How to Be a Good Photographer

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Dear friend,

I want to give you some practical tips on how to be a good photographer.

1. What is ‘good’?

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I like the idea of being a ‘good’ photographer. You don’t need to aspire to be a ‘great’ photographer. Because if you want to become a ‘great’ photographer— you are putting your self-esteem in the hands of others.

You need to be ‘great’ by getting lots of likes on social media, and the applause of strangers.

You can become ‘good’ by your own self-assessment of yourself.

So start off, by looking at your own photos and think to yourself:

Are these photos good?

2. Don’t aim for perfection

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Perfectionism is death. Nothing is perfect. Nothing in nature is perfect— it is on a constant flow of change, of evolution, of death, rebirth, and growth. Would you call a tree ‘perfect’ or not? No; but it still grows, gains nutrients from the earth and the air, and keeps growing until it reaches the heavens.

For you — seek to be a little better in your photography everyday.

If you are a tree; you gain nutrition from the soil and air. As a photographer, you gain nutrition from studying the work of the master photographers (and artists) of the past. You also become taller as a photographer by making more photos, making more risks, and making more personal photos.

Also, to make photos like a kid– to have fun. And to realize all photos you make is art (because it is personal self-expression).

Learn how to make more art >

3. Be your own harshest critic

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The most important person to impress in your photography is yourself.

Be your own harshest critic.

Which means, make photos that makes you proud of yourself.

Before you ask anyone for their opinion on your photo; once again — look at your own photo and as yourself:

Do I like my own photo?

4. Make more dynamic compositions

If you want to make good photos; you want to make better compositions.

To make better compositions, seek to subtract (not add) to the frame.

To make your photos stronger; make them more dynamic. Add more diagonals to your photos — tilt your camera like a ‘dutch angle.’ Don’t just follow the rule of thirds. Try to integrate more curves and diagonals in your photos.

Also, start with a black canvas (a black background). Then add your subject afterwards. Find inspiration from Richard Avedon; who stripped the background of the superfluous, and only focused on his subject.

To make better compositions, I recommend you to try the ‘fishing’ technique (at least in street photography). Find an interesting background, leading lines, and wait for your subject to enter the frame.

Also take a lot of photos. If you see an interesting scene, take 50 photos, 100 photos, 200 photos. Don’t be easily satisfied. Learn how to work the scene.

5. Stay hungry

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Stay hungry to learn more from all artists from history. I myself have been enjoying the films of Jodorowsky (the documentary film on him ‘Dune’, as well as his ‘Holy Mountain’).

I also got a lot of inspiration from the Renaissance artists — like Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael.

I have also been watching a lot of animated Japanese Anime film (‘Paprika’ was brilliant), listening to Jay-Z + Dr. Dre, and finding inspiration from nature (trees) and children (learning everything for the first time).

The world is full of inspiration. We just need to pay attention.

6. Measure yourself by your own ruler

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Don’t let anybody else measure your progress as a photographer. Use your own ruler. Follow your own “internal scorecard” (as Warren Buffett says — the guy with $78 billion dollars, who still drives an old car and lives in the same 3-bedroom house).

Another idea: are your photos better today than yesterday?

7. Never stop hustling

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Never stop hustling in your photography, to make more photos, to expand your creative horizons, and to satisfy yourself.

Seek to impress yourself— and you will end up impressing others.