We all see the world differently and we should try to use the camera to show how we see it. The more you take pictures the better you will be at using your camera to convey what you want out of a scene. You will also be able to better see what lighting conditions will make a great photo. In photography it is all about the light. Not every photo you take will be great but even the best photographers have to take lots of pictures to even get a few keepers. Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said that “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” Just get out and shoot everyday and it will pay off.
If you can’t think of anything to take pictures of look at great photographers’ work online and replicate it for learning purposes. After a while you will eventually be able to forge your on photographic style. I am still working on my own style and don’t think this process ever ends for photographers. I think this is a great way to learn off camera flash. You can usually tell what type of diffuser someone used by looking at the shape of the reflected light (either in the subject’s eyes or off of the object in the picture). An example is the picture below. When you use an umbrella to reflect the flash, the highlight in the subjects eyes will be round.
Whenever I am driving around or just out without my camera I always look around to see what could make a great picture. By doing this you help develop your photographic eye. There are also times when you will see an interesting location that you want to come back to later with your camera.
It can be anything like a 365 project where you take and post one picture a day or a 52 week project if you can’t handle everyday. Or you can do a 100 strangers project where you take portraits of strangers so that you can get out of your shell and experience something new in your photography. If you aren’t up for these then you can make almost anything into a project. Some of my ongoing projects are pictures of fire hydrants and a photo project of the county where I work. You can do a project of your daily life for a specified amount of time, like a year, and pick the best ones to make a book out of.
When you organize your work you will find that there are pictures that you have overlooked in the past that you like now. These photos can become an inspiration for you to shoot more of that subject or start a new project building off of what you already have. By organizing your work it will be easier to find and build your long-term portfolio. I have just recently bought Lightroom 3 and hope to get my photos better organized.
Post your work online or show it to others in print form to get some feedback on it. Flickr is a great place to do this. You can find other photographer’s great work to inspire you or join groups to get feedback on your work. Many of the groups constantly have conversations going on that can answer many of your burning questions.
If you don’t want to join an online community try to join a local photo club or shoot with friends. If you know someone who has a good artistic eye you can have them give you some constructive criticism of your work so you can get another point of view to improve your work.
A lot of people are worried about not having enough equipment or the right camera to take good pictures with but this shouldn’t stop you. Use whatever you have and learn to work with what you have and find solutions for not having a lot of fancy equipment. You may not have a DSLR but your iphone or point and shoot can take good pictures, you just have to develop your eye to see good pictures. You may not have a professional off camera flash but you can always use natural light and reflectors to create good light. Some day you may be able to acquire more equipment that can make your life easier, but don’t let it stop you from shooting today.