Tag Archives: Motivation

How do you improve your photography?

• Determination •

• Determination •
The photographer who is determined and who pays attention to detail will make great images.

What you think you can do is what you become…

The essence of being good at anything is about demonstrating levels of competence, skill and consistency in performance that far exceeds anything that comes from “beginners luck”. Professionals and amateurs alike attain the highest standards of photography day after day because they have done three things…

  • Been determined to get there.
  • Learned how to review and improve with every shot.
  • Applied a ‘can do’ attitude to every aspect of their learning and practice.

Those that give up along the way are heard to say “Wow… I can’t do that”! Then I am reminded of a scene from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, a great SciFi movie.

Here is a clip (25 secs.)…

Do. Or do not. There is no try.


Yoda is trying to teach Skywalker to lift a spaceship from the swamp using only his mind…
Yoda: “Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say? You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Skywalker: “Alright I’ll give it a try.”
Yoda: “No. Try not. Do or do not. There is no try”.
(This is an abridged version).

For many years I struggled with that “try” thing. I realised eventually that I had been bought up in a ‘try’ culture. I was told at school and at home, “All you can do is try your best”. But to think like that is also to have an expectation of failure. When you ‘try’ you never actually achieve.

Failure and learning

Now I think more like Yoda. Failure is a part of learning. You do a thing and you succeed or you fail. If you fail it is because of inexperience and you need to learn a lesson. You succeed because you learned the lesson and are ready to move on.

Photography is like that with every shot. Each, and every time you press the shutter button, there is a new situation. Think ahead. Have in your mind a pristine version of what you want to achieve. Take your time to look at the light, assess the scene, review your settings and stabilise the camera. Then, when you have everything in harmony, click the shutter.

Yoda says, “You must unlearn what you have learned”. What does he mean by that? I believe this is a great line because Yoda is reminding us that ‘doing’ and ‘succeeding’ is about having an expectation of success, preparing for it, reaching for it and achieving it. You must first unlearn the lessons of a “try culture” where there is an expectation of failure.

If you make it your business to produce perfection with every photograph you take, you will not be disappointed. Your persistence will pay off.

Principles for excellent photographers – yes, thats you!

No matter how quirky, make sure you drive your photography forward...

No matter how quirky, make sure you drive your photography forward…
Quirky By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

People who excel do so because they try.

My students of photography are exceptional. They are dedicated to learning photography, clever, talented and they enjoy what they do. They don’t know how talented they are, they are not ready to move to the next level or to take charge of their photographic destiny. Most of them hold back.

Those students are you! Photography is a uniquely self driven pursuit. You don’t need to be “ready” – you need to have a go… Everyone can be exceptional if they try; most don’t.

Here are the principles to help motivate the next move. They will take your photography to the next level and get your pictures out there.


You can do some incredible things with photography. Imagine what you want to do. No matter how amazing it sounds, no matter what you want to achieve, or how out of your reach it seems – imagine yourself doing it. If you have that dream, that goal, that vision in your mind, you are on the road to success.


This is your dream. No one else’s. Only you want it. Make a deal with yourself to fulfil your own contract. You are going to reach that goal you envision. You will get help and work with other people, but that contract is your guide. Be your own leader, worker, supporter, friend, cheerleader troupe and advocate.


Your contract is your guide. Plan how to fulfil it. Make your path obvious, map it clearly. Don’t be afraid to risk changes – be flexible. Your development can teach you better ways. Work to move quickly to your goals. Use your dream. The paths you take should reflect the importance of your contract. Take one step at a time and move smoothly forward.


Do things that invigorate your soul. Get the adrenaline pumping. Do the risky things despite your misgivings. Publish a picture, dare to write to a celebrity for a photo-shoot. Challenge your limits. Take risks to push your photography beyond comfort. Make your heart pound. Don’t protect yourself or create limits. Take some risks, it opens doors. Try new things, it makes you take a new look at your photography. Start immediately, stretch your limits.


Doing new and exciting things will get you attention. Sometimes you will be the toast of the town. Sometimes you will feel you are drowning in the pool of criticism. Stand-outs, leaders and risk-takers all have enthusiastic followers. The down side is the critics cluster around too. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going! Being neutral will consign you to obscurity. Get used to being on the crests of waves and in the trough between them. They come together, but the benefits win out. Stay with it.


You don’t need to wait for validation, promotion or the big break. You are not going to be ‘discovered’. You are ready now. Moving on is liberating and simple. Take the next step on your own initiative. You know you can do it. So take the next move – dare to work to better your photography, dare to be bold. Don’t question yourself – you are ready.


If your vision is different, innovative – that is good. Dare to think different. Push your style to its limits. The unique, quirky and out of the box style gets attention. Don’t listen to the inner art critic. You can let your style out. You can realise your artistic and photographic talent. Be different. It will be your own personal validation. It is a licence to show people how you see. Seeing is what photography is about. Be quirky – show the world.


Ask for help. Ask for advice. Make your own decisions about moving forward. Assess advice yourself. Be confident in your assessment. Work to your agenda. Your development, your talent, your ideas are only going to be successful because of you. Other people have agendas of their own for helping and advising. While some things others say will be useful – some will not. Review your “contract” with yourself. Check that the advice of others fits with your inner direction. Test all advice you are given and follow only the advice that benefits your long haul goals.


Focus your attention. Do the unthinkable. Push the limits, take your photography to the edge – push your skills. Remember, learning and redefining your boundaries is hard. You will be challenged and you will find it tiring. Stretching yourself becomes a compulsion once you start. Make sure you have some “you” time. Take time for respite. Be rested – be more effective.


Share your knowledge, skills and talent. There is no greater self development than to share and teach. Be generous with your help of others. Give of yourself so that you can feel fulfilled as a person as well as an artist and photographer. If you are helping those who will be the future of photography you will also be the parent of a trend. Don’t hold back your talent. Let others benefit. A wave will carry you for free. Commanding the tide not to rise is futile and saps your strength. Share and you will reach your goals.


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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Why are you waiting? Be you – just do it!

• The Manager •

• The Manager •
Click image to view large
Manager @ work by kristof ramon, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

Are you waiting to be told it’s OK?

Your manager? Your boss? Perhaps an editor or publisher? Waiting for them to tell you your photos are OK? Then you can go ahead and be a photographer… yes? If you are waiting for someone else to tell you that your work is OK, you are giving away your own power to take action. You are giving yourself a cast iron reason not to go on.

About photography

When we take a photograph we have taken a single, but personal, initiative to do something. It may seem a small decision but it is your own. Passing the power of validation for that decision to someone else is one of the many ways photographers stop their own personal development. They feel that until someone “official” has told them that their work is OK, they cannot advance further. A job may be like that, but photography is not.


You produce a picture. You feel good enough about it to ask someone to give an opinion. If you never get an opinion back you assume your work was not good enough. Or, you do get one and they don’t like it. You are affected, perhaps devastated, both ways.

What if you never give that power to someone else? What if you never show your images to anyone else? Your photography will stall. You will never develop. Your ability to understand the good and bad things about your photography will never be challenged or change for the better.

Feedback from other people is extremely important. It helps you understand if you have communicated the message in your image so others can understand it. It helps you to understand what other people consider appealing, shocking, or whatever emotion you were conveying. Go ahead and get feedback. Use it to help you critically review your own work. Understand however, that is not validation. It is about self review and self development.

It’s personal

Being a photographer is a uniquely personal activity. Images comes from within you, no one else. It is a synthesis of your personal insight about your scene and the elements of the scene itself. It is a personal interpretation of a microcosm of time, a projection of yourself and a capture of the meaning in the scene. You do not need someone to validate that for you. What you have done in capturing that scene is the only validation you need.

Always feel you can move on. Don’t let anyone have the power over your ability to do your photography. Listen to other people. Consider their thoughts. Thank them, learn from them. Then, when you have heard enough – get on with making the next image on your mind.

You, and only you can make your photography worthwhile. If someone stands in your way go around them. Be true to yourself and you will take your photography forward.

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A few powerful words to help you be successful

We all have doubts about our photography.

And, sometimes it’s like we are never going to get there. We are on the edge of success yet we never seem to tip the balance. At times like this it helps to know we are not alone.

This video is not directly aimed at photographers, but the message conveyed is valid for us. In this short video Ira Glass, broadcaster, author and story-teller, explains about the gap between aspiration and achievement…


As photographers we fall into the same traps to which all other creative people succumb. The weak willed give up, no matter how much time and effort they have put in. The mediocre will carry on doing what they did before. The persistent will look at the situation and try to find ways through.

For my part, I urge you to be thankful for each image you make. If it doesn’t make the grade, you have set yourself standards that push the boundaries. Good! If you are wilful, each not-quite-success builds your strength and character. Aspire to improve with every shot. Eventually, you will get there. The more you put in, the quicker it will be.

If you have a Twitter account follow me @photokonnexion  External link - opens new tab/page. I Tweet motivational words for photographers every day, as well as links and other ideas.

Because I want to remember…

When you take a photograph do you always follow the rules?

No, sometimes we take a shot for a personal reason. We like to have something as a keepsake that helps us remember what we did that day. Is that right?

We have all taken photographs that have little to commend them in terms of aesthetics, composition, content, or photographic merit. The picture of the kids playing ball, the sun high, specular highlights blown out all over the place and the horizon crooked is almost a sort of cliché. I am convinced, after talking to lots of fellow photographers that every one of us has one, or many more, of these. It is perfectly OK, and nothing to be ashamed of. Our lives as photographers should not get in the way of our lives as ordinary people, lovers, family, friends, members of the human race.


We should not become so wrapped up in the photography that we miss the moment. Photography is a great hobby. I love it. If you are reading this you at least have more than a passing interest. So lets remember that the life of the photographer is about capturing meaningful images. The inner life of ourselves should be satisfied by meeting our inner needs. Our priorities are our safety, home, comfort, family and people we love. We sometimes forget those are our priorities. Having a little time for improving our photography is about giving ourselves something to realise a higher potential in ourselves. Our photography gives additional meaning to our lives, some creativity and fun.

When you have a chance to catch a scene with personal meaning – do it! Do it immediately. An awful picture, but with a lot of personal meaning, is still precious. It will live with you for life. It will endure far longer than the next moment, which you will never think of again, because you stopped for a moment to frame for the rule of thirds!

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

One tip to keep your photography improving for ever!

We all want to improve our photography. Extending yourself, developing new skills and using new techniques are a part of the road to improvement. However, the ultimate aim is to develop the ‘photographers eye’. We want to see a scene, visualise a pleasing outcome, then produce a photograph realizing our vision. Developing that vision is something that comes with experience, practice, skill and aspirations.

Our standards define a quality image. If a picture meets our standard we would put it on the wall, proudly show it off or gladly publish it. Aspirations are how we raise our standards. If we aspire to higher levels of skill and art we are raising the bar – raising the standard of our photographic performance.

In another article I suggested you should start a 50-a-day habit of viewing photographs. In the next article I showed you some places where you could find pictures to feed your habit. Today’s tip is about your standards and aspirations.

While feeding your 50-a-day habit look out for the ‘One’the photograph that does what you want to achieve in an area of your photography. If you are interested in food photography, keep an eye out for the ‘One’ that you wish you had taken; the ‘One‘ you aspire to in your own shots. If you shoot sports, keep an eye open for the ‘One’ shot that is the champion of what you want to express. Look out for the shots you think cannot be bettered.

Collect those ‘One’ shots for all the areas of photography you are working on. These are the aspirational and inspirational shots that are your goals in photography. When you produce shots like that you will be in a new, higher place.

I put my collection in a folder I call ‘My Admiration Set’. I return to them regularly. I admire them, I aspire to their standards and I soak myself in their essence. These are the shots that I will one day be able to reproduce in my own way. I will equal them, and I will move on.

‘My Admiration Set’ is an evolving standard. I prune them, I replace them and I meet the changing aspirations I have with new ideas and images. One thing is constant. These images are the ones that indicate where my photography is going. They are my inspiration, my guide and the standard I aspire to reach.

My tip today is… set up your own ‘Admiration Set’. Keep it going, keep it growing. But, never put any picture in there that you are capable of producing now. The only pictures you can put in there are the pictures that you one-day hope to be able to produce. Then, work towards that goal.

Change your photography forever with this great tip

Go for it... great things will start to happen

Go for it… great things will start to happen.
Click image to view the picture full size

Create a list of your goals – then go for it

Goals, bucket list, wish list, aspirations, ‘things to do’… whatever you call your, list just do it. If you want to enjoy your time you have to grab life by the scruff of the neck and shake it about. Don’t wait for your death-bed to suddenly realise you never did what you wanted to do.

This simple tip is about you. It is about saying to you, “If you are really committed to your photography, then go for it!”. I have said this to a lot of my students and friends over the years and they all sit there open-mouthed and blinking. I can see the cogs grinding. “Wot’s ‘e on about then?”, they want to say. Well, here is my message…

Write down a list. This list must be everything you want to do in photography. Make it exciting. Make it out of reach. Make it a challenge. Most of all, make it a personal commitment.

Next, just do it. “What?”, I hear you cry… “How?”. That is up to you.

If you really did make a commitment then the how is easy. Start by finding out what the options are. Pick one thing on your list and before the day is out make sure you have done one thing towards achieving that goal. Then, tomorrow, achieve another – and the day after another. I can guarantee you will get results. A bit at a time, one step in front of another… you will get there. But not without commitment, and not without setting the goal first.

So, to get you started here are three goals I am working on for my photography…

  • An audio-visual sequence set to music of candles. Nothing else, just candles.
  • I want to photograph an erupting volcano – close up and personal. I want to see that lava flow!
  • I want this website to be the best website for aspiring photographers in the world!

I have some other goals for my photography too. Twelve goals in fact! I won’t share them here. I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Anyway, this post is about you.

Now you know what I have in mind write down your goals. They can be simple and clear, like my candle audio-visual sequence. Or, they can be world changing. Whatever they are, if you have the drive and commitment, your goals can be achieved. You just have to start in order to finish!

Don’t go all soft on me – or yourself. Let’s be positive. Just start, write your goals down. Shout them loud and long to everyone you know. Keep telling them that is what you are going to do. Keep telling yourself that is what you are going to do. And, do you know what? Soon you will be doing it.

I know this works. Because I have already ticked off a lot of my goals over the years. And there are many more to go.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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