The quick answer is: turn your images into prints!
In October 2007 I came this close to buying a Canon 5D and a 24-105/4 IS lens. I was tempted by the full-frame sensor, image-stabilized lens, great zoom range, lower image noise and the additional 4,6 megapixels. But while a new camera is nice, it wouldn’t have changed my photography in a fundamental way.
So I bought an Epson 3800 printer instead. The reason was very simple — I was having trouble getting good prints with reliable colors and reliable borders on a variety of papers. And to be honest, I probably also needed a new toy.
Little did I know how that printer would change my photography! Now wait, you’d say — a printer is an end-device, it cannot turn a crappy image into a great one! Well, you are right (even though the printer manufacturers would like us to believe otherwise), but I mean this. Using a printer means printing an image. But which image? So the first thing was to look at my images critically and select the better ones. But once I had those, I didn’t just print them. No, you don’t just send a good image to the printer — you edit it and make it excellent. Then you print it.
And then came revelation number one. When you hold a print in your hands you see so many faults that you didn’t see on screen, you rush back to Photoshop and correct them. Repeat this a few times and you realize that you need to learn more about sharpening. So you do and you print again. The results looks so gorgeous, you are in awe. So you rush to the store and buy some frames. You frame the prints and hang them on the walls and it’s a great feeling. That’s revelation number two.
But a few days later you want another great print to go with the first one, so you take the camera and hurry outside. All of a sudden it’s not about pixel peeping any more, it’s about covering your walls with great prints. Revelation number four.
And the final revelation? In the eyes of your friends you are no longer the nerd with the camera, you are a photographer.