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Always Be Improving (even when you have the flu)

The one thing that that seperates the “great’s”  from the “pretty-good’s” in any field is the way they treat personal development and improvement.  I don’t care what you do in life you can always improve.  Even Tiger Woods has mulitple coaches and is constantly making adjustments to his swing and game.

Back in my younger days this process seemed to be easier.  I looked for classes to take, went to seminars, read books, and always seemed to find some new equipment or process that I needed to learn about.   Later it seemed to become more difficult to work on improvement just for the sake of improving.  Whether you are professional photographer making a living with the camera, simply taking snapshots of family outings, or just shooting because because you love the process, it is easy to get stuck in a rut and do the same thing over and over again.

The best way I have found to keep my creative juices flowing and finding ways to improve is to give myself some sort of assigment.  There are plenty of ways to do this.

  • Go the book store and in find a photography book that captures you interest. This could be an instuctional book, or one of a more artistic nature.  Set yourself a 30 day assignment to imulate what you see.  Try new techniques, shot things you don’t normally shoot.
  • Find online tutorials for shooting or post processing technigues.  I’m personally working through David Nightingale’s tutorials on his Chromasia.com Website.  Great tutorials that are very reasonably priced.  I highly recommend them.
  • Join a Flickr Group – there are many groups out there with people all working on some personal project or other.   There are groups working on “50 days of 50mm lens shots”, or only pictures of flowers, or groups devoted to a piece of software, or another project that I’m working in is an “iPhone Picture a Day”.  (see my flickr stuff here, or my tumblr blog of my iphone pictures here.)  You can find a willing community of people who will offer critiques, advice, encouragement, and help.  I’ve developed quite a few online “friends” this way and they have greatly helped me keep the flame of self improvement alive.
  • Give youself some sort of assigment.  Work with family members to document a story, or with co-workers to work on environmental portraiture, or decide to take one picture of a stranger a day for 7 days.   Any assigment will work, just pick something and make it happen.
  • Start a photo blog with a theme or time frame.  Wordpress.com, or tumblr, or blogspot or many others make this very simple.  And you can turn that blog into a book for yourself when you are done with very little cost.

The point is to keep improving. Work on something you haven’t before just because it is fun.  If you do mostly portraits maybe work on landscapes for a month.  If you focus your work on fine art prints, maybe give yourself an editorial assigment and see what you can do with it.

As I mentioned above I’ve recently been working through David Nightingale’s tutorials on his Chromasia.com site.  Very good stuff. I’ve loved his work and blog for years and recently decide to stop admiring from afar and jump in and learn from his work.  I highly recommend his photoshop tutorials.  His style if very different than anything I’ve ever shot, but this allows me to expand my photographic vocabulary.

This week was supposed to be a week for me to shoot wildly on the coast of Northern California.  I’m on vacation up here with nothing but time, I had planned this week for months.  Getting the flu and getting stuck inside for most of the day has really slowed the process down and messed with my plans.   I’ve been spending my time this week working though the expamples and psd files David provides in his tutorials.  Below are a few shots that are nothing like his work, but also nothing like the work I normally do either.  All of them have something in them that I learned this week from his tutorials.  By learning from what he does and putting my vision into it I hope to come up with something new.  Who knows.  I like one of these shots much more then the others, but I’m not going to tell you which.

Get out there, shot for the fun of it, improve yourself!