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One of the best things you can do as a photographer today is ask questions instead of seek more answers. We’re surrounded by answers because there is an extremely high demand for them. There is no shortage of information and advice from experts, magazines, videos, blogs, books, and whoever else claims to have what you need.
But often these answers do not lead to more creativity, they lead to formulas and patterns, to more gear, to repetitive results, to a circular path that can lead to less motivation and/or burnout.
We hide behind the technology because it’s easier to talk about cameras than composition. It’s easier to apply a preset or buy a “new and improved” plugin than to start over in the field. It’s easier to learn how to make our images look like an Ansel Adams than to learn how to make them look like ours.
It’s easier to agree with the majority or the authority than it is to commit to your personal vision.
- What’s the best lens for landscape photography?
- What’s the best editing software?
- What filers do you use?
- What’s the best paper for printing black and white images?
- Where do I go next?
- How do I sell my images?
Many ask these questions because they think the answers are important. But often the opposite is true, and they create even more questions that need more answers. Some alternate questions to consider are:
- How can I capture what inspires me?
- When will I master the software so that it serves my vision, not the other way around?
- What filters do I need for the image I want to make?
- What paper best conveys what I want to express? Have I captured something expressive?
- Can I stop judging, and start “seeing?”
(A mountain is always the same mountain if that is what you photograph, but if you photograph what you feel, that’s always interesting no matter how many times you visit the same location.)
- How do I make my images more authentic? That’s not the same as original—it means you’re not afraid to be you.
- What am I truly capable of?
I like answers just like anyone else. But the questions with really hard answers or no answers at all are what make me get up every day and try things that may not work.
Ask yourself the really difficult questions and you may be surprised at how your work improves.
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Another post to print out and internalize. Thanks, Robert!
I have a friend who’s motto is “Don’t just do something, stand there”.
Very insightful post Robert. It really stuck a chord with me. For a couple of months now (through the winter months) I have struggled with my creativity. Not anything really new we all go through ups and downs. But I have found myself feeling more frustrated as of late. I assumed this would pass as it has before. You may have just touched on a deep concern that is at the root of many of my frustrations. I have been seeking answers as to why. Answers, answers, answers, I thought that was what was needed. I have not been embracing the questions. Learning from them and allowing my inspirations to thrive around them. You have very clearly pointed out to me every question does not need an answer to be valuable. Thanks for the great words of wisdom Robert.
Great questions, Robert. For me then engender further questions.
How can I capture the varying moods the mountain expresses?
To answer the question is to ask another question that may yield answers that stimulate our own expression, such questions as “How did Ansel Adams capture the moods of Yosemite.
What is my nearby “Yosemite?” (I suppose for you, it’s the Hudson River Valley.) I’ll have to find it.
For every question we answer with further though provoking questions the nearer we approach answers that are truly the answers that make us grow in our ability to see, to capture, then to interpret and share in a medium that others can enjoy with us.
Thanks for your thoughtful and penetrating posts.
Thanks for the insightful post and making me aware of the path I need to start traveling on. Right now I am indeed looking for answer and I am not coming through, or rather what i feel is not coming through in my work. I am just getting back into photography after a 20 year absence and your post and ebooks point to the direction I need to take.
I have just moved to California and originaly began reading your post to relive my Hudson Valley memories now its the content that keeps me coming back. Thanks!