How to be a great photographer
Focus on what is important.
Trust me, you will learn what you need to as you go, eventually all the technical stuff will take care of itself. Your job as a photographer has almost nothing to do with a camera.
Your job is to capture the minds and imaginations of people and pull them into different worlds. Your job is to create a connection with your subject, so powerful, that other people thousands of miles away years from now will feel it. Your job is to show us what it means to be human. Your job is to care about something so passionately that everyone around you will find themselves caring too. Your job is to realize that art has the power to change the world.
Focus on these things, and you will succeed.
Focus on Megapixels and High ISO, and you will fail, because your passion will die out long before you have the chance to shine.
How Important is All the “Technical Stuff”
“I like my camera, and it takes really good pictures, but someday I want to learn how to use all the features, and what all those numbers mean.”
Most people I meet think they need to know and understand all the little features in a camera and what all the numbers mean to be a good photographer, but that simply isn’t true. You can be a great photographer without ever knowing what f/5.6 means. In fact, most people should not know what every number means.
At this point, you are probably thinking to yourself. “Aaron – You teach photography for a living, don’t be an idiot and tell people they don’t need to know this stuff.”
Thanks for looking out for my well being, and you are totally right. some people do need to know every little detail. A photography instructor for instance, better know what all those numbers mean.
How to make a great photograph
- ) YOUR CAMERA DOES NOT MATTER
Honest. If you believe me, just skip to the next section. If you don't then read the rest of this mandatory page here. If you insist on going out today and buying a camera, see my page here for inexpensive 35mm cameras and here for digital cameras.
- ) CURIOSITY
Photograph subjects for which you have a true curiosity. You have to find them interesting if you want the people who see your work to find them interesting, too.
- ) FOLLOW YOUR OWN VISION
Don't follow gurus, teachers, me or anyone else. You'll never be better than anyone else at being them. No one will be better at what Ansel did than Ansel, and likewise, no one will ever be better at doing what you do than you. Be yourself. Show your passions. Don't try to duplicate someone else's. You have to go out, be yourself, and your own style will develop. Never, ever think that because you like something done by someone else that you have to do the same. Find something about which you are passionate and explore that. If you get off on figurines or wastebaskets or old people or beautiful naked girls or hubcaps or patterns left by tires in the snow or sewage processing plants or cute little animals, go photograph them. There is no right or wrong thing to photograph. Just show us what excites you. If nothing excites you, your photos will suck. Find what you like, and the heck with everyone else.
- ) SEE, DON'T JUST LOOK
- ) CONVEY WHAT YOU FEEL. ASK HOW YOU WOULD DESCRIBE WHAT YOU ARE FEELING TO A BLIND PERSON.
- ) THERE ARE NO RULES
There is no right and no wrong. The rule of thirds is not a rule and rules are for idiots. Just go make good photos. A good photo is one you or someone else likes. There are no formulas or grades or scores.
- ) ASK NOT WHY SOMETHING IS HERE, BUT HOW TO MAKE IT MEANINGFUL
Creativity is nice, but all because something is creative does not make it art. When a baby reaches into his diaper and paints the wall with what he finds there, it is a very creative act, but it is not art.
- ) KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO
Much of photography is the ability to look at something scenic everyone else is shooting and say "Boring!". Peak lighting and weather are just that: optimum peaks. Most of the time, things aren't very photogenic by comparison. Anyone can take pictures today. Some things are simply boring. You can spend a lot of effort trying to make them look otherwise, or you can relax and go find better things to photograph. As they say in ranching, "don't beat a dead horse."