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The Golden Rule of Confidence

In his great book “The Confidence Gap,” author Russ Harris describes his golden rule of confidence as follows:

“The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come later.”

It reminded me of another quote I love: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working,” by Pablo Picasso.

The idea is that confidence and creativity are actions that we can take every day if we choose to, instead of states of mind that we need to wait for. Yet it’s so easy to feel less than confident in today’s onslaught of information, technology, and experts claiming to know what you need to buy next.

This can lead to the endless pursuit of the best method, the ideal workflow, the optimal routine, the best gear, or the best technique for instant results. Yet if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 30+ years as a creative artist is that there are no such things.

What you must focus on is yourself; a unique individual with strengths and flaws, and a particular way of thinking, learning, and seeing.

You must adaopt a tool or technique to your circimstyances or goals, because no two people are alike. And while you can start with general principles, you must internalize them in a way that is both beneficial and healthy.

For this to happen, you need to focus on what provides true value: practicing confidence . The opposite of that is looking for the next method or technique that promises to shortcut the hard work of becoming more conficent.

For me that means avoiding the superficial knowledge that is abundant online, and instead going deep into specific areas of study. It also means dedicating large chunks of time to practice the principles and methods that will add to my creative skillset.

Some of my favorite sources include trusted mentors, books, and practical experience.

This is hard work. But the long term benefits are numerous and healthy. Let me list a few:

These only come with time and effort. Not only have I experienced growth in each of these areas, I remain extremely excited about future possibilities. I also realize how much more I have to learn, and that makes every day new and exciting.

However, it’s the generosity that’s the game changer for me, because by sharing I know others can achieve similar or greater results.

Inspiring someone else to pursue their own creative path with confidence makes the effort worthwhile, more so than any benefit I might experiene. I know that simply from observing my own feelings. For me there’s no greater sense of satisfaction than seeing someone eyes light up with the energy of creative possibility. Whether my own kids, a student on a workshop, or someone I just met.

In sharing what I’ve learned and continue to learn about creativity, I hope that you too can see how important it is to practice confidently. The key is to focus on small gains everyday and forget about the end result.

If you get one percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done. Ponder that for a while…

Being prepared is an illusion. We become prepared by gaining the necessary skills and experience in the thing we want to excel at or achieve. Waiting for the opportune time is akin to waiting for the absolute perfect sunrise from your living room window. By the time it arrives it’s too late, and you’ve gained nothing in terms of dealing with the inevitable obstacles and challenges that every outing in nature presents.

How are you going to practice confidence today?

PS – In my next article I’ll share some actionable tips you can use right away to improve your creativity.

The Gift of Opportunity

“The pictures which do not represent an intense interest cannot expect to create an intense interest.” – Robert Henri

I’m in Moab, Utah leading the “Spring in the Southwest” workshop with a great group of passionate students. That in of itself is a tremendous privilege that I try to remember as often as I can. I also get to spend time in a place that truly nourishes my body and mind.
 
There is a a scale to the desert that alters my perspective about time, space, and meaning. Trying to capture that in a photograph is extremely difficult, but the attempt is what matters most to me. Reacting to the landscape and its beauty is what I enjoy the most. The results of the creative process are a nice reward, but a secondary reward nonetheless. 
 
The primary benefit is realizing how fortunate I am to have that opportunity. 

Free PDF Resource-The Photo Evaluation Checklist

I believe composition is not only the most important part of photography, it’s the fundamental contributor to making captivating images that engage the viewer.

That’s why I think it’s also the most difficult part of creative photography, and it’s the area I spend most of my time studying and trying to improve. I also hear from many photographers and students that it’s their most frustrating challenge as well—whether on my workshops, or in talks, or in my Q+A days on Facebook.

In fact, I’d venture to say it’s probably the area you’d like to improve the most.

For me composition is like a challenging puzzle that I try to solve every time I go out to photograph. A even though I’m more comfortable with decisions now than I was a decade ago, I am always pushing myself to find ways to make stronger, simpler compositions. The difference now is that I enjoy the challenge, much like moving from a solved puzzle to a more difficult one.

Over time I developed a mental checklist that I use to evaluate my images, whether while I’m composing in the field or editing in Lightroom. I also use this checklist when I critique student images, and it helps me remain focused on the positives and use those as building blocks for improvement into the future.

I created a PDF document of the checklist to help you evaluate your images honestly and compositionally.

Enter your email in the form below to get it delivered to your inbox right away.

Download the Photo Evaluation Checklist!

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I’m also in the process of developing some in-depth online composition courses that may help you in your creative path as a photographer, including interactive feedback of your images. Stay tuned!

Questions or feedback? Please share in the comments below.

My Favorite Tools For Getting Work Done

I often get questions about the tools I use to run my photography and workshop business.

So often we simply use a tool either because it’s been recommended, or it’s promoted really well, or everyone else is using it. But does it gel with the way your mind works? Does it let you see a path to the desired outcome? Or does it obscure your progress with confusing options that only make your work more difficult and less enjoyable?

I think this is the case with a lot of technology out there, and I’ve tried my fair share over many years, and been frustrated more than I care to remember.

But I’ve become better at choosing hardware and software that lets me work the way I want to work. And I’m very strict about using tools that make me want to use them for their elegance and usability, not their feature set or multitude of options.

I’ve shared my tools before, but this updated list has the ones I depend on day after day to get work done and keep the business operating smoothly and productively.

Workspace Tools

  • iMac 5K Retina (P3 Display) – my main computer for editing, printing, and all other photography related tasks. The P3 display is critical since it effectively makes the iMac a wide-gamut monitor, with a color space similar to Adobe98.
  • OWC Thunderbay 4 RAID (8TB) – my main external RAID(4-bay) where I store all of my RAW files. It’s fast and reliable, and keeps my data separate from my computer’s internal drive where I only store applications and other non-essential files. I also store my Lightroom catalogs on this drive. It also makes backing up my critical data easy since once I back up this drive, I know I haven’t missed anything.
  • Synology NAS (16TB) – my main backup RAID(4 bay), where I backup and archive all working drives (the OWC RAID mentioned above, video drives, etc). I also use it to backup my laptop, as well as all iPhones and iPads in the house (especially photos and videos). Because it’s connected to my network, it can be access anywhere in the house or over the internet remotely.
  • Como Duetto – I take audio seriously since good music is certainly one of my passions, and this wood grained 2 speaker system sounds amazing, plus it connects to internet radio stations and Spotify. It’s a bit expensive, but I got mine while it was on Kickstarter and it’s been great to listen to while I edit images or write articles.
  • Blue Yeti Microphone – great mic that I use for tutorials, webinars, and video.
  • Baron Fig Confidant Notebook – while I love my digital tools, I’ve come to rely more and more on a notebook and pen to keep track of ideas, thoughts, notes, tasks, and anything else I want to physically record.

Applications

  • Adobe Lightroom – image management, developing, and printing in one unified interface – my photo assistant.
  • Apple Final Cut Pro X – great video editing software I’ve use for every video project.
  • Trello – boards, lists, and cards – a great visual interface that lets me keep track of ideas, projects, tasks, workshops, and much more. Plus it’s collaborative and available on every device. Here’s my Canson paper board.
  • Evernote– a digital filing cabinet, Evernote keeps me organized and is also great for research, reference, saving items from the web, and so much more.
  • Alfred – essentially puts your Mac on steroids.
  • Ulysses – a fantastic app for Mac and iPhone/iPad where I do all of my writing.
  • 1Password – still struggling with lost or forgotten passwords? 1Password is the answer, available for Mac and iPhone/iPad.
  • Screenflow – easy recording and editing of my screen for tutorials videos.
  • Snagit – another screen capture utility I use for capturing parts of my screen as images I can share.
  • Mindnode – I use mind-maps for generating ideas visually. I use this for writing articles, teaching workshops. creating presentations, and any other project where I need to organize many ideas.

Online Services

  • ConvertKit– I’ve used many email marketing services in the past, but ConvertKit is easily my favorite and worth the cost. An email list is the most valuable resource for any online business.
  • Dropbox– the standard cloud storage app that makes sharing documents, images, and other files so easy.
  • Cloudways– my web hosting service where I host my WordPress sites.

If you have questions or comments about any of these tools, or you’d like to read more about a specific one, please let me know  below. I’m always happy to help whether you’re running a business or simply looking to improve your workflow. Thanks for reading!

Talking About Papers On The B&H Photography Podcast

I was invited to be a guest on the B&H Photography Podcast last week to discuss fine art papers and printing in general. We also had August Pross with us, co-owner of LTI-Lightside, a film and print studio in NYC. The idea was to present both sides of printing your work, either doing it yourself or using a print studio, and what some of the considerations are.

I really enjoyed the conversation, especially where once again I was asked to recommend papers for different types of images, and I answered like I always do; it depends on what you’re trying to convey to the viewer.  

It’s an interesting question that seems to perplex many, perhaps because it requires a hard look at your images from the inside. Why did you press the shutter button? It also requires an understanding of paper characteristics and how they interact with a photograph to create a look or feel.

I discuss all of these issues in-depth in my printing workshops, but I am planning a live webinar soon to answer any questions you might have about printing and photography in general. I will be announcing the webinar dates soon, so stay tuned!

Hope you enjoy the podcast!

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