10 Life Lessons from Digital Photography

Categories: Photography
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Published on: 2007.10.18

1. Practice Doesn’t Really Make Perfect

In photography, practice can make you better, but most of the time, that “perfect” shot is a combination of prepared technique, ambient lighting, and the luck to be in the right place at the right time.

However, if you don’t practice, you won’t be ready when that right moment shows up. So, practice!

2. Patience Isn’t a Virtue; It’s a Waste of Time

Gone are the days when you had to wait around for the right shot, just because the end of the film roll was approaching. Now, with nearly unlimited digital memory cards, your best bet is to shoot fast and keep shooting. You can delete the garbage later.

Besides, it might be one of those early “pre-shots” that turns out to be the best.

3. The Boy Scouts Were Right

The age-old motto “be prepared” certainly applies to digital photography. You never know when you’ll be on location and wish you had a spare set of batteries, or that macro lens you left in the closet, or the camera’s manual to explain detailed settings. Learn as much as you can about what you’ll be shooting, so you’ll bring just what you need. (And it never hurts to bring along a notepad and pen — or pencil — to jot down important info.

4. Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Well

How many times have you followed someone’s “click here” link just to see dozens of crappy snapshots, poorly lit faces, blurry action shots, or other poorly taken photos? No one likes to look at your pictures if they’re no good. Take the time to learn about the craft, even if it’s just a part-time hobby.

The least you can do is show me you’re trying.

5. All That Glitters is Not Gold

Every week, another new camera is advertised, one that will solve all my problems, and is “guaranteed” to get me the perfect photo every time. Or it might be a lens, or a flash gun, or a new photo-editing suite. Here’s the rub: they just want more money. And they’ll want even more next week.

Sure, it feels great to have that new, sleek, powerful camera in your hands, but will it really solve all my photographic problems? I doubt it. I’ve learned my lessons the hard way, buying things that I soon had to replace because an even newer, better item was released right afterward.

6. Think Outside the Darn Box

If you’re a beginning photography student, you’ll be hearing quite a bit about the “rule of thirds,” keeping your horizon level, and other “rules” of photography. They’re good to learn, and they serve a purpose. But know when to break them. Know when to take the picture a certain way just because it looks good.

7. Life Certainly is Not Fair

If life were fair, all of us would have the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, with a bag full of the best “L” lenses around, plus 8 GB memory cards, brand new Macs with which to format our photos, and of course the top-of-the-line home printing system.

But life isn’t fair. Even if you got that camera, you wouldn’t know how to use it. Besides, you can’t afford it.

Also, if life were fair, you’d always be at the right place at the right time. But you won’t. Take what you can, and get the best shots you’re capable of.

8. Stop and Shoot the Roses

Okay, so I butchered another cliche. I’m not saying you should take pictures of flowers every time you see them. No, not at all. “Stop and smell the roses” means to step away from the frenetic pace of life and relax, enjoy, etc.

It’s the same with photography, especially if it’s your job. Remember to take pictures that you enjoy. Remember to look around for what you’re missing outside the viewfinder. That “perfect” shot might be behind you.

Also, take time later to flip through your best images. It’s great for self-encouragement, and it’s a good ego booster.

(Note: I use my favorite photos as my Windows screen saver — just the ones taken by me — and it helps remind me of how far I’ve come. Plus, some of those pictures just make you feel good.)

9. There Is Never a Reason to Be Unkind

Throughout my professional photography career (especially at the beginning), I was constantly barraged with snotty comments from those who were ahead of me. “Oh, you’ll have to get THIS lens if you want THAT shot,” was a common phrase. In many cases, the pros wouldn’t even respond to my questions, because I was so far “beneath” them (in their minds).

I’ve learned, though, that one of the most enjoyable parts of photography is passing on knowledge to those who want it. It’s quite a blessing to give someone a tip or two and then watch their photos immediately improve.

10. The Proof is in the Pudding

This old phrase basically means: “It’s the results that count.” It doens’t matter if your camera is top of the line or a three-year-old low-megapixel job. It doesn’t matter if you’re a soccer mom who got the camera on a lark, or a hardened professional. Many of today’s best images come from inexperienced people who just took the right picture.

When you’re feeling “lens envy” or “camera envy,” realize that the machine you hold in your hand can still produce great images if you use it correctly.

  1. Sara-Bear says:

    This is a great blog. There are a lot of times I feel awkward about working with a camera, and these are great pointers.

  2. Wil says:

    Thanks, Sara. Glad I could help.

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