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page 9 Matthew Studebaker

Written By onci on Monday, August 24, 2009 | 9:48 AM

3 Ideas for Becoming a Better Photographer by Matthew Studebaker

1- Get Inspired

It’s important for every photographer to ask themselves why they are drawn to certain photos and not others. Critically analyze what makes your pulse jump up a notch or two when viewing an image. Which images make you cringe with jealously and why? Once you answer these questions, you are well on your way to making better photos yourself. Having trouble finding inspirational photos? Here are some places to try:
• Your local nature center bookstore
• Magazines such as Birding, Birder’s World, and Wildbird consistently publish work by top professionals.
• Most photographers today have their own web pages which feature a sample portfolio of work.
• There is no end to the excellent photography posted on some of the top online critique forums including Naturescapes.net and Birdphotographers.net.

2- Get Critiqued.

Showing other photographers your work and then letting them tell you what you could have done better takes a lot of courage. It can be humbling at times, but it is the best way to learn. Getting a formal Fine Arts degree in photography not only involved learning every technical aspect of photography imaginable, but it also involved countless hours of critique sessions. The fact that critique sessions are a core element of any photography program underscores how important it is to learning and developing one’s photography skills. There are many websites online which offer outstanding critique forums dedicated to bird photography. These forums are open to anyone who wishes to participate, and are often lead by some of the biggest names in bird photography today. It’s hard to beat free advice from experienced professionals. As of the time of this writing I help lead the forum for NatureScapes.net which I believe is an outstanding venue for the exchange of ideas, critiques, and networking.

There are also well attended bird photography forums on Naturephotogrphers.net, and Birdphotograpahers.net. Even the best photographer can use an extra pair of eyes to help make their work better. Even if you end up disagreeing with some of the advice you receive, at least you’ll know what other people are thinking when they look at your work. You’ll be able to identify weak or misunderstood aspects of your work, along with the elements which make your audience excited. And you’ll also have the fun of simply having an audience with which to share your photos. Finally, being a part of a critique forum allows you to see what others around the country are photographing, which can alert you to rare photo opportunities, and good locations.

3- Attend Bird Photography Workshops

A wonderful way to accelerate your progress in becoming a better bird photographer is to attend a workshop with a photographer you admire. There are quite a few talented bird photography workshop leaders out there, and even more leaders who have almost no talent at all. It’s best to attend a workshop with a leader who is known nationally or internationally, someone who is recognized in their field as an expert, and someone who has a lot of experience photographing the intended subject matter.

Make sure you feel comfortable asking the workshop leader if you have any special goals on the workshop. It’s a good idea to talk with the leader on the phone before booking to see how they communicate and present themselves. After years of leading bird photography workshops myself, I’ve learned it’s vitally important for the workshop leader to keep the group size small enough that each person gets a lot of individual attention. It’s important to have professional contracts and itineraries so that everyone’s expectations are the same.

Matthew Studebaker
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