To become a great photographer the most important thing isn’t to have the best camera or the most expensive gear, it is more than that. We asked the very talented Laura Sheridan (SheridansArt) what she thinks is the most important thing for becoming a great photographer. Laura is only 24 years old but a well-known name in the contemporary and fine art photography scene.

Laura mentions how it is important to not compare yourself with other photographers, to network, to take your time with every single image you shot and being creative and having fun along the way. Here are her Top 7 Tips On Becoming A Great(er) Photographer.

1. Study the styles you like

I never really understood why I didn't get the results I wanted despite having a huge map of inspiration. I am not saying you should copy what others do, but look at how they do it. What makes the work of the artist you admire so great? What are the colors they're using? How do they use (or not use) the light? How can you incorporate these technical details in your own style? What are the details that make it stand out? What is the styling? What are the genres? What’s their inspiration?

I'm very interested in contemporary photography so I studied old photographic masters like Cameron, but also (and mostly) art history. More specifically painters like Vermeer, Breughel, Rubens, Van Eyck. I fell in love with the muted colors, the soft light and the painterly textures. Over time I started to add these elements and saw how things developed.

I am not saying you should copy. Don't ever copy someone’s idea and art! But just like you learn at school, the art field is also a constant learning process that never ends.

2. Take your time

There will always be very talented people, but for most of us it takes a lot of time to get somewhere (and even then, you probably feel like me, like you're nowhere ever!). Growing as an artist and a person is a constantly changing thing. Looking back at my older work I often feel all the cringes. At the same time however, I can also see how much I've grown because I never gave up, despite feeling like I created images worth nothing

Never delete your old works, instead take your time and review it. Look at it and see what you don't like about it and ask yourself why you don’t like it. It's valuable information that can help you grow immensely! Also, take your time to edit your work, take a small break between retouching, get a cup of tea and come back with fresh eyes to see your creation. Maybe switch it around (because you might see things that went unnoticed). Try also to not show it right away to people, and instead save it for yourself (this is a hard one, I know!). You might see something entirely new after a certain time!

3. Don't compare yourself to others

This is probably the most given advice in all the articles I've ever read but it's so true: don't compare yourself to others. There are so many good reasons not to do this because it will obstruct you. Try not to compare yourself because they seem to be better or have cooler concepts or bigger ideas. We all start somewhere and you never know what they’ve been through! Instead, try to admire and support them. Share what they create and use it as motivation to create your own big concepts over time (because as I said, you need to take time for your own creations).

This also brings me to tip number four (and to me the biggest advice I can ever give).

4. Don't do the competitive style

Seriously: don't. There is no need to be competitive in your work. Don't gossip, be mean, jealous or envy other photographers. Don't push them out of your social circle. You should instead embrace your fellow photographers and the competition to the fullest.

I can't stress this enough because it's one of the best things I've learned over time. When I was starting out I was incredibly competitive: I didn't trust anyone, everyone was “stealing” my concepts, I had constant fights with others… Sounds amazing right? Well, it wasn’t. When I realized there were much better things to do than being a total douchebag about everything, I started to open up. Fast-forward to today; I have built up amazing relationships with artists and photographers all over the world. We're constantly engaging with each other, motivating another, sharing sorrow and pain but also milestones and ideas.

These are just a few things that made my life and my artistic career richer. Because at the end of the day, people talk. Do you want to be known as that annoying one? No, of course, you don’t! I am not saying you should sugar coat everything (because they will know if you do) but just be yourself, do your thing and meet people. That's all you have to do!

5. Gear and why it doesn't need to be expensive or difficult

I won't lie, right now I have more professional equipment but it's also pretty recent I bought it. I bought my home studio a few months ago (a total of 1500 euros) and I have my Canon 5D mark I for the past two and a half years. But before that (and still today) I have almost no gear. In fact, I feel very comfortable with working with minimalistic settings and a lot of DIY.

I've been shooting for about almost nine years now and I started with a small, digital thing. At one point I even had to borrow one camera from my friend because I didn't have any) and it took me a long time to collect everything (I'm actually still paying off my loan to my parents for the studio, but that's another story…).

When people tell me I'm a good photographer because I have this awesome camera and professional lens, I actually feel offended. I'm a good photographer because I trained myself for the past nine years to become a good one, not because my camera has enough pixels to satisfy huge printouts! The number of pixels won't ever change how good or bad you are as a photographer. The only thing you need is your creativity, a good amount of energy and hard work. I've worked with walls in the middle of the street just 50 cm wide trying to make gorgeous portraits, I've put models in children pools filled with water and milk, I've thrown flour over the models and the ground around them to create snow… Just be creative!

And you know, that’s the best practice you will ever get. If you can work with nothing, then you can create the impossible with everything! Just be creative! Google is always your friend and don’t forget to reach out to others. You never know what your friends might have at home that you can borrow for a few hours.

6. Networking

Similar to tip number 4: don't be competitive and instead embrace your artistic network. This is not only good for your state of mind, but it is also a good way to get input, make beautiful friendships, generate great ideas, etc.

Thanks to my networking I have this amazing network of creative designers with who I can collaborate with to bring concepts to life. We share ideas and it's a constant stream of inspiration! This is just a small tip of the iceberg that goes with networking. You never know what way the ball will roll when you are networking. But keep in mind that they are just people. Don't be pushy when it comes to networking, let it just grow and see how things go. Just like friendships, networking grows over time. Always remind yourself to be genuine about what you want to reach out with.

7. And last but not least ….

There is no spoken truth on how to become a good photographer. What I wrote in this article are my tips to get through some things. I could write about technical things or studio set-ups or how to scout models… but I find myself often thinking and sharing about the less obvious things: to me networking is more important than my gear. Not being competitive and instead of being kind and admiring others has brought me so much more in life than having constant fights with myself and others. Sharing my experiences about taking your time and studying can give you so much more in life than another tutorial on how to become a good fantasy photographer.

My biggest advice: believe in yourself, work very, very, very hard, educate yourself, network and have fun. Because if you don't like what you do, you won't ever get better – it’s that simple. Embrace the bad days because they happen for a reason: you learn something new.

Have fun shooting your favorite subjects!

Too see more of Laura's amazing contemporary art visit her profile and website.