What is there that separates the good photographer from the rest of us?

Member Articles

Sometimes, you may think you’ve plateaued in photography.

In reality, you just need to analyze the depth of your knowledge about what you need to do to improve the pictures that interest you. People in other walks of life have various names for it: “Writers Block,” in a “Slump,” “Doldrums,” and “Blue Funk.”

What does a photographer call it when the results of a day’s effort have only produced an envelope full of snapshots? Can you blame it on bad luck? I don’t think so. More than likely, it’s from being unprepared to photograph the subject of the shoot and its location. You realize that it’s beyond the time to learn how when the parade is passing you by.

When you look at photo magazines and admire the beautiful pictures that jump from the pages, you know right away that a good photographer has eliminated most of the luck elements. By taking the right equipment for the job, going to a particular location, and dressing appropriately for the climate, he/she has done the routine things that everyone has learned since graduating from the eighth grade.

What is there that separates the good photographer from the rest of us? You may think that person simply has “an eye for it,” which connotes a special gift that cannot be quantified. More than likely, that photographer wasn’t endowed with a gift, but acquired it. What did he/she know and do that resulted in great pictures that gave you such pleasure? It was timing, lighting, the right equipment, and the knowledge of how to put it all together that can be seen in his/her pictures. Learn to analyze them.

Assuming you have an intimate knowledge of your camera’s features, know how to apply the relationships of aperture-to-shutter speeds appropriate to the subject. Elect to use a tripod when appropriate, select the best film for the end product, and have the proper lens(es) for the task.

There are many more things that must be considered, too. In an action situation, for example, you should predict what equipment you will need and determine the answers to the following questions: What is the best lens to use for the subject and distance involved? Where do you have to be to get front lighting on your subject? In which direction is the subject going to be moving? What distractions are in the background?

How do you portray movement and not ruin the shot? Where is it safe to stand? Can you move quickly if you have to? Is your only option backlighting and fill flash? Should you use fill flash all the time – or never? And, where are the human interest shots going to be? The photographer who has this basic knowledge to Page two intuitively resolve these issues will go home with the pictures that tell the story.

Prescience plays a huge part in achieving photographic success in most circumstances. You probably have the ability to foretell the outcome of your photo shoot if you think about it. If you can’t, then perhaps it’s time for a little “higher education,” which, by definition, means learning from the experiences of others.

There are many sources, depending upon your personal history in learning. Magazine articles, books, symposiums, workshops, and group discussions are all good everyday methods of upgrading your skills. Also, nothing beats a photo course at a community college.


The discipline of one will erase any feelings of being on a plateau and raise your awareness of how to accomplish your goal of becoming a better photographer. You get to shoot a lot of pictures, critique them, and repeat the process until you finally understand.




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