51 Things Photography Has Taught Me


I was asked recently be an enthusiastic beginner photographer, “What would you say is your number piece of advice that would help make me a better photographer?”

“Just one?” I replied with a strained expression. I couldn't come up with just one thing and leave it at that, as if I'm somehow qualified to make such a profound statement about photography that it would transform a budding hobbyist into a sagacious professional.

But I don't mind sharing what I do know, as I did that day with the inquisitive photographer and as I am doing here today. These are some of the things that I have learned and have held most dear throughout my journey so far in photography. Take all 51 items with a grain of salt; I am not putting forth any unimpeachable pronouncements, just hoping to spread some inspiration and encouragement.

Photo by Yohan Marion
  1. Don’t think about taking the photo, just take it.
  2. Learn the rules. Understand the rules. Break the rules.
  3. Spend more time taking photos than money acquiring new gear with which to take those photos.
  4. You will never know it all; be open to the wisdom and experiences of others.
  5. Print your photos — your favorites, at least. And print them big.
  6. Get it right in camera rather than trying to compensate for poor technique in post. But…
  7. Don’t be ashamed to use post-processing. All photos are “processed” in one way or another.
  8. Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone.
  9. Be your own worst critic.
  10. Technical perfection is often overrated.
  11. Be open to constructive criticism from others.
  12. Light — natural or artificial — is everything. Learn to use it to your creative advantage.
  13. Talking about photography can be fun, inspiring, and insightful. Actually practicing photography is even more rewarding.
  14. You don’t need to go to school to be a good photographer, but you do need an education.
  15. Don’t get caught up in comparisons. Let your work shine on its own merits.
  16. Always be prepared: extra batteries, second body, rain protection, etc.
  17. You are not your camera — be sure to give yourself (your eye) proper credit.
  18. Revisit your older work from time to time. It’s an enlightening means of self-evaluation.
  19. Allow yourself to make mistakes, they are wonderful learning tools.
  20. Know your camera intimately, it’ll make you a more efficient photographer.
  21. Experimentation is the cornerstone of good art.
  22. A more expensive camera isn’t the answer to uninspiring images.
  23. Learn to trust your own judgement.
  24. Never fall for the idea that you’ve “arrived” as a photographer. You can always get better.
  25. Simplify your life — downsizing your gear can maximize your creativity.
  26. Backup, backup, backup! Losing your work is devastating…not that I would know, and I don’t want to find out.
  27. Own a wide angle and/or macro lens.
  28. Shooting film teaches discipline.
  29. Film is not better than digital. It’s just different.
  30. Study the master photographers and the images they have created.
  31. Don’t be satisfied with simply making a photo. Aim to make a connection with the person, place, or thing you are photographing.
  32. Shoot what makes you happy, you will eventually find your audience.
  33. If you think the only way to find interesting subjects is to travel, you’re not looking hard enough.
  34. Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Take heed, photographers.
  35. Even if you strongly prefer natural light (like I do), learn to use a flash.
  36. Always shoot raw.
  37. Know your rights when shooting in public.
  38. Never allow composition to become an afterthought.
  39. Invest in a good tripod.
  40. Be generous with your knowledge of photography — share what you know with anyone who asks.
  41. Spend more on quality glass than on camera bodies; the value of a good lens will outlast just about any camera.
  42. Learn how to read a histogram.
  43. Don’t expect to make a living from photography just because you’re good at it.
  44. If boosting ISO means getting the shot, do it. A little noise never hurt anyone.
  45. Mirrorless, DSLR, mobile device — use what works for you and don’t apologize for it.
  46. Be part of a community. Forgive my bias, but lightstalking.com is great choice!
  47. Think of establishing your personal style as a journey rather than a destination.
  48. Presets are good for you. Use them.
  49. Know how to shoot in manual even if it’s not your preferred shooting mode.
  50. Celebrate what you’re good at as a photographer.
  51. Have fun. It’s difficult — if not impossible — to fully tap into your creativity when you don’t enjoy what you’re doing.

About Author

Jason Little is a photographer, author and stock shooter. You can see Jason’s photography on his Website or his Instagram feed.

Our camera club does a weekly photo topic posting. Having an assignment each week forces my wife and I to go looking for a way to interpret a topic, not just look for pretty pictures. We can see that our skills have gotten better from this exercise.
Thanks for your ” 51 Things” they are wonderful! A quote that I love is from Jim Fixx the running gure from the 70’s and 80″s. He said; “Anyone that puts their foot on the starting line is already a winner.” I repeat that quote to the people that have entered, when we have a digital critique.

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