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Advice

Stay Focused: A Guide to Social Media for Photographers

Caitlin Boroden

Courtesy of Caitlin Boroden

Courtesy of Caitlin Boroden

In our digital world, social media is increasingly becoming one of the top ways to get eyes on your artwork. Likes, follows, and comments have become the new economy as our screen time continues to increase (and our addiction to it). We’ve come to a point where social media can not be ignored. 

As a Digital Marketing Strategist, most of my week days (and let’s admit it - weekends) are spent on the good old world wide web. It’s my go to - not just for work or research - but also entertainment. It’s my news source and it’s my way of staying connected with the latest trends. It’s where I do my reading. It’s where I gain inspiration. It’s kind of taken over but it has its advantages. 

Whether it’s passively browsing through Instagram or seeking camera advice from a trusted blog I’m becoming exposed to a whole world of photographers that I never would have seen without the web. What tends to be my top sources? Social media. 

Let’s face it, we’ve all come to rely on social media to connect us to the greater world. Because of this, social media has become one of the top ways to get eyes on your artwork. In 2015, 76% of all internet users use at least one social networking site. That’s a lot of potential! For this reason, I wanted to share my top 5 social media tips.

Choose a Platform You Actually Enjoy

First off, choose a platform you actually enjoy. Is it Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr? One of them? Two? The fact is - if you enjoy the platform you are bound to be more active on it. Keeping up to date will not seem like a chore but an exciting opportunity each day to check into a community that shares your passion. 

Personally, I enjoy Reddit. Reddit doesn’t have your typical likes and follows. However, what they do have is a plentitude of subreddits (think of these as categories of interest) each with a diehard community surrounding them. Tap into these communities for critique, advice, questions, concerns, inspiration, and more. 

Here’s a sneak peek at just a few of them:

Overall, when choosing your platform(s) remember that you do not have to be everywhere. You are better off having a strong focus on one or two platforms instead of spreading yourself thin on every new and old social media network out there. 

Courtesy of Caitlin Boroden

Courtesy of Caitlin Boroden

Build Relationships & Make Friends

Like, follow, and engage with other photographers. If something catches your eye - leave a nice comment. This ‘social love,’ as we call it, is bound to help you build relationships and gain you followers. 

There are plenty of options here. Why not: 

  • Share the work of a fellow photographer that has been inspiring you lately. 
  • Take the time to comment on someone’s latest updates with some kind words. 
  • Did someone ask a photo related question that you can answer in a heartbeat? Share your knowledge. 
  • Have you been using a great piece of equipment? Share a quick review and tag the brand name if possible. Brands like to hear from you too!

This social love will pay off as photographers begin to return the favor. Soon enough you’ll have a wealth of photographers to turn to. You never know what future opportunities these connections could present. 

Become Active in a Community

Courtesy of Caitlin Boroden

Each platform has a community just waiting for you to get involved in. Facebook has Facebook Groups, Twitter has dedicated communities surrounding TwitterChats (shout out to #photochat), Instagram has active hashtags that might be of interest, Flickr has photo share and discussion groups, and Reddit, as I mentioned above, has subreddits. The options are endless.

In the beginning, test the waters by trying out a few different communities. Slowly, it will become clear, what community is right for you. From there, stick to it and make a name for yourself within that community. 

 

Post Engaging Content

The objective here is to avoid simply broadcasting. Don’t get me wrong, broadcasting is important. Share your exciting news to your community. 

However, as much as viewers want to see your work, they want to get to know the photographer behind them. Share your tips and tricks. Get a conversation going with a question. Perhaps show your photographic process instead of just the final outcome. Behind the scenes shot are always intriguing to see! 

Maintain a balanced mix and you will be sure to get engagement. 

Be Consistent

Lastly, the trickiest part in our very busy lives, is to be consistent. Things come up. It’s bound to happen. But, try your best to consistently update and be involved in your community. You’ll stay top of mind to your fans and build relationships even easier. 

The best part is, if you follow the advice above, you’ll actually want to be consistent. You’ll be fully invested in the process. You’ll want to talk to your community. You’ll want to check in with others. As cliche as it might sound, the opportunities are endless. Have fun with the process and get on your way. A community is calling to you - go out and find it!

Courtesy of Caitlin Boroden

Caitlin Boroden is a Digital Marketing Strategist at DragonSearch in the beautiful Hudson Valley. She is fascinated by SEO, photography, and has a slight addiction to Reddit. With a background in photography, she leaps at any chance to talk about the subject. You can find her chatting away on Reddit and Twitter. Feel free to reach out!

How I Found My Vision

Cole Thompson

The Angel Gabriel

The Angel Gabriel

Why do I focus on Vision so much? It’s because I believe that Vision is what makes an image great. It’s what makes the difference between a technically perfect image and one with feeling. It’s what makes your images unique.

Great images do not come about because of equipment and processes, but rather from Vision that drives these tools to do wonderful things. What good are great technical skills if you don’t have an idea worthy of them?  

If I had to choose between the best equipment in the world and no Vision or having a Kodak Brownie and my Vision…

I’d take the Brownie.

A lot of people ask: “How do I go about finding my Vision?” I’m not sure I can answer that for everyone, but here is how I discovered mine:

The Wake-Up Call

Several years ago I was attending Review Santa Fe where over the course of a day my work was evaluated by a number of gallery owners, curators, publishers and “experts” in the field. 

During the last review of a very long day, the reviewer quickly looked at my work, brusquely pushed it back to me and said “It looks like you’re trying to copy Ansel Adams.”  I replied that I was, because I loved his work! He then said something that would change my life:

“Ansel’s already done Ansel and you’re not going to do him any better.  What can you create that shows your unique vision?”

Those words really stung, but over the next two years the message did sink in: Was it my life’s ambition to be known as the world’s best Ansel Adams imitator? Had I no higher aspirations than that?

I desperately wanted to know if I had a Vision, but there was a huge problem: what exactly was Vision and how did I develop it?  

I researched Vision but I couldn’t relate to the definitions and explanations that I found. Was it a look, a style or a technique? Was it something you were born with or something you developed?

And then there was the nagging doubt: what if I didn’t have a Vision? I feared that it was something you either “had” or you “didn’t have”  and perhaps I did not?

And how was I to go about finding my Vision?

With so many unanswered questions and with no idea on how to proceed, I simply forged ahead with what made sense to me.  Here is what I did:

1. Sort Your Portfolio

I took 100 of my best images, printed them out and then divided them into two groups: the ones I REALLY loved…and all the rest. I decided that the ones that went in the “loved” pile had to be images that “I” loved, and not just ones that I was attached to because they had received a lot praise, won awards or sold the best. And if I loved an image and nobody else did, I still picked it. 

2. Make the Commitment

I committed that from that point on, I would only pursue those kinds of images, the ones that I really loved. Too often I had been sidetracked when I chose to pursue images simply because others liked them.

3. Practice Photographic Celibacy

I started practicing Photographic Celibacy and stopped looking at other photographer’s work. I reasoned that to find my Vision, I had to stop immersing myself in the Vision and images of others.

I used to spend hours and hours looking at other photographer’s work and would find myself copying their style or even their specific images. I knew that I couldn’t wipe the blackboard of my mind clean of those images, but I could certainly stop focusing on their Vision and instead focus on mine.

When I looked at a scene I didn’t want to see it through another photographer’s eyes, I wanted to see it through mine!

4. Simplify Your Processes

I embarked on a mission to simplify my photography.  In the past I had focused on the technical and now I was going to focus on the creative. I disposed of everything that was not necessary: extra equipment, gadgets, plug-ins, programs, processes and all of those toys we technophiles love. I went back to the basics which simplified my photography, gave me more time and it reminded me that I wanted to put more focus on my creative abilities.

5. Ignore Other’s Advice

I ignored the advice that well intentioned friends and experts gave me. So much of this advice had never felt right for me and I was torn between following their recommendations or my own intuition. In the end I decided that only by pleasing myself could I create my best work, and that no matter how expert someone was, they were not an expert about my Vision or what I wanted.

6. Change Your Mindset

I worked to change my mindset from photographer to artist. I had always thought of myself as a photographer who documented, but I could see that this role was limiting and the truth was that I wanted to be an artist that created.  

To help me make this mental shift I started calling myself an artist (I felt like such a fraud at first)  figuring that I must play the part to become the part. I also stopped using certain words and phrases, for example instead of saying “take a picture” I would say “create an image.”  

That may seem like small and inconsequential thing, but it helped to continually remind me that I wanted to be an artist who created, and not a photographer who documented.

7. Question Your Motives

I questioned my motives and honestly answered some hard question such as: why am I creating? Who am I trying to please? What do I want from my photography? How do I define success?

It seemed to me that Vision was something honest and that if I were going to find my Vision, I had to be honest about the reasons I was pursuing it.

8. Stop Comparing

I stopped comparing my work to other photographers. I noticed that when I compared, it led to doubts about my abilities and it left me deflated. All I could see were their strengths and my weaknesses, which was an unfair comparison.  

I decided that if my goal was to produce the best work that I could, then it did not matter what others were doing. I had to remind myself that this was not a race or a contest, I was not competing against others…I was competing with myself.

9. Stop Caring What Others Think

I made a conscious decision to stop caring what others thought of my work. I recognized that in trying to please others, I was left feeling insecure and empty.

At the end of the day, it was just me, my work and what I thought of it. As long as I cared what others thought, I was a slave and could never be free.

10. Get Inspired

I re-read Ayn Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead” which I had first read at age 17. It has been one of the most influential books of my life because it gave me hope that I could become truly independent, that I could think for myself and define my own future. I know this book can cause strong reactions in people, both for good and ill, but it was a tremendous help in finding my Vision. 


I really was proceeding blindly, but I believed that if I listened to my own desires, pursued what I loved and eliminated all other voices, I would learn something about my Vision.

I did this for two years and there were many times that I became discouraged and didn’t feel like I was making any progress. I didn’t really know what I expected to happen, perhaps I thought I’d have a revelatory experience where my Vision would suddenly appear in a moment of inspiration!

But that didn’t happen.

And then one day it just occurred to me: I understood…I understood what my Vision was. 

It came in an anticlimatical and quiet moment of understanding, and after all of that worrying and angst…it now seemed so incredibly simple. Vision was not something I needed to acquire or develop, it had been there all along and all that I needed to do was to “discover” it.

Vision was simply the sum total of my life experiences that caused me to see the world in a unique way. When I looked at a scene and imagined it a certain way…that was my vision.

My Vision had always been there but over the years it had been buried by layers of “junk.” Each layer obscured my vision until it was lost and I doubted my creative abilities.  Some of those layers were valuing other’s opinions over my own, fear of failing, imitating others and creating for recognition.

Each time I created for external rewards, each time I put accolades before personal satisfaction, each time I cared what others would think…I buried my natural creativity under another layer until it was buried and forgotten.

Interestingly I came to conclude that Vision had little to do with photography or art and had more to do with being a well-adjusted, confident and independent human being. Once I had the confidence to pursue my art on my terms, and define success for myself, I was free to pursue my Vision without fear of rejection or need for acceptance.

Something else I learned about Vision: it is not a look or a style. It is not focusing on one subject or genre and following your Vision will not make your work look all the same. Vision gives you the freedom to pursue any subject, create in any style and do anything that you want.

 

But finding my Vision was not the end of the journey, because now I had to follow it which was equally as hard. I am still tempted to create for recognition, to care what others think and to want to be acknowledged. It takes constant discipline to stay centered, to remember why I’m creating and to follow my definition of success.

If you could have known me before I found my Vision, you would have found a technician that doubted his creative abilities, a photographer who felt that it was wrong to “manipulate” the image, a person who sought the generally accepted definition of success: money, fame and accolades, and you would have found an insecure person who needed others to like his images in order to feel good about his work.

Thankfully, that person is gone.

While my initial search was for my Vision, what I really found was myself which allowed my natural Vision to flourish once again.  

 Courtesy of Cole Thompson

Cole at www.photographyblackwhite.com

Ten Things I’ve Learned in Fifty Years

Cole Thompson

I picked up the camera after reading the biography of George Eastman as a 14-year-old boy living in Rochester, NY. Before I finished that book, before I had taken my first picture and before I’d ever seen a print come up in the developer…I was convinced that I was destined to be a photographer. I know that sounds silly, but it’s how I felt then and it’s how I feel to this day.

Many people ask me, “But why black and white? You were born into a color world!”

I reply, “No, I was born into a black and white world!” When I was growing up the world was in black and white.

 

 

TV was in black and white, movies were in black and white, the news was delivered in black and white, my childhood heroes were in black and white…

 

 

 

 

…and even our nation was segregated into black and white.

 

So I photographed in Black and White and perhaps my images are an extension of the world that I grew up in. 

As I think about that innocent young boy I once was, I’m reminded of what motivated me to take pictures those 50 years ago; it was for the pure joy of creating.

But along the way I became a little lost and started creating for the wrong reasons: for fame, fortune, accolades and affirmation until one day I realized that photography was not as fun as it once had been. Today I’ve come full circle and have arrived where I started off; I’ve once again discovered how to create for the pure joy of creating.

Here are some things that I’ve learned that has brought me back to loving photography again and creating the best work of my life.

Here are 10 things that I’ve learned in 50 years:

1. Don’t Aspire to Become the World’s Greatest Imitator. 

When I was younger, the ultimate compliment someone could give me would be to say, “Your work reminds me of Ansel Adams’ work.” Because he was my childhood hero, I would dream of creating images just like him. I’d imitate his style and sometimes I’d even go to Yosemite and try to recreate specific images!

Then several years ago I was attending Review Santa Fe where, over the course of a day, my work was evaluated by a number of gallery owners, curators, publishers and experts in the field. During the last review of a very long day, the reviewer quickly looked at my work, brusquely pushed it back to me and said, “It looks like you’re trying to copy Ansel Adams.” I replied that I was, because I loved his work! 

He then said something that would change my photography and my life: “Ansel’s already done Ansel and you’re not going to do him any better. What can you create that shows your unique vision?”

Those words really stung, but over the next two years the significance of his message sank in. Was it my life’s ambition to be known as the world’s best Ansel Adams imitator? Had I no higher aspirations than that? 

I came to realize that I needed to create work that was uniquely mine and not imitative of another. But how was I to do that I wondered? There isn’t a subject that hasn’t been photographed before, so how could I create unique work?

While it’s true that almost everything has been photographed, it has not been photographed through my eyes. We each have a unique Vision and that’s how I can create unique work. The choice was clear: Did I want to imitate or create?

In the end I decided that I’d prefer to create a mediocre original, rather than make a brilliant copy.

2. Vision is Everything

I believe that Vision is what gives your image a soul and it’s what makes your images unique. Great images do not come about because of equipment and processes, but rather from Vision that drives those tools to do wonderful things. What good are great technical skills if you don’t have a Vision worthy of them? 

A lot of people have asked me how to go about finding their vision. I’m not sure I can answer that for everyone, but I can tell you how I found mine.

What is Vision?

I desperately wanted to know if I had a Vision, but I had a huge problem. What exactly was Vision and how did I develop it? I researched Vision but I couldn’t relate to the definitions and explanations that I found. Was it a look, a style or a technique? Was it something you were born with or something you developed?

And then there was the nagging doubt: What if I didn’t have a Vision? I feared that it was something you either “had” or you “didn’t have” and perhaps I did not?

 

And how was I to go about finding my Vision?

With so many unanswered questions and with no idea on how to proceed, I simply forged ahead and did what made sense to me. Here are the steps that I took:

I Sorted My Images into Two Groups. I took my best images, printed them out and then divided them into two groups: the ones I REALLY loved…and all the rest. I decided that the ones that went in the “loved” pile had to be images that “I” loved, and not just ones that I was attached to because they had received praise, won awards or sold the best. And even if I loved an image that no one else did, I still picked it.

I Made the Commitment. I committed that from that point on, I would only pursue those kinds of images, the ones that I really loved. Too often I had been sidetracked when I chose to pursue images simply because they were popular with others.

I Practiced Photographic Celibacy. I started practicing Photographic Celibacy and stopped looking at other photographer’s work. I reasoned that to find my Vision, I had to stop immersing myself in the Vision and images of others. I used to spend hours and hours looking at other photographer’s work and would find myself copying their style and images. When I looked at a scene I didn’t want to see it through another photographer’s eyes, I wanted to see it through mine!

I Questioned My Motives. One of the hardest things I did was to question my motives and honestly answer some hard questions: Why am I creating?, Who am I trying to please?, What do I want from my photography?, How do I define success? It seemed to me that Vision was something honest and that if I were going to find my Vision, I had to be honest about the reasons I was pursuing it.

I Stopped Caring What Others Thought. I made a conscious decision to stop caring what others thought of my work. I recognized that in trying to please others, I was left feeling insecure and empty. I reasoned that at the end of the day it was just me, my work and what I thought of it. As long as I cared what others thought, I was a slave and could never be free.

What I Discovered. I really was proceeding blindly, but I believed that if I listened to my own desires, pursued what I loved and eliminated all other voices…I would learn something about my Vision. I did this for two years and there were many times that I became completely discouraged and felt like I was failing. I’m not sure what I expected to happen, perhaps I thought I’d have a revelatory experience where my Vision would suddenly appear in a moment of inspiration. But that didn’t happen.

And then one day it simply occurred to me that I understood…I understood what my Vision was. It came in an anti-climactic and quiet moment of understanding, and after all of that worrying and angst…it now seemed so incredibly simple. Vision was not something I needed to acquire or develop, it had been there all along and all I had to do was “discover” it.

Vision was simply the sum total of my life experiences that caused me to see the world in a unique way. When I looked at a scene and saw it a certain way…that was my vision.

I also learned that Vision is not a look or a style. It does not require you to focus on one subject or genre and following your Vision will not make your work look all the same. Vision gives you the freedom to pursue any subject, create in any style and do anything that you want.

3. Don’t Compare Your Work to Others, Art is not a Competition

I noticed that when I compared my work to other photographer’s work, it caused me to have doubts about my abilities and left me deflated. All I could see were their strengths and my weaknesses, which was an unfair comparison.

It’s good for me to periodically remind myself of a few things. If my goal is to produce the best work that I can, then it does not matter what other photographers are doing. As my mother used to say, “Cole, you just worry about Cole.”

Art is not a competition; someone does not have to lose for someone else to win. I am not competing against others…I am trying to be better than myself.

4. Simple is Better than Complicated

I have embarked on a mission to simplify my photography by disposing of everything that is not absolutely necessary to create the image. I have simplified my equipment, my post processing, my matting and framing. I now work with a camera, tripod, three lenses and some filters. I use Photoshop and six of its tools. I use a printer with stock inks.

If a piece of equipment or a process is not necessary, I get rid of it. For too long I was a technophile who almost worshipped my equipment and at times it seemed as though my equipment was more important than the image itself!

I’ve adopted this “simple” approach as a way to focus myself on the things that really do matter: my Vision and composition. Some people feel that they cannot produce a good image with just the simple basics, but I disagree. From my experience the basics can produce incredibly beautiful images that most people would envy.

I’m not saying that there aren’t some gadgets and programs that would improve the quality of your work, but by far the largest improvement any of us can make is to improve ourselves before our equipment. I tell people that if there is a place for some of these extras, it comes after our Vision and composition has been mastered. Simple is always better than complicated.

5. If You’re Not Passionate About Your Project, Choose A New One.

Sometimes people ask me what they should do when they find it hard to get motivated on their project. My answer is, “find another project.” For me, a successful project must have two ingredients: Vision and Passion. If I don’t feel these, I know the project is doomed; it will be a chore to work on and that lack of passion will be felt by the viewer.

Many feel that the key to a successful project is to have a unique subject, an exotic location or an interesting technique. And while those qualities may help, only Vision and Passion can ensure success. When you have a Vision and Passion for your project, that energy and conviction will be felt through your images.

After I created my Ghost series at Auschwitz, many people suggested I apply the ghost theme to other locations. The idea sounded logical: the Auschwitz series had been well received and so why not leverage that popularity by using the same approach at other locations? So I started to work on “The Ghosts of Great Britain” where I created ghosts at English castles. But the project fell flat because the images were not compelling and it felt gimmicky to me.

 

So what went wrong with the project? Simple, it lacked Passion. At Auschwitz I felt inspired to create those images and I had a Vision for the project. I gave no thought as to how the series would be received and in fact I didn’t care!

However “The Ghosts of Great Britain” was completely contrived and calculated to be popular. I did not feel that same Vision or Passion for the project and it failed. I scrapped the series and only kept the one image above. This was a great lesson for me and a mistake that I will never make again.

6. Don’t Follow Any Photographic Rules

What photographic rules should you follow? None, unless you want to create average images that thousands of other people have created before you. Ansel Adams said, “ The so-called rules of photographic composition are, in my opinion, invalid, irrelevant, immaterial.”

I’ll go one step further and say, “In my opinion following the rules of photography is actually harmful because they get in the way of developing independent creativity and Vision.”

Creating compositional rules is an attempt to distill the creative process into a series of guidelines that, if followed, will produce a great image. Do you remember the old “paint by numbers” kits? We were promised that if we’d simply follow the rules by using the proper color, and paint that into each numbered area, and stay within the lines…we would have a masterpiece!

Well, maybe a “competent” painting, but certainly not a masterpiece!

Do you remember IBM’s Deep Blue computer? It was programmed to play chess and it beat the world champion chess player, Garry Kasparov. Do you think that if we were to program the rules of photography into Deep Blue and take it to Yosemite, that it could beat Ansel Adams? Of course not, because composition is about seeing and feeling, not about following rules. And the irony of these rules is that they are supposed to help you learn to be creative, when what they actually do is cause creative dependency.

When I approach a scene, I simply look and see and feel. I compose instinctively until the scene feels right, without a single thought about the “rules.” And if the composition doesn’t feel right, I change it. In the end all I care about is that the image “feels right.”

What a simple and empowering concept; to see and feel for yourself rather than following rules. Creative people already know this secret, that
great art comes from within and is not found in a set of rules.

7. Don’t Listen to Other People’s Advice

Do you know anyone who feels free to offer advice about your images? They often say something like this: “Here’s what I would do…” or “If this were my image I’d…” The problem with other people’s advice is that it doesn’t come from your Vision, but rather theirs.

People will often send me an image and ask what I would do to it and here’s how I respond: If you were to follow my advice, after a while your images would start to look like mine! Is that really what you want? Wouldn’t you rather find your own Vision and create your own masterpieces?

So much of the advice people offered me never felt right and I was torn between respecting the recommendation of experts or following my own intuition. In the end I decided that only by pleasing myself could I create my best work; and that no matter how expert someone was, they were not an expert about my Vision.

Follow my advice and don’t listen to other people’s advice!

8. Use Photoshop However Works Best for You

I use a very simple workflow and for years I would never let anyone see me work because I thought I was doing everything wrong. As I listened to other photographers talk about their sophisticated processes, I was embarrassed to let them see my rudimentary ones. What if they started talking to me about layers or curves…I didn’t use or even understand them!

With time I came to the realization that photography is not about the process, it’s about the image. Nothing else matters. There are many ways to use Photoshop and I doubt that many photographers use more than a small percentage of its many tools. There is no right way or wrong way to use it and not one workflow will be right for everyone.

My procedure works for me and I’d like to share it to illustrate a point: You don’t need to know a lot about Photoshop or have a complicated workflow to produce beautiful images. I use only six tools in the processing of ninety-nine percent of my images.

1. RAW Converter—I use Photoshop’s RAW converter to set my image to a 16 bit, 360 ppi, 10×15 TIFF file.

2. B&W Conversion tool—I like Photoshop’s b&w conversion tool and play with each color channel to see how it affects the different colors of my image.

3. Levels—One of the most basic secrets to a great b&w image is to have a good black and white. I use Levels to set the initial black and white point and I use the histogram to judge this. You cannot trust your eyes and so throughout my processing I keep my eye on that histogram to maintain a true black and white.

4. Dodging and Burning—This is where I do most of my processing and where I have the most fun! I feel most at home with dodging and burning because that’s how I worked in the darkroom. I use a Wacom tablet to dodge and burn, which gives me precise and natural control.

5. Contrast Adjustment—After I have the image looking great on screen, experience has taught me that the print will look flat, and so I add some contrast. A monitor uses transmitted light and a print uses reflective light. That means it will take a lot more work to get your print to look as snappy as it does on the monitor. Contrast helps a great deal.

6. Clone Tool—I use the clone tool to spot my images. Cloning is so much better than the old days when you had to spot every single print and your mouth tasted like Spottone all day!

The point I am trying to make is that a workflow need not be complicated to be effective. I doubt a workflow could be simpler than mine! What’s the best way to use Photoshop? Any way that works for you!

9. How Important are Skills and Equipment When Creating A Great Image?

They are not nearly as important as we think! If I had to choose between the best equipment in the world and no Vision or having a Kodak Brownie and my Vision… I’ll take the Brownie.
I’m often asked, “What’s the best camera, lens or paper? My answer is always the same: There is no “best.” Most cameras are excellent, almost all lenses are better than their masters and choosing a paper is simply about personal preference.

It’s easy to buy into the notion that the right camera, lens, accessories, plug-ins, printers or paper will transform our ordinary work into extraordinary images. However, from my experience great images are rarely great because they are technically perfect or printed on the right paper.

Put more bluntly: I don’t think it really matters which equipment or paper you choose because they are not the critical component in a great image.

I believe a great image is created mostly from your Vision and that equipment and technical skills play a much smaller supporting role than we generally think.

Vision is what makes an image great and what drives our equipment and processes to do great things.

10. Define Success for Yourself.

I was reading about how the movie “The Beaver” failed miserably at the box office. The article talked about how Jodi Foster, who starred in and directed the film, had faith in the film’s message, and when asked about the financial disaster said, “I’ve learned…that if you gauge your self-worth at the box office you will be a very sorry person.“

How do I, as an artist, gauge my self-worth? Do I base it on how many “likes” I get on some social network? Or do I base it on sales, reviews, the galleries I’m in or the awards I receive? For many years I never stopped to ask myself what success meant to me, I just assumed it meant all of those things.

But as I started to achieve success, I noticed that I wasn’t any happier than when I was “unsuccessful” and in some ways I was less happy. Sure it felt good to have my fifteen minutes of fame, but in the morning it was just me, my art and what “I” thought of it.

So I set about to define success for myself and to identify what I wanted to achieve with my photography. It turns out that my definition was quite a bit different than the one I had been chasing for so long! It turns out that I had been trying to achieve something that I really didn’t want.

This lesson learned was second only to the lesson about Vision: Define success for yourself before you go chasing it.

Conclusion:

Most of what I have learned in these 50 years of photography has less to do about photography and more to do about life.

It’s about finding and following your Vision no matter what others think or say. It’s about defining and achieving success for yourself. It’s about being proud of what you do and loving what you create.

It turns out that photography and life have a lot in common.

 Courtesy of Cole Thompson

Cole Thompson at www.photographyblackwhite.com