Deal 7: How to make money through your photography
I love Digital Photography School, because I love learning. I love understanding. I love pushing through the doubt and insecurity inherent to lack of understanding, to a place of KNOWLEDGE, confidence and the competence that comes from the marriage of the two. It’s a thrilling process for me. That said, some of my very favorite images, some of my images that speak to me on the deepest personal level, have thrown out all the rules. Often, these images have ignored hard and fast rules of composition, lighting and even focus. They’ve thrown caution (and perhaps even propriety) to the wind. They are born not of my technical knowledge, but of my heart. They are born of a true, genuine connection with my subject, and they are grounded in authentic and (what I hope is) captivating storytelling, rather than precise technical know how.
When I talk about creating images of REAL, LASTING impact, I want to make it perfectly clear that, for the sake of the particular argument I am making, there are NO barriers to entry whatsoever. You don’t need the latest and greatest gear, you don’t need the most in-depth technical understanding, you don’t need the most attractive subjects. You just need to connect, deeply and authentically to the story you’re trying to tell. You need to let go of what you’ve been told a proper image SHOULD look like, how it SHOULD be composed, how it SHOULD be lit, how it SHOULD be processed, and just work from your very own heart. Ultimately, while YES, YES, YES, I absolutely do believe that knowledge is good and vastly desirable, it can also be limiting. It can dam up our creativity. It can thwart our inherent confidence and impede our overall competence.
I recognize that there are a million, zillion ways to create an image of impact. Some of them will be measured on a highly technical scale. But what I’m trying to teach you today, is to LET GO. Tune back in to the beauty and wonder that got you started with photography in the first place. Tune back in to that desire to connect, to capture, to remember. Turn the competing volume of need for perfection and pressure to do things RIGHT doooooowwwwwwwn. And just shoot.
For the sheer joy of it, just get out there, and shoot.
Here are just a few of my very most recent “favorite images of impact.” Not a one is perfectly sound from a technical standpoint, but each and every one speaks to my heart in a profound way. THAT, the ability an image has to move me to my core, is my personal definition of an image of IMPACT.
Soft focus + under exposed + by my artistic measure,
a completely brilliant capture of what it should feel like to be a child.
(Same description goes for the first image in this post.)
Again, soft focus. And again, this image captures for me EXACTLY what it should feel like to be a child.
Poor exposure + poorly lit face + very flat and arguably boring composition.
But this image is my son, and by that I mean, THIS IS MY SON.
Curled up, against the great big world. I can FEEL him when I see this image.
The same is true of the next:
Again, composition? Subject looking down? Definitely “interesting” artistic choices,
however again, this is my son, completely captivated . . . by an ant hill.
There was no convincing him to look anywhere else. This is image is a true story—
a real depiction of who he is, completely swept away by nature, simplicity, detail.
I love the story this image tells. It’s a story that I hope I never forget.
So, the next time you see an image and think, “Oh! Look at that expression! Too bad I botched the ___________ (exposure, focus, composition, etc).” Look again.
If I had to choose between a technically spotty image that tells a true story and captures true emotion, and a technically sound image that is emotionally flat, I can tell you without hesitation, that I will choose the thechnically spotty image any day of the week. ANY.DAY.OF.THE.WEEK. So this is me, giving you permission to LET GO. Keep learning, stretching and growing, YES, always! AND let go. Remember why you’re doing all of this in the first place. Chances are, you’re trying to tell a story. The best stories come from the heart. Don’t let your brain get in the way.
Happy shooting. xo! N
May 4, 2012 12:20 pm
Thank you Natalie; This is the only way I shoot now, what works for me. What I feel looks good. I cannot put it as eloquently as you have, but I recognize the style and pattern of what "we" are doing. I agree with what you have said. But, I'm not a professional yet, so I can get away with this 'style' Keep up the good work! Larry
May 1, 2012 04:54 pm
I don't disagree about the idea that we have to be creative and produce a picture with wonderful story, but I strongly DISAGREE about the idea of turning the of need for perfection and pressure to do things RIGHT down.
I also strongly DISAGREE about these lines "You don’t need the latest and greatest gear, you don’t need the most in-depth technical understanding, ... You just need to connect, deeply and authentically to the story you’re trying to tell."
In the first place, this is the reason why the Digital Photography School is here. To serve as inspiration and to teach photographers on how RIGHT things in Photography are done, and to produce information about which cameras and equipment fit correctly to every story which mediocre gears weren't able to tell.
Neglecting the right technology and knowledge, "a deep and authentic connection to the story we are trying to tell", is not enough basis to produce a photograph with amazing story.
Our heart is incapable of telling the right story, if we have no right tools and technologies to produce it. Think about the stories of the life under the ocean, the wildlife stories, stories of fast moving things, stories about microscopic matters and more.
Let me share you my personal experience about 'JUST SHOOT' principle, without considering the things that has been told to be RIGHT.
May 1, 2012 07:21 am
This page has inspired me to just go out and shoot! I have found that some of my best pictures are unplanned.
I am a serious amateur photographer, and I would love to be one when I grow up. I have a photography blog, and it would mean a lot to me for some people to check it out. Follow, comment, like!
April 30, 2012 05:33 pm
@WayneHD, Again, the little boy belongs to me, but the little girl is a client. No relation. :)
April 30, 2012 05:31 pm
@Jeff, Just FYI. The little boy is mine; darling isn't he?! But the little girl is a client. No relation.
April 29, 2012 01:13 pm
This is very refreshing, and extremely enlightening. What a great way to see the art of photography!
April 29, 2012 09:18 am
It's nice to read an article like this....most of my photos are of something I am passionate, Canada geese, but unless it is a technically excellent photo most people don't find them too interesting!! but this article makes me feel OK about it anyhow!!
April 29, 2012 04:00 am
Spot on article. Thanks Natalie for the fresh perspective. Deep, heartfelt thanks!
April 29, 2012 02:13 am
Thank You! for put this, thats the way i see photography.
very nice shoot by the way!!
April 29, 2012 12:56 am
How great to read this! Now i am retired i decided to go to our local (and well attended) photographic
society,but after 2 meetings i found that all they were interested in was how photos could be photoshopped
and did nothing but criticise all photos(not mine,i didn't put any in) which hadn't been manipulated!Surely the impact of the photo taken should be judged and not the technical brilliance shown in digital alteration!
The implication being that you can't have really good/prize winning photos unless you can own and use
Disgruntled of U.K!
April 28, 2012 11:43 pm
Great post, sometimes we have to tell our brains to shut up and just take pictures. I'm glad I didn't try to mess with this one. This is how it should feel to be a baby... in Vietnam..
April 28, 2012 06:12 pm
All of the OP 's example photographs were of her own children.....of course these are going to be the ones that stir up the most emotion for her....is it that emotion that blinds her from the technical 'faults' ?
Interesting article nonetheless.
Maybe it's a gender thing too, as I often get my wife to flick through the photos I have taken on a day out and her favourites of the kids are often ones I have rejected for being oof or poorly lit or badly composed.....
April 28, 2012 08:17 am
I LOVE your simple yet whimsical style! And how each photo tells a story! You have inspired me! : )
April 28, 2012 01:41 am
exposure and its impact- Gruelling sun in india
April 27, 2012 09:53 pm
I think in these examples its the subjects that are invoking the emotional connection. These are the shooters children after all, she should being feeling the connection. I feel the very same way photographing my two granddaughters.
April 27, 2012 06:48 pm
I hear where you are coming from. But, if you are working commercially unfortunately its not so often you can afford to use less than your best work.
However, photography is not an exact science and the rules are there to be played with, pushed and twisted as much as you can get away with. Some of the shots with the greatest impact do often break the rules and result from happy accidents.
A short lament. In these days of digital images there is I feel, a tendency to take a lot of average shots as it's virtually free. In the day when we had to pay for film and developing you really wanted to make every shot count. If you can remember that far back, do you still feel the same way today?
Interested to know how others feel about this.
April 27, 2012 02:09 pm
Interesting article!! I have read many articles or breaking the RULES and shoot pictures not bound by the rules.. What I learnt today is that soft focus can bring out beautiful emotional aspects in the pictures to make an impact..
Will give it a try soon.. I took the picture below which I thought makes an impact.. Not sure if you agree with me ..
April 27, 2012 12:07 pm
[[If I had to choose between a technically spotty image that tells a true story and captures true emotion, and a technically sound image that is emotionally flat,
Read more: http://digital-photography-school.com/creating-an-image-of-impact#ixzz1tCaVhC2X]]
If I had to choose between a technically spotty image that tells a true story and captures true emotion, or one that is technically correct AND is masterful enoyugh to convey the emotions of the scene because ht photographer knew what they were doing, I'd pick the latter every time- While some photographers perhaps could naturally convey emotion i ntheir scenes without knowing technical skills=- very few actually can, and it shows- Most amatures, myself included, don't know hwta the heck we are doign technically, and it hsows in our photos and is isntantly recognizable- and sticks out liek a sore thumb- and guess qwhat? We are basically "Just shooting" Not knowing ruels or techniques (or knowing only very little) and not knowing how to construct scenes in a masterfukl manner- and it really does show- the internet and photo sites are chockerblock full of such amerature photography-
Sorry, but "Just shoot" isn';t very sound advice- The masers knew how to apture scnes, emotions, and they did so masterfully because they took the time to leanr proven techniques and composition 'rules' and light techniques etc etc etc-
April 27, 2012 12:01 pm
This post is just so motivating.. It makes me wanna grab my camera and run outside and take photos meaningful to me. At times I get lost in all the articles and videos talking about the business side of things and I feel like I shouldn't be taking photos if I'm not good and if I'm not earning money. But this article reminds me of all the reasons as to why I love photography in the first place. I feel so peaceful when I have my camera in my hand and the things I value are seen through that viewfinder..
Here is a very special photo I managed to capture of my cat and one of it's 5 kittens. The special thing for me in this photo is, how this kitten was born with a cut-off tail and some amazing reason had the strongest bond with it's mother. I happen to capture this moment just by being ready at the right time, but I'm sure professionally it has many flaws.
April 27, 2012 10:58 am
This is exactly why I picked up a camera 30 years later. I was told by my first photography teacher in grade school that I had the EYE to tell a story through the view finder. My father made me put it down " real men don't take pictures he said" . I do not use photoshop what I get in the camera is what I develop, not perfect focus - all well, not composed properly- don't look have a nice day. The shot means something to me. I do not charge for my shots, if someone comes to my house and likes a photo and says how it makes them feel, I take it from the wall and hand it to them. That by itself makes me feel I am a good photographer.
April 27, 2012 10:49 am
I love your passion and think we forget too much about emotion - isn't that why we take a lot of our photos, because we FEEL something. I climbed a Maori Pa site at the weekend here in NZ where, over 100 years ago a Maori chief had pushed his captives off the clifftop - women and children mainly. I 'heard' their screams as I stood there. Well done - you will have me looking at more of my 'dud' pictures!
April 27, 2012 10:47 am
I think Natalie can call herself an "Artist".
Not only can she write, but she seems to agree with my opinion on what is a good photo (or I agree with hers).
The only thing I have found that we can all agree on is ART IS SUBJECTIVE.
Some of my favorite photos are probably not the best (technically) Re: Art,
but for straight documentation it is nice if it is at least in focus.
April 27, 2012 10:23 am
Thanks for this article =) I really needed a motivation speech <3
I'm just starting out but this picture I did forever ago but it's still one of my favorite images.
April 27, 2012 09:49 am
Great article, I've often wondered about this. I keep learning and keep shooting and I've found that I have two groups of pictures, the great focus, great composition, good light, I am forever trying to learn. I also have an ever growing file of my favorite shots that have nothing to do with right or wrong, They're the ones that connect me to why I started taking pictures in the first place, the memory of that moment, the joy I get every time I open that file and say "that was a great day!" Thanks again.
April 27, 2012 07:02 am
The photographer Max Wanger does a great job of breaking all the rules and creating interesting, compelling images that cause you to want to stare and stare.
April 27, 2012 06:57 am
I totally agree with what you are saying--that it's not the rules that make a good picture--it's something transcendent in the image, something that gives the image meaning and we react emotionally. But I disagree with the example photographs you've chosen. For example, the second image is out of focus and you are suggesting things don't always have to be in focus. That's true, if the image is stronger when it's out of focus than it would be in focus. The fact that it's out of focus doesn't do anything to contribute to the story that's happening there. Instead, it just looks like a sloppy mistake. That picture would be so much stronger and I would spend a lot more time looking at it if it was in focus. Sure, sometimes we makes pictures that are mistakes, things we didn't intend to get, and those mistakes are happy ones with a pleasing result. I don't think that's what's happening here.
You say, "If I had to choose between a technically spotty image that tells a true story and captures true emotion, and a technically sound image that is emotionally flat, I can tell you without hesitation, that I will choose the thechnically spotty image any day of the week." Natalie, You are right on, there. Which is why the print competition at WPPI is so absurd. Those judges care so much about the technical aspects of the image that they wouldn't notice a truly great photograph if it bit them on the behind. Great photographs are about conveying meaning, not about Rembrandt lighting.
April 27, 2012 05:38 am
Photography for me is pure emotion and that is what I try and convey in all my photos. Sometimes I don't always feel it or see it till it's up on the computer. One of my faves is of my daughter on a beach with 10 degree weather. Cold, cloudy, ready to storm, but nothing I did or said would make her come in. Thanks again for your article.
April 27, 2012 03:54 am
I do not think you have to throw out all traditional rules to make unique shots, or shots with a certain impact, or shots that are personal to you, I think the thing is more to capture the person/subject doing what they do. The author said her son kneels down like that, so photographing him doing that will make a photo with more impact, especially to her.
When I photographed this family on the beach in candid style the mom had a similar reaction to how the author did above:
Coincidentally, I am photographing this same family two years later this very evening.
April 27, 2012 02:04 am
I'm not quite sure if I have an image of impact actually. Lol.
I'd really appreciate it if someone could look at my blog and comment if a photo is an image of impact. Thanks.
April 27, 2012 12:04 am
Amen to everything you said! I just love this post.
April 26, 2012 11:49 pm
I love this post. That's all I have to say. :)
April 26, 2012 11:30 pm
When I see something that motivates me to get the camera out and photograph it, I usualy have an idea or point come to mind. I do my best to "get it right" but more importantly is to get it. My goal is to communicate the thought or idea intended even if it is only one simple thought. Did it communicate?
Thanks for a well done article.
April 26, 2012 08:08 pm
Nicely written Natalie.
April 26, 2012 06:45 pm
I entirely agree with you. I think it is very important sometimes to let go and just shoot.
April 26, 2012 06:09 pm
You have cut right to the heart of one half of what photography is. The two halves of photography are technical competence, and art.
Way too much is written about the technical side. I guess that is because its much easier to write about, but its also because it is where a lot of photography geeks place the emphasis. Trying to spark an artistic conversation about a photo, rather than one abouts it's exposure can often be frustrating as hell.
Most genuine pro photographers get this right though, and to me, that is the hallmark of a good pro. The ability to consistently use the technical side of photography, but not getting hung up on it, and looking though the settings to see the story, and emotions in the image
April 26, 2012 05:51 pm
I don't think any of these have thrown out rules, they have simply been very selective in the use of the "rules", maybe even only utilising one "rule". They are a perfect example of the creativity taking over after the automatic application of the "rules" of composition. You've become so well practiced you can shot without thinking about the action of shooting and just let your creativitiy run rampant!
I hate the term "composition rules", they are guidelines to be be bent at will to suit the situation as required. I like to think of composition "rules" as starters. When you see something your mind quickly needs a frame of reference to allow it to process the scene and prepare the creative side of your brain to take over and start to produce something artistic.
If you practice the rules, as most of us do, they become second nature and you automatically frame up a landscape on the thirds or a scene on the golden arc but then you take a second look and your creativity kicks in and says, "How about you just move that slightly up/down/left/right? Block that item with that item over there?", that's when the truly inspirational stuff comes flooding out. Sometimes this all happens in a split second because you don't even think about the "rules" they just happen because you have practiced them so much.
April 26, 2012 05:37 pm
I agree with this post. I think professional (and so called professionals) become too manic about rule of thirds and other so called rules of photography.
I much prefer to take it as I see it and process it to come out like I saw it.
That means I take photos of a variety of subjects and in a variety of styles.
To me that is part of the fun. They say variety is the spice of life.
I also agree that the mood of the photo tends to reflect the mood I am in at the time I took it.
If I get excited about something it tends to come out as vibrant and photorealistic.
If I am in a dreamy mood then it tends to come out as an arty hdr.
I am not sure what mood I was in when I took this one but it certaunly begged for an hdr process:
April 26, 2012 12:54 pm
Couldn't have been put better in any way. Thank you Natalie!
April 26, 2012 12:51 pm
I love this theme. Recently i took a picture of kids feeding the goat that has been selected as a photo of the week in blogger community. hope you like this.
April 26, 2012 11:34 am
Great advice. I got several I like for some of the same reasons, admittedly most are from when I was learning and a "mistake" turned out pretty good.
April 26, 2012 11:14 am
You lost me at the word "teach." I don't need you to teach I need you to inspire. I need you to share. I need you to do what you do. What I don't need is another teacher.
April 26, 2012 10:47 am
thanks Natalie Norton ! the more i read and study photography, the more I feel it is not simply a shutter button press for photography. Thanks for these suggestion and I will learn and apply in near future. Excellent article.. i love it.
April 26, 2012 10:17 am
Thank you. Plain and simple. Thank you. What an inspiration.
April 26, 2012 10:10 am
Same here. I love your article, it is exactly what I keep telling my son when he tells me my pictures arent perfect. I tell him it isn't always about perfection. Some of my "imperfect" pictures speak to me the most. Thanks!
April 26, 2012 10:04 am
Awesome article. I hope everyone that comes across this website also happens upon your words and photos. Here is my example, which has flare, white balance a bit off, and minimalistic... But I'm pretty proud of...
April 26, 2012 07:38 am
As always, excellent article, Natalie. This is my ongoing battle, how to make sure that my images make an impact. Sometime I succeed, sometimes I don't.
Here's a recent shot. I love the feeling of coming out of the darkness, into the light.
April 26, 2012 06:50 am
I really appreciate this blog post. I'm a perfectionist about my photos and I hate nearly everything that I take. I like some of them and that's what goes online for people to see. Very rarely do I truly love a photo of my own. Some of the ones I love are very well done technically and some aren't.
Two of my favorites aren't the best technical photos but they evoke emotion in me and that's why I love them.
Two of my wife's friends on their wedding day: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tallok/4943130447/
Andrew Schwab, the lead singer of Project86, my favorite band: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tallok/4428657354/
April 26, 2012 06:33 am
I hear ya. When I shot this image of a broken down building in Detroit I had no idea it would be so popular, after all it's been shot so many times but apparently the editors at 500px liked it enough an chose it for their editors choice. I wanted it to be a statement piece and I guess it is.
I need to start photographing more people, like street stuff but I cant work up the courage to take a picture of some random person. One day I say, one day.
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