Inspiring others is something that is truly close to my heart. I love giving feedback and sharing how I create the photos that I do. Keeping tips and tricks to oneself simply isn’t something that sits rights with me. I believe the fact that I am open to sharing displays a higher level of confidence in my work and ability than compared to someone who refuses to do so. For that reason, I’d love to share some of my top tips that will help improve your photography. This list consist of things that are my personal opinion. I do not think I am perfect and I am very aware of how much there still is to learn. This list is also more mental than technical. I will still write a blog focused on technical tips. Before you read that blog, I want you to familiarise yourself with what I’ve written in this post. If you can achieve proficiency with these tips, you’ll be better equipped to apply more technical aspects.

1. Do Not Compare Yourself

I’d like to start off with a simple tip that will go a long way to improve your mental state as a photographer. Comparison is toxic and an unfortunate result of social media. The really sad thing is that a lot of creatives with massive potential struggle with this problem. Comparing yourself to others takes the focus off of your own work, something you cannot afford. If you find that you’re struggling with toxic comparison, try to take a set back from the level of content you consume. Make a point of shifting more attention to your own work. If you crave viewing content, try to watch YouTube videos by people. Someone whom I can highly recommend for this is Jared Polin. Jared’s sincere way of education takes away comparison by injecting learning. Improve your photography by keeping away from negative comparison.

2.Gear isn’t Everything

Oh if only I had a Sony A7RIII. I’d be so much better if my gear was brand spanking new. Now, there is a great case to be made for new gear. I’ll probably even write a blog about why having top of the range gear helps. But please believe me when I say that gear isn’t everything. You will not improve your photography by buying new gear if your skillset is lacking. A lot of inexperienced photographers, myself included at the time, fall into this trap that I call gear depression. Don’t fall for this. What your career needs is for you to upgrade your skill before you upgrade your gear. I learnt this fairly quickly and made it my mission to master my existing equipment. Top Tip: Mastering your equipment empowers you with a skill set that leads to bookings. Bookings lead to money. Money leads to new gear.

3. Mastering Natural Light

A mistake that a lot of photographers make is to learn how to shoot with artificial light before they master using natural light. This is a big no-no. If you’re getting started with photography, the best thing you can do is to start to learn how to manage natural light. It remains one of the cleanest and visually stunning means of lighting a subject. This is especially true for golden hour light – although, photographing in harsh midday light is also something you should master. Mastering natural light will greatly enhance your ability to adapt to and understand artificial lighting. Failing to spend time on the former, will take away a vital learning curve. Don’t run off to buy those speed lights just yet. Improve your photography by learning how to use natural light. Thanks, sun.

4.Mastering Artificial Light

Disclaimer, I am not going to say that I am a master at using artificial lighting. It’s a constant battle of practice, I can tell you that. Why is this the case though? Quite simply, there are so many ways in which you can use artificial lighting. The versatility and creativity from which you can benefit from are reasons enough why mastering it will improve your photography. But, you will also need it for portfolio versatility. If you’re going to photograph weddings or billboards, chances are that you will need to have an understanding of artificial light. I guarantee that you will regret not spending enough time using off-camera lighting. I do. Don’t be like I was, start as soon as you’ve gotten to grips with natural light.

Mastering your equipment empowers you with a skill set that leads to bookings. Bookings lead to money. Money leads to new gear.


5. Stop Composing Center

Okay, I am not going to tell you to do it all together. Placing your subject in the centre of your frame is completely fine. But, I do want to urge you to be a little cheeky with the rule of thirds. But why will this improve your photography? Well, the composition of a photo is one of the most vital ingredients to making it striking. If you constantly compose centre, none of your work will have that spicy creative twist. You’ll also lose out to some of the really images you can create by composing off centre. Here are a few examples.

6. Don't Get Cocky

Remember my introduction paragraph? I hope you read it. If you did you’d remember I spoke about realising the fact that I have a lot to learn. This is a vital attitude when it comes to anything in life. Improvement is infinite. I want you to realise that. You will never stop learning and you can never have all of the technical skill. There will always be a photographer who has knows more and there will always be someone who is just as gifted. There is, therefore, no justification for cockiness about something others can match and exceed upon. Stay humble, it will improve your photography in more ways than might be imagined.

7. Be Gracefully Confident

Another important life lesson to be learnt is to love yourself. Obviously, avoid arrogance and narcissism. But there is much to be celebrated about understanding how to love yourself and live with the sort of confidence that flows into your work. The ability to be gracefully confident is beautiful and uplifting. Love your work. Love what you can create. Be confident about your ability. But do not forget that it is all grace and always stay true to where you came from. No great photographer received the gift of art overnight. You can be proud of the hard work that you have invested in. At the end of the day, a confident mentality will be absolutely vital to success. Graceful confidence will improve your photography, I promise.

8. Be Bold

Asking is free and the worst someone can say is no. And heck, it might even be their loss. So be bold and chase as hard as you can. Stop being afraid of rejection. I know it sucks when a client says no. But do not take it upon yourself as a negative reflection. If the no is related to budget, find another client who can pay. If the no is related to the quality of your work, pick yourself up and improve. Don’t drop into a pit of self-pity. It’s endless. Boldness will improve your photography and if it doesn’t, well, then be bolder.

9. Photograph For Yourself

Don’t burn yourself out, please. If you’re working your butt off for clients, well done. It is every photographer’s dream to have a schedule filled with paying clients. In fact, this is such a focus that many end up burning out and losing the passion. The reason why this happens is because they have forgotten to photograph for themselves. The fun side slipped off the priority list and experimentation became a thing of the past. Regardless of experience level, I urge you to never forget to have fun with photography. It will really keep that passion alive.

10. Don't Be Driven By Fame

My last tip on this list is to urge you not to be driven by fame. I want to place a lot of emphasis on this because it is consuming a lot of really decent and talented people. Fame might bring more cash and recognition, but it will never replace the value of modesty and attaining recognition through hard work. A lot of young people only pick up a camera because they want to become an Instagram sensation, a path that does not lead to fulfilment. Okay sure, this advice makes sense but how will it improve your photography? Well, quite simply in terms of priority. If fame is what you seek, you’ll get caught up in the toxicity that exists therein. I am not saying it’s all completely bad. But, in order to avoid being consumed by it, you have to pursue happiness and improvement. You should understand that recognition will come if you work hard enough for it. And remember this, the years of hard work will go a long way to equipping you with the necessary emotional intelligence and modesty to handle fame. Don’t let fame rule you. Always strive to improve upon yourself.

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About the author

Louw Lemmer

Gauteng, South Africa

Louw Lemmer is a South African photographer and creative director who tells vibrant visual stories that captivate both mind and soul. Within subject-matter and colour-grade, he sets himself apart by constantly developing a unique style.

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