The BEST way to Dramatically Improve your Photography Skills – Photography Techniques

if you’re watching this video you’re either really bored you think I’m hotter than Brad Pitt or you want to improve your photography skills stay tuned and after the break I’ll tell you the one very simple thing that you can do to dramatically improve the quality of your photographs hey gang so if you’re still watching you clearly want to improve your skills as a photographer Bravo you know it’s not as hard as you may think in fact you’re already doing at least one thing right learning all you can about photography on YouTube I wish YouTube was around when I learned photography yeah that was back in the dinosaur ages when there was no such thing as Auto exposure no autofocus zoom lenses sucked potato mashers weren’t something you used in the kitchen and all the photography books were about numbers and ratios with black and white pictures there were at least two decades old it was horrible new and young photographers today have incredible resources at their disposal yet there is one thing that I find people consistently don’t do practice yes practice now for those of you that just want to be entertained or razzle dazzle with cool photos go ahead click on one of these videos I don’t want to waste your time come back next week I’ll have a cool tutorial if you’re serious about improving stick around for a few minutes because I think I can really help you out you know my travels teaching and lecturing I meet lots of new photographers who are struggling with lighting or posing or camera techniques and they’re spending loads of money on workshops and website memberships a new gear that they think will help them to take better pictures and yet they’re still struggling in fact they’re beginning to get stressed out because they’re finding clients but the quality of their work is not where they want it to be or they can’t find clients that will pay them real money to do the work that sound like you the first question I ask them is when was the last time you took a picture the overwhelming majority of the time the person looks at me kind of oddly and then gives me an answer like last weekend when I shot a wedding in other words six days ago and then I’ll ask well what about the time before that and then they tell me something that was like two weeks ago when I did an engagement portrait then I asked how long have you been shooting in general and I hear an answer that’s usually less than two years so the net result is that this person is actually not practicing has very little experience with a camera and is basically hoping to find people to pay them to practice and gain experience you know when we were kids we all learn the phrase practice makes perfect that phrase has been around for ages it’s still around and it won’t go away anytime soon the reason it is sage advice the best athletes are the best not because of genetics but because of a dedication to practice the best musicians are the best not because they were born with a talent but because of practice how did you learn to ride a bike practice how did you learn to drive a car practice I promise you that best photographers are the best not because they were born with an extra creative gene in their DNA but because of practice practice makes perfect being a skilled photographer is the same thing as being a skilled athlete it doesn’t just happen because you want it to when I was 15 years old I got my first motor drive for my very used Nikon F camera body I had a night core 200 millimeter lens and I desperately wanted to learn how to take great sports photographs in my high school one of my early idols was Sports Illustrated photographer Neal lifer I would come home from school day after day and load a thirty-six exposure roll of black-and-white film now for those of you not around in the film days you could buy film and 100 footlong bulk rolls and then use reloadable film cartridges to load your own rolls of film I would walk down to the end of my street where there was a busier roadway and take a seat on the curb then I would practice follow focus as cars came up the road might ask keep the front passenger bumper in focus as the car approached and then past I’d do this for about 15 minutes and then I’d put the roll of film in the camera and I would shoot the entire roll of film on the next car remember no auto-exposure no autofocus no zoom lens just a 35 millimeter Nikon F with a motor drive that sounded like the machine gun and a 200 millimeter lens like I said my goal was to keep the bumper and focus on every single frame as the car came towards me and then drove past I would then run home to my darkroom that my dad had helped me build in the basement and develop the roll of film I never printed those photos but I did go frame by frame with a magnifying loupe to see how many were intact sharp focus and I kept a chart on my darkroom wall so that I could track my progress yeah total beep when I was 18 I won my first of several newspaper awards for newspaper sports photography fast forward two weeks ago I shot a fashion layout for a local designer and used the shoot as a backdrop to film an upcoming YouTube tutorial about speed lights the fact is I haven’t worked with speed lights in about 6 years so what did I do for 2 full days prior to the shoot I tested and shot a mannequin with speed lights to be sure that I was ready for whatever obstacles I might encounter during the shoot if you’re passionate about your work if quality really matters you practice so okay enough of my lecturing the question you should be asking now is how what’s the best way to practice here are a few habits that I’ve developed throughout my career that have kept me in really good practice habit number one I’ll give you a quote from famous photographer miner white I am always mentally photographing everything as practice I can honestly say that I make pictures every single day now indeed at this point in my career I’m not about to try and convince you that I’m pulling my Nikon d810 Zout and walking around with them all day every day heck no I use this and I shoot TIFF files which are twenty-seven megabyte files that will make a beautiful eleven by fourteen print right out of the camera if I want to hang them on a wall using this camera and taking photos all the time keeps me visually sharp it’s with me at all times so I never have an excuse and it powers need to look at the world in a creative way because I can capture my visions easily then with some degree of quality here are some recent images that I’ve made with my iPhone just because they presented themselves not because I had to have it number two simplify if you’ve watched many of my videos you’ve heard me say kiss it keep it simple stupid do you have a new lens maybe a new flash for a month or so make all your practice just about that piece of gear this will force you to be creative in your problem-solving because you’re potentially limiting your visual options by using just one lens or your lighting options with just one flash you know when you get your car to drive somewhere with very little thought you put the key in the ignition or you push the start button and you begin driving at this point you’re not thinking about how to drive you’re paying attention to the other traffic concentrating on the directions or the words to your favorite song in the radio but you are not trying to remember how the car works don’t pick up a camera or a piece of lighting equipment and try to remember how things work if you don’t know your camera inside out and backwards you’ll be dividing your attention between your subject and your gear when you shoot that’s how you miss things and that’s how you make mistakes it’s also worth noting that the guy with the newest or the most equipment is not necessarily the best photographer in fact it’s usually completely opposite result you’ve all heard the phrase the best camera is the one that you have in your hand habit number three work your shot yeah this video watch it back in the film days I had to mow lawns as a teenager to afford all that film today digital memory cards can be deleted and reused over and over and over again you have no excuse look at the images taken by your favorite photographers heck go to Google and search the phrase iconic photographs few if any of those photos are the result of one frame they are the result of photographers shooting many frames and different exposures and different camera angles some verticals some horizontal make sure you exhaust every single possibility that effort will not only yield better photographs it will give you more experience understand that great photographs are not about exposure and lenses and lighting those are the tools that we use to solve problems great photographs come from capturing moments in a unique and interesting way Eastman Kodak seized on that idea many years ago with the marketing phrase Kodak moment life is all about experiences we learn from each and every one of those experiences photographers have to build a visual database it’s that database in your mind that knows what will happen when you use direct flash it’s that database that understands your camera’s late mirror will cause you to underexpose a backlit scene and the list goes on you build that visual database by practicing and then practicing some more if you want to be among the best you keep on practicing and never stop another one of my teenage idols who is to this day a photographer that I admire his name is David Hume Kennerly he won a Pulitzer Prize for his photographs of the Vietnam War and was President Gerald r Ford’s personal White House photographer as a 16 year old I got to see him photographing the President and wanted to grow up and have a career just like his I mention him because I’m actually friends with him today on Facebook and follow him on Instagram he still covers politics and his bylines can be seen all over the world because what he still practices he lives in Santa Monica California and almost every day except for when he’s traveling he goes for morning walks with his iPhone and post some of the most amazing and creative images that you’ve ever seen even when he’s on the road his iPhone pictures keep coming he has a Pulitzer and a host of other awards an incredible career and he still practices last but not least habit number four never stop learning I don’t I love the fact that I learned new things each and every day from the comments in my videos and from my subscribers who are also members of my Facebook group learning something new is like getting a new piece of gear it’s a new tool that I have in my arsenal to solve problems with and make great photographs I told you that you’re already off to a great start with this habit because you’re here on YouTube trying to learn so what are you waiting for after all your best shot is your next shot so keep learning keep thinking keep shooting adios thanks for watching if you find these videos helpful please give them a thumbs up and subscribe so that you don’t miss a single episode and if you’ve got a question that you’d like answered post it in the comments section below your question could be my next video

100 Replies to “The BEST way to Dramatically Improve your Photography Skills – Photography Techniques”

  1. This is the first comment I make in years of photography study on Youtube. It's the only video I have ever seen that asks "How to get better?" and does not answer "Buy this great guide on how to become a rich famous professional photographer in 2 weeks". Discipline, continuous practice, sacrifice and self criticism are the true key elements of sucess. Congratulations on having the massive COURAGE it takes to refuse selling an expensive popular lie, to instead giving free honest advice to those who really need it. Thank you! Just subbed and will now watch all your videos.

  2. I know this will sound excusing but I'm not taking photos or practicing because I'm in my last year of school and so don't have to much time. The other thing is that I don't live somewhere where there are good places to photograph. I do live near munich but I don't have the money to go there to do some street photography. Same goes for landscapes no money for a train ride because I just bought a new lens haha. So yeah that's that. But I definitley see that practice will help a lot. And as soon as I earn my own money I've already planned trips into the alps on weekends out of work to go and hike in the mountains. Amazing work on the video thank you for sharing that with us! It really helps!

    Ok after watching more… haha I guess I should watch the whole film first… Yeah I'm not going to complain anymore.

  3. Brilliant, very informative. I have subscribed. Cant wait to watch all the other video's. Great tips!!!!

  4. Absolutely amazing videos – great presentation, very instructive, truly inspirational! Thanks, Joe !

  5. I ran across your videos this morning and BOY was I happy, ALL the videos are great and very helpful!!!! I have been watching for hours now. lol. THANKS

  6. Been learning Photography on Youtube for 7 years now from many different experienced photographers. You by far are the best in my opinion. Keep 'em coming please 🙂

  7. Thanks joe , your enthusiasm in the videos really shows , and inspires me , anyway cant write too much am off to the next video 8-).

  8. This is the advise I need to hear. Practice even with my cell phone. Look around at things as pictures, which I started doing before seeing your video. Thank you!🙋🏽

  9. Sometimes I think you're over the top (pumped like Tom Cruise), and should cut down on the coffee. However most of the time glad you're pumped-up, rapid, clear, concise, logically progressing from start to finish.  To many togs have no outline, no script, and ramble for 20 minutes.  I got such a short attention span I usually I click them off or skip ahead, but I don't mind giving you a few minutes extra. Thanks for you effort and experience.

  10. Very inspiring and informative! Joe you are among the BEST teachers I have experienced… I got out of photography over 25 years ago. I was a product of the film era. With the encouragement of a good friend I plunged back in. The digital world is has been a learning experience. As I have progressed I realize the media (digital) may be different but I find more similarity with the "old" than I find differences. Keep putting out quality information (And great coaching) Joe! Thanks so much!

  11. Such sound advice and so inspirational… You have helped clear my head a little… As been stuck in the mud recently about what camera and what lens and lights to get… I understand a lot about light but never used flash, strobes or mono lights. Ive always tended to use lights I can get my hands on.. I got an understanding of lights help make something look great when I helped working on film sets.. But it confuses my about flash.

  12. Great video! Funny thing is, your words are quite applicable to… everything in life. Really inspiring, thank you!

  13. Great video 🙂 Practising is key to getting better. I started taking pictures just 7 months ago, but I take pictures every day. Whenever possible, I take my camera with me and if I don't have my DSLR with me, I shoot with my iPhone.

  14. Ok, it was a toss up between you and Gavin Hoey for best inspirational photographer. If you send me a shirt and let me use it in a shoot, that might be enough to put you at top. Gavin doesn't wear cool shirts so…..

  15. Brilliant. I to come from the film days with Tri-x, D76 and contact sheets. I appreciate your point that nothing beats practice – you've got to love photography, be inquisitive and always willing to try new things…

  16. Just wanted to say Joe, the first five minutes of this is gold advice all young people should be soaking up like a sponge. The rest of the video too but the intro phase especially.

  17. Very useful pieces of advice, Joe. And you are right about practicing, especially when you refer to the visual database that every photographer has to gather along with practicing. This is a great video, very informative, simple, straight to the point. Thank you, again.

  18. Usually my best work is when I'm shooting while with my family or just on my own. I find that without the pressures of getting the necessary shots for the client I can be much more creative, sometimes wildly creative, sometimes the photos are really "out there" but through those exercises I'm able to build my own style and bring some of those techniques into my work for paying clients. If I only practiced while working I would never try as creative an approach as I could otherwise and I'd lose out on the opportunities to broaden my technical abilities & hone my individual style. It also makes paid work much more enjoyable when implementing new techniques learned while not under any pressure. Thanks again for the wonderful videos and positive reinforcement.

  19. Hey Joe, just want to say that your approach to photography tips and tutorials is great, I think you inspire a lot of people.

    I would love to see a tutorial based on some practice tips like the one you mentioned about speedlights and a mannequin.

  20. Joe, any chance you could share with me which mic you use with your recording – Sound is always great, and it never echos even though your studio is quite square and has plenty of places for sound to bounce of ? 🙂

  21. Joel, I surprisingly just started watching your videos tonight, but I must say that you are by far that best photography teacher on youtube. Not just by your easy-going attitude & knowledge, but the sheer simplistic structure of your videos. You get right to the point, while being informative & captivating. I will definitely be watching your videos regularly from here on out.

  22. I watch hundreds of photography tutorials and how-to's on YouTube. It's a great resource. Lessons like this however are also important.

  23. I have never seen more useful video on YouTube than this one regarding Photography and I have seen a lot. Thank you so much Joe for the great video and I promise you that I follow it to the letter.

  24. How often do you start to shoot something with the smart phone and then decide that you want a real camera? 

    I find that keeping smart phone lenses clean is difficult to impossible. I've had a few smart phone pictures that I really liked. Often, the selfies with my pets are my favorites from the smart phone. However, these images often end up with blemishes because my phone picks up dust constantly. I've often started to take an image with the smart phone and then gone back to get a digital SLR so that I won't find later that dust or smudges messed up the image.

  25. Thanks, Joe. You've helped me ponder my gear. I once shot an assignment at a cooking workshop with a small mirrorless camera. On a whim, I took a bunch of frames with my (ancient 2013 vintage) Nokia PureView 808 phone – you know, the 41 mpx sensor from which the camera cab choose the best 8 mpx. The results were illuminating. First of all, the experience of shooting with the phone was more INTIMATE. As a result, the pictures were more warm and human. Second, the long aspect ratio lent a more INTIMATE feeling to the shots. A bit of LR work with dehaze, and I had very usable, fun shots. I carry the phone everywhere now – thanks to this video I'm inspired to see if I can take my phone as seriously as David Hume Kennerly takes his! Love your creative enthusiasm!

  26. It's like you know me personally or something! Wanting to improve is a constant state of mind for me. I'd write a longer comment, but I need to go get my camera and make a few images…Thanks Joe! (Unrelated question: have you done any videos on your file storage system and back-up plans?) Thanks for all you do for the Photography Community!

  27. 3:00 I totally agree about practice, there's nothing to say but…. sorry, a "spicy tip" of talent/attitude/sensibility makes the different

    (could tell Mozart to Salieri)

  28. Thank you so much for this video! I found your channel today after a long day taking pictures all over the Florida panhandle. I was being very hard on myself and was even thinking about… but now I'm sitting in my living room with a 35mm and taking "product " pics. Thanks!

  29. I can't imagine not shooting/practicing almost daily. I was a music major back in the 1980s, so this just seems obvious. You are so right, Joe. Practice on specifics…like a pianist practicing scales. I am really appreciating your channel. Thanks!

  30. Thank you. Simple, sound (sage) advice – the no cost, no gadgets best way to improve. I usually use my Olympus EM1 but today took my Canon 6D out – and missed a shot due to having forgotten the camera layout (Pelican taking off from light poll on jetty). Practice, know your equipment, keep it simple and learn from your own mistakes and others ideas.

  31. gosto muito da sua didatica,quando voce fala sobre fotografia ,parece que voce retira o que fala de dentro do seu espirito
    sou seu fã e peco a DEUS que llumine sempre para que tenhamos voce sempre presente conosco

  32. Loved the video as I use to be a music teacher since the age of 18 and I would tell my students if they want to improve they need the 3 Ps. Practice, after that Practice again, and when you are done Practice some more. It is with in the practice where you will achieve perfection.

  33. Great Message, Joe. Thanks for reintroducing "depth of feel". Practice is the only way to know if you can still do it, and its the way you found out that you can.

  34. Agradezco muchísimo que estos vídeos tuyos tengan traducción. El mejor material para aprender y actualizarse está en libros y videos pero en inglés :(. De verdad te lo agradezco, que buen canal.

  35. My comment maybe 2 years late, but:

    This was the most awesome tutorial I've ever watched without samples. I mean without actually shooting something on the fly 🙂 👍👏👏
    I'm gonna head out now and hunt some spiders and insects to shoot! 😀

  36. Joe this couldnt be better timing, I dont know if you believe in syncronicity but I really wanted these advises today when I lost in some tennis you said it applies to anything so everyone keep on practising as frequentely as you can, noone is born as a natural and everything needs time and pain

  37. Joe, what you said in this video has solidified my desire and determination to become a professional photographer.
    I’ve been practicing everyday, reading workbooks everyday, watching instructional videos here on YouTube everyday.
    Thank you so much for your dedication and commitment to the craft of photography.
    Thank you for this video.

  38. i just found your channel via a posting on the (micro 43) board. thank you for the effort and the sharing. i am now a subscriber. thumbs up.

  39. I saw this video only a few weeks ago, about when I "discovered" Joe Eldeman. And this, like almost all your videos and article Joe, has inspired me a lot. So immediately after I decided to buy a small camera (instead my great bag with all lenses) bag and always carry my dslr with only one lens so you can shoot at any time. Now it's almost a month that every day I take it with me (I'm not a professional photographer, I'm a computer technician for work) and every day I able to make at least one photo, whether it's a colleague, a landscape or some photos of street photograpy. Thanks Joe!

  40. I do photography since 2003, I’m still successful wedding photographer in beautiful Toronto area. I love the way you talk brother, I’m disappointed why I didn’t know years back, anyway I practice everyday every moments even though I tell my kids to practice about their study, they will not any problems on exams day. I gonna share your video with my kids.

  41. Absolutely brilliant advice. You absolutely nailed it on this particular video Joe. I feel like you made this video especially for me, in order to wake me up regarding my approach to photography, especially when you said the key is Practice, Practice, Practice. I was, through most of my younger life, an accomplished jazz musician, who was considered extremely gifted when I started playing professionally at the age of 8 years. How was I able to perform as a professional at that age? I practiced from 4 to 8 hours each and everyday, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.Even when I went to grade school, I had a drum stick in my left hand, since that was my weakest hand, playing on my leg to develop my dexterity and speed, all day long while in class. It used to drive my teachers bonkers, but they left me alone and let me do it. Perhaps they thought I had a medical issue and chose not to interfere. People were amazed at my musical prowess, but that prowess came from your advice, Practice, Practice, Practice. Since our cameras allow us to shoot and erase, there's really no excuse not to Practice the craft each and everyday if we want to improve our photography. Thanks for stating the obvious to wake me up from my slumber.

  42. would love to see a vid about yourself, on some older vids you look different, so its interesting what you've been through what you thought, what changed etc

  43. Wow! This is one of the best videos on photography (and can be applied to about anything) out there. Hit me like a very cold bucket of water. Thanks for telling me like it is, Joe. Setting up a practice schedule now!

  44. I don't know how it's taken so long for me to come across your channel, but I've been watching a lot of your videos over the past few days (and I subscribed). I find you refreshingly inspirational compared to the other photographers on Youtube I follow. I don't practice as much as I used to, but I'm just about to get out my camera, set up my lighting and use my mannequin to practice some different lighting techniques after watching this video. Thanks for being such an inspiring person.

  45. you inspire me to keep at my goal of having a youtube channel, it's so hard not to suck but you remind me that it's all apart of the process :] thanks for helpin with the confidence [oh and you're totally right about David's insta, I just checked it out and WOW, some amazing stuff going on over there, how dope dude :] ]

  46. I invest a lot of my spare time in photography while my day job makes it possible for me to have money for gear, models, studios, travels and props. Youtube videos such as these help a lot – it was never easier to learn so much for free. Aside from daily practice (if possible) and routine, actually meeting and working with other photographers is the strong booster. Shared knowledge and experiences are great, aside from photography being one of the best ways to connect to other people. I follow several hundred photographers on Instagram just to get inspired and learn too. With that little I can achieve now I just secured myself a returning customer who runs a model agency and pays well. So finally the investment of several thousand bucks in model shoots finally starts to pay off. On the secured income of my job I have enough time to slowly improve myself day after day, week after week. Soon I will join some expensive masterclasses too if I can continue shooting for money. When it comes to personal fulfillment as an artist and creator, I have never been happier than now. Thanks for the insights Sir!

  47. dear joe, you are absolutely right , but if i want to practice i have to bring a model weakly and pay for her , and its coast a lot of money, what to do?

  48. Months of watching youtube videos to help learn more photography and finally stumble on this page…….Are you the only person that actually goes into so much detail and in depth how things work??? My brain doesn't do well with so many others giving such simple or no explanations.

  49. I strive for professional quality in everything I shoot, even if it's for myself and not for a client. I don't accept any amateurish basic snapshot type photos out of me. What I post now is only the best of the best and I still have plenty of room for improvement. I've been shooting since June 2016 and I absolutely love it. I still practice too, especially with my off camera flash units!

    Thank you for your words of encouragement 💕

  50. just because you use the term soo many times, I have to think: Practice, your talking about practice? — awesome but the pointer to Kennerly ig is awesome

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