Still the resulting image is little more than a snap-shot. Sadly the photographer taking the image recognizes this fact, but doesn’t really understand why such a technically perfect image lacks true punch and appeal. In many cases the answer is pretty simple. The image was poorly composed. There’s a lot more to composition than just pointing the camera at the subject and tripping the shutter. As it’s often said; “knowledge is power.” Developing a deeper understanding of the principles, rules and guidelines of composition can help take ones work to the next level. A wonderful book on composition is Michael Freeman’s “The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos.” I highly recommend it.
Association with creative personalities often inspires creativity. One of the easiest ways to surround yourself with creative people is to join a photography club, group or association. There may be a local club in your area. If you’re like me, a resident of the Carolinas, there is a wonderful organization dedicated to nature and wildlife photography. This organization is arranged into a number of regional groups insuring there’s opportunities to participate in meetings, outings and contests in your area. Additionally they have a nice forum online for their members, publish a quarterly newsletter and hold an annual meeting with plenty of quality speakers appearing. The organization? The Carolinas Nature Photography Association of course! www.cnpa.org. With a membership fee of only $35 per year this is one of the best investments a nature & wildlife photographer can make!
One of the advantages of clubs and associations is the ability to exchange information, ideas and techniques. Of course attending meetings and group outings isn’t that easy for everyone. Some of us have very busy lives, businesses to run or live in remote locations. For such folks, and for those with a thirst for knowledge that can’t be satisfied by a single meeting each month, there are a number of forums online with an emphasis on nature & wildlife photography. One of my favorites is focused on the Southeastern United States. It’s Wildlife South. This is a small, intimate group of photographers with a solid knowledge of locations and animals within the region. On a more national or even international basis are the forums at Naturescapes and those at Bird Photographers Net. While larger and less personal than Wildlife South, there is certainly a lot of great information to be found in the larger forums.
Another option is to enroll in a workshop or a guided photo tour. Almost any area with above average wildlife or landscape photography opportunities will likely have an area pro-photographer or two offering workshops or guide services. A great example would be the Outer Banks’ own Jared Lloyd. He offers a variety of workshops and photo tours via his Outer Banks Expeditions business. You can also learn about a plethora of offerings by local, regional, national and international photographers via the previously mentioned forums and associations.
So there you have it, a few suggestions on how to improve your photography. Of course there’s no magic stone that will turn you into the greatest photographer to ever carry a camera. It takes some hard work. So read a book, join a club, participate in some forum and perhaps most importantly, get out there and make some photos!