How to Grow as a Photographer

How to Grow as a Photographer

Becoming a skilled photographer is a journey that requires dedication, practice, and a willingness to learn and grow. Whether you're just starting out or looking to take your photography to the next level, there are several key steps you can take to develop your skills and expand your creative horizons. Let’s explore some of the most effective strategies for growing as a photographer, which have helped my own personal journey.

Master Your Equipment

Understanding your camera gear is essential for producing high-quality images. Take the time to learn about your camera settings, lenses, and other equipment. Experiment with different settings and techniques to discover what works best for your style of photography. Doing this will help you when it comes to key moments, as there is nothing more frustrating than not being able to get the shot because the scene or conditions that are in front of you happen and disappear quicker than you can find a way to dial in the settings. If you wish to become an event or wedding photographer, for example, then this will be crucial and will also stop you from looking amateur in front of your client when you are struggling to find your way around your tool of choice.

Study Composition

Composition is the foundation of great photography. Learn about the rule of thirds, leading lines, symmetry, and other compositional techniques. Analyze the work of master photographers and study how they use composition to create compelling images. Now, you may be reading this and saying, "Well, Darren, of course, there is nothing new here," and while you are right to a certain extent, where it really matters is being able to put together a compelling shot regardless of the situation. This can only be possible when you practice, review, practice some more, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

Practice Regularly

Like any skill, photography requires practice. Make a habit of shooting regularly, even if it's just for a few minutes each day. Challenge yourself to try new subjects and techniques, and don't be afraid to make mistakes – they're all part of the learning process. Just like composition in the last point, practicing all genres of photography will help you build a fuller understanding of the craft, your abilities, your restrictions, and moreover, the style of photography that you naturally gravitate to more than others.

Seek Feedback

Feedback from other photographers can be invaluable for improving your skills. Join online photography communities or local camera clubs where you can share your work and receive constructive criticism. Be open to feedback and use it as an opportunity to grow and improve. You may have a natural eye for a banger shot, but small tweaks here and there can really improve an image, and this is best when you get this feedback along the way. Bear in mind, however, that feedback should be digested rather than swallowed without consideration, or worse still, spat out immediately as being wrong. There are, of course, times when feedback can be wrong, and this is why it is important to get many different views along the way.

Study the Work of Others

Take the time to study the work of other photographers, both contemporary and historical. Look for inspiration in a variety of genres and styles, and analyze what makes their images successful. Pay attention to composition, lighting, and storytelling techniques and see how you can or have used a similar approach. There are many incredible shots out there to look at, plus there are also some mediocre shots to view too, where you may see mistakes that they have made, so you can avoid them in your own photography.

Experiment with Different Styles

Don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and experiment with different styles of photography. Try your hand at landscape photography, portrait photography, street photography, and more. Exploring different genres will help you discover your own unique style as a photographer. I consider myself a one-trick pony, a landscape photographer, and more of a seascape photographer at that, yet I still try my hand at other styles just to experiment and grow, and along the way, I have found that I enjoy some more than others for sure.

Learn From Failure

Failure is an inevitable part of the learning process. Don't let setbacks discourage you – instead, use them as opportunities to learn and grow. Analyze your mistakes and figure out what you can do differently next time. Remember that even the most successful photographers have faced their fair share of failures, and I have made many. I look at it like riding a bike; sure, we can ride one now, but that wasn’t always the case. We fell a few times, we most likely had a few cuts and bruises along the way too, but that didn’t stop us from pushing on until the day arrived that we could go anywhere. The difference I feel with photography is that it is a multifaceted discipline that, once we know the basics of, will continue to challenge us many more times in the future.

Take Advantage of Educational Resources

There are countless educational resources available to photographers, from books and online courses to workshops and tutorials. Take advantage of these resources to deepen your knowledge and learn new skills. Invest in books on photography theory, enroll in online courses, or attend workshops led by experienced photographers. My philosophy is that we never stop learning, and this still remains true to this day. There are always ways to improve and always ways to surprise us. Editing is a perfect example of this, as the technology is improving and evolving very quickly, and if we don’t continue to learn, then we risk being left behind.

Start a Personal Project

A personal project can be a great way to focus your creative energy and challenge yourself as a photographer. Choose a subject or theme that interests you and commit to documenting it over time. Whether it's a series of portraits, a study of a particular location, or a documentation of everyday life, a personal project will help you grow as a photographer and develop your unique vision. It can also serve as a body of work to reflect on, and see the micro-improvements you made along the way.

Stay Inspired

Finally, don't forget to stay inspired and keep your passion for photography alive. Surround yourself with the work of other artists, spend time in nature, and seek out new experiences that ignite your creativity. Remember that growth as a photographer is a lifelong journey, and there's always something new to learn and explore. Follow some street photographers even if you aren’t that much into street photography, as there may be a technique they use that you never considered in your own genre, for example. This approach is also great to help avoid potential burnout or creative blocks.


Growing as a photographer is a continuous process that requires dedication, practice, and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. By mastering your equipment, studying composition, seeking feedback, and experimenting with different styles, you can take your photography to new heights. Remember to stay inspired, stay curious, and never stop learning. With time and perseverance, you'll continue to grow and evolve as a photographer. Looking back at where you have come from is also a great way to see just how much you have improved, as when we live it on a daily basis, it’s hard to see those macro improvements.

Have you anything to add to this topic? Let's continue the conversation in the comments below.

Darren Spoonley's picture

Darren J. Spoonley, is an Ireland-based outdoor photographer, Podcaster, Videographer & Educator with a passion for capturing the beauty of our world.

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Darren is it safe for me to read this? I am 6'2"... I am scared of growing 🤣

Hahahah! Careful now :-)

That is what SHE said.

A personal project is the way I have found to keep my photography interest alive and focused.

I shot for our local theatre for many years and I had my subject and what I had to produce pretty much laid out for me.

When I stopped doing this semi professional work, I eventually realised that documenting what interested me outside, or inside of photography, with a self imposed project was the way to go. Otherwise I think serious photography would have drifted out of my life.

Maybe a point you missed was understanding your subject. When I did dance photography I had to lean quite a lot about the mechanics of Ballet, the moves and styles. For my self imposed Architectural projects, it helps enormously if I know a lot about the history of a particular style. My photographic projects involve a lot of pleasurable study.

Sometimes I will make a project inspired by another photographer, or take a boring subject like the little torrent that runs through our town and force myself to make some interesting pictures, out of a difficult subject.

Thanks, Nigel, That's a great point about understanding your subject, one I wouldn't have thought of first-hand due to my Landscape Eye I guess... Thanks a mill

I enjoyed your article and found it to be very relevant.

Thanks a million Delighted you enjoyed it