18 Ways to Grow Your Photography this Spring!

I was weeding in my garden last weekend, amazed by all the new shoots that are pushing through the cold dirt.

When the kids were little, they loved to poke at the new shoots.  Sometimes they’d pull them up, expecting to see a carrot pop out or a flower that had just been hiding under the surface.  With patience, I had to teach them that you can’t poke at new life.  You can’t pull the shoots up before they are in full bloom.  The beginning stages of growth, the season of Spring, is so vital, fragile, needing to be protected and nourished…but also full of such promise.

Today, I’ve brought together a powerful group of photographers to inspire you; my CONFIDENCE Teachers, a dear friend/photographer who inspires me, myself, and even a glimpse of Oscar winner, Anne Hathaway, are bringing you 18 ways to grow your photography this Spring.

If photography is a new hobby for you, or a passion that you want to expand, we hope these ideas inspire.  May they keep out the weeds of criticism as you try new ideas, and keep you from poking at your own results.  Let this season be a time of experiment, adventure with your camera, coloring outside of the lines, and allowing yourself to be messy as you break through that cold ground that wants to stop you from more creative growth!

*If you enjoy learning from Me Ra Koh’s photo tip posts, she is also teaching a FREE One Day Live Class “Breaking Through Creative Barriers” on Creative Live! Mark your calendars for Monday, April 22nd.  Watch from home or consider being one of her six students, details here!

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  • 1. Go Hunting for Shadows 1 of 19
    1. Go Hunting for Shadows
    We often hear that you need to pay attention to the light when taking photos. Sometimes the best way to find the light is to watch for shadows. Shadows define where the light is, bringing shape and clear lines to our story. I recently went away to recharge for a couple of days and had to pull over in this farming town when I saw how the setting sun was casting shadows off the railing. They almost looked like the sun's rays.

    As the days start to become longer, take your camera or smartphone an hour or two before sunset and go hunting for shadows. Take 12 different photos of the shadows you find and then reflect on the exercise by writing down three things you discovered about light and darkness.
  • 2. Dissect the Photograph 2 of 19
    2. Dissect the Photograph
    Amy Rhodes shares: I remember 9th grade science class. It was a fun class until the second semester came and we were required to dissect a frog. Did you have to do that too? I thought it was such a pointless assignment! Once the day came and I understood the point of the activity, I realized how much I learned. As photographers we need to become scientists, too! If you see a photograph you love, instead of comparing your own work to it, study the picture and try to figure out how the photographer captured the image.

    Once you begin studying photographs you will be amazed at how much you pick up. I can't pick up a magazine any longer without examining the pictures that accompany the articles. I am constantly looking at catch lights (the light sparkles in eyes), hand placement and body language. I also try and figure out if a flash or natural light was used and how they were able to get their background in focus or blurred.
  • 3. Use the Sky as Your Backdrop 3 of 19
    3. Use the Sky as Your Backdrop
    Nicole Elliot writes: Spring is a time of growth, color and new beginnings. Often people take advantage of the blooming trees and flowers as the backdrops for outdoor shots. But what about the sky? This is a very versatile backdrop and can be completely beautiful if done right.

    Capture the rich blue sky in the late afternoon, or capture the beautiful colors of the fading sun even later in the evening. Get down low — sometimes even laying on the ground is the best angle. This is especially fun for kids and babies. Set them down on an open road or field, lay down and get to their level and make sure the sun is on either side of you. The simplicity of shooting against the sky is actually very captivating.
  • 4. Look for 25 Different Angles 4 of 19
    4. Look for 25 Different Angles
    Kelli Kalish shares: Pick a set amount of photos you want to take for a favorite setting...let's say 25. For me this means that before I leave my boys' room I need to have shot at least 25 photos. I like to pretend I am shooting a roll of film..where there are not a lot of second chances. This forces me to be very deliberate with what I photograph.

    Then I work the room. Shoot from above, from the ground. Move around your subject and see how things change: the angles, the light, etc. Zoom in, zoom out... The goal is to try and not take the same shot twice! Can you find 25 different angles of one room?
    Side note: I'm headed to Chicago in April to co-teach with Kelli, a special evening, on "Capturing Black and White Magic". Limited seating, so email workshops@merakoh.com if you are interested in more details!
  • 5. Feeling Awkward? Photograph the Awkwardness of a Pre-Teen! 5 of 19
    5. Feeling Awkward?  Photograph the Awkwardness of a Pre-Teen!
    Jess Robertson shares: I work with a lot of little kids, but I don't get the opportunity to work with the older ones too often. And, honestly, they scare me a little, especially those pre-teens! So I am challenging myself to find ways to connect and capture who these awesome, coming-of-age people are! Here is a favorite from a recent session. Ali LOVES pink! She told me that her room is pink and gray, so when I saw this beautiful tree, I had to use it to capture her beauty through the blooming pink buds.

    This is a difficult age to photograph. That transition between being a kid and becoming an adult can make it nearly impossible to feel comfortable in your own skin, much less in front of a camera. If you are doing a photo shoot with a pre-teen or teen, find ways to showcase them with something they love! It could be their guitar, their favorite outfit, even their car. This will help them to be more at ease, and they will have an awesome image to look back on and remember something special about that time in their life.
  • 6. Be Kind, and Let Growth Happen 6 of 19
    6. Be Kind, and Let Growth Happen
    Allison Gallagher writes: I know that photography, by its nature as a visual art form, invites comparison. We look at images that others are shooting and compare them to our own. Images are everywhere... blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, forums and everything in between and we compare ourselves to them constantly. This person has an amazing eye. Another person can capture emotion beautifully. Well, those things may be true, and you can certainly learn a lot from studying work you love. But remember: there are gifts that you have or that you will develop over time. Judging yourself harshly can really stall your photography growth!

    Growth is messy. It takes time and it can't be rushed. Give yourself room to make mistakes, to learn what you like and what you don't. Don't berate yourself for making mistakes, because you will learn from them. A mistake is just a method that doesn't work — and there is knowledge gained each time you experience that.

    Next time you are comparing your photography to someone else's, try and flip the situation. Instead of noticing your shortcomings, notice what you love about those other images and why. Why do they speak to you? Do you already incorporate some of those elements into your images? What specifically can you work on to help raise your work to that level?
  • 7. Follow Initial Movements, Pulls, Instincts 7 of 19
    7. Follow Initial Movements, Pulls, Instincts
    Lynda Kennedy writes: Photography can be much like carrying and birthing your fist child — you know the baby is there, you feel them move and you have definite signs by a growing belly. Thoughts run through your mind of the unknown about birth, but the uncertainty is outweighed by the anticipation of meeting your baby face-to-face and holding them in your arms for the first time. Inside of you there is creativity! Notice what causes you to start to feel its movements inside of you.

    Step out of the boundaries of "right and wrong" and explore what can come from 30 minutes with your camera, different angles, close up or maybe different lighting. Just like the unknown of birthing your first child … there is a time when you find yourself struggling to begin to birth what you have felt inside of you. Don't be afraid: the instinct is there. It's art, it's how you see the world around you, its unique. Let it out and begin to take on it's expression through you.
  • 8. Reflect on Where You are at in Your Photo Journey 8 of 19
    8. Reflect on Where You are at in Your Photo Journey
    Veronica shares: I chose to shoot this photo because it represents exactly what growth in photography can be, whether technical or, like for me, internally. Everything begins with a seed (the desire), the roots sprawl out and the system is created underneath the soil, the stem presses through the soil and out comes out the stem of a plant. It will bloom into something of beauty or bare fruit.

    I have been in the dark but I understand it is part of growth. Whereever you are in journey, just know there are several stages of growth in photography.
  • 9. Take the Leap! 9 of 19
    9. Take the Leap!
    Tina Erdmann shares: Get out of your comfort zone! I'm not saying you have to buckle on a parachute and jump out of a perfectly good airplane. I am saying, however, set some time aside each week, or once per month, to take photos of something completely different than what you normally take photos of, or to try a new technique. For example, if you normally take photos at a slower pace, bump it up a notch and attend a hockey game (or some type of sporting event with fast-moving players)—this will push you to think fast and shoot fast. If you normally photograph people, go on a photo walk and try your hand at architectural photography. And vice versa — if you normally shoot outdoors, take your subjects inside to gain an understanding in how to use window light.

    The sky is the limit here! Not only will this exercise improve your overall technical skills, it'll get your creative juices flowing, and build your confidence so, eventually, you'll be able to walk into any situation knowing that you'll get the perfect shot.
  • 10. Let Go of Perfection 10 of 19
    10. Let Go of Perfection
    Cheryl Bidleman shares: There is such a thing as trying too hard for the perfect shot. Let go of your fear of taking a "bad" picture and just have fun creating and experiencing the joy that comes from being inspired by your subject and the environment around you. My daughter's outfit reminded me of a ballet dancer so I asked her climb on the rope swing and move like a ballerina. This is one of my favorite pictures of her.
  • 11. Shoot into the Sun! 11 of 19
    11.  Shoot into the Sun!
    Summie Roach encourages you to dive into light! She writes: This picture was taken towards the later part of the evening as the sun was starting to set. I positioned myself shooting at her belly level (which meant kneeling down so I was not shooting down at her) and where I was directly in front of her without any of the sun peeking through.

    I set my center focus and metered to her belly. Once my focus was locked, I shifted my body slightly to the left, just enough to get the peak of the sun shine through the edge of her belly. This created a nice sun flare across the image while the lighting was still focused on her and not the sun.
  • 12. Smartphones can Capture Magic, Too (Before) 12 of 19
    12.  Smartphones can Capture Magic, Too (Before)
    One of the most common responses I get from people after a speaking engagement is "What cameras do you use?" And while SONY's camera equipment is amazing, the gear never replaces the artist within. This icky photo was taken with my smartphone. Look at the After photo next to see what a difference positioning light can make!
  • 12. Smart Phones can Capture Magic, Too (After) 13 of 19
    12.  Smart Phones can Capture Magic, Too (After)
    This is the same flower, but the time of day is morning sun versus an overcast afternoon in the previous photo. Notice where I put the sun in the frame--the upper right hand corner, and then I let the sun's brightness show off the flowers even more. If you are a beginner, play with your Smart Phone and practice putting the sun behind your subject. Seeing the light, finding the light, is the beginning of growing your photography!
  • 13. Learn from the Best 14 of 19
    13. Learn from the Best
    One of my fellow SONY Artisans of Imagery, Brian Smith, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer that has been fine-tuning his imagery for over 30 years. And yet he isn't caught up in ego from photographing the celebrities or entitlement from all his awards. In fact, some of you mom bloggers may have had your portrait taken by him at a SONY blogger event! If you've met Brian, you know how awesome he is. Well, he has published a new book called Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous. This book is FILLED with gems for people who love taking photos. Sometimes the best way to grow your photography is to learn from the best!
  • 14. Project 365 15 of 19
    14. Project 365
    Laura Swift shares: Starting a daily photo project is a great way to grow as a photographer. I started a project 365 for the first time ever to push myself and I feel pushed! Finding inspiration in winter takes imagination and really looking at your surroundings. This photo is my dining table in the afternoon sunshine. I love the lines and patterns from the window shining on the dining room table. Just walking through to the kitchen, I saw this magical light pouring into the room. It seemed like the table was glowing, it was so beautiful! An ordinary table decoration can become a thing of beauty in the right light.
  • 15. 10-on-10 Exercise 16 of 19
    15.  10-on-10 Exercise
    Beth Wendland shares; One of the ways I like to nurture my photography is by participating in 10-on-10. It's a simple concept. Take 10 pictures of your daily life, over 10 hours, on the 10th of the month. As a photographer (and busy wife and mom) I don't spend much time in front of the camera. The 10-on-10 gives me an opportunity to pause and look at my own life, to remember it. Some women have told me their lives are too boring to document and say they don't do anything interesting, but everyone has a magical life, it's just a matter of seeing it. Sometimes we have to look a little harder to see our own magic, and make room for it to happen because we become accustomed to it and take it for granted. Each of our lives are beautiful, you have to see it that way.

    My 10-on-10 has recorded everyday moments and special days that won't be repeated. With 10-on-10, I have documented my morning coffee, and my post run ice packs! Playing fetch with the dog, and my sweetheart making popcorn. Now I have photos of the important stuff.
  • 16. Shoot Something that You Never Think of Photographing! 17 of 19
    16. Shoot Something that You Never Think of Photographing!
    Tonya writes; I love capturing people. Landscapes? Objects? Not so much. Emotions play a huge role in everything I love to capture. I want to feel a deep emotional connection. Until recently... Along with my photography business, I work a Monday-Friday full time job in the trucking industry. I was recently promoted as the company's Corporate Communications Manager. Little did I know, photography would become a huge part of my job. Truck photography?! Who would have guessed, but you know what? I love it! It is a blank canvas! So, my tip for you this Spring is to step out of your comfort zone. Think of a subject that never interests you, or is bizarre, out of your comfort. It may bring you some unexpected rewards!
  • 17. Faces are Overrated! 18 of 19
    17. Faces are Overrated!
    Jennifer Tacbas is not only one of our Georgia state CONFIDENCE Teacher, but she is also a new mama! Every Monday she writes a post called First Year for my blog, sharing all kinds of yummy baby photos and photo tips for that first precious year with baby. She encourages us to capture photos that aren't focused on "the face." I love this idea because it's so easy to always look for the smile, the focused eyes, the expressions, but isn't there powerful emotion in this self-portrait of her and baby Logan? How can you capture a photo this spring without any faces?
  • 18. Take an In-Person Workshop, Brian Smith Photographs Oscar Winner, Anne Hathaway 19 of 19
    18.  Take an In-Person Workshop, Brian Smith Photographs Oscar Winner, Anne Hathaway
    I will always be in debt to the many lessons I learned from the first workshops I began photography. There is nothing like learning, hands-on, in person. Brian Smith photographed Anne Hathaway for his other book, Art and Soul (amazing, right?! you should see the beautiful photos he captured of Anne)! You can learn from Brian at an upcoming 2-hour lecture in April at B&H in NYC. I will also be doing a LIVE one-day, online, FREE Workshop on Creative Live April 22nd. And, our CONFIDENCE teachers are offering the early-bird special of 20% off their spring workshops till this Wednesday at midnight! The coupon code: earlybird. Find a teacher near you!

More Posts and Photo Tips from Me Ra and her CONFIDENCE Teachers:

13 Ways to Engage the Photographer in Your Kids (from Me Ra and her two kids!)

14 Photo Tips to Capture Love

15 Women Photographers Share Their Self Portraits and Photo Tips

She Thought Her Wings Were Clipped, Only One Way to Find Out

Me Ra Koh loves cameras, kids, and parents, and spends her life bringing them together.  See her new show Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh on Disney Junior.  Her book Your Baby in Pictures is a national bestseller.  She is honored to be one of SONY’s Artisans of Imagery.  Me Ra and her team of certified teachers lead CONFIDENCE photography workshops for women nationwide.  She has been featured in The New York Times, Parenting, American Baby, Popular Photography, and her photography has been on exhibit from San Fransisco to New York.  You can find her at merakoh.com.

Like Me Ra on Facebook  and Follow Her on Twitter.

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