3 Things You Need to Know About The Photographer’s Process

While the process of making photographs can't possibly be reduced to a few sound-bites and some easy steps, there are some ideas that can make it easier to engage in the process and make stronger, more creative, and more intentional photographs. Here are 3 of them.

This is the second of 3 videos about this subject and a broader discussion of how we make photographs. If you didn't see the first video, Trust the Process? you can see it here.  In a couple days I'll send you a quick email about the final video.

In the meantime I'd love to hear your thoughts, frustrations, or questions. Leave them in the comments and we'll talk about it.

For the love of the photograph,
David.

Comments

  1. Thank you! I’m a musician by training and a lot of the technical and creative challenges I encounter in photography have analogues in music. I’m a researcher and write often in development of expertise in music (in the school of K. Anders Ericsson) and this is all about developing expertise through DELIBERATE PRACTICE. Ericsson’s is a theory that downplays (or eliminates) talent and focuses on the work we all do to develop our expertise. Deliberate practice means thoughtful practice. Do what we do, do it often, and do it thoughtfully.

  2. I’m thinking of what you said about your writing. Whenever I have to prepare something…that’s exactly what happens, I don’t really have a plan, but I have ideas that I just throw down and then work around them. Move things here and there until eventually I have this piece that reads exactly how I wanted it to…lol…how I had it in my mind. I have never looked at my photography that way. I have purpose usually, sometimes, because I have an idea, a vision of what I want to achieve and I keep working it until I have what I want or close to it (I hate to settle for close to it, but, that self criticism thing right?)
    I’ve never taken my camera and just started photographing things that may closely resemble that idea, or have some vague interpretation of it and I think I may have missed a lot of good images along the way.
    I think I might be missing out if I don’t register for your ‘Making the Image’.

  3. I go out and play and use my camera so I guess that’s my process. But, I’m considering these videos and I’m stuck with the “new directions” the process may take me because I don’t know where it’s leading (which is your point). The issue is that I don’t think I take the same kinds of images each time I’m out. Today, I happen to be in one of the great cities of the world and I’m drawn to shadows of shutters or piles of chairs or a vine growing on an old wall or a particularly lovely building. I get to travel a lot and seems like I re-sketch in each new place—next location may have more landscapes or markets or street signs. I don’t see a theme; should the iterative work be taking me in that direction? Maybe I need to focus (literally) on a theme or at least something(s) that are universal across locations?

    I like the analogy you used with writing and how that process morphs. The challenge is that I almost feel overwhelmed with my sketches (I have years of them)—mostly with the breadth of topics represented. Do we need a “look” to our body or a “that’s her work” consistency? This may be antithetical to the process though…I’ll get to the next video and see if my questions resolve!

  4. Leaving photography school, I feel like I’ve become an expert in the technical stuff but I still lack a clear vision and for sure a process. I have subscriptions about photography all over the planet but I’m so happy that I found you on the web. I feel you fill the gaps I’m trying to understand and learn…and make my own.
    Kind regards,
    Chris (Belgium)

  5. David, I like your approach and your approach to the creative process. For me, the most important question (which I have often heard painters articukate) is “Why am I making this picture?”. In other words, what did I want to “say”? Too many photographers seem to skip the point that this image, any image, is supposed to say something – rather than just surmount some hurdle. (It’s an art, not a sport.)

    I’m looking forward to your third video but, on the downside, would like to have got to it sooner.

    1. “It’s an art, not a sport” Yes, Geoff! I love that. You’re right about the question. It’s like we all have these really high-tech microphones and we’re stuck on how good they sound and not on saying something that matters with them.

  6. Interesting topic! I love photography. I think the technical piece is relatively easy, for the most part. However, there is always room for improvement on that front. The battle is more with myself. In that I have to feel something about what I’m shooting. It has to excite me in some way. Most of the time that’s not an issue, but lately I’ve felt in a slump. Mostly because it feels like so much of it has been shot before, or that it doesn’t feel artistic or edgy enough. I think with practice you can go from mediocre to good. Going from good to great is extremely difficult. Not that I’m afraid of difficult, but I’m not even close. I shoot often, but I do go in spurts. Sometimes I don’t want to shoot, and then I NEED to pick up the camera. That’s often balanced with painting. When I’m not shooting it’s usually because I NEED to pick up a paint brush.

    1. Lori, I think this is just the fundamental struggle of the artist. Nothing wrong with you, just the awareness that some things don’t excite you and not everything is something you want to photograph. I go for long periods without picking up the camera, often because, like you, I’m doing something else creative. But doing personal projects and picking a theme and really going deep with it has helped my avoid the ennui and the struggle to find something interesting. Right now it’s portraits and it’s an exciting challenge.

  7. I love your stuff. Refreshing to not always hear about all the “settings”. Question…do you usually shoot alone? I often go with a group of 3-4 of us and I try to go off by myself somewhat. I get distracted by what others are shooting and like to “work” a scene myself. Do you ever shoot with others? Do you ever offer any “in-person” workshops?

    1. Hi Jo – Thanks! Yes, I almost always photograph alone. Fun to go out with friends, but when it comes to creating I can’t do it with people talking to me, or side-by-side. Yes, I do in-person workshops. A couple of them a year, and in very small groups. Usually Venice, Kenya, India. When they come up I offer them in my Vision-Driven mentoring community. Join us! 🙂

  8. Amen, Amen, Amen – especially on the “GREAT SNAP” “GREAT CAPTURE!” Good grief on that. Also love the starting and sketching and play. All works. There’s a “magic slider”? wow. Who knew? Thanks again for the good stuff!

  9. This series David is really inspiring me and looking at my photographic process and creativity differently. I felt relieved when you talked about making the ugly, messy photos leading us to to the great image. So often I doubt my ability when I can’t seem to capture what I’m envisioning. I actually have had to spend two days of photographing the same subject sometimes to get it “right” in my minds view and wonder if I’m not “good enough” at what I’m doing. Your video brings validation to my creative process and skills. Thanks.

  10. David, thank you for this wonderful video. I just got myself a Leica X1-it’s a used one, but for me it’s new. I’m 87 and try and photograph every day at Fish Creek Prov. park here in Calgary. Yesterday I found Eden in the park, it was like all the days that I have been in this park 30 years worth, mother nature pointed me to her special part. From outside just another piece of the park, but when you enter it, a big smile comes on your face and your in Eden. Here is where I learned from you about “ugly photos” I started taking these but as I was ready to leave, the juicy good images showed themselves. These were my thoughts of good images, as you have said, I’m the one that takes and makes the decisions.
    Thank you again for part 2 video – wonderful
    Stan Kwasniowski

    1. Fantastic, Stan! At 87, should I make it that far, I hope I’ve got the enthusiasm and creativity that I sense in you. Long may you run, my friend.

  11. Hi David
    Being a successful retired fertility doctor (making babies and not money) and a scientist I am one of the group of “non creative people”. It set me thinking that scientists especially in the medical field are taught not to experiment until every known risk and outcome is discussed and this is what probably inhibits us so called non creative scientists when it comes to creating images.

    Your great advice and especially making sketches is helping to break the mold.

    Thanks Joel

  12. From previous comments I see a theme which resonates with me on this starting ugly and, in my case, getting uglier – and it’s this –
    We are inundated with what our levels of expectations SHOULD be. From every YouTube video and magazine article we’re told this is how your images should look. I get somewhat disappointed when my efforts don’t reflect that expectation.
    I’ve been thinking about preparing outline sketches prior to taking the shots. Hopefully you next episode may help with that thinking.

    Great series though David. Thank you for taking the time and sharing.
    Bob

    1. Absolutely right, Bob. I believe strongly that our expectations can blind us, often significantly, to what is actually possible. Often we’re so caught up in what something is not that we miss what it is. Thanks for chiming in, Bob!

  13. David,

    First, thank you for making these videos, and making them so easily available (ie. free, no signing up, etc). No catches is not the norm. It’s clear that you put your heart into them because your heart IS in what you are saying. And, yes, it resonates for me. I think the most important things I have learned in these first two videos, in the realm of “trusting the process”, is that there IS a process, it’s not about perfection, and that the only way to go through the process is to start it and go through it! Thank you.

    Just over a week ago I was at a west-facing national park beach with the wind blowing, waves crashing, all sorts of inspiration around me. I was there 90 minutes before sunset. And I spent at least an hour, if not more, of that time wandering around with my camera in my backpack looking for the “right” composition, where to “set up shop” with my tripod. At a few different points in my meanderings, I would pass another photographer. He was also wandering but had his camera up to his eyes, snapping away madly. And I was thinking, “Ha, he’s just shooting and hoping.” Maybe he was, but he probably came away with all sorts of material, ideas, sketches for futures visits. Meanwhile, I ended up with two mediocre, rushed-as-the-sun-went-down compositions.

    I’m looking forward to my next outing and putting your ideas into play. Yes: play, experiment, sketch, conceive, do it again, and again… Thank you again for sharing, from the heart.

    1. I think you’ve learned something valuable, Lee. Will be interested to know how it goes next time. I’m all about the sketch images. As for the free videos – you’re right. Sometimes there’s a hoop to jump through. I’m trying to do less of that when I can. I’m glad you appreciated the simplicity. Ultimately, sure, I’ll launch a new course and hope it serves people just like you, but I’m more and more convinced that if the courses hold really strong value, people won’t need to be nudged quite so hard to consider it. I’m learning. I’m a photographer and a teacher, not an online marketer, sometimes I learn these things through trial and error. 🙂 Thanks again.

  14. Thank you, David for the videos! I enjoy your insight and experience, it has helped tremendously in my photographic journey. In reading some of the other responses, I can particularly relate to “being in the mood” or “getting inspiration”. With that said, I would like to share an article that I read recently that got me to rethink my mindset. I do hope that some will find this helpful as well. One particular quote from the article says it all: “Simply put, eureka moments occur because of the work leading up to them. Action stimulates inspiration more often than inspiration stimulates action.” All the best:
    https://medium.com/personal-growth/einstein-was-an-artist-how-creativity-actually-works-29f4d111224f?fbclid=IwAR1yaHL0S4LQsUXhCe70VOeczLvAOdDbWLq-8e_Z2Jm1wWfAF4tBdwTC8lg

    1. Yes, Dar! Action stimulates inspiration! And all the artists who talk about this say the same thing! You have to put in the work. You have to start! And any breakthroughs come from tilling the ground and planting the seeds, and watering until the harvest. Thanks for the link – off to read it!

  15. Thanks David. This was very helpful and will hopefully help me overcome what’s holding me back from making photos just now!

  16. I’m frustrated, David. I see the blurry photo of you on both the Trust and Unlock the Process pages, but no active link for the videos. Did i miss a window that closed, or something else? Cheers, Paul

    1. Hi Paul. Sorry for the frustration but I really don’t know what the issue is. They’re still working fine and those blurry images are, or should be, the embedded videos themselves. Perhaps it’s a temporary bandwidth issue? You’re the first one to say they’ve had this problem. Try again and if it’s still not working drop me a note and I’ll see if I can link you directly to the video on Vimeo?

  17. I can be the world’s biggest procrastinator. I don’t take lots of frames. Your talk has given me a kick in the butt. I’m off … getting out there to shoot and create. Thanks!

  18. Hell yeah, man. Preach!

    I’ve never considered myself *talented*. It’s all skill, built upon the iterative process of try, try again, dammit, okay again, one more time…

    Thanks for laying these videos down, David! #gratitude

    by the way… are your walls black? I can’t talk my wife into letting me paint my office walls black. How’d you do that?

    1. Thanks Aeon. Yes, one wall in my studio is black. And in our sitting room the wall behind the TV is a dark graphite grey. Makes it easier to see the TV when it’s not sitting against a bright wall. Cynthia wasn’t 100% sure about it, but it’s just paint – can always go back to white with an afternoon of painting.

  19. Thanks for these videos. Having completed your Traveling Lens course I am becoming better at taking my time & making sketch images. However right now I hate everything I produce. Strong words I know but that’s how I feel. I suspect much of this stems from my issues around trying to be ‘perfect’ at everything I do which leads me to be very harsh on myself. Watching these two videos this morning has reminded me that even those whose work I admire isn’t always perfect, at least not in the beginning. Hopefully when I next get the chance to take my camera & make some photos I’ll be able to remember your words of wisdom & be a little kinder to myself.

    1. Sounds like you’re focusing more on the product than on the process. I get it. I’ve been there often. But are you enjoying the actual making of the images? Does that process and exploration light you up inside? Are you in a rut and perhaps need a nudge out, to change up some things, shoot differently, find new subjects? Yes, be kind to yourself, for sure. Perhaps the kindest thing you can do is give yourself something you enjoy even if the resulting images don’t yet light a spark. Rooting for you, Kim.

  20. Hi David. Have only just started this journey and find that your ‘voice’ is one worth listening to. I hear you saying that to ‘make’ a photograph you have to take many photographs. The taking of many the process of seeing what photograph I want to make. What you have said so far has helped remind me to be still when I have found my subject and enter into that process. Looking forward to the continuing dialogue.

    1. Hi Max. Welcome to the craft. What a journey lies ahead of you. It thrills me to hear you’ve found something worthwhile in my teaching. hope I can be of some small help along the way!

  21. My goodness, David, do you really read all these comments and then reply? You are truly amazingly generous, with that and your wisdom! Playing and slowing down, two of the things we need to do more of is exactly what I thought of when I went out this morning to look at our gorgeous clouds in my front yard in the Mojave Desert and just enjoyed what I was looking at to photograph and wasn’t trying to get “the” shot! I understand the “sketching” technique and am going to use that as often as I can. Looking forward to your third video!!

    1. LOL. Well, I do my best, Susan. Thank you! “My front yard in the Mojave Desert” – how cool is that?! Thanks for saying hello and being part of what I do.

  22. I’m so glad I’m not alone “as a process type” of writer, photographer, and artist. For years, I’ve been surrounded by “technical photographers” who spent all their time trying to learn and follow all the rules. Hearing you describe your approach, gave me more ideas about, and more reason to be confident in, my own thinking, beliefs, and processes from beginning to end. Thank you!

    1. Fantastic, Richard. We all have a different kind of process but my experience tells me that the more familiar we are with ours and the less heed we give to others, the happier and more productive we become. Keep at it.

  23. Thank you for talking about the process. The creative process is much the same as the product development process. However, many photography instructors do not recognize this. I’ve actually had an instructor criticize my
    ‘sketch’ shots and ask me what I was thinking!

    1. It’s absolutely the same, Julie. Might be time to ditch those other instructors. There are more than enough of us who will encourage you while also kicking your creative butt forward in the direction that YOU want to go 🙂

  24. Thank you for these two vidoes, David. I’m a 72-year-old hobby photographer who’s become conscious of being at the end of a blind alley recently – just took me all those years to get there! Your thoughts are making me formulate my approach to picture making a little. The discipline needs to be in the direction of releasing the shutter, not always waiting for what one hopes is the “significant moment”.

    1. Tony, in my experience it’s a little of both. More frames, more intention, more risk, and always keeping an eye out, if not for THE significant moment, then for many of them. Often I only find the significant moments while editing and you can’t do that if you haven’t made the images in the first place. Keep at it! There’s no blind alley that you can make a U-turn in.

  25. YES! I really connect with how you explain photography growth. You make me feel more confident to enjoy the process and take away the nagging insecurities that made me question my worthiness as I learn!

  26. You had me at sketchbook. So often I see a moment and attempt to capture it most often not obtaining the feeling that inspired me to press the shutter. When that happens I return to the location over and over trying this perspective or that composition taking notes on camera and lighting settings and eventually getting that feeling to unfold in post processing. Artists have sketchbooks and so do photographers only difference is ours are cf/sd cards thanks for taking time to shed light on this point.
    Looking forward to your follow up video on this subject.

  27. Thank you David, the way you describe this process is comforting. It diminishes a certain pressure and gives me freedom to try instead of being held back by the fear of not “performing”. I am looking forward to the next video. Thank you!

  28. My first reaction: PREACH, brother!

    My second reaction: Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Isn’t perfection the enemy of good, though? Sometimes I feel like I reinforce bad habits with all the sketch shots. Sometimes I feel like the only accountability is in my own head. But I must make photographs. It is the way I speak when words are inadequate.

    Trust the process. Begin. Fail. Keep taking risks. Trust the process a little more. Begin sooner. Fail harder. Take bigger risks. Trust the process…

    1. Hey Jo – Forget practice. Play. Risk. Learn. Practice getting to the buttons. Practice focusing, or whatever technical thing impedes your photography. But otherwise, explore. Don’t worry about either perfection (gross) or permanent (stay open to change!). 🙂

  29. Thank you for your Videos. Can’t wait for the last one in this series.

    I really enjoy your teaching stye and also find reading your ebooks very helpful.

    I was also wondering if you could tell me what font you used for “Making the Image”

    1. Thanks, Christina. I wish I could tell you what font it is, but it’s a hand-lettered job I had custom made just for this, so it’s a one of a kind.

  30. Permission to play and make mistakes is an important gift to give yourself I believe.
    Honestly, I still struggle to identify when I have a truly good shot! Perhaps it’s all self flagellation, but I dont easily recognise quality in my own work.

    How do I best develop that skill?

    Thanks for these videos, the no bullshit approach is extremely refreshing.

    1. I promise to keep the bullshit to a minimum, Katrina! 🙂 I think many photographers struggle with how to edit their work. In part I think it’s a lack of confidence. And in part it’s a lack of ability to see an image for its visual or graphic qualities alone. If we were all better at recognizing strong composition and then owning our choices, without looking over our shoulders, we’d be better at editing. I also think it helps to ask someone whose taste and skill we trust to edit our work, asking them which they think are the strongest images and – most importantly – WHY? I have found that very instructive. Never take an opinion without also getting the why. And if the answer is “I don’t know” then you’ve chosen the wrong person.

  31. Thank you so very very much for making these inspirational videos. You always make so much sense in what you are talking about photographically. You give so many budding and stumbling newbies like me some hope that eventually we will master this incredible artistic medium.

    1. Thank you, Joan. Mastery is a long road, but I’m right there with you on the journey. You can get there. Just enjoy the ride and put in the time. 🙂

  32. Dear David,
    you encourage me very much with your blog and videos! Thanks for that!
    Warm regards, Malu

  33. I started the 1st Compelling Frame and never completed the course. I understand what you are saying, but I struggle with telling the story. This maybe that I take wild life pictures that require you to be hidden often not quite in the right place at that moment. Even with a good picture of bird or a mammal with the story of everyday survival doesn’t, seem adequate.. Prehaps I am becoming stamp collector. ,” with done that species” approach.

    1. John, you’ve hit it on the head: it’s a struggle. Wildlife is a tough gig, my friend. But you can find stories there. I hear this same thing from wildlife photographers all the time and all I can say is it’s not easy. But it’s doable. But remember that those who do this kind of work really well spend not hours, not days, but weeks in the field, sitting in the blinds, putting in the time, waiting for the intersection of moment, light, and story. Those of us that dabble in wildlife photography, and I put myself in that category, just won’t see the same kind of results until we put the time in. For some that’s OK. Some just want sharp images of many species. If that makes you happy, great. But if you want more, it will be hard and there’s no easy way out of that struggle. One last thing: remember not every image must be about story. Story is but one way to make us pay attention, to wonder, to connect to the image.

  34. Thanks, David,
    That works for me! I love to do ‘Still Life’ shots and you wouldn’t believe that among of shots I take before the right one appears! Sometimes it looks right in the camera, but once on the screen, it is not what it should be. Slowly we work our way through it, and sometimes I love the outcome, while other times not so. It is then interesting to see what others think and what I like they sometimes don’t and visa-versa! ….but what the heck, I’ve had fun doing them. Love your emails and also thoroughly enjoyed your book ‘A beautiful Anarchy’ It is one that I want to re-read.
    btw I’m from the land down under 🙂

  35. David
    Thank you so much for your generosity –
    Even though I take my camera out to play and I enjoy that process ….I feel that I will never be competent and patient enough to edit my photographs to improve them-
    I am not a technophobe and know that I really just have to get done to put in the work to get the best results.
    Looking forward to your next class – love your teaching style.

    1. Thanks, Faith. You can get both competent and comfortable with the amount of post-production you want to do, which need not be much. Especially in Lightroom, you just can’t break your photograph beyond instant repair, so play with the sliders and effects and see what does what. You’ll get it. And even if all you do is tweak exposure, colour temperature, and contrast, that can make a huge difference without being overwhelming.

  36. Looking forward to the third video!! 😁 Meanwhile, I had a thought about something you mentioned in this one. You said there’s no one way or correct way to edit a particular photo – it would be interesting to see you process a frame three different ways to see how different the end results would be. Since the possible combinations of moves in Lightroom/Photoshop are literally unlimited, I never really know what I’m “supposed” to do on any given frame, so most of the time I end up hitting auto-contrast in the PS Elements menu and nothing else (except light sharpening after resizing, if necessary). 😏

    1. Hi Lori – Thanks for that, it’s an interesting idea. I think it’s important to remember that it’s all about possibilities. As you say, there’s no one right way. So the big question is: what do you want? How do you want the image to feel? It’s like food – it’s all about taste. Some people want to add salt, some add pepper, and others like me add hot sauce. The process applies in post as much as it does in capture – play, risk, see what effects are to your liking and which are not. But I like the idea here, so I’m making a note. Thank you!

  37. Thank you David, I have really enjoyed these 2 videos. This is totally where I am at in my journey.
    We often hear about ‘Vision’ and how we should ideally have it before we start taking an image, but for me as I am
    constantly learning new photographic techniques new editing tools my ‘Vision’ changes and often doesn’t come to life until I’m editing.
    It’s like we don’t know what we don’t know until we stumble across it.
    I come from a technical background and after the intitial 12 months of photography when I was worried I was doing it ‘Right’ I have spent the last few years letting go of that worry and the difference is amazing. I am learning about myself in my 60’s. It’s liberating to produce an image that is purely me and it’s a bonus if others enjoy it too.
    I look forward to your next video 🙂

  38. I can only describe this video as liberating. Thanks for giving us all permission to play and make mistakes. Looking forward to the next video.

    1. Fantastic! If freedom is what this gives you then you’re on the right track! Thank you, Joan!

  39. David I have been a fan of yours for years now and I did love the Broccoli Farts comment as it told it like it was.
    About six months ago I decided to buy a new Camera and go Mirrorless and so I bought an Olympus mid range thing. Everything is so different to my Canon stuff and Yes I love that it is small and unobtrusive and Yes it has over a Hundred functions and features that I will never use so many of.

    However it brings back the wisdom of David when he says “The Camera gets in the way” and Oh my God does it what. Every time that I pick up this Camera I think of those wise words as I am figuring out “How do I make it do this” or why wont it let me do that. However when I pick up the Canon I am looking and thinking about things like would I be better off three feet to the right and back a bit and not catching so much light and so the magic starts to happen.
    One can never have too much of the wisdom of David reminding us to Trust the Process

    1. I’m glad you find some wisdom in my words, Allen. A new camera can be a whole new kind of process, and there’s benefit in having to re-think how we do things, but it sure can be a frustrating process as well. Good luck!

  40. Thanks so much for your vision and expertise!
    An open mind sees the bigger “picture “

    1. Thanks, Clayton. Always nice to see your name among those chiming in! I hope you’re well.

  41. Very insightful as usual David! It brings the pieces together in terms of making an image rather just grabbing a shot!!!

  42. Yes, yes, yes to all you have mentioned. I have 1,000’s upon 1,000’s of sketch images, no one will ever see. But it is helped me to become familiar with my preferences, and why I choose the lenses I choose for certain images. I am looking forward to part 3 of this insightful series.

  43. I find these things you talked about so horribly true…
    As an experienced yet hobbyist photographer, I cannot agree more with the saying to start and sketch instead of waiting for the right situation with the flattering light in this specific moment. Rather than that to take the gear out of the bag and warm up by this sketching process in order to get to ones ‘creative zone’.
    This ‘waiting for the moment’ happened to me either which caused me to get back home with the camera still in the bag with no photograph whatsoever, and this indeed my friend, is the worse than the ugliest photo I could have taken…
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Better to risk it and see what might happen as we make our photographs, than just to go home with nothing, right? 🙂

  44. Yes! It resonates! I’m finding that the more sketch images I make the more I come back with an image I truly like. And frequently it’s an unexpected image, quite different than the image I set out to make, the one I thought I wanted. I’m happy to hear a photographer I admire Not tell me I need to previsualize the image I want before I press the shutter. Frankly, I’m horrible at that.

    1. Me too, Judene. That doesn’t mean we can’t still be intentional, though. But I’m with you, I can’t pre-visualize without having the camera to my face. That doesn’t mean we don’t have vision, it just means we need the camera to help us really hone that vision.

  45. Thank you for this beautiful point of vue. I’m German and watching your video make me remembering Goethe who said:
    “Great talents are rare, and it is rare for them to recognize themselves” – thank you for pushing us to discover ourselves.
    I’m also playing the piano and it’s abolutly right that making (ugly) pictures is not a fail but the most important landmark to survive which indicates that this is the wrong way – practicing is the way to make your own music / interpreation better and better, not the study of scores and hamonies.

    Impatient to watch your third video
    Sincerly yours

    Peter, Dortmund (Germany)

  46. What you have reminded me of is to remember to “play” – no expectation of “correct” shutter speed, exposure etc. Be open to your environment and practice seeing. I suppose that’s what you call sketching. The process of looking deeper. The camera is a technical piece of equipment and for that we must understand it’s capabilities but then let our eyes and brains loose to find the nuances. Often for me, it’s allowing yourself time to be in that space. Impossible to do in a one and done or fleeting environment. I am happiest when photographing solo, I can stay as long as I want. I also enjoy and appreciate other photographers results from similar shoots as it always amazes me of our different points of view.

    1. Play! Yes! If we all played more, we’d all see so much stronger photographs, learn better lessons about our craft and our own vision, and we’d all have so much more fun!

  47. It is hard to put my process in words. I appreciate your attempts to do so, David. For me, it’s getting past my own censoring of the possibilities. I am my own critic and I value the critiques of others, as well. Sometimes I need to remind myself to go with what appeals to me and not with what might appeal to others. I find that taking lots and lots of “test” shots is helpful in establishing one’s eye for what may work. It is, after all, trial and error, but sometimes the “errors” are more informative than the “wow” shots. I look to others for inspiration but I look inwards for direction and the willingness to experiment.

    1. Yeah, me too, Wally. I think what’s important for me to put into words is that it IS a process. And like any process each step is important. In photography the best of it comes when we do just what you described and go with what feels right to us, ignoring others. They want something particular out of your photograph, they can go make their own! 🙂

  48. Your comments particularly resonated with me. I struggle everyday with trying to be creative so I don’t shoot enough. Being a visual artist at a time when photography is so prolific feels daunting. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Just stay true to yourself, Rajeev. The only time it’s daunting is when we compare ourselves to others. Keep your eyes on your own work. You’ll be fine!

  49. Thanks David! A request…can you choose a different image from the ones that you included with past publications? Something newer would be nice for those of us who’ve been reading and watching you for a while! 🙂

    1. I’ll certainly keep my tutorials relevant and try not to repeat myself! 🙂

  50. Thank you, thank you, thank you for creating these videos and for ALL that you have been doing through the years to educate photographers. Your teaching style and messages always resonate with me. I appreciate your genuineness and willingness to share information about perspective and the creative process. More than any other instructor, you motivate me, inspire me, and give me permission to just start…try….experiment….even though, as you point out, doing so can be ugly and messy, especially early on. You help me view my own creative process and journey through a new lens and a new perspective. Very grateful.

    1. I’m grateful for you taking a moment to say so, Laura. Gives me the energy and the motivation to keep at it!

  51. Another possible source of paralysis can be thinking that there is ONE lightroom setting that is optimal for this picture. That there is ONE way that is best for your picture. Lightroom settings are also a process. And there are many ways to process your picture. Just as there are many ways to hold the camera, many settings that will give an interesting picture, and many places to take a beautiful picture.

    1. Yes! It’s ALL a process. Photographing. Editing. Post-production. Even what we then do with the images in terms of collections, or exhibits, books, etc. What’s important isn’t that it’s RIGHT but that it’s YOURS!

  52. Great video! Most of what you said resonates with me. I do, however, need to get more garbage shots when I shoot. More of the sketch shots. I think that is the main thing holding me back from being more creative. Thank you very much. I look forward to your next video.

  53. David. It all sounds very appealing, and I can see how it could/will apply to a static scene. Try lots of stuff to see where the things you learn in a sketch photo lead to new ideas. But can the same process apply to a dynamic scene where the subject is fleeting, such as street, sports, or wildlife/bird photography?

    1. I think it can, yes, Jack. It certainly applies for me. No, your very specific instance in those contexts can’t be repeated, but wait long enough and a similar instance will occur. I see it on the street all the time, and with wildlife. Wait it out, do as much of the process BEFORE the moment arrives, in terms of compositions you like, exposures you like. And also, remember, too, that the process is not just that one day out shooting, it’s the months and years you’ve already put in, learning from the failures, the missed shots, the lessons learned. Sometimes it’s the sketch shots I made 2 years ago on the Maasai Mara that pay off in the here in now. Sometimes it’s a longer game than we like, but not seeing it as a process means we start over at square one every time and I don’t have that kind of time.

    1. Indeed it does. Often one very faltering, uncertain, step. But give me 100 steps and I get more certain, more confident. Give me 1000 and I begin to get pretty good at walking and begin to have a real sense of my direction. 🙂

  54. I’m on the Oregon Coast about to start a photography workshop. You’ve identified something that has been lacking in my process. Having gone on a number of these workshops, I’ve starting saying at the Orientation meetings that I want to take less photos, think more about how I want them to look before pressing the shutter. After watching your video, perhaps what I’ve been missing is the review of photos in the field, seeing what I like and what I want to change. Sometimes I get so caught up thinking about having a great shot for image review or to share with friends and family when I get home, that I point my camera in the same direction as everyone else afraid to miss what they see and then feel like my shots were lucky, not intentional or creative. Thank you for giving me a new approach. I’m excited to get out there and shoot!

    1. My rule is always point the camera somewhere else. I just know that I’m never happy with an image that 30 other people, or even one other person has some version of. I guess I don’t play well with others creatively. I think we can learn together, but very few people can create their best work in the company of others. Yes to slowing down, and being more intentional – absolutely – but you can still do that while being playful, taking risks, and being open to immediate feedback. Have a great time in Oregon, Dee!

      1. That’s exactly what I was thinking while reading the comments: Why can’t I be creative in the company of others? Why doesn’t it ever seem to click when someone of my friends photographers (from whom by the way I’ve learnt so much) is around?
        Thanks for these videos, they are illuminating! I loved when you made the example about writing, I experienced that feeling of”work in progres” while shooting only a couple of times, but I remember thinking “Maybe this is what it’s allabout.” I’m glad you proved me right. Thank you again
        Claudia (Italy)

  55. David, thanks for this very clear video which sets up in very definite words the various feelings and / or intuitions I experience while thinking about my approach of Fine Art photography practice.
    Thanks for your “intellectual” clarity which leads to actual action !
    Photographic cheers from France, jean

    1. Merci, Jean. It’s very much my pleasure. Action is everything! Do! Create! Risk! Explore! Play!

  56. ❤️ Thank you! I think you’ve hit at the very heart of what holds me back.

  57. Thanks for the video David ….. I have noticed in my own photography that I am now starting to sketch more rather than trying to go for that number 1 shot right away ….. and so what you said resonated with me ….. I think as I progress and reflect more on my work and expect better of myself the number of sketches per finished photo will increase ….. looking forward to your final video .

  58. Great video, love the concepts you are putting into the video – I think for me, it’s not about whether I start ugly trying to get to what I was hoping to create – but it’s more about being in the mood to shoot, or figuring out how to get into the mood to shoot. I definitely see a difference in my photos when my mood is ‘right’ (for lack of a better word). Also, maybe starting ugly and after a bit I see that it’s just not working, I’m not capturing what I want and can’t seem to get there – so I move on to something else – thoughts on this?

    1. Oh, I have a million thoughts on this! Whether I can articulate them or not without writing a book is another thing. I wonder how long you play and risk and explore before moving on. I wonder what it means to you that you “can’t seem to get there.” My experience is that, yes, mood affects us, and some more than others. But I also think so much depends on just starting, not waiting for inspiration, and being mindful of your expectations. But you then said, “so I move on to something else” and my question is this” when you move on, is that when you find the magic? I mean, nothing is always gold, right? Perhaps part of the process is listening to your gut, and moving on when you just know it’s not working. Certainly there’s a balance between perseverance and knowing when it’s not working and listening to your gut, but learning that is also part of your own process. If moving on happens because your curiosity is leading you, your gut has a different inclination, then go for it!

      1. David – I did see the note on Video 1 🙂 ….I think I will ponder this now that I have put this into writing. “Moving on” is sometimes because I see the light is not going to work (wrong time of day), or perhaps it wasn’t as ‘cool’ a subject as I originally thought. But you’re right, nothing is always gold….but it’s knowing and listening to your gut and moving on when it’s not working. Often I have others with me and they see things that I don’t (expected of course) – very interesting to have 3 of us at the same place, shooting what we see and then seeing the difference in each others photos. I appreciate your comment and will take some time to think about it.

  59. Appreciate what you are saying about process. For me, when I finally see what I’m after through the lens, the moment sounds like, THERE IT IS AT LAST.

      1. Your advice was powerful and stunning.I was so moved that my eyes were filled with tears. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, John. It’s complicated. Mostly because we were trying something new from the last time I did this kind of thing, but I think we forgot to make it searchable. I’ll look into it. 🙂

    2. Hi David.
      I really enjoyed hearing about your
      creative process.
      Great and inspiring advice.
      Thanks.
      David

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