Photography as Life

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about photography and why I do it as well as enjoy it. Photography is something that I picked up late in life, only in the last ten years. Not that I haven’t had cameras while growing up. I just never used them as I use them now as a way to create art. It’s been in the last ten years that I’ve really explored photography as an art form. Which has opened a whole way of looking at the world. I should say that as a photographer I’m completely self taught. I’ve had no formal training in school, nor taken any work shops. I’ve hung out with photographers, talked with them, listened to them. As well as watched hours and hours of you tube about the subject, the art, and application of photography. However the last thing I would call myself is an expert by any stretch of the imagination.

Having said all that I think I’ve also reached that level while I’m not an expert. I am more than a gifted amateur. Because of what I’ve learned over the last ten years I’ve been able to come up with a set of rules, guide lines, or tips if you will that has helped me become good at what I do. Now to be honest most if not all of these tips I’ve taken from other photographers who have given really great advice. I’m also a firm believer in the idea that there’s no point in reinventing the wheel. So here we go.

Tips For Great Photography

1, Attitude – Be positive. Attitude is as much about yourself as it is about your art. If you bring a positive attitude to what you do you’ll get positive results. The same is true when you wake up in the morning and decide to have a great day. It’s a good bet that you will have a great day.

2, Work with what you have – Photography can be brutally expensive, gear isn’t cheap. Just because you don’t have to newest gadget doesn’t mean you wont take great photos. One of the best photos I’ve ever taken I took with a Nikon D3000 and an 18-55 mm kit lens, entry level amateur gear. It’s also the same with conditions. Lighting may never be perfect, the weather may suck. But it’s your eye and your brain that takes the photograph. A great chef doesn’t have a great stove. He uses his eye and his brain to create.

3, Protect the highlights – The highlights of your photo are what will draw in the person looking at your photograph. Highlights are also the main element of what will set your photos story. If you look at your life as a photograph, your life will be filled with highlights, low lights, good times, middle times and bad times. As in your photography as in your life, protect the highlights. Because they make it all worth while.

4, Be fearless – Never be afraid to try something new even if you fail. It’s from your failures that you will learn how to succeed. To quote Winston Churchill; “When you are going through hell, keep going.” The fearlessness to try new things are what will push you higher up the mountain. Keep going.

5, Practice – Get out and shoot. I can’t stress enough that the best way to become great at something is to follow three very simple rules. Practice, practice, practice. Thomas Edison made two thousand light bulbs before he found the one that worked. When asked about his two thousand failures he replied; “But I didn’t fail. I discovered two thousand ways how not to make a light bulb.”

6, Tell a story – Every photography is a story. It’s what makes the photography alive to the viewer. Everyone has a story to tell but it’s your story you should be interested in which will be reflected in your images. Don’t be afraid to tell it.

7, Balance – A photograph should have balance or what in life we call symmetry. Balance helps to keep a photography and ourselves in harmony with what is around the image and in our lives. “Maintain a state of balance between physical acts and inner serenity, like a lute whose strings are finely tuned.” Gautama Buddha

8, If it isn’t working then walk away – I’ve taken my camera out with expectations of something great. Only to find myself standing there with nothing. No inspiration, no wow moment, nothing grabbing me. It’s at those times it’s best to walk away and go for coffee. Because there’s always tomorrow.

9, Be honest with yourself, your subject, your viewer – The worst thing you can do is lie to yourself. And if you lie to yourself it becomes really easy to lie about your subject and by default lie to your viewer. However you slice and dice it when you are honest and tell the truth, you don’t have to remember the lie you told. Honesty will also get you respect even if that respect is from yourself. If you find yourself standing alone with your honesty then good. It was the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius who said; “Live a good life.” I would add an honest life.

10, Each day try and learn something new – Learning is what keeps your mind and hence your craft new and fresh. It’s what helps you climb whatever mountain you are trying to climb. It also gives you new and great skills that you can use to go further.

11, Be curious – Humans are curious creatures. We like to explore, we like to look around. Being curious with photography or whatever it is you do will just make you better at what you do.

12, Keep an open mind – The worst thing you can do is close your mind to new and interesting things. By keeping an open mind you can explore new ideas that will help propel you forward. Also never be afraid to say to yourself, I’m wrong so I will keep an open mind and try something new. A closed mind has no light. An open mind is filled with light.

So those are my photography tips. The truth is I didn’t invent any of them. They’re a culmination of listening to other people, exploring, trying new things, and just living my life day to day. They have also helped me become good at photography, to keep it fresh as well as enjoy it.

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