Update your camera gear
There comes a time when your digital camera doesn’t do your skills justice. While point-and-shoot cameras are convenient and cheaper, they are restricted by their simplicity and their smaller sensor size.
Unfortunately, the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is still the truth. Even an entry-level DSLR and kit lens will produce sharper and bigger images, and allow you to play with a wider aperture range, from at least f/4 to f/22.
If you’re into landscape photography, a sturdy tripod is a must, as is a polarising filter to darken blue skies. A cable release will prevent camera shake during longer exposures. A decent kit bag will protect your expensive gear, and enable more efficient access to it.
Subscribe to a photography magazine
The racks of most bookshops are stacked with numerous photography magazines. My favourite is Digital SLR Photography*, which boasts a higher standard of writing than found in other titles from the UK. Of course, these days you can subscribe to the digital version of magazines, and download them to your mobile device of choice.
Start a personal project
A popular pastime is to shoot a photo every day for 365 days. The idea is to force yourself into the habit of getting your camera out regularly, not just for holidays, or special occasions. Shoot ordinary events or items.
Dedicated 365 websites give tips and ideas.
You could photograph a ‘selfie’ in the mirror to record your beard growth for 12 months, and then create a time lapse.
Another worthwhile project is to choose a numeral (e.g. 8) or a colour (e.g. red). Walk around town for a day, only shooting this topic. You will be amazed at how such a focussed assignment will hone your observation skills.
Enter a photography competition
Success in a local, national or even international competition is not only a huge boost to your confidence, and reputation – you may collect some fantastic prizes too. Competitions range from promotional gimmicks at local events (think A&P shows or radio stations), non-profit organisations (think camera clubs) to magazines which run these on an annual basis.
This is a great way to expose your work to a wider audience, and broaden your skill set. The more prestigious competitions will charge entry fees, particularly the umbrella organisations for professionals, where winners are highly acclaimed.
Get your work published
If you love to photograph in a narrow niche (e.g. animals, gardens, fashion, children, or sports), and believe your images will withstand an editor’s scrutiny, why not send a sample CD off to your favourite publication? Magazine editors are forever on the lookout for fresh takes on old topics. Follow up with a phone call, or better, a personal visit.
If you’re a competent wordsmith, even better, as you’ll get paid more for quality writing than for a handful of photos. However, be warned: editors are notorious for not replying, so you will need to be tenacious. Don’t give up.