1000 petals by axinia

the only truth I know is my own experience

How to make great photographs – an expert opinion and what I think of it March 25, 2009

NO, the title is not mine – I am not the one to teach others how to make great photographs. Bus as one who is interested in making good and candid photography, I find the flowing article simply outstanding.

I came across this photographer with a sharp and rather unusual view on photography – finally somebody telling me what I always felt and somehow knew… Today when photography is becoming one of the most creative and popular ways of expression oneself, people want to know the all possible tricks and gain some special technical know-how. Let’s see what a master says:

How to make great photographs

Your camera has NOTHING to do with making great photos. You have to master technique of course, but that’s just a burden to get out of the way to free yourself to tackle the really hard part. The hard part is saying something with your images.

Photography is art. It’s abstract. Therefore it’s difficult for many people to grasp. It’s easy and lazy to think a camera makes the photos. It’s easy to blame bad photos on a camera. When you get better you’ll realize you would have been better off to pay more attention to your images and less to your camera.


You can’t be on a schedule. You have to go out, look around and wait for the light and inspiration.

Many great shots are made only after years of observing a subject, learning when it looks best, and returning to photograph it at its most spectacular. This is how real photographers make anything look extraordinary.

If you’re traveling with non-photographers you’re going to have to get your schedules straight, since you’ll be out shooting while normal people are eating dinner or still sleeping in the morning.

Brilliance doesn’t work on a schedule.


“Compositon is the strongest way of seeing.” Edward Weston.

You see more if you’re looking. The more you look, the more you see worth photographing. If you’re  not looking you’ll walk right past some of the most extraordinary opportunities.


Creation is a solitary act. I can’t create photos if I’m being distracted, watched or asked questions. I need to get out on my own and concentrate.

It’s OK to go out and photograph as a group. You do have to split up and shoot on your own once you get there. Otherwise everyone in the group winds up with identical mediocre shots. Split up and see what you see, then meet up at the end for some socializing.


Photography is communicating passion and sparking excitement in the mind and body of another person. If you don’t care about the subject then the results won’t get beyond the basics. Care deeply and incredible things happen. Don’t care and you are quickly forgotten.

“If I feel something strongly, I make a photograph. I do not attempt to explain the feeling.” Ansel Adams.

Photography is the art of communicating passion. You need to be passionate about whatever it is that you photograph. If you are passionate you’ll get great results, if you don’t care, you won’t.

A photograph is not about technique. A photograph is communicating something, be it an idea, concept, feeling, thought or whatever, to a total stranger. For a photograph to be effective you have to be clear with what you’re communicating.

A good photographer makes great images with a disposable camera because she knows its limits and how to use it. On the other hand, plenty of poor photographs are made every day using very expensive cameras by people lacking passion and vision, regardless of how much technical skill they have and how sharp their lenses are.

People write novels, not typewriters. So why do some people think buying a different camera or learning all about shutter speeds will help them make better images? People make photographs, not cameras. Your choice of camera has NOTHING to do with anything. NOTHING.


Go take art, painting, drawing, and design classes at your local community college. Learn to see. You may want to start by reading the books I suggest about art and composition. I never took any photo classes. Everyone learns differently; I learn by reading and doing and seeing.

The photographers whose work I admire most often are former painters or at least people who majored in art; not people with computer, engineering, science or technical photography degrees.

Ask artists for help when you are starting. Ask them how to see and show them your images and ask for suggestions. They will see things that you haven’t yet, and will help open your eyes to making better images.

Avoid the friend, neighbor or co-worker who works in computers, science or engineering and always talks about cameras. These people’s passion is usually just for the cameras or computers themselves, not about photography itself or art or expressing their imagination visually. Watch out for people who prefer to talk about tools instead of actually making photos. There are thousands of people who watch sports on TV and can talk endlessly about sports stats for every one athlete who actually plays professional sports. You want to talk to the rare guy who actually does it.


There is no right and no wrong. The rule of thirds is not a rule and rules are for idiots. Just go make good photos. A good photo is one you or someone else likes. There are no formulas or grades or scores.


Only show your very strongest images.

Throw away most of what you shoot. I do. Most of my photos are awful!

Go through the few photos you save out of a roll, and then throw away all but the one strongest image.

Next time, go through the few you’ve saved from a few rolls, and throw more away.

This isn’t painting. In photography it is a requirement to throw away most of what you do.

You’ll see that if you only save or show your strongest images that your body of work will seem to improve. Guess what: as you show only the better images, your body of work as seen by others has improved!

and, finally:

Don’t Think; Just Shoot

(find the full article by Ken Rockwell here)


13 Responses to “How to make great photographs – an expert opinion and what I think of it”

  1. Thanks, Axinia! 🙂 Unfortunately, I don’t have the patience to be a good photographer 😦

  2. swaps Says:

    I read this post with a smile 🙂
    I have experienced it to some degree.

    “start by reading the books I suggest about art and composition”
    At the beginning of my hobby I happened to meet a famous cinematographer and asked for tips, he told me to start by studying the works of Monet and van Gogh. composition is the first thing.

    You do have to split up and shoot on your own
    Indeed, that is how I got the Princess shot.

    But above all, one must love creation and be in constant awe about life.

  3. sakhi Says:

    Thanks Axinia for sharing this 🙂

  4. El Espies Says:

    Hi! This is a great post! We share the same P.O.V’s!

    But there is one thing I would add, these rules do not apply to ALL genres of photography. Me as a street photographer, have no “PRIVACY”, you have to be very self-confident and bold! You need the “balls” to shoot somebody right into his face!

    • swaps Says:

      OH! portrait photography…the toughest and most vulnerable.

    • axinia Says:

      interesting tips indeed, thanks!
      I am not an xpert in portraits, but what I can tell from my expereince is that it is LOVE to the person that makes the photo good. After all, love is the master of everything.

  5. Vikas Gupta Says:

    Your images surely speak volumes! Thanks for the elaborate info. 😀

  6. I think now I know why exactly I am not a photographer 🙂

    Destination Infinity

  7. plrang Says:

    I can agree with all that cause i do the same, except that part about camera.
    Unfortunately a CAMERA is same important as good gun for the soldier and the drill for the dentist.
    Sure man can do great photo with plain carton box but same as the above tools – photos can be used in many ways and some of these NEED the perfect equipment.

    • axinia Says:

      thank you plrang, I agree that the good comara is a must, but I think it is a point against some people who only believe in good cameras, and get too much inot this technical thing and forget about the artisical part.

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