The Best Photography Advice I’ve Ever Received

The phrase “there is nothing new under the sun” comes to mind when I think about what I know as a photographer.  I didn’t reinvent the wheel, I took great advice and made it work for me.  Things I would hear or read would be filed away in the depths of my brain somewhere until I had a chance to test them out and perfect them for myself.  Here is some of the best advice I’ve received as a photographer.

You can read about the worst advice I’ve ever received here.

Shoot Every Day

There really is no better way to improve your photography skill than this.  You can do it for a week, a month, or better yet… A year.  There are plenty of “365 Projects” you can check out where photographers take one photograph every day for an entire year (you can call it a 366 project on leap years).

The best way to make this advice work for you is to photograph all different types of stuff.  You can take portraits of your kids, cats, llamas, or take a walk and capture some landscape photography.  The world is your oyster and all you have to do is pick up your camera and go.

Mind Your Foreground

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of compositional rules that are there to help guide you along in an effort to create images other people will like ogling.  I like a lot of them but this one has always stood out to me and has improved my landscape photography immensely.

0714_untitled_244-2   Adding something interesting to the foreground of an image increases its appeal exponentially.  The foreground element gives the viewer somewhere to start rather than jumping into your photograph like a child canon baling into a pool.  Foreground elements also help give depth to otherwise two-dimensional images.0314_untitled_014-2-2

Get Up Earlier, Stay Out Later

0314_untitled_031What sets you apart from every other photographer you know?  If you said your creative vision then you’d only be half right.  There are a lot of people who are going to be more or less creative than you are, we are all unique human beings.  What really sets you apart is your ability to work harder than others.  Are you willing to get out of bed when every bone in your body tells you to lay back down?  Will you keep on shooting even after your legs grow weary and your eyes get heavy?  That is what will set you apart.

0314_untitled_048-3The image above, with the girl on the bike riding through the birds in the fog, was taken just as the sun was beginning to rise.  The weather had started to get stormy the night before and there was no reason to think there would be a good shot at the beach but I pushed myself in the hopes of catching something unique.  This is one of my favorite shots I’ve ever taken.

The image of the headlamp shinning into the stars was taken well into the evening when the sun had set and the air was cold.  There were bugs and vicious dolphins but I pushed through because I wanted to capture something great.

Write It Down And Do It

It’s common to lay in bed and think of a great idea for a unique photograph.  But do you remember it the next day?  Did you do it?  Write it down and actually do it.  Set an alarm if you have to, just make sure you actually complete the ideas you have otherwise they will die with you.

Add The Human Element

I didn’t always like Street Photography.  In fact, I still think most of it looks like someone took random snap shots of strangers or dry humped some poor individual up and down the sidewalk to get a “Street Portrait”.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that adding people into my photography made it more interesting and unique.

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Knee-jerk reaction for landscape photographers is to try every angle and technique to eliminate pesky people from their shots.  Stop doing this!  Instead, try to wait for the perfect combination of lighting and people in your landscape images for more unique and eye-catching images.

Stay Out Of The Box

Finally, my best advice to you is to not let anyone put you in a box.  Literally and figuratively.  Often you’ll hear so-called pundits in various magazines and on websites criticize a way of processing photographs or an entire genre of photography because it doesn’t fit into their mold of what great photography should be.  Ignore them!  When someone says you can’t do something because it’s not normal enough forge on.

Pittsburgh merge

Don’t stop exploring your passion and use others negativity as fuel to push your limits.  People will put you into the same box they are in if you let them, it’s a sad little box where the ideas are all the same and the photographs all look-alike.  Chances are, the louder your critics get the more interesting your photography is…  Or it’s awful and you should try something else.

The point is, don’t let people criticize you into staying in a creative box.  Try new things, explore different types of photography, and have fun.

What’s the best photography advice you’ve ever received?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below or a kitten will cry.

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4 Comments

  • The best advice I ever received came from my mentor, Robert Vasquez, who said, “shoot fearless”. It’s become my mantra. I’ve laid in mud puddles, ruined perfectly good clothing, shot from places I wasn’t sure I was supposed to…wherever the shot is, I’ll go. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission :p

  • I have two. First. Shoot subjects not objects. Second. Interact with the world around you through your camera.

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