In photography we have the Concept and the Execution. What distinguishes simply competent photography from exceptional photography is which comes first. Let me put it another way, does creativity follow technique or the other way around?
Many photographers are so (pardon the pun) focused on the Execution (camera, exposure, composition, lighting, etc) that they forget that it takes a back seat to Concept. The entire time you've been perfecting the technical details of you photography, you should have been honing the Creative side as well. It is almost more important than Execution, but sadly no one talks about it, and they don't even teach it in photography schools. Everyone is concentrated on HOW rather than the more important WHY.
Everyone knows the adage that 'practice makes perfect', and every time you take pictures you're honing the execution part, but what can you do to hone the concept? Where do you go to learn that?
Actually the Concept is everywhere for you to grab, but here's a short list:
- Go to a museum
- Read art books or sci-fi
- Follow your favorite living artists on Twitter
- Do The Artist's Way
- Find a mentor
- Take a drawing or painting class
- Join a group of artists that do monthly assignments
- Compete in challenges at DPReview.com or New School of Photography
- Look for contests to enter on Photography Competitions
- If you've only used digital camera, put a piece of opaque tape over the rear screen.
Give yourself One Year doing anything from the above list and I guarantee it will make you a better photographer.