Working on your craft is pretty important, no matter what it is. Everyone wants to get better! Those BMX and downhill racers aren't just born good or fast, sure there is natural ability to go along with it, but they train very hard and develop skills and strengths. Photography is no different, personally it can be hard to tell whether you are progressing or not. Sometimes I look at my work and just think what the hell am I doing. Anyone can put some pretty pictures on FB and get a whole bunch of likes, but in reality that means nothing.
I recently photographed a new home built by Collins Homes in Devonport. Not a big fancy mansion which looks like it was brought down from the Gold Coast on a truck, but a really nice normal home. Funnily enough I photographed the exact same house (design) a couple of years ago, only it was a mirror image and in a different street, this first shoot was for competition so I really made sure the work was top quality. It has since won many awards in national HIA builder awards, hopefully with the help of my work... See - www.collinshomes.com.au
This second shoot was a perfect way to personally assess my own progress. Since the first version of this house I now realise I have learnt a LOT, particularly about lighting technique and the colour of light, along with other small technical details. In the past year or so I've been to several workshops/talks by some of the best shooters in the business. Some are long time National Geographic shooters (my dream job). The most educational talk and book I have read in this time (The Hot Shoe Diaries) was by Joe McNally, who is a bit of a lighting guru, especially location lighting with regular speed light type strobes (not big grunt studio packs). These workshops and books may not be aimed at shooting houses but I figure the principles are exactly the same so I use what I've leant, plus I shoot editorial jobs so this has been very valuable knowledge.
Here's a brief comparison of the two shoots: I shot half the amount of frames the second time around and processed them in maybe a quarter of the time all in Lightroom 5. Basic adjustments - straighten the verticals, WB fine tune, contrast, open up some shadows and boom, finito! The first shoot was all processed in Lightroom 4 also but I do remember doing some heavy dodging and burning along with the other processes.
My little tip for the day. Learn your craft, attend workshops. Read books. Pay for training or tutoring and learn real skills because at the end of the day anyone can sit there and click auto fix and hope for the best.
Here are some image comparisons, hopefully if you look closely you can see some kind of progress... Ta!