Upgrade your design skills in 2017

Illustration: Flavio Montiel

Most designers can take decent pictures, and with a high-quality camera on every modern smartphone, you might think that's enough. But working to improve your photography skills can really help boost your career, says graphic designer Jacob Cass of Just Creative.

"As a designer, it helps you become more aware of composition, colour, light and allows you to start thinking in a different visual medium," he points out. "It also allows you to reduce your dependency on stock photos and earn more cash by charging for your services."

For Mark Dearman, design director at True, the latter was the clincher. "I was finding relying on stock photography very limiting," he explains.

"Often clients wouldn't have the budget to commission their own photo shoots or bespoke illustration, so I was limited to stock. I decided to improve my photography skills to allow me to create my own assets."

01. Trial and error

How did he go about it? "I own a lot of books by photographers and I've read plenty of articles, but it was trial and error mainly. I'd take some photos, then analyse them and work out what I needed to do to improve."

"I've learnt a lot from my mistakes. There really is no substitute for taking lots of photos. I always liked the famous quote by Henri Cartier-Bresson: 'Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.'"

02. Ask questions

Another thing you can do, says graphic designer and photographer Matthew Holland, is ask questions. "I'm on Twitter and Instagram a lot," he explains.

"I share a lot of other people's work, ask them how they've achieved this or that, as well as reading blogs or magazines and looking at YouTube. I recently came across Digital Rev TV, who are very funny and put a great twist on learning photography."

03. Study the fundamentals

But in general, it's a case of practice makes perfect, says Cass. "Start shooting and never stop," he advises. "Study the fundamentals from books and online. Understand how light works and how you can make it work for you."

04. Learn how to edit

"Once you have this down pat, start learning how to edit your photos. My personal favourite for editing is Adobe Lightroom and it's quite easy to pick up."

Useful resources

Illustration: Flavio Montiel