11 Rules of Living by Dalai Lama to Help You Bring Zen to Your Photography


Note from the Editor: this article is a little different than our usual dPS how to tutorials, more in line with personal growth. But see if there aren’t some things you can use and apply to you photography to help you take better photos.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

Often times we feel a desire to start from scratch and achieve something remarkable. As spring is approaching, use this time of increased motivation to think about your goals as a photographer.

Jan Michael Ihl

By Jan Michael Ihl

Over a decade ago, The Dalai Lama shared with the world a set of simple guidelines to help you live a complete and meaningful life. In this article we look at 11 of those rules of living from a photographer’s perspective. Whenever you decide to take your time and set your priorities, read the advice of the world’s greatest wise man and project it on your own career and life activities.

1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

Quitting your day job to start a photography business is a risky step accompanied by doubts and fear of failure. But if you’re firm about becoming a successful photographer, you just need to step out of your comfort zone. The ride to success will probably be harsh, but on the other hand, it will be fun! Just listen to your inner superhero and try to enjoy the very process of taking risk.

2. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.

This advice isn’t as difficult to follow as you may think. These days blogging is a great way for people to spread their knowledge and exchange ideas. Being an active member on a photography forum, or supporting a photography related project (for instance, Defrozo calls all photographers to help them build the ultimate photography marketing platform) are also good opportunities for any photographer to do good for the community. After all, what goes around comes around.

MD. Hasibul  Haque Sakib

By MD. Hasibul Haque Sakib

3. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

Screwed up a photo shoot? That’s not a reason for giving up, as failing can teach you so much more than success. Analyze your missteps, do your best to fix them, and prepare more carefully next time. Yes, that mistake can leave a bitter aftertaste for a long time, but after all, you would never feel good without feeling bad.

4. Follow the three Rs: Respect for self, Respect for others, Responsibility for all your actions.

Respect for self ensures determination, which is crucial to success. For instance, if you set your prices too low, people may think you’re not confident about your professionalism and thus, would not commit capturing their memories to you.

Even if you’re not sharing the values and interests of people you work with, there must be something they can teach you, respect that.

Even if you’re a solopreneur, being responsible and respectful is essential for running a successful photography business.

5. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

I have a friend who couldn’t afford a Canon 5D MarkII a few years ago, which pushed him to seek other ways to reach the image he envisioned. As a result, he improved his skills drastically and even won a prestigious photography contest. He now owns a studio now and his business is growing fast. My friend is pretty sure he wouldn’t have reached this point if he had bought that camera and let it do the job for him. The moral of this story is that something you consider a lost opportunity may in reality be a chance to win. Just stay positive and keep your eyes wide open.

Umberto Salvagnin

By Umberto Salvagnin

6. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.

Did you know that Picasso mastered the illusion of volume just to learn how to flatten it in his paintings? Like with any art, in photography any rule can be broken – as long as it’s broken intentionally. If you’re looking for an innovative approach and want to go out of the box with your composition and lighting, you have to know where the box’s limits are.

7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

Everyone could make a mistake, but not anyone could immediately react and correct it. It’s all about taking responsibility for your own actions. If the final photos don’t meet the expectations of your customer and you know it’s your fault, do something to fix it and do it fast. A free compensatory session or a small sorry gift can help you own the situation. Quick reaction will speak of your integrity – it won’t be left unnoticed.

8. Spend some time alone every day.

I’m sure you know how it feels when creative ideas flow out of you like a stream. I think you can also remember the tough periods of creative block when it seems you’re unable to produce anything new or interesting. Every creative experiences these ebbs and flows of inspiration. Some solitude during your day can be a great practice to help you stay balanced and productive.


By jhoc

9. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

Seeing new places and faces, discovering new cultures and atmospheres is extremely important for any photographer. So do your best to not get stuck in the routine, and go to a new destination at least once a year, even if it’s a small village not far from your habitat.

10. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.

Success is always about making sacrifices and compromises. However, it’s up to you to decide how much to give up on the way to it. Your own photography business will require you to be a wearer of many hats, it will also soak up tons of your time and energy. But if it pushes you to compromise your loved ones or life values, stop and think whether it will be a success at all if it’s achieved this way.

11. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

Change is an essential part of any business, especially when you work in the creative field. Embrace new technologies and don’t miss an opportunity to boost up your marketing, but don’t betray your values as they are the first to speak of your personality and brand.

Jan Michael Ihl

By Jan Michael Ihl

The Dalai Lama’s rules of living are not novelties, it’s something we’ve all heard at least once during a lifetime. However, we often forget or fail to apply these laws in our daily routine. So having these simple truths listed in one place which you can get back to once in a while may help you be a better person and achieve more in life. Do you agree? Share your own life lessons and favorite quotes in the comments!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Nancy Young is a passionate writer and blogger. She writes tons of inspirational articles on photography and web design, despite the fact that she is an economist by education. Nancy believes in magic of written words to inspire and motivate. She is a part of the PhotoDoto Team. Check out our free ebook on landscape photography!

  • Pro Photographer

    I have to admit, this is the article of the year. Although it’s only March. Guarante, no other post will resonate with me like this has.

  • losschwabos

    Great article, Darlene. To me personal growth is just as important for an artist as technical, only that a lot of people unfortunately forget that. Doesn’t apply to photography only, obviously πŸ˜‰

  • December27

    Oops… It doesn’t diminish the value of the advice, but apparently the source is not the Dalai Lama but *Life’s Little Instruction Book* by Jackson Brown and H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


  • Excellent, refreshing article, Nancy! I’d love to see more of this kind of content on dPS! And thanks so much for mentioning Defrozo. Indeed, we’re encouraging all photographers to help us develop a free photography marketing platform that would solve many problems, and bring zen to your business πŸ™‚

  • Felix Arenas

    Thanks Nancy. Namaste.

  • Felix Arenas

    Really, does it matter?

  • YRaj

    I loved this article. This part had a special impact.

    “Success is always about making sacrifices and compromises. However, it’s up to you to decide how much to give up on the way to it. Your own photography business will require you to be a wearer of many hats, it will also soak up tons of your time and energy. But if it pushes you to compromise your loved ones or life values, stop and think whether it will be a success at all if it’s achieved this way.”

    I have decided to find a way if it means less sleep but make sure I don’t compromise too much, the time I need to spend with my children. I have limited time left to impart some of the things I have learned, onto to them before they go to college.

    I also did a shoot that I was not happy with. Customer did not complain but I just contacted them after reading this article and told them we should do a reshoot. As a photographer, it is hard to rest when your work does not live up to YOUR own expectations.

  • Bill

    well, sort of, because we get irritated when people intentionally or unintentionally take our images while ignoring, intentionally or unintentionally, things like copyright……just saying.

  • December27

    Absolutely. As I said, it doesn’t diminish the points made, but it’s important to attribute creative works correctly.

  • George Lindley

    awesome article! More of this! Of course I love the technical articles on this website, but its great to have a philosophical approach as well, after all we put ourselves in the photo. Thanks.

  • Felix Arenas

    Just have to show how correct you are, don’t you? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. OCD?

  • Daisy’s Mom

    Kind of does. Do you want your award winning photo credited to someone else??! Plus, I think any article deemed newsworthy should be fact checked

  • Daisys mom

    That’s just mean and uncalled for. december27 has been nothing but respectful

  • There you go

    It does matter because the author stole it from someone else and gave credit to someone who didn’t deserve it.
    Thank you December 27 for pointing that out!

  • Claire M

    A wonderful, thought out and inspired article, so thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  • Bill Anderson’s comment has been moderated for foul language and I’m surprised on an article mentioning the Dalai Lama that kind of language is necessary.

    As for this discussion – name calling is never allowed here on dPS, please cease and desist with that.

    As for who wrote the words in question – clearly there is confusion and it has often been attributed to the Dalai Lama. I also wouldn’t give Snopes credit that everything they say is 100% correct either. If the words were indeed not by the Dalai Lama then we apologize. But as mentioned – please take the words for their intention.

  • TByte

    Is there a rule about not photoshopping doves into portraits?
    There should be…

  • I did a bit more digging as I’m quite familiar with the Dalai Lama’s writings and own a couple of his books including The Art of Happiness where much of this comes from:


    Or if he didn’t say it, why would the official Dalai Lama Centre for Peace and Education quote him here http://dalailamacenter.org/blog-post/dalai-lamas-instructions-life

    The snopes thing is quoting an email that went around 8 years ago. I do not think it’s relevant nor is the book mentioned. I have that book too and this article is not quoting from that source.

    Please let’s agree to leave this rest and move on. Thank you. We’re missing the point of the message entirely as this whole thread is very un-zen.

  • admittedly it’s a bit cheesy but there were few CC images of the Dalai Lama to choose from

  • Replaced it – better?

  • TByte

    Yes, much better.

  • I’ve been a Buddhist for 40 years, never occurred to me to apply any of this to my photography yet it makes a lot of sense. Duh!

  • Awesome post, loved the inspiration.


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