Photography & Recognition – 7 Things

Want to be a great photographer? Want to have that feeling of recognition? I think we all do at least on some level. It’s really true for all the creative disciplines. You can substitute Photographer with your particular gift.


So what are the components to gaining recognition whether it be simple approval or financial reward. I’m speaking of photography here but you can adjust this to fit your own situation. Rinse, repeat and see what works for you. Starring in no particular order.

  1. Talent – Huge! You either have talent that fits your goals or you don’t. Everyone has talent but it’s usually limited to certain areas.
  2. Wit – Whether it’s the ability to see irony or be quick with a line or a joke, this trait will enhance how you are received by others.
  3. Savvy – It might be gear and tech stuff or knowing all the trends and lingo of the prevailing social culture.
  4. Personality – The type of personality you have will greatly affect your relationships with clients and coworkers. Hard to categorize but a huge factor in photographing people.
  5. Tenacious – Stick with it. If you feel like quitting. Take a break and start again. Without it you won’t finish anything.
  6. Patient – Real growth, progress takes time. Don’t rush it.
  7. Hard Working – The reason people succeed is by working very hard. When asked what qualities are necessary for succeeding in photography, two top pro’s said they look for someone with a good work ethic.

None of these thing are about cameras and lighting. You can become a competent photographer and successful but to be great you need the intangibles.


iPhones, Hate Mail and How we overcome

Recently my long time digital neighbor @scottbourne posted on twitter that he had received some hate mail for posting a lowly iPhone picture on his blog.

The following is not so much a rebuttal of Scott’s critics but some insights about the creative process in general and photography as a medium.

My platform for this piece is based on thirty years in the design business, dealing with people, photographing things and really looking and thinking. Thinking and looking are far more important than tools. It matters not whether you have all the latest gadgets or simply a pencil and a legal pad. Creativity is about thinking and looking.

There’s an old saying, “it’s a poor workman that blames his tools”. I must say this is very true. It’s taken a long time to realize that if my work is not what I want it to be; it’s not my computer or my camera’s fault. The skill is between my ears. I simply failed to employ everything necessary to get the job done. Sometimes you have happy accidents but you can’t rely on that to see you through.

Taken w/ Blackberry Curve

In Scott’s case it seems that some folks were upset that he had used his iPhone and a simple light to create the image instead of all of his high end photo gear. He was only trying to demonstrate the capabilities of the phone and that you can make decent images without a DSLR.

When I decided to switch to digital all I had was a cell phone. What I learned from using only a cell phone can be found here.

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your tools is the key, the brand, label, megapixels and ratings are minor in comparison to skill, thinking and looking. Being able to “see” an image out of all the visual cacophony is right at the top of the list.

The first photo I ever sold was made on a Canon A540 point and shoot camera that I bought at a pawn shop. In fact you can’t tell what camera was used by looking at the photo.You can only analyze the physical properties of the image.

Oh Yeah, there’s One More Thing. The very nature of the creative process is based on criticism. At some point you have to say, this is good or it’s trash and I need to do better. Criticism doesn’t have to be rude or unkind but it does need to be honest. Invariably when I’ve been criticized in the past, I’ve had some of both and lived to tell about it. The notion that we are going to live in a world where people don’t have strong opinions and not voice them is frankly unrealistic. Especially if you create for a living.

Guard your subjective bias and realize there are many new tools and means of creative expression out there.

The Next Mac

I started out with my nose pressed to the digital window in 1977. In those days we fiddled and dreamed. I was an unpaid, unknown champion for Apple when it was a tiny company selling a dream. In 1984 I stood behind a guy at the local computer shop and watched him work with a program called MacPaint. I got it, both the concept and the computer. It was a zillion dollars and not a great productivity tool. I bought the dream.

The Mac was the real beginning of the personal computer as we know it. Everything that Apple has done and Microsoft copied is based on core concepts contained in that first 128K Mac. True, some of the science had come from Alan Kay and others at Xerox PARC but Apple actually made it all work and then shipped it. The next “Mac Idea” will take some doing but will be based on making the complex simple and accessible to a wider number of people. The goal is to harness the computer, making knowledge more accessible and meaningful. At the same time the goal should be understanding the importance of values, without which, advancement is only adding layers of complexity to a world that needs more simplification.

Thanks to Patrick Rhone ( on Twitter @patrickrhone ) for posting this linked story below. You can also follow Patrick at minimalmac where he sorts out the tension between complex systems and minimalist ideology.

We heard more about Alan Kay back when Apple was taking off with the Mac and its siblings. The article is the best thing I’ve read on the subject of technology in years. The place where ideas can be examined at the machine level to use a programmer metaphor.

Did Steve Jobs Steal The iPad? Genius Inventor Alan Kay Reveals All

Note: This post was based on inspiration which for me, started in the fourth grade. Publishing should be because of the knowledge, wit, art contained within. Marketing can kill a good story quicker than anything. What if it doesn’t make money? That wasn’t the purpose of the knowledge, wit or art in the first place.

Painting in a fraction of a second

Why Photography? We all have reasons for taking pictures. For some it’s the doumenting of their children’s growing up, travel or the sharing of some event but for the purpose of this post I want to focus on what makes photography so interesting as a creative endeavor.

I should preface this with a brief bit of history. My background is in Architecture; went to school, worked in the offices of several Architects and Architectural Engineers and was at times “own my own”. I didn’t have any mentors really; had to figure things out on my own and as a result explored other creative disciplines. I’ve always referred to myself as a designer and more recently as a creative simply because I don’t stick to just one thing. I write, draw, teach, design and take photographs and all of that is simply a way to express the values of creativity. Making something both functional and beautiful is what I have been striving to accomplish during last 30 years.

Photography has been for me mostly a creative outlet but that is beginning to change. In the past I would shoot much the way a painter would paint; see something interesting and then make an image that captures that moment. In the artistic sense the photographer is in control; no committee telling them which f stop or shutter speed to use; oh use this lens or that one, none of that. Look compose and click “painting in a fraciton of a second” a moment never to be repeated but to be viewed over and over again. It’s this element of control; the same one the painter enjoys, that makes photography an interesting endeavor, at least to me. It’s not until you want to sell your work does the issue of value creep into the picture and now you must look at the work through your patrons eyes.