How to become a better photographer
Learning photography can be frustrating for all new photographers. Falling into the trap of believing photography myths makes the journey to becoming a better photographer harder and longer.
We’re constantly bombarded by gorgeous images and it makes us feel that we’d also produce great photographs if only we:
- Knew their secret
- Had their gear
- Used their presets
- Lived near a great location
- Had a beautiful St Bernard or cute ducklings to include
That’s simply not true and the sooner we move past these thoughts, the sooner our photography improves.
So here’s how to become a better photographer – top five photography myths that could be stopping you:
- A better camera will improve my photos
- Full frame cameras are better than crop sensor cameras
- More megapixels equals better images
- Cameras are more important than lenses
- More photos equals better photos
Read on to find out why these photography myths are indeed myths and what you can do to improve your photography instead.
Photography myth 1 – a better camera will improve my photos
Have you bought a better camera in the hope that it will make your photos better, but then found out that it doesn’t help?
In fact, the photos seem to be worse for some strange reason. I’ve heard from several photographers who can’t understand why their photography went backwards when they upgraded their camera.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told “Wow. Your camera must take great photos.” No, my camera is capable of taking great photos, but if I don’t know what I’m doing, it definitely will not magically do all the work for me.
Rather get better quality lenses than a better camera. Even better – learn to use what you have.
Really learn it, inside and out, wring out every bit of technology it offers you. When you don’t have the very best on the market, but you still aim for the best quality photos, you will learn more about the art of photography than if you had super whiz bang gear.
You will become a better photographer.
Further reading: The great big camera debate and why it doesn’t matter
Photography myth 2 – full frame cameras are better than crop sensor cameras
There are pros and cons to both, but this is not how to become a photographer.
The most obvious pro about using a crop sensor camera is when you want to fill the frame more.
Because of the 1.5 crop factor of a crop sensor your images will be 1.5 times more zoomed in than with a full frame sensor. In other words, if you shoot at 50mm on a full frame camera, your image will be at 50mm, but using the same lens at 50mm on a crop sensor camera will be like shooting at 75mm on a full frame camera.
The full frame sensor will give you better image quality, however, because it captures more detail. So you will have a larger dynamic range, better low light performance, better sharpness and better colors.
Further reading: When a compact camera is better than a DSLR
Photography myth 3 – more megapixels equals better images
This myth has come about, because of the way camera manufacturers have marketed their products.
When the first digital cameras came out they were very low on megapixels. They increased the megapixels with each succeeding model, which did make a difference, but that was many megapixels ago.
We’re now at the stage where having more megapixels often causes issues.
If you have a low quality lens and low quality sensor on a high megapixel camera, you will have significantly worse images than when using a low megapixel camera with high quality lens and high quality sensor.
You simply get better resolution with more megapixels…. so your mistakes are more obvious!
Invest in better lenses rather than more megapixels.
When I checked out Apple’s website for information on the iPhone XS expecting to see something about how many megapixels it had. Instead, Apple talked about the quality of the sensor, saying it was faster, offered better color accuracy, more highlight and shadow details, and less noise in low light shots. There was no mention of the megapixels, because Apple knows we don’t need more. I had to Google the question to find out that it has 12 megapixels.
Further reading: Sharp photos are not just about sharp focus
Photography myth 4 – cameras are more important than lenses
While it is true that the top of the range cameras have more advanced sensors and are more capable of working at greater extremes of light, you have to ask yourself how necessary is that to you?
If you’re a wedding photographer, you’ll need to produce great images in all kinds of not great light. Churches are generally not the best lit places and many reception venues have small windows too.
Photographing at home with natural light only, you could face the same problem if you don’t have big windows as there won’t be much natural light to work with.
Or maybe you want to capture images of your friends at a beach bonfire and the only light you have is the firelight?
In all these situations a top of the range camera that can handle low light situations is of course a benefit.
However, there’s no point having a camera that’s good in low light if you’re using a kit lens, because you won’t be able to open the aperture wide enough.
In many ways buying a better camera in the hopes that it will improve your photography will actually stop you, or at least slow you down, from becoming a better photographer.
Rather get a good lens.
Photography myth 5 – more photos equals better photos
Definitely not! You’re not really increasing the chance of getting a good photo. You’re just increasing the amount of time you will have to spend on the computer sifting through all your similar images to find the best one. That takes all the fun out of photography.
Admittedly, there are times when you do need to shoot in burst mode to get the exact right moment. I’m thinking about sports photography here – when the footballer hits the ball, the boxer lands a punch and so on.
In other situations, rather spend your time and shutter count on variety instead of eleventy seven thousand photos of almost the same thing. Photograph the scene from different viewpoints, with different depths of field, with different shutter speeds, or frame it differently.
Learning about exposure, focus and how to compose an image is essential to becoming a better photographer, plus it’s cheaper!
With variety in your images your time spent editing the shoot on the computer will be much more interesting. Your creativity will improve and so will your photography skills.
Further reading to start learning composition:
The truth about photography
Knowing the limitations of whatever camera and lenses you have is far better than having great gear.
If you know what your gear can and can’t do and you learn ways to work around its limitations, you’ll be a far better photographer than if you solved your problems by upgrading your gear.