"How do I become a better photographer?" is probably the question I am asked the most often. It's a question that no one else can answer for you individually, but the least I can do is give you a way to think about and practice it so that you can come to your own solution. The best metaphor I can think to use is juggling.
When you learn to juggle, first you use one ball or scarf or club (or cat). To many, watching someone juggle one object is not particularly exciting. But there are people who manage to make it look interesting, given the circumstances.
I mean, not the most exciting, but we can see there's more than just tossing it back and forth and hoping to wow people. But when I said juggling one object, how many of you thought it would look more like this?
So maybe after conquering one object, you move onto two because it is more complex and gives you more opportunities to try new things.
I don't like the intro there, but you get my point. And finally, after feeling as though you have done well enough with two, and try all the different combinations, you move onto three.
When you start with three, you are not as good as this guy. Compared side by side, people might find your juggling boring, until you learn to do tricks with three like him.
But what about that dude using his feet? He only has only one object. Is that not as interesting? Or less technical? Or require less concentration and skill? Absolutely not.
The video that you don't see are these jugglers practicing. For that few minutes of video I posted above, there were many, many hours of dropping the ball (or cat) and messing up. Each of them had to learn how to precisely move their bodies in such as way that each catch becomes perfect and a matter of pure instinct. They had to learn how to catch in such a way that was unique them, both in how the movement was needed to be made and how they felt what was natural to them as individuals. To get there, it was practicing with one ball (or cat) until it became natural, learning skills with that one ball, then maybe moving onto two, again until it becomes instinctive, then practicing more skills with two, then onto three, etc., etc.
One more thing you don't see. Maybe the juggler moved onto two objects, perfected two, but then said they prefered to just stay with one object. Maybe they said that complexity doesn't bring happiness, but rather focused on becoming better with the endless possibilities with what they have already. We often get bogged down in how advanced and capable contemporary cameras are today, feeling as though newer and more expensive cameras will make us better at photography, when often this is hardly the case. This would be the same as giving my teenage niece a brand new stick-shift Lambourghini after her very first driving class. Not really getting the most out of things.
So how do you become a better photographer?
Find what makes you happy about taking them. How do you find happiness? Practice the skill. How do you practice the skill? Try to only think about one thing when taking a picture. Lighting, contrast, composition, color, portraiture, learning about zoom, using a tripod, hitting focus, whatever, just make it any one thing. Learn about that one thing as much as you can, until you can recognize it each time you and take a good photo emphasizing that one thing without having to think about it. Remember a lot can be done with just one element, so try as many different ways to achieve it. Now add the second element. Maybe you feel comfortable with framing and now want to focus on lighting. Try as many different combinations as you can. Can I take a picture that shows both things? How do these two elements work together? Or how do they work against each other? How can you combine them in an interesting way? And once you feel comfortable and feel that familiar mastery, maybe add another element to think about and so on and so on. Along the way, you'll eliminate the things you don't like and emphasize the things you do. Maybe you'll realize you don't want to juggle multiple things in the air and just focus on the one element that make you happy and that works for you, or maybe you prefer to perform to juggle many thoughts and ideas at once. As you figure this out, step by step, you will become happier with the photos you are taking, and will begin to understand how you, personally, are becoming a better photographer.
Repeat this paragraph.
With that being, said, I'd like to go more in depth about the different aspects to think about (color, composition, framing, etc.) when taking a picture and will try to do so in individual future blog posts. For now, find one thing that you like about pictures and try to explore it. But maybe stay away from the underground cat juggling rings.