Tips for Becoming a Better Photographer

Straight from one of our favorite Instagrammers, Nikki Krecicki.

Last week, Sweet was invited to attend a special workshop at the Apple Store in Williamsburg with VSCO Ambassador, Nikki Krecicki. She shared some life-changing tips with us on how to create the most meaningful portraits—and now we're going to share them with you.

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Follow Your Idols

When you're starting out, it's totally OK to copy the work of photographers you admire. In fact, it's one of the best ways to learn. Find a handful of styles and subjects that you would like to experiment with and then just go for it. In the process, you'll learn what works for you, both technically and aesthetically.

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Form Your Own Unique Visual Identity

Eventually you'll need to start carving out your own visual signature. The most successful photographers are the people who approach image-making in a new and exciting way. A good tip is to find one thing you like about a few of your idols, and then combine them into your own special style. Try to capture the pose you find in one awesome photograph with the lighting you find in another.

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Shoot as Much as Possible

There's no such thing as too many pictures, especially if you're experimenting. Take a picture of a friend or family member every day. It will help you get comfortable working with others, and it will also help you understand your camera inside and out. The number one tip on learning how to be the best photographer you can be is: practice, fail, repeat. It is smart to be very selective with what you end up deciding to post, though. Remember—this is the internet: everything you release will stay on it, somewhere, forever.

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Sometimes the greatest images come out of the least expected circumstances, and a lack of planning can create the most genuine portraits. Try randomly shooting at unusual hours of the day. Or, if you get a sudden burst of inspiration, find ways to realize that vision out of your limited immediate resources. Notice some interesting light sweeping across your pal's face as he sits on his bed? Get that shot.

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Make the Most Out of Your Surroundings

One of the hardest parts of scoring a great portrait is finding a meaningful background. You might think that your lame hometown lacks any cool locations—not true. Find some interesting walls, crawl through the landscape, or build a set out of the things around you. Look for new ways to interact with your environment.

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Make Your Subjects Feel Beautiful

The worst thing you can do is shove your phone or camera in someone's face and expect to get an evocative portrait. It's incredibly important to slow down and get to know your subject as a person, before and during the session. Ask them about their day or about their pets. This will make them more comfortable in front of your camera, which will lead to the most honest portraits.

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Have Respect and Build Mutual Trust

Crucial rule: Don't treat the people you're photographing as objects. They're giving you their time, and it's your duty as an artist to respect that and give them positive memories to take away. Build up a level of trust and respect among all people involved, and it will translate through to the photographs.

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Find Inspiration Outside of Social Media

Social media is a super-positive way to find and share your work, but sometimes the feed can become a vortex for similar aesthetics. We all share ideas with one another, but eventually the work becomes homogeneous, and it can be difficult to tell one photographer from another.

Check out some paintings at a local museum, go to a performance, listen to strange new music. Everything will add to your own unique perspective.

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Sometimes Two Pictures Are Better Than One

A picture doesn't always tell a thousand words. Pairing images will create an interesting dialogue between the two, allowing the reading of the portrait to expand. Make a diptych with a flower you found that you feel relates to your subject. Or maybe include a location shot. These are fun ways to add come context to your images, giving them meaning.

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Don't Be Afraid to Show Imperfections

The plastic, airbrushed look is just not cool anymore. Embrace a hair flyaway, find joy in their freckles. These are all special elements that truly create the most honest portraits. A perfect portrait is not the "perfect portrait"; it's an image that translates the relationship between artist and subject and reveals something about who they really are.

Check out more of Nikki's work at and follow her on Instagram @nkrecicki.

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