When I did my last talk on photography a few weeks ago I added a section that I thought was funny BUT very informative. I'm now sharing it with you on the blog. Here you go. My 20 step program on how NOT TO SUCK at what you do!
Jump in that car. Explore your neck of the woods. Don’t go to the mountains but maybe take that range road that always triggered your curiosity. Try and go the opposite way of where common sense would take you. In this time and age of GPS systems, it is hard to get lost. Just go for it.
2. HAVE A PASSION
Be passionate about something. If you don’t know what you like to photograph try to photograph a lot of different subjects. Eventually, you will find your niche. Maybe you like to photograph horses? Maybe you like to photograph nudes. Maybe you like to photograph nudes on horses in majestic landscapes with the most epic light. Try it!
3. STOP SPENDING MONEY ON STUFF YOU DON’T NEED
Open any photo magazine. Everything is about gear, gear and more gear. Use this filter for this result etc. Now I do use filters. Don't get me wrong. But vision is more important than gear. A photographic voice is more important than gear. Even learning solid composition is more important than gear and megapixels. Try to do – what you like to do – with the gear you have now first before you acquire more gear. The moment you start to specialize you are choosing a route for your photography. It is difficult to return back to that fork in your 'road' and start all over. It is doable but requires a lot of work.
4. USE YOUR IMAGINATION
If you can dream it, you can photograph it! Plus it is YOUR imagination. Nobody knows what you think. What you can create in your mind. Use that to your advantage.
5. MAKE YOUR SHARE OF BAD DECISIONS
Be proud of the stuff you did where you miserably failed! Just remember the lessons you have learned!
6. APPRECIATE STUFF
Yeah! Enjoying everything you do to the fullest. Try to avoid too much drama.
7. STAY HUMBLE
Always be thankful for what you can do. This is the best job in the world! And always say 'thank you' when somebody shows interest in your work. They offered up time out of their day to email you. You should be thankful, people care about what YOU do. Don't be a douche.
8. STOP LOOKING AT OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS’ WORK IN ENVY
This is a biggie. What other photographers do is none of your business. How they promote their work might not be the perfect way for you to promote your work. Don't look at their portfolios and mimic their style or even better replicate their compositions. Create your own view on things!
9. KNOW YOUR TOOLS AND STOP WORRYING ABOUT THEM
Stop babying your gear. Seriously. My gear gets tossed around a lot. I've used it in 'extremes'. Shooting when it was 35C hot or -40C in winter time. Without ANY problems. I even photographed for 3 solid hours in a torrential downpour last year. The 5DmkII was literally soaked. I did NOT use the 'plastic' bag trick when I returned home (I personally think it's a waste of time). Anyway. I came home and opened up the camera bag. Grabbed the camera and every screen, the whole lens, everything went 'poof'. It was completely fogged up. So without turning it on, it laid it down on one of my heating vents on the floor. Put the heating on. After 5 minutes I was ready to download my card.
10. SHOW SOME EMOTION
Not only in your work, but also when you meet with people. Show them how eager you are to take on the job. Give your clients the idea you work for them and ONLY for them. Be proud if something ticks you off. Care about things.
11. SHARE + HELP
Share your knowledge and if somebody asks for your help, give it to them. HONESTLY! It's karma baby. It will come back to you in the end.
12. BE SAFE
Always think two steps ahead. Do yo really need to jump on that slippery rock in the middle of that fast running stream to get the shot or is there another option? Think twice if you go out in winter for instance on where you put your feet. Something might look solid but you might stand on a piece of ice underneath this snow that is ready to crack. Also be bear aware for instance if you head out to the mountains. And obey the speed limits in the national parks. They are there to protect the wildlife not to protect you.
13. BE AN OBSERVER
Always look for photographic opportunities. Use your minds eye to create photo’s in your head. Think in squares and rectangles. Look for light. Study light. Always, Anytime of the day. Analyse. When you see an interesting scene, imagine it in winter time. Maybe it can look even better then.
Simple shots are the best shots. Avoid clutter. Check your edges and backgrounds! Nothings worse than come home from the most epic shoot when you notice there is a branch sticking into the frame from the side. Come on. Admit it. It happened to you before. I know I made those mistakes. Now they are pretty easy to clone out but I do shoot film as well. Nothing you can do there...
15. LEAVE ONLY FOOTPRINTS
I know this is kind of a very classic thing to say but there is so much truth in there. Be aware of what you are doing when you are out in nature. Don’t trample plants if you have another option. Keep on pathways is a good start!
16. STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT THE WEATHER OR LIGHT CONDITIONS
Seriously. You can photograph throughout the day in any light or condition. People that say otherwise have not truly opened their eyes yet. Yes there are blogs out there that claim the opposite. Laugh at those guys. And feel sorry for them.
17. LOVE WHAT YOU DO
If you love what you do, you will do it better. Not only in photography but in life. Work hard! Set out realistic goals and meet them! The way I do it I set out 3 small goals each year. My goals aren't big giant leaps. Just small little steps. In the end they all add up...
18. BE CURIOUS ABOUT THINGS
Ask yourself why? Why is this happening? Try to understand something completely. Even if it takes years. Your appreciation for it will only go up. For me personally I'm trying to learn to predict the weather for where I live. It's very hard. And I haven't even scratched the surface yet. But on the other hand 3 years ago I did not understand spaceweather all to well either. Now I can predict if we are going to be able to see auroras pretty well and reliable.
19. BE INTUITIVE
If something feels right, it is! Never second guess yourself. Use your gut feeling in composition for example. Ditch the rule of thirds. Also be intuitive in your processing. Don't go by numbers but rely on your eyes and your feelings. Good photography comes from the heart.
20. BE YOURSELF!
But mostly, be yourself. Nobody sees the world around you like you do. Nobody understands it bette than you. Nobody dreams like you do. And nobody likes stuff better than you. Keep photographing for YOURSELF not to please others. Don't use a certain style of photography because it is popular. Your photography needs to say YOU even if YOU are not there.