Six Ways to Be a Better Photographer - Right Now

• 09 January 2009

I tracked down talented photographer Justin Hackworth in hopes he'd share some basic tips with all us novice photographers. Mission accomplished. I hope you enjoy it like I did...it's not your usual bland, basic, I-heard-it-all-before photo tutorial.

Let's hear it from the man himself...Justin?

6 Ways to be a Better Photographer...Right Now

There are plenty of resources to get you going on shutter speed and aperture--essential elements of the craft. Here are six tips that you're less likely to find in photography "how-to" books and web sites.

Have something to say. Photography is a language. Use the pictures to communicate something you feel deeply about. What do you care about? Your family? Trees? Paris? What do you want to tell others? It doesn't have to be some heavy-handed social issue but your pictures will be stronger if you've given some thought to what you want to say.

Include some mystery in your pictures. Consider posing a question in the image, rather than supplying the answer. Give your viewers a reason to keep looking at the picture.

Get inspired. Look at the work of other photographers especially those that have shaped the medium. Knowing where photography came from and where it's going opens you up to endless image making possibilities. You can start with the masters: Richard Avedon, Harry Callahan, Henri Cartier-Bresson, (many, many others) but there are plenty of fabulous lesser known photographers that are worth checking out as well. I list some of my favorites on my blog.

Don't get discouraged. Learning to make really good photographs takes time. Realize this from the start and you'll avoid frustration and find ways to keep going. Put in your time. You'll get it.

Ask for help. You don't have to figure everything out on your own. When I'm asked questions, I'm always willing to share what I know, and most photographers feel the same way. I still email photographers with questions about their process, their business structure, what equipment they use, and 100 other things I want to know. Remember, when they respond, for heavens sake, thank them.

Have fun. Experiment. Make mistakes. Take chances. Assign yourself a project
. Explore. Have even more fun and take even more chances.

And here's a bonus--a secret that will make you a better photographer right now. Ready? Only show the good pictures. Learn to edit with a critical eye. You can show the mistakes to those that are helping you progress, but leave out the duds when showing your images to your fast growing list of adoring fans.

Justin Hackworth is a nationally recognized wedding and portrait photographer based in Utah.

His photographs have shown in the Finch Lane Gallery, Art Access Gallery, the Central Utah Art Center, the Kimball Art Center, the Springville Art Museum, the Millennium Art Center, Photo District News, Photographer's Forum, and American Photo. Selected pieces have been acquired by the Utah Arts Council and the Millennium Art Center for their permanent collections.

Justin has over half of the state capitols memorized and can often be seen eating at the Smokehouse, across the street from his office.


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