Photographers, Stop Making Excuses and Start Taking Pictures

As a student, I had a lot of original ideas. And I was determined to take only original pictures.

I hated “me too” photographs. If I saw a classmate submit a portrait with a cliched subject like a bearded, homeless man, I’d shake my head and say to myself, “How trite.”

I was so determined to be original, in fact, that I spent more time and energy criticizing my classmates’ shortcomings than executing my own lofty ideas. As a result, a lot of my ideas never materialized into images.

Excuses, Excuses

Oh, I had lots of excuses for this. I was a self-supporting college student on a foreign student visa, for example. This meant I could only work 20 hours a week and had to work on campus. I told myself that this limited my opportunities to explore the world, and to make my ideas reality.

Poor me!

I finally broke through my inertia when I discovered that I needed an internship at a newspaper to graduate. That got me moving beyond the theoretical into the practical; original or not, I had to start taking pictures, now.

Well, I got that internship, which led to a 20-odd year career in news photography.

And yet, even today, I still find myself battling those same demons that inhibited me as a student.

I have just as many excuses not to get out and shoot.

Shake Off the Inertia

Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body will remain at rest until a force acts upon it. This rule applies not just to physics, but to photography, too.

An idea — no matter how original or exciting — doesn’t mean much if it’s confined to the recesses of your mind. You have to get out there and start shooting.

If you don’t have an original idea, that’s no excuse, either. Just borrow an idea that’s already been done.

I’m not suggesting you recreate a picture lock, stock and barrel; if you’re like me, your creativity will kick in and you’ll start changing the elements to make the image your own.

Look upon the photography of others as a means to inspire you. Don’t get in the habit of criticizing the work of colleagues, because that’s a negative cycle that will only consume you.

9 Responses to “Photographers, Stop Making Excuses and Start Taking Pictures”

  1. So true. But it can be difficult to get motivated at times.

  2. Good post. Another motivational guy I follow posted this on Tuesday

    Check this video out -- You are the essence of your reactions and your responses.

  3. @Paul, thanks for the company here. This post is also a note to myself to not get caught up with gear and software. After all, we are not graphic artists. We get a vision in our minds and we bring it to life in the camera.

    I get my motivation these days from the feedback I get when I post pictures on my blog. Sometimes, there aren't any comments. Other times, complete strangers say something nice and that fires me up.

    You have a great blog and wonderful images, so I would say you're doing great.

  4. @Stanley, thanks for chiming in too and for sharing that hyperlink to that motivational speaker.

    We ALL need to get out there with our cameras. Actually picking it up everyday and aiming it at everyday objects helps too, unless of course we want to become graphic artists like Shepard Fairey who grab pictures online and "create" art.;-)

  5. Perfect, Peter. The last sentence is the most important thing I've read in a long time.

    It's best that we perform and create independently of everything and everyone around us.

  6. @ Peter and Stanley, as the Nike commercial motto states, "just do it".
    As a fine arts plein air painter, I just go outside and paint something, ANYTHING, even a small 6 " X 6" thumbnail study. You should exercise your creative muscles EVERY day.

  7. Wise words from one of my favorite photography gurus. I love borrowing ideas and making them my own. And taking the camera out every day - so true. The days I don't, I'm SURE to see something unbelievable!

  8. Nice Sunday morning kick in the pants. :). Thanks for moving us forward.

  9. Well said Peter. Well Said.

    I've always taught that photography is not a spectator sport. That you have to go out and just shoot. (Learning Photography is NOT a Spectator Sport:

    And for ideas? You're not going to have any unless you head out the door for your camera. Keep an idea log, jot them down and you won't forget them. (Ideas are fleeting: Keep track of Them: (There's NO Excuse- You Can Always Find Something:

    There truly is no excuse why you shouldn't be taking photos.

    Thanks Peter and have a great day.

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