I wrote a post like this over a year ago on my old blog.  Back then it was a simple list of 10 things.  It was simple, as was I as a photographer back then.  I grew and so did the details of that list.  Some of those things still hold true, but as I preach always learning as a photographer, many of those things changed.

1. Take Your Time.  This does not mean take an eternity, especially as someone who shoots lifestyle works, you don’t always have time, but make each shot count.  Take a moment to mentally play out the photograph in your head.  Look around and see if you move slightly left or right you catch something that is either really important or really interesting in the photograph.  I use to rush to get as many photographs as I could out of a blue hour, but I knew all of them could have been better if I would have just thought it out a little more, had a little more patience. 

2. Shoot for You.  But beware of your audience.  There are always going to be critics and there are always going to be people who praise everything.  This is your art, be proud, but be careful if your shooting for a client to put forth your best effort to full fill their requests.  But this also means, don’t just shoot for clients, get out and shoot for yourself.  Shoot what you love, it is why you most likely started shooting to begin with. 

3. Learn Light.  This does not just mean flash, this means all forms of light.  How to shoot in all types of light.  Yeah I know that none of us want to shoot in midday sun straight over head light, but sometimes we have to, so learn to deal with it.  Light is the most important tool in photography so forget that 6000 dollar full frame monster you want and focus on using light to convey your images.

4. Read.  Yes, read.  You cannot just stare at other people’s photographs and know how to take a great picture.  Most photographers today post about their photographs, so follow blogs, read books on photography.  You can see the emotion in a photograph, which is perfect, but if you want to learn why they took what they did read about it.  There are so many great blogs out there to learn from, I might have to update my blogs to read post.

5. Don’t Worry About Equipment.  Yeah those new Canon and Nikon cameras are great, they got all the latest and greatest features, but you have what you have in your hand.  I know I was this way when I had my old camera.  The worst part was one of my images with my old D3000 (which I still have and occasionally use, its so light and great with the 18-200 on it) was featured in a Gizmodo article about not caring about equipment.  Yeah it is great to have, and if your going to worry about equipment, worry about that better lens, get a f2.8, wait on the body, the lens is a better investment anyways.

6. Socialize.  I used to think that photography was just a person and their camera.  Staying away from photowalks and meet-ups because we would all take the same shot at the same time.  That is not what they are really about, they are about learning from each other and seeing how other photographers think, see, and feel a photograph.  Join some local groups, make some photographer friends.  You’ll learn a lot.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Critique.  This goes for both others and yourself.  My friend Brian Koprowski wrote about yesterday.  We all learn better from it.  In fact I wish someone would have said in my previous blog that the first image seems off, it bugged me and below you will see why.  But also be critical of yourself, I always look back and go what was I thinking.  Critiquing once again helps us grow, it always comes back to that.

8. Don’t Trust the Camera Meter.  It took a long time for me to not do this.  I knew I wanted a picture to look different but would always think the fancy thing in my hand is telling me otherwise.  The reason most of us shoot on manual or use aperture mode with exp comp is to control what we want.  Especially in portraits, I am always favoring the meter one way or another to control the look I want.  It will give you a good base, but always test shoot and reset to get what you want.

9. Don’t Always Fix in Post.  I used to be like this and now I hate it.  Everything from simple water spots to removing something.  Sometimes it is a must, but most of the time it is a simple cleaning, or even just taking a step in a direction that can fix a whole lot of headache.  Or the great “the new LR4 can fix my under exposed or over exposed image.”  Well why not just try to get it right in the field.  Yes I HDR a lot of photographs, but when I am shooting lifestyle images, I make sure the exposure is what I want in the field, not back in the office.  Saves time and saves the pain of trying to “save” a photograph.  This goes with #1 on take your time.

10.  Have fun and Enjoy it.  For most of us this is not a full time job even though we want it to be.  Don’t make it about just getting a shot, enjoy the process of making the shot, enjoy the locations you are seeing.  I love Chicago, I love the looks of it, the feel of it.  I could go on and on, and that is why I shoot it often.  I love shooting clients, the interaction, seeing how they care for each other, how they interact with each other.  I love taking photographs, it makes me smile.  Hopefully it does the same for you and your not only about ‘Where mine is published” or “I made this much.”  Just love it!

The other days sunrise shot from this location was off to me.  The foreground was really off with dark rocks and light moorings.  I knew the above shot was the one I wanted to post but I was “saving it” for another time.  Well why?  This is what also led to the above post.  #11 should be Post Your Best Work, not post everyday or post evey thing you shoot.  I am leaving the other to remind me of a bad decision.   Now for the above shot, three exposures were used, a 5min for the sky, 30 sec for the foreground, and 20 sec for some shadows in the rocks.  I love this shot, it is what I have wanted to shoot for years, thinking I had to get to California or Maine to shoot, but it is right here in Chicago.  Another reason to love this city!!