Another Grid Episode – this one offering up some ‘Tough Love’

As Scott Kelby noted in this episode this episode could have been called ‘How to find out if you are a lazy, untalented photographist who sleeps in and buys gear you don’t need’. I must have missed this episode a while back but thankfully in Scott’s year in review he put up his ‘best’ episodes of the Grid so I was able to catch up on episodes that I missed that also received favorable feedback. In the ‘Tough Love’ episode Scott and fellow Photoshop guy RC Concepcion breakdown the ‘Five Things People Won’t Tell you About Your Photography’.

1) In order for there to be an average some photographers have to be above average and some have to be below average – therefore it is possible you/I are/am below average – however, no one you know will ever tell you that you are ‘below average’. You want proof? Watch one of the first few episodes each season of American Idol if you don’t believe me – most of those ‘singers’ that are blatantly awful are only there because there loved ones encouraged them at some point by failing to tell them that they weren’t very good. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news so as a result they won’t be honest with you if you stink.

It’s okay to still have a passion about photography but some photographers are not meant to turn into artists – rather their snapshots are appropriate for a family album or slide show. That is okay – there is nothing wrong with that but at the end of the day we all need to recognize our limitations as ‘artists’.

It is important to find objective third parties to review your work occasionally. There are many ‘pro’ photographers who will review your portfolio for you and provide you with advice on things to do in order to improve. Scott Kelby and the other Photoshop guys have given a number of ‘blind critiques’ during the Grid shows and watching those have helped improve my photography greatly because it helps me to understand what makes a good photograph and what doesn’t. One of my goals for 2013 is to have my work objectively judged – The goal is to find 20 shots (or less) that are good and be able to have someone explain to you why they are good or bad.

2) Stop arguing with good photography advice…this ties in with the first part. If you can’t take criticism/advice then you will have difficulty improving. For example, to be a good landscape shooter you gotta shoot at dawn and dusk. This isn’t some made up rule because photographers want to torture newbies by making them role out of bed at 3 AM – it is the rule because the best light occurs at dawn and dusk and therefore if you want the best pictures you have to take them in the best light. Another example, was if you want to take more interesting photos you have to stand in front of more interesting places. If you aren’t willing to make the sacrifice to get in front of more interesting locations your photos are not going to improve.

3) Stop worrying about F-Stop and other technical aspects…the most important aspect is the composition of the photo and the lighting. With cameras today you can rely almost fully on the camera being able to work through all the technical aspects like F-Stop, Shutter Speed, etc…. The camera will make a correct exposure 90+% of the time – heck iPhone cameras do a good job of taking good photos now – better than cameras did five or six years ago. Therefore, focus on the stuff that actually matters – Composition and Lighting – if you nail those two and combine it with an interesting subject matter your photos will turn out looking good.

4) If you can’t answer why you need some new gear you don’t need it. This is one of my favorites because I used to (and sometimes still do) blame the limitations of my photos on my camera (Canon Rebel T1i) rather than on myself. This (as my dad used to say when I would shank a golf ball and slam the head of the club down) is like blaming the wand when it is actually the magician. This photograph featured in National Geographic was shot with a 5 megapixel camera and was featured over a two page spread. Now, Joe McNally is clearly a ‘master’ but the point is there isn’t anything wrong with the gear – rather its the dolts (me) using it.

5) Ignoring technology will not make you any better as a photographer – unlike the previous one there are some things that will help you improve your photography if they are ‘better’. Why would you run out front of your house and rub two sticks together to get a fire going if you had a lighter nearby? You wouldn’t so take advantage of the large developments in photography that change the playing field.

Photo of the Day – Springtime in the City


Chicago is currently having some spring like weather in the middle of January. The temperature today is 54 degrees but unfortunately it has been raining on and off all day so it hasn’t been all that enjoyable. However, I’ll take this weather over the inches of snow and bone chilling cold any day.

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4 thoughts on “Another Grid Episode – this one offering up some ‘Tough Love’

  1. This little gem,the photograph,has to be flying all over the USA. Everyone all over the country is seeing triangular lights flying in the sky. Bet it’s this remote plane.

  2. Thanks for the advice again … and that is an amazing photo of an amazing city.
    You’re supposed to be covered in soft snow this time of year and even wild snow storms. Adore that light you have caught. Brilliant photo …

    • We are finally getting some cold weather right now but nothing that is bringing any precipitation. While I’m not a huge fan of snow I am hoping for some as I’d like to have snow for some picture ideas in Chicago I’m waiting on taking. The past two years I haven’t went out to shoot christmas lights because there hasn’t been any snow…maybe I should just stop waiting and start doing?

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