As we kick off 2020, I thought I would make this week’s podcast all about the five most common questions I got asked in 2019 that weren’t related to camera gear or printing. I thought each question was exciting and provided an interesting insight into the creative process.
Here are the questions I talk about in the podcast this week. I hope that you find the questions as enjoyable as I did.
1. What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2019?
2. How long does it take to become a professional photographer?
3. Do you have any good books for me to read?
4. How do you know when to work in black and white?
5. Do you ever get stuck in your process and feel like you can’t create following your process?
As we close down the year and decade, many of us start to look back and reflect on the past year or ten. I am not a huge fan of looking back at what was cool in 2015 as a part of the decade. I would much rather think about the coming year. As photographers, we are always dealing with time and issues in time. It is part of the reading of photographs and the making of photographs.
As the new year dawns, I got to thinking about how much time there is. I hear from so many people how time is lost, and there isn’t time to make the photographs they want. So in this final podcast of 2019, I talk about how your approach to giving yourself time from making empty spaces can be one of the best gifts you can give yourself to start the new year.
I’m excited to be producing my 250th episode of the podcast for this week. It is a milestone that I never imagined when I started years ago, and it has been fun thinking about all the episodes I have had the honor to create thus far. As I began to reminiscing, I realized how much my podcast, while photography and creativity focused, isn’t really about being a better photographer by using a formula, but rather more about a wandering path.
That realization got me thinking about how much we can miss in our photography and learning when we try to focus our scope of work down so small that we miss the big picture. While it might be valuable at times to have a defined sequence of events, much of our creativity isn’t driven by that method. If we get closed-minded, we can miss the boat. Maybe we solve the wrong problem. Maybe we miss out on new information. Maybe we mark an accomplishment and yet feel as if nothing was done. No matter what you might be feeling, you can shift your approach to your photography in a meaningful way by embracing a more chaotic approach to your path and consistently remind yourself that it might not be as simple as A to B to C.
I was recently helping a friend who was insistent that his camera lens needed to be adjusted because it wasn’t able to properly autofocus. I tried to tell him that it was likely a technique issue, but he was insistent. So he and I got together to test the lens, and sure enough, it was him and not the lens.
As I reflected on the experience, I got to thinking bout how many of us have a manual focus autofocus issue in our photography. In the old days, most people who missed focus would assume it was them and not the camera, but as automation comes into play with “better” technology, we seem to blame the gear quickly. In this week’s podcast, we talk about how we approach the source of a problem that can have reaching implications into our shooting and editing of our photographs. No matter what issues you face as a photographer, you will need to sort out how you will approach things when it turns out that it isn’t your camera but you that has an issue.
Most photographers, when they are learning about camera gear, learn that the lens controls the perspective. This isn’t exactly accurate; the subject to lens distance determines perspective along with the point of view. However, from a podcast a few weeks ago about fear, I was asked about perspective and meaningful photography. This week’s podcast is about how our perspective and approach to the things we photograph will be a cornerstone for what defines important personal photography.
I don’t know a photographer who sets out to make or take bad photographs. Yet, we all come home with lots and lots of bad pictures. In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the value of the bad photograph. I feel too many photographers don’t take photographs for fear of the bad photo, but you have to respect the photographer that in the face of that fear is willing to pick up the camera and make photos every day. While most of us might want to avoid making them, I argue that there is value in appreciating and making bad photographs.
I have often wondered what people think is the hardest thing to photograph. When I have conversations about this, those conversations more often than not start with some technical aspects of photography. Learning how to use studio lighting, getting in a good location, or finding a unique vantage point are all topics I hear people talk about.
This week’s podcast focuses on what I feel is the hardest thing to photograph. That is the thing that causes us to feel fear or some reason. Maybe it is not photographing people for fear of rejection, or perhaps it is not figuring out what is unique about a location to you, so you end up with a cliched shot. No matter what you photograph, I would venture to say that at some point, you haven’t gotten the shot you wanted because of some fear. The challenge we all face is that in the face of that fear, can we still photograph. My guess is that when you take the risk, you end up with some fantastic photographs.
If you listen to this podcast for very long, you know that it isn’t really about camera gear, but this week I did want to focus on the five most essential pieces of gear you should always have in your camera bag.
Luckily, you can get all of these pieces of gear for little to no money, and many of you might even have them already around the house. The purpose of this equipment is not to add to your physical gear, but rather to shift your mental approach to your photography. Each one of these pieces of gear is about changing your approach to your work so that you can focus on the most favorable results, embrace any opportunity, and find motivation when things fall apart.
In this week’s podcast, we take a look at two important questions that can have a significant impact on your approach to your photography.
The first question deals with our approach to failure. What would you do in your photography if there was no such thing as failure? Do you think if you took a risk, would you see the world in a new way?
The second question focuses on our notion of taking and giving in photography. If you could give one photo to someone, what would it be?
As you will hear in the podcast, most of this week’s work falls on you to think about and answer these questions. How would a failure-free, giving photographic experience look?
I was recently having a gear conversation with a friend who was asking me to validate a decision they make on a new camera purchase. They wanted me to tell them that with that new camera they were going to be able to take the photographs they always wanted. I just couldn’t do that. Anyone who has listened to this podcast for a while knows that it isn’t the gear that makes the photo.
So this week’s podcast is all about the validation of our decision-making process and how it can impact our work. I encourage you to think about when and why you ask for validation of your work and creativity. Is it because you have already made a decision and you want someone to agree with you? At times, we all need to have our work validated and supported, but that is different from the need to have a decision you already made, and believe to be true, agreed with. That isn’t validation; it is something else. This week we focus on how focusing on validation for agreement sake isn’t always the best use of our time in our photography.
I am always bothered when I hear people say that you are too optimistic, or you’re wearing rose-colored glasses. My response to them is always the same. Your damn right, I am. The outlook you have on life, and your creativity is the most significant decision you can make.
Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t worry, fret, or get stressed at times, but when that happens, I work to get back to a place where I can focus all that is good and great. I often hear photographers worry about new gear, software, techniques, or locations they would like to go. When they don’t have what they want, it is a problem for them. In this week’s podcast, we take al look at how that approach can be a huge block that leads to apathy in your work. As we dive into the topic, we talk about how a shift to positivity and excitement can do more for your creative life than any issue you imagine that you need to overcome to finally get the click you wanted.
I have several friends who like to gamble. Poker and blackjack for the most part. When they are playing, they always talk about being on a hot streak or a cold streak. When it is good, things are hot, and the universe seems to give them the cards they need. When it is bad, well, it is bad.
I think many of us approach our photography in the same way. We remove the focus, effort, energy, and vision to an external source calling it a hot streak or luck. Luck is something that we see as a way of explaining a variety of events that are good or bad, where we seem to have no choice in the outcome. In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the idea of a hot streak and what it means to do meaningful work. Work that is personal and driven by our vision rather than by some hand of the universe, giving us the power to see.