Three Obstacles to Mastering Your Craft

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[text_block style=”style_1.png” align=”left” font_color=”%23ffffff” bottom_padding=”20px”]I used to get really jumpy about the word “mastery.” It seemed so unattainable. But mastery is no more than gaining control over the tools and concepts of the craft in order to make them do what you need them to do to realize your vision, to make photographs more creatively and with less second-guessing. It’s learning to control the gear and the processes instead of feeling like they control you.

Take a few minutes to watch this first video about three common obstacles to getting on the road towards mastery. I’m hoping it gives you hope that becoming more in control of your tools is possible, and that going deeper is not only possible but is a simpler path than listening to every voice that’s out there; that the path to mastery isn’t complicated but is really a matter of focusing more deeply on fewer things.

In the next two weeks I’ve got two more videos coming about the path to mastering your craft, not so you can be a “master photographer” but so you can become more comfortable and competent and make stronger photographs.  I’ll email you as soon as those videos are up. In the meantime, would you let me know, in the comments below, what has been your biggest obstacle to getting closer to mastery or a place where making photographs feels more intuitive? I’d love to have a conversation about this.

For the Love of the Photograph,
David duChemin



What has been your biggest obstacle to getting more comfortable with this craft and going deeper with it?



  1. Thanks, I like to stay connected!
    Please send my way, what you wish
    to share.
    Frank Stella

  2. What a great mastering and inspirational video David. Loved it..just looked on the first one…
    Being a Techy, NO pleas not, your approached ..”WHY” a great one.
    But why and how is the best and great way of mastering better photos/ impressions than go for the moment and or detail and use no correction on a photo by photoshop…Could this approach by a real photo already be a good “why’?

  3. We live in information overload…
    It’s not about how… “How” is the easiest thing to do, the “why”, the love that moves us is, really, the most important thing.

    Thanks for your video you give voice to my thoughts…

  4. My biggest obstacle has been two main issues: 1. Realizing that I’m not taking photos for anyone else and 2. The fear that I’m “doing it wrong”.

    The first has caused me to not take photos because I act as if every photo will be going on a blog or website, and (related to #2) I don’t want to appear like I don’t know what I’m doing.

    However, watching these videos and buying your books has eroded that fear greatly. Keep it up!

    (I need it)

    1. Awesome, JC.Glad I could be a part of that for you. Remember, there is no wrong, just effective or not effective. The image either accomplishes what you want or it doesn’t. No one else need be a part of the process at all unless you want them to be. Learn your craft, develop your vision, just be you. 🙂

  5. Hi David. I love taking pictures while I travel with family or friends, on the way, often from the car. My biggest obstacle is to be (more) intentional, focused and mobile in such restrictive conditions.


  7. Thank you for inspiring me and giving me more confidence David. I have been asked to speak at a local community photography evening alongside three very seasoned and technically proficient photographers, whereas I took up photography less than a year ago. I now feel less apologetic about not knowing all the techy stuff , and more happy to talk about what I have achieved through a more organic, unfolding approach – and learning by taking lots of photos of the local wildlife and landscape that I love!


  9. Wow I just wanted to say loved your video, you have just confirmed everything I have been thinking about craft and mastery. When you look at a portrait painting you don’t wonder what size brush the artist used, you appreciate the art and the connection.

  10. Thanks for the video. I’ currently reading another of your books. I think, for me, the biggest issue is staying focused. I typically know why I choose a given lens, settings, etc and some is driven by the circumstances of where I am (available light, time of day, whether to stop the motion or not, etc) – but I am often asked “What lens should I use?” and to me, the first answer is “The one you have”….my latest goal is to do more “focused, intentional shooting” to a given theme, word, topic. I have joined a camera club, but unlike others, I will learn from others and skip the politics 🙂

  11. This is great. Nailing focus, light, and seeing what’s going on the the background. Whether it’s landscape, street, or portrait, focus, light, background is killing me.

  12. Howdy doody from the UK,
    Okay you got me – I have read the comments and pondered for more than ten minutes but I am drawn in. David, an inspiration and what a breakthrough – using the principles of Why, What and How. I am also a believer in that applying KISS also helps – Keep It Simple Stuoid (a personal reminder rather then offending others by inferring they are stupid – ha ha). So asking the questions of yourself in the context of Why, What and How – Why am I seeking to do whatever it might be, What do I need to do or consider to achieve it and then How am I going to achieve the What. Agree with yourself why you are going to, in this case, make an image. Agree with yourself What you seek to achieve and then consider How that can be achieved (this is the planning bit where you may consider how to get to a destination, what equipment you need or have, weather timings and so forth). Now having said all th8s I will say that I am full time employed (not as a photographer) and have none of the pressures of earning a living from photography but I would say this – if you are not free to create and do not enjoy what you do it may be time to rethink – everyone deserves to be happy! I am close to retirement age and my father, who also is ‘into’ photography, never has enough time, Getting ‘out there’ with camera and a clear mind allows creativity to flow – we enjoy it and that’s important don’t you think? David, I have read and soaked up your informative contributions – I personally like your style so keep it up. By the way – culling images is a challenge for me too – best advice I heard on that one was to be stricter with oneself and select the keepers as soon as possible – if it doesn’t work as an image when you review then bin it. Cuts down on storage also but reminder – never cull in camera! A wildlife photographer offered that gem after losing some shots that took him days to achieve. There you go, breakfast is calling (priorities). The world is amazing go capture, Bob

  13. Optical reciprocity principal? I though I made that up. I’m having a George Harrison My Sweet Lord moment.

    Looking forward to the next video and thanks

  14. While all you say is true you still are not helping the photographer know what to ask.

    You don’t just ask, “Why?”

    Photographers are usually taking photos of a subject and trying to connect with an audience.

    The photojournalist, who isn’t all the ways you can approach photography, asks, “What is the subjects story?”

    They are also asking, “Why should the audience care?”

    Story, which is about the narrative, requires there to be a problem that the subject struggles with that they cannot solve on his or her own. If this is a fiction story then the story is more of entertainment for the audience. The audience isn’t asked to react by doing something after they experience the story.

    However, if you are shooting for a nonprofit that is trying to raise funds then the subject often represents whom the nonprofit is helping. The audience is being asked to respond by helping.

    You see photographers and especially photojournalists are looking for the storyline. They are also ever so mindful of their audience and not just shooting photos that entertain the photographer. They want the audience to experience the subject and be moved by the story.

    For me the concentration isn’t about what not to focus on, but rather being all consumed by the story and caring not that you got to experience a story but being sure it connects with the audience.

    While your points are good, you didn’t tell anyone really what to focus on. I am saying it is all about the story and the audience. You measure your success as to weather the audience responds and change happens, not by photography awards.

    1. Well that’s all well and good, Stanley, but no one that teaches puts the sum total of their teaching into one lesson. I’ve written books about storytelling, which is not remotely the only purpose of photography but merely one, and I didn’t think I needed to rehash the whole thing here. “Why?” is an essential first question, a prime mover of sorts. Of course there will be further questions. As for photography awards, I’m not remotely sure why you’d bring that up. I’m not trying to be difficult but I’m struggling to see what the purpose of your comment is, and why you’d leave it here in the context of this discussion.

  15. Thank you yet again for another video (or e-mail) that either directs my focus to where it should be, or I have one of those “I was just thinking that” moments.
    Recently I have found that I am listening to my ‘why?” and not taking a picture just because I think it might be a good shot. Because when I pause that split-second to think “why am I wanting to take this particular shot” if I honestly can’t think of a reason, I look around for a better shot that answers the ‘why’ question, and I am happier bringing home less images on my card, but also less immediate deletes as well once they have been uploaded.
    I have also recently gone through my usually cluttered inbox and unsubscribed from quite a few lists (both photography based and otherwise) that I realized I wasn’t connecting with – or simply passed over and deleted without even fully reading. However, your e-mails and videos are always watched, and even saved, please keep them coming!
    And on that note, thank you for your wonderful books as well – I have almost all of them and they are by far my favorites.
    Now I just need to be more purposeful in getting out there. 😉

  16. Thanks David, for sharing all your thoughts about the love of photography. I really helped me a lot to focus on the right stuff. I traded all my camera equipment into an ebay Fuji A-X1 and a 35mmF2 lens. And I’m so happy to make every day dozens of photographs and not to worry about the latest camera and lens reports. Looking forward to your upcoming videos and to work my brain on all the why questions. Cheers fromt the Palatinate Michael

  17. I appreciate your insight and thought provoking messages.

    Focus is my issue…too many distractions of life get in the way.

    All of a sudden the time you hoped to have to practice your craft is gone.

    I just have to be more deliberate on setting the right time and stick to it.

    Thank you for your thoughts and look forward to hearing more from you.

    1. Rex – Have you tried a “big rocks first” approach? Put your craft time on the calendar. Every Saturday for 4 hours, or whatever. But schedule it. Right now you’re approach is a “leftovers” approach and that rarely works with money (which is why we’re told to pay ourselves first) and it doesn’t work with time. Just a thought.

  18. I have just finished the first of your videos, and want to say “Thank you” for saying exactly what I needed to hear. Such good advice!! I can’t wait to watch the second later.

  19. Hey David!
    I always appreciate your wisdom and the fact that you’re willing to share it. You are one of the few photographers that I read and listen to. Coming from an art background, I’ve found all the techie/gear focus in the camera world to be quite overwhelming. My strategy has been to learn what I felt was necessary and let the rest go. Like other commenters, I didn’t find clubs/groups (online & real life) helpful… it always seemed to be a gear measuring contest and as far as visuals went, tack sharp focus was king. So, the groups were an obstacle but didn’t last long in my world.
    I’d say currently my greatest obstacle is having expectations for my work that can feel stifling at times…that crazy desire to improve. I probably need to embrace the journey more as I travel forward, backward, sideways, repeat 🙂

    1. I hear ya, Anna. Expectations can be a killer. Perhaps it’s time to pick up a Holga or embark on a personal project that is nothing like your current work, something for which you have no previous expectations. A project where every image is shot at 1/2 second or more, or only in black and white multiple exposures…

      Thank you for the kind words. It’s always a pleasure to see your name in the comments.

  20. Hi David,
    thank you so much for hitting exactly the point in such a sympathetic and really understandable way!
    I am used to what you say from trying to get mastership in painting since many years. And I like it to meet the same bricks of process now when I started to take photographs more sincerely since several months. From all the books about photography I bought I like the last one best, and – it´s your´s! 🙂 Now following your blog, I enjoy learning from you more and more, and I am smiling, sometimes lol, because you know us beginners so well and on the other side can help us so well. Thanks for what you´re doing!!!

  21. Wonderful. As always :). I don’t typically read all of your blog posts but those I do choose to read definitely benefit my craft in some way. I subscribed to your blog and began purchasing your eBooks because I wanted to learn photography. Since then, at least a couple years now, I have shifted to learning to draw and paint and yet, everything you’ve said here applies and I can say this because I’ve crafted a focused and intentional learning path for myself to learn art and it’s working. Slowly. But it’s working! Thanks for reconfirming what I’ve intuitively felt and followed over the last year.
    Keep up the heart work!

  22. Thanks David for your thoughts… It’s like the eternal debate. You have explained very well, but from my humble point of view, these kind of headlines are what photography teachers should learn to their students, instead of being ‘techies’ and discuss without arguments… I know you know it, but there are a lot of people who think a good camera can take better photos (of course, I’ve always desired to have a Leica, but…) and what a big mistake!
    I will continue stuck to your videos. I consider them very interesting.
    Congrats for sharing with us!

  23. Hi David, as usual love your work and your ideology. Just like to mention when I started my photography I used a Kodak Brownie 127 as suggested by my then mentor a retired professional photographer, his reasoning?It the camera had 2 apertures cloudy and sunny and a shutter speed of about 1/60th of a second.His instructions were to decide which light to use cloudy or bright, look through the viewfinder and trip the shutter the only admonishment being look for the LIGHT, capture the LIGHT, it’s all about the LIGHT and keep it simple.
    Sorry to blather on but I have never forgotten his advice.


  24. David I’m an avid follower of your work and really appreciate the time and effort you put into explaining your passion and vision. I struggle with being creative, the technical part is easy for me, thats why I love reading and listening to your words. Please keep it up.

  25. David, thank you for the work you do and the inspiration your work and words generate. I have reached my newsletter and blog limit. You and one other is all I now follow. I was bombarded with how I should do something and what I was probably doing wrong. It began too truly take the fun out of photography for me. I had to quiet the external noise. I am in the age bracket where becoming a world renowned photographer is fairly slim, but not impossible. It is not a goal of mine, but who knows, right? As Seneca said, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” Thank you for encouraging us to dare.

    1. That’s a fantastic quote, Janet! Don’t shoot for renowned, shoot for authentic. Do the thing that brings you joy or lights a fire for you. As for tuning out the blogs, you’re a step ahead of me – one of the first things I ask people to consider doing in this next course is to tune out the other stuff, to limit the voices. One of the best decisions I ever made was to go on a media diet. I’m still on it and love the white space it gives me.

  26. My biggest obstacle? I didn’t follow my heart. In the beginning I said I wanted to learn how to shoot to document my own life, and anything else was gold. I fell prey to photography forums and a few fads along the way. I have spent too much time shooting someone else’s vision instead of my own.

    1. I think we’ve all been there, Betty. But you know now. The best time to plant a tree was yesterday, the second best is today! 🙂

  27. Thank you David. Love your videos and the way you see the craft of photography. I started with film cameras about 35 years ago, had a small digital camera for a while and barely used it and have been using a DSLR for about 2-3 years now. Just understanding the damn thing was daunting (and I still have a way to go). I can only get close to the picture I want if I use Manual Mode (as a throw back to my beginnings I guess). What really strikes me in your video is to start asking WHY instead of HOW, because for every scene to be shot, there can be so many HOW depending on the WHY… Love the way you always make me laugh too! Love all your books. Thanks for sharing so much with us. It helps me to not be so intimidated by this thing (I mean the camera)… 🙂

    1. Why is my all-time favourite question and almost always gives me insights I wouldn’t have otherwise had.

  28. I’m maybe 8 months into approaching photography as an intentional art/craft that I’m working to master. (After years of playing around w/ camera on auto settings)

    My biggest obstacle to developing mastery is that I’m finding the culling/editing side of the project to be slow going. I can spend 2 full days culling/editing what took 2 hours to shoot. I don’t think I’m fast (or ruthless) enough, especially at the culling. So, the culling/editing takes away from shooting time, and also, can feel like there’s always a mountain/backlog looming out there for me to get to.

    Second obstacle, there’s not a clear path, for what to practice. I’m shooting exclusively in manual, and that’s a project, but even there, I know that I could get more intentional about my practice. But with something like an instrument, you’ve got your practice path laid out. Photography not so much.

    Third, I don’t have a teacher or other photographers that I’m interacting w/ in real life. Though, photogs on IG are really warm & generous. I’m mostly learning from Creative Live classes, but in other areas (art, horsemanship, Buddhism), my progress grows faster w/ good teachers/ mentors.

    Fourth, don’t know if this is an obstacle or not, but I don’t have a clear goal for my photography like “become a family photographer”. I shoot what moves me, and this has started to lead to some paid gigs, but I think I might progress faster w/ a clearer goal.

    Fifth, even w/ these obstacles, I’m progressing, and when things go bad, I’m able to feel the “ackkk!!!” and then say to myself “what do you need to learn?” and that’s been huge help.

    Thanks for asking, David! It was a brilliant question, because it will help each one of us clarify areas to make a change…

    1. Sounds like what you could really use is both focus and direction as well as a good mentor. Not easy to find but worth their weight in gold when you do! Keep at it, Kathleen! If I had these kinds of insights when I was 8 months in I’d have been WAY ahead by now. 🙂

  29. Thank you David for that Video.
    My greatest obstacle right now is that I want to practice more, but the thing is that it’s really difficult for me to find something ‘interesting’ to photograph.
    I live in a big city and love photograph nature and landscape, so I can’t easily photograph the things I find interesting and struggle to find a good way to get that more practice in my daily life without having to drive two hours.

  30. High value for me, here, David. I like the length, the crisp 3 barriers and solutions. Your style is relaxing and not arrogant. Thanks for all this, and I look forward to the next videos.

  31. Very thought provoking as always ! Thank you for sharing your insight .
    My biggest obstacle is confidence .. just to get out and DO what I love and not worry about being part of the herd!! Working on it !

  32. I totally agree with you. Mastery or mastering our craft is about being focused, put in the work, push ourselves and rather ask why than how. It really is not about talent – as you say. I just read Bounce that you have recommended on different occasions (and thank you for that recommendation) and it so clearly shows that the idea of needing special talents has been and still is overrated. My biggest obstacle to mastering photography? In my younger days I believed too much in my talent and thus took the lazy way. I have learned since then.

  33. David,
    Great discussion. l am a retoucher and educator. I spend so much time encouraging folks to STOP worrying about getting fast, learning every quick key..but rather LOOK at the Destination of the work. What are you looking to create. I loved your perspective here!!

  34. I suspect it was you who referred to some of your photographs as “sketches” ; shots you take to just try stuff and see what fails or works. And you need to analyse them to see why they worked or failed That plus taking less photos, but every one with intent has helped me more than any other steps I have taken

  35. I think love of comfort is my biggest obstacle. I suffer from chronic pain (fibromyalgia since I was 16; I’m 31 now, so you’d think I’d be used to it), so finding the motivation to get up off the couch and do the work is really hard. It seems whenever I get a good streak going, I have a pain flare, and it all goes to naught. I do plenty of reading, and I know plenty of the technical stuff, but that’s really not enough. It’s about the work, and I don’t always have the work ethic. Too bad that can’t be learned by reading a book, or I’d be golden!

  36. This is great topic to follow the Compelling Image themes. I am still part-way through that course. I’m not sure if this is an obstacle but when I am travelling, the majority of my photos are “for the record” so I may share experiences with friends and family back home. Truly “intentional” images come about in an ad hoc manner when something I see inspires me to be more deliberate in my techniques. Partly this is a time constraint when travelling with others. The group keeps on walking! When I am at home, I have full freedom to focus on being more intentional but sometimes lack inspiration for subjects that are close and so familiar. Anyone else with this dilemma?( Photography is a hobby for me.)

    1. I’m also partway through the Compelling Image course, and I’d like to do this one, but I’m wondering whether to do it simultaneously, or first, or later!
      I too find that when I travel, my photos are mostly “what it looks like”. I enjoy going on photography group tours, but I get overwhelmed by all the new sights and end up snap-shooting. Myanmar, for example, was such an amazing place that I couldn’t both experience it and do meaningful photography at the same time. In future I might choose trips that are based in a single location, rather than ones that move around a lot, so there’s more time to get settled in, and go deeper.

      1. Hi Linda – Here’s my thinking. If you want to do this course, then take advantage of the lower price now (and you’ll save 10% because you’re taking The Compelling Frame) and enroll when this course opens. Then sit tight and when you complete The Compelling Frame, you’ll have this one to roll right into and keep up the momentum. The course is always yours and there’s no time limit so you can enroll now, rather than waiting another year, but begin the course itself in a couple months if that’s how long it takes to finish it. Just don’t rush! 🙂

  37. Thank you for sharing your insights. Right now I m facing some physical challenges limiting my ability to get out and about to photography. Thought this would be a good opportunity to learn to shoot in a studio using continuous light sources. Settled on the appropriate gear and ready to rock and roll but have yet to actually move forward to shooting in a new environment. Not sure why I’m holding back so working on just relaxing instead of beating myself up. I love lifestyle photography and natural light both are not available to me for the next several months. I can envision what I would like to capture but remain frozen in this place.

  38. Great discussion. My biggest obstacle is myself. I think I can’t, so I don’t. I think this is going to change!

  39. Hi David, I feel that my biggest obstacle is not allowing myself to be distracted enough. I focus hard at being mindful. But sometimes the harder I focus the less mindful I become. The more I let go and “play” the more images come to me. This is when I do my best work. When I play, I let myself become distracted to see the uncommon among the common.

    1. Hey Karl – You hit on an important idea and I think there are different kinds of distraction. I too do my best work when I’m distracted by wonder and play, but when we’re trying to learn I think being distracted and unfocused is a liability. You can still play within that focus.

  40. Hi David,
    I did complete your course ” The Compelling Frame” and I think it’s a great idea to speak of the Technical side of Photography AFTER the Creative side. This way, we will have more chance to learn the technical stuff we need AT THE SERVICE OF our creativity instead to learn technical stuff at the service of our insecurity to succeed. So, it will help us to FOCUS more at the essential.

  41. David hi,

    I would say ”having the freedom to fail.” With the limited time I have to shoot as a hobby that when I get out in the outdoors to photograph wildlife or nature , more often than not it is limited to a 1/2 day or one day on the weekend. At least for me then it is focussed on to try and get the shot, to have to make the limited time pay off.

    This becomes a challenge enough to try and capture a great emotive shot which leaves little time to experiment and try new techniques. For example recently I had one day booked to go shoot Snowy Owls it took a lot of effort to just get the couple of shots that I had hoped to. That left little time to ‘try & fail’ so to speak to experiment with slow shutter speeds to blur wings while keeping the eye sharp, panning, exaggerated camera movements etc. This supports your earlier point that perhaps if I have better mastery of my tools that gives me more freedom, to get the shot in my mind’s eye and then to move to try new things, fail at them, and hopefully make a new creative break through.

    Also as someone who still loves to play sports, I realize every time I go out to photograph it is then ‘ game day’, you have to perform. But when you play golf for example you practise , you go to the range hit balls, practise putting etc, You don’t just keep your clubs in the garage and then go out and master the sport by shooting par. Mastery requires repetition, practise , trial and error, so one day you never have to think about it you just do it. That for me is my biggest obstacle, more practise time.

  42. Always love your videos David, thanks for all the inspiration over the years 🙂

    I would say for me, my biggest obstacle was the planned obsolesce and increasing complexity of the gear I once used. I went back to film about 12 years ago after driving myself crazy by constantly (and mostly subconsciously) blaming my failures on the gear I was using, or drooling over. The unending whisper in the back of my mind saying “Once you get the newer model of this camera then you can finally …..” was something I tried to, but could not shake.

    After using the same camera systems for over a decade (Mamiya 7ii, Hasselblad 500cm) I rarely even think about the cameras anymore. These 2 systems are incredibly simple, so much so they nearly evaporate when Im making images. Prime lenses, zone focusing (or no focusing 🙂 and extreme familiarity of these beautiful devices allow me to connect with my subject, instead of the camera.

    I feel completely liberated by the fact that I know now in the deepest recessions of myself that the camera is simply a tool. If my images or work are something I don’t like, its time to change my outlook, myself, or perhaps start a challenging new project that scares me.

    One can of course accomplish this with a digital system, but I could not, so I got off the sauce and removed the camera from my list of barriers thwarting my progression in this wonderful art form.

    This of course took almost 10 years of constant diligence and sometimes massive frustration to get to. However, its been the best choice I’ve made so far in this 20 year journey of mine in photography 🙂

  43. Hi David, I’ve been a long time follower of your work, both with the camera and with words. You are always inspirational!

    I’m not working as much on photography as I once did, but I’m now learning the craft of silversmithing. Your message is just as valid in this endeavour as it is for photography.

    I am struggling to discipline myself to repeat the same thing over and over again. One of my mentors said I should make 50 silver beads before I did anything else. When I’d finished, she said, I would understand the basics and be on my way to mastery.

    Well, I didn’t listen…I wanted to make pretty things! I wasted a lot of materials producing items that were not well crafted.

    I’m going back to finish the bead assignment. It feels good to develop a higher level of control over the foundational techniques that are involved. And I’ve come to a deep appreciation for the beauty in a simple, silver bead.

  44. Thank you David. So much of my best work seems accidental. We are going to reduce the accidental successes and increase the number of intentional ones.

  45. I complain about all the noise and try to limit who I read/listen to/watch, but I think I use some of that “noise” to hide behind. It’s easier (and less frustrating) to read/watch/listen to something and think you are doing work vs. actually picking up your camera and physically doing the work.

  46. David, thanks for putting this all out there for those of us who struggle with getting slowly to the next stage of happiness in our own work. This isn’t a new message from you as I feel you are always pushing to get photographers to truly look at what is important to them, and the photograph, as opposed to what the world will think of that photo.

    The more I learn that ends up pushing me in the right direction the more I realize that this is also a life lesson; pay attention to the few important details instead of the massive amount of noise and you’ll be successful. Not hard to hear, just hard to do.

    You reminded me a little of one of my favorite Bruce Lee quotes, ‘the successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus’. I’m looking forward to the next video.

    1. Yes! Pay attention to the few important things! We are so easily distracted, aren’t we?

    2. Love that Bruce Lee quote. I’m getting the same focus message in many parts of my life, probably time to listen and apply intentional focus to the things that are important to me and blur out all the distractions.

  47. Thanks David for this nice video!
    I really appreciated to hear your wise advices. I personnaly reduced the number of lenses to 4 enabling me to take a faster decision about which one to use according my expected results. Less techy, more intuition and fun!
    Looking forward to see your next video.

  48. Thanks a lot David, just loved it …like always. You’re definitely one of few voices I decided to listen to ?. I’m always very much impressed about how you find just the perfect words to hit the point. Anxious to hear about the next video..

  49. Thanks for the video! Last week’s essay was a reading assignment for my AP photography class. Their biggest obstacle – being teenagers and having lots of homework -but your books, posts, and videos are great inspiration pieces for them. They also help with my lesson plans. Thanks!

  50. Great points. Love that you said “ask why” instead of the “what”.

    I’ve actually been sort of “quizzed” by people out in the field who seem to want me to know that they know more about photography than I do with the “technical” terms they throw at me. Made me laugh when you brought that up. I don’t know if they want me to feel inferior or what, but I love what I do and I feel comfortable with a camera in hand when I am out with my gear.

    Can’t wait for the next video!

    1. Thanks, David! Funny how people feel they need to hold a higher card than others just to feel validated. I say shut up and impress me with your art. 🙂

  51. Thanks David for the “poke”! Yes, I tend to listen to too many voices and then have trouble focusing. Needed this pep talk to rejuvenate my approach.

  52. I totally agree with you but I would use “why” instead of “WHY” because “WHY” affraid me letting me thinking: what so important answer am I missing while i could be a simpler answer.

  53. Thank you for your excellent video! I have became overwhelmed with the negativity of so many instructors I’ve had over the last few years. Nothing is ever good enough and not every photographer is skilled at teaching. I’’ve reached the point of cutting my attachments with these groups, of trusting myself to know what I want and that I can make the appropriate decisions to achieve my goals. I’ve been drunk on wanting approval from people who want my money. I have found that when I detach myself from that noise, I’m shooting more intentionally and I’m more focused on the story I want my images to reveal. I applaud your honesty and approach to disseminating valuable information. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. Your comments are incredibly candid and vulnerable. I don’t know many that would admit these things, but I see it all the time. Cutting those ties and sobering up will help you so much. Just don’t go totally dark; there’s so much value in mentoring and collaboration.

  54. I agree that focus is key. I have been a victim of trying to learning it all since there is so much information and opportunity to learn on-line. I also think it helps not to compare yourself and your photographs to others and create what brings you pleasure and happiness.

  55. I enjoyed the WHY! Very exciting view and angle for my seeing eyes working with my wants which are my freedom of choice in photography. Its my photograph! Thanks

  56. My obstacle? As hobbyphotographer it is the lack of time. The advantage: I can do what I like, but time is short and so the photos are more or less coincidentally. But that‘s ok for me.

    1. Oh man, if I could just give everyone a couple more hours in the day, right? ! I still think you can be very intentional about making photographs, though. The so-called pros don’t really have more time – you’d be amazed at how much of our time is spent doing office things and mindless admin stuff.

  57. David, great insightful video as usual I agree that focus is whats needed I can do the techie stuff I know how and why to operate the camera in a particular way but my hurdle is mastering wanting to do it all (video , timelapse, drone,stills etc) and focus on producing a masterful image developing deeper vision, check my website I can make decent photos but there not to your standard of vision and artistry.

    Keen to see the next video’s.

  58. Some genius (was it you?) said to learn how to use all of the buttons on my camera in the dark/without looking. That mastery gave me such a big leap ahead. Now I can focus on making the image.

    1. Not sure if it was me, Carol, but I do tell my students that doing that exercise is one of the best things they can do to get comfortable with some of the tactile elements of this craft.

  59. I feel I’m kind of camera UI dyslexic — a slow and klutzy user — and I also often fumble-finger settings while involved in shooting. I just can’t seem to become a smooth, quick and repeatable camera user.

    My response has been to learn the bare minimum of controls that I need, stick to those and avoid making other settings changes during a project. Fully manual settings with a light meter is my favourite setup.

    [I also can’t learn how to play a musical instrument or dance. I figure it’s the same issue. 🙂 ]

    1. Hey, if you can shoot fully manually and just concentrate on more important things, you’re miles ahead, Bruce! And the slowing down that is required to deal with your particular issue will only help you!

      1. I do like your this presentation. It addresses the main obstacle in learning. In universities the students have one main book to use. Thank you for addressing this problem.

        That was my question also: Is the manual camera setting a benefit or opposite. Using any auto Av; Tv P and etc almost never gave me what I wanted. There is still many shots with adjustment of the camera decision. I have tried M recently with using a Test Shot function and it seems simpler. Thank you. I would like to hear in one of your video how you approach the Manual camera mode. Do you use Auto ISO and other details.

        1. Hi Leo – I’m a big fan of learning to use the camera manually, at least for exposure. I still depend on AutoFocus! Being all manual (including ISO) most of the time means I can be much faster. As soon as you go into a program mode of any kind, including ISO, you start second guessing the camera, and for me that’s a waste of attention. But my move to using manual again also coincided with my adoption of mirrorless cameras. Being able to see my histogram inside the viewfinder, and see the changes made as I make exposure adjustments, was a total gamechanger and makes auto modes less useful to me than they once were. I also think if you’re in manual you’re more likely to pay more attention to exposure decisions rather than letting the camera decide. But at the end of the day, its not how you get there, it’s that you get where you want to go.

    2. Hey Bruce. I am familiar with something called “representational systems,” which is how we represent info to ourselves, and we have all 3 channels going, but one is usually dominant. They are Visual, Kinesthetic, and Auditory…ways we learn. To me, a great deal of photography is visual. Music for me is auditory, although I visualize things when listening. Dance would be kinesthetic, and I am a terrible dancer. So, no, I don’t think those are the same issues, and difficulty for one or more doesn’t seem, to me, to preclude success in another.

  60. David, long time follower first time commenting. Providing context for this comment is paramount, so forgive the novel.

    My wife and I have been self-employed for over 10 years now, myself in photography. When starting out I felt as if I needed to follow the path of the professional photographer, which in my mind, were those who I held in high regard (probably naively). In doing so, I joined a local “photography club”, joined an international “photography club”, went to all the meetings, served on the non-profit board, jumped to the treasurer position, held countless meetings and workshops, conventions and competitions, and yet…after all those years still felt like an outsider looking in. Maybe I just never drank the kool-aid.

    I “thought” that was the way to go, I thought that was the path I needed to follow to be a professional. Sadly, I’m left with the ugliness of what happens behind the curtains of these organizations, from withholding votes to make sure certain people don’t make it on the board, to being chastised for not presenting someone with a (fucking) plaque, or being demeaned at one of the very first meetings I went to. It’s taken a while to get over and when I left, I felt the most liberated.

    It was the behind the scenes exclusivity these folks promoted that turned me off, all while publicly promoting inclusiveness. All that said, I felt the negative pressures of ideologies, like; “you never put a woman in broad light” and “you must know the inverse square law if you ever what to photograph a family group”, and of course “is that a competition image, I sure hope not!”.

    It’s been four years now since I left those groups. I’ve, just today, let my annual memberships lapse, in favor of finding myself. My biggest obstacle, thinking that I needed to be a part of something to be professional, an in so doing, stifling my craft.

    1. Chris, I, too, walked into that quicksand. Soon I saw the politics and heard “it’s not in focus” one too many times. I really thought the club would help me. The best thing that happened was when my imaged was panned. I got mad enough to walk out and never look back. Freedom! Freedom to learn and find my own path.

      1. Thanks Carol – boy, I couldn’t agree more…Freedom! I left quite a while ago but some of that garbage can stay with you. Thanks for sharing your experience as well.

    2. I’m with you, Chris. I could never get on board. Maybe I’m just not a joiner but it seems on so many levels like this craft -and art – has to be done individually. Group-think kills the creative.

    3. Oh you are so right Chris. The “competition” image is something that haunts me still. It’s a shame, I think many clubs want to be inclusive, but some members have a problem with their ego’s. I was stunned when a member sitting next to me in a meeting looked at my then very new Canon 5d Mkiii and said ” You can’t have that, you’re a woman!”. He wasn’t even old! He was about 30, I’m 58!
      Embrace the “art” and ignore the rules – this is my new mantra.

      1. Hey Mary – thank you for sharing, I really enjoyed reading your comments until I hit the “because you’re a woman” part. For some, this environment is where they feel their comfort, not me. When I realized this organization was not the only rodeo in town, as much as they want to be, I moved on.

    4. Ha! My experience exactly! I’m glad to be a “joiner” for the right group, and I really wanted the local photo group to be right. But it was dominated by Old School edge-to-edge focus aesthetics and was very set in its many ways. I’ve found more excitement and community in the groups that form for a workshop then dissolve a short time later, leaving me with photog connections all over the world.

  61. Thanks for this video and for the email last week that emphasized photographing what you feel about the opportunity provided by a particular situation. I have been trying to get away from photography for the record, although that has its place, and to create that image that reflects how I feel (or felt). This series of chats is proving very helpful.

  62. Interesting discussion points. Like the placement of kit on desk to keep gear nerds happy and motivated. My biggest obstacle is creation of time to practice and experiment. The photography I am paid for is quite formulaic although it pays the bills.

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