“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier Bresson
Darby Harn gives great advice to writers. And Darby’s advice is easily co-opted for photographers.
1. Find your weaknesses. Have trouble shooting macro? Shoot more macro. Have trouble getting the nerve to ask a stranger to appear in a portrait? Go out and ask a stranger to appear in a portrait. Saying it’s hard to do something doesn’t get it done or make it easier. It’s the DOING of it that makes it easier. So find your faults as a photographer and fix them!
2. Look at lots of pictures. Don’t just thumb through them. Look at them. Put yourself in that spot and ask yourself, what would you have done differently. This feeds your creative mind. You don’t want to necessarily copy these photos. Just look at them for inspiration.
3. Pay attention. Darby calls this “listening” but in the context of this essay I want to call it being observant. Look at all the small details in the houses, trees and flowers you pass during the day. Notice the cracks in the skin of your old neighbor. Pay attention to the smallest, simplest, easiest to overlook bits of life and you’ll see photo ops you never saw before.
4. Shoot for yourself first. Don’t make photographs that you think will sell. Make photographs that move you. Not every photographer needs to be a professional photographer and not every photograph needs to be published. There is value to doing photography for photography’s sake.
5. Be real. Don’t copy others. Your vision is what matters. Don’t worry about being new, worry about being you.