Characteristics of Great Photographers – Curiosity

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Curiosity

While the old saying says that ‘curiosity killed the cat’ I’m coming to see that ‘curiosity’ is an incredibly useful characteristic to have as a photographer.

Here’s a few reasons why curiosity is a characteristic of great photographers:

1. Because it helps them notice things others are oblivious to

As I was surfing through the last 7 days of interesting photos section on Flickr earlier today, one of the things I noticed most about the photos that I saw there was that very few of them were of out of the ordinary subjects. Rather many of them were stunning images of everyday things that most of us wouldn’t even think to look for beauty in.

2. Because it drives them to find new ways to show ‘normal’ items

Another thing I noticed about many of these photos of ordinary everyday subjects was that the photographers found interesting ways to make them look extraordinary. They did this by finding interesting angles, placing their subjects in unusual settings or by experimenting things like focal length (particularly macro shots).

3. Because it drives them to learn about their digital cameras

The last thing I noticed about the shots on flickr was that some of them showed that their photographers had a good grasp of their cameras and how to use them. It was obvious to me that many of the photographers had ventured out of Auto mode and had learned to use other functions of their cameras. There is obviously a lot of experimentation going on with many of the shots – evidence of curious minds wondering what will happen if they just take the shot like this….

4. Curious photographers intrigue the viewers of their images

I’ve got no way of proving this one but it’s a theory I’ve always had. Creative people who are willing to push boundaries and explore new ground tend to be the type of people that others are drawn to. Curious photographers images are attractive because they help the rest of us view the world in new and intriguing ways.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Tim

    Yes, great points. When photographers find a new way to look at ‘normal’ items, I find itheir pictures amazing to look at.

  • I completely agree that curiosity makes a photographer. Curiosity got me into photography in the first place.
    The other night I was photographing my brother-in-laws band and curiosity got me playing with the ISO and the apperture more and I got some really great shots.

    Curiosity even comes into play with landscape photography because you have to be curios enough to go and find the spots that make awesome photos. Most people would never trek to find places to take awesome landscape photos, but the curios ones are rewarded for their actions

  • CanonMaiden

    I completely agree. What I love the most about photography is getting someone to not only notice but appreciate viewing something that would normally be overlooked.

  • photography can be as much an exercise in curiosity as creativity.

  • I agree! 🙂

  • Curiosity is definitley a key to seeing the shots that are out there. Everywhere I go I am looking for a picture, I use and imaginary frame every where I am looking.

  • The moment you start being curious, it’s the moment when you become more than just a “beautiful pictures” photographer, and start being an artist.
    Photography is a constant study. One my methods in this study is try to imitate ‘The Masters (of photography)’. But not only them.
    For example, in this shot I tried to imitate Edward Hopper – http://www.ilanbresler.com/2009/06/together-and-alone.html

  • Absolutely true! I follow always the most of these rules. Sometimes I get it, sometimes not… 🙂

  • Benjamin

    Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Curiosity made the kittens.

  • Our life is based on the learning curve of curiosity. As a photographer, with camera in hand, I attempt to take curiosity one step further!

  • interesting that you wrote an article about this. i often hear people say the reason why they like my work is because i make normal things look good.

  • Gary Neugebauer

    I don’t know about knowing Your camera and going out of the auto mode , But most of the photos are true proffesonal photos but alot are total photoshop do overs . prefect contrast , dreamy cloudy landscapes , color and flawless complectionsare all give-aways

  • Enzo

    THAT IS THE BEST ARTICLE ….. THANKS SO MUCH

  • B P Maiti

    Abomb shell.It bomberds you reflection and concentration.Pl .arrange for more curiouly informed articles.Thanks.

  • I agree that curiosity helps photographers learn to see “normal, usual” things in a bit different more creative way. It helps you look for interesting shots and create, visualize them even before you actually take the picture . I often hear: “Don’t just take pictures! Make pictures!”

    That’s all true! Framing is essential. Curiosity helps a lot here. Please take a look at his horse portrait of mine:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/piotr_golebiowski/3635884540/

  • “at some point photography becomes autobiographical. In order to create better photos, sometimes we need to put down the photography books and magazines. Then we need to go out and to develop who we are”

    by Jay Maisel

  • I also have to agree with Squirrelydude, through our curiosity we find who we are and what vision we have been given, what do you see in the images that you capture?

  • And you can learn many thing on Flickr. The Curiosity is a big key for the photographer

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedroxwalkman/4067652306/

  • Love your first comment especially, Darren, the one about the amazing shots of ordinary subjects. We’re surrounded by the ordinary daily. How wonderful to let our curiosity lead us to see the familiar in such unfamiliar ways.

  • Ruel Camaquin

    Great post! love it! the learning curve in photography does not stop on what you do, and DPS (especially Darren) has given us a very good point on curiosity when it comes to taking pictures….

  • Doug

    You missed the most important quality of all. Great photographers *understand light*! Many of examples I see of “great” modern photographers appear to be ham handed Photoshop essays. I’m probably a minority in my belief that if you didn’t capture it with the lens, it’s not a photo (angel wings and blood splattered crows added to HDR images are boring to me).

    The true greats understand their subjects and the way light plays. I don’t see much difference between Photoshop and Autotune, they seem similar to me. Get the take up front and fix it in the back end. Is that disingenuous? I don’t know. To me, it means more if I can trust that the light was really like what the photo depicts. It has more meaning.

    The corollary is great photographers *feel* their subject. If you don’t have a deep care for your subject on some level, what differentiates your images from snapshots?

Some Older Comments

  • Doug September 4, 2011 11:52 am

    You missed the most important quality of all. Great photographers *understand light*! Many of examples I see of "great" modern photographers appear to be ham handed Photoshop essays. I'm probably a minority in my belief that if you didn't capture it with the lens, it's not a photo (angel wings and blood splattered crows added to HDR images are boring to me).

    The true greats understand their subjects and the way light plays. I don't see much difference between Photoshop and Autotune, they seem similar to me. Get the take up front and fix it in the back end. Is that disingenuous? I don't know. To me, it means more if I can trust that the light was really like what the photo depicts. It has more meaning.

    The corollary is great photographers *feel* their subject. If you don't have a deep care for your subject on some level, what differentiates your images from snapshots?

  • Ruel Camaquin August 19, 2010 02:49 pm

    Great post! love it! the learning curve in photography does not stop on what you do, and DPS (especially Darren) has given us a very good point on curiosity when it comes to taking pictures....

  • Carol Lundeen January 12, 2010 09:23 am

    Love your first comment especially, Darren, the one about the amazing shots of ordinary subjects. We're surrounded by the ordinary daily. How wonderful to let our curiosity lead us to see the familiar in such unfamiliar ways.

  • Pedro Cedeño November 3, 2009 12:12 am

    And you can learn many thing on Flickr. The Curiosity is a big key for the photographer

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedroxwalkman/4067652306/

  • Ed Hamlin June 28, 2009 09:28 am

    I also have to agree with Squirrelydude, through our curiosity we find who we are and what vision we have been given, what do you see in the images that you capture?

  • Squirrelydude June 27, 2009 08:57 am

    "at some point photography becomes autobiographical. In order to create better photos, sometimes we need to put down the photography books and magazines. Then we need to go out and to develop who we are"

    by Jay Maisel

  • Pigon June 27, 2009 03:29 am

    I agree that curiosity helps photographers learn to see "normal, usual" things in a bit different more creative way. It helps you look for interesting shots and create, visualize them even before you actually take the picture . I often hear: "Don't just take pictures! Make pictures!"

    That's all true! Framing is essential. Curiosity helps a lot here. Please take a look at his horse portrait of mine:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/piotr_golebiowski/3635884540/

  • B P Maiti June 26, 2009 11:40 pm

    Abomb shell.It bomberds you reflection and concentration.Pl .arrange for more curiouly informed articles.Thanks.

  • Enzo June 26, 2009 11:30 pm

    THAT IS THE BEST ARTICLE ..... THANKS SO MUCH

  • Gary Neugebauer June 26, 2009 08:00 am

    I don't know about knowing Your camera and going out of the auto mode , But most of the photos are true proffesonal photos but alot are total photoshop do overs . prefect contrast , dreamy cloudy landscapes , color and flawless complectionsare all give-aways

  • josydaisy June 26, 2009 03:22 am

    interesting that you wrote an article about this. i often hear people say the reason why they like my work is because i make normal things look good.

  • Al Hansen June 26, 2009 02:12 am

    Our life is based on the learning curve of curiosity. As a photographer, with camera in hand, I attempt to take curiosity one step further!

  • Benjamin June 26, 2009 01:57 am

    Curiosity didn't kill the cat. Curiosity made the kittens.

  • Massimo Belloni June 25, 2009 06:20 am

    Absolutely true! I follow always the most of these rules. Sometimes I get it, sometimes not... :-)

  • Ilan June 22, 2009 05:04 pm

    The moment you start being curious, it's the moment when you become more than just a "beautiful pictures" photographer, and start being an artist.
    Photography is a constant study. One my methods in this study is try to imitate 'The Masters (of photography)'. But not only them.
    For example, in this shot I tried to imitate Edward Hopper - http://www.ilanbresler.com/2009/06/together-and-alone.html

  • Ed Hamlin June 22, 2009 04:09 pm

    Curiosity is definitley a key to seeing the shots that are out there. Everywhere I go I am looking for a picture, I use and imaginary frame every where I am looking.

  • MeiTeng June 22, 2009 03:52 pm

    I agree! :)

  • mack June 22, 2009 02:31 pm

    photography can be as much an exercise in curiosity as creativity.

  • CanonMaiden June 22, 2009 12:22 pm

    I completely agree. What I love the most about photography is getting someone to not only notice but appreciate viewing something that would normally be overlooked.

  • Ryan McLean - Landscape Photography School June 22, 2009 10:52 am

    I completely agree that curiosity makes a photographer. Curiosity got me into photography in the first place.
    The other night I was photographing my brother-in-laws band and curiosity got me playing with the ISO and the apperture more and I got some really great shots.

    Curiosity even comes into play with landscape photography because you have to be curios enough to go and find the spots that make awesome photos. Most people would never trek to find places to take awesome landscape photos, but the curios ones are rewarded for their actions

  • Tim June 22, 2009 10:38 am

    Yes, great points. When photographers find a new way to look at 'normal' items, I find itheir pictures amazing to look at.

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