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Four Ways to Push Yourself as a Photographer and Filmmaker


I have realized just recently that I've been pretty lazy with my shooting and editing skills. I listen to tons of classes on CreativeLive about the business side of photography, but in Photoshop I'm still using the two or three same basic adjustments I learned when I started out five years ago.


Here are some strategies I'm trying as I'm working to sharpen my skills:


1. Figure out what I like in editing. There are lots of different editing styles, and not all of them fit my brand or my taste. While I love looking at pictures that are contast-y and have strong, dark elements, I know my style is more light and airy. So I'm working on making a collection of photographs I admire.


2. Try to recreate the editing style of the photos I like. My next step will be to work backwards and try to figure out what edits the photographer made to get to the finished photo that I love. Or - more than that, what the photographer did while shooting to get the image.


I love painting, and one thing that painters recommend as a skill-building exercise is to copy the work of the masters. Obviously you never want to steal another person's work, but thinking through their editing process and applying it to your photographs can be a great way to stretch yourself beyond your normal editing routine.


3. Although it's not the most fun thing in the world, there is no substitute for sitting at your computer and following along with a tutorial. Even if that means pausing, editing, backing up and re-watching, and editing again. There is so much good instructional content out there - for free - on how to edit films and photos! Even if you don't end up using a certain technique, it doesn't hurt you at all to have multiple editing tools and strategies in your toolkit.


If you're not sure where to start, my absolute favorite platform is CreativeLive. They have amazing content - much of which you can access for free if you time it right.


4. Re-edit raw photos from old shoots. After going through the first three steps above, try out your new skills on old raw photos (if you still have any laying around). You might be surprised by how much better your pictures can look just from some adjustments to your editing style.


I still keep a CF card of all my wedding photos in raw format so that I can go back and re-edit them in fun, new ways as I learn them.


So that's my plan! Hopefully you'll see an evolution in my work in the weeks to come. Good luck in your continuing education, and let me know what strategies work best for you in pushing yourself to stretch your skills!


- Danielle

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