The Five Levels of Becoming a Better Photographer

Once you pick up a camera and start taking photos, the journey to becoming a better photographer is not a simple one. It is a roller coaster ride and you’re sure to face a lot of hurdles along the way. If you want to take photos that provoke feelings and emotions—photos that really make your viewers pause and think—that’s where the process gets challenging. In today’s video, photographer Adam Karnacz describes his philosophy about getting better at photography. Whether you just want to take good snapshots or photographs that inspire, you’ll find his ideas quite useful:

In the video, Karnacz explains in detail his five levels of photography. You can use his philosophy as a reference to determine where you fall at present and what you can do further to improve yourself.

In the beginning, it is quite natural to get overwhelmed by the different camera settings. And while many make an attempt to understand and move past the auto mode, they may find themselves stuck there. In the early stage, you may even feel that your gear is limiting you. You may develop the notion that your photos will improve if you improve your gear. However, keep in mind that the key is in learning to take the best photos using the least amount of gear. As time goes on, you’ll soon realize when it’s time to upgrade.

To get the best results from what you’re currently using, it is essential to master the technicalities. Make an active effort to get acquainted with the manual mode, learn how exposure works and expand your knowledge base. You’ll need to spend years shooting at least semi-frequently in order to graduate from this level.

As for the next level, Karnacz suggests trying to imitate a photo that you like. Copying others takes some pressure off you—you don’t need to try and be original. You can think more about the lighting, settings and composition that the original photographer might have used. This might sound easy, but unless you have a good understanding of these behind-the-lens settings, the process can actually be quite challenging. That said, don’t be afraid to mix in your own ideas and improvise.

Remember, there is no shortcut to being a good photographer. How good you get all boils down to the effort you put into the art form. Patience and persistence are key. You must be willing to do things over and over again. Keep yourself open to learning from every shot you take. Hard work is the absolute difference-maker and will definitely pay off.

You’ll know you’ve mastered the art of photography when you start innovating. You’ll constantly come up with different ideas that you want to try out. A good idea is to keep yourself with different photography projects—not necessarily big ones. Of course, at this level, it makes sense that you print your work too. This gives you better insight into your own work and motivates you in the process.

The beauty of these levels that Karnacz discusses is that they’re not linear. In fact, they are cycles, and we can go around them as long as we want. What level do you think you’re at?

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