3rd Street Promenade HDR

100 Things I Have Learned About Photography

Make sure to also read my other more recent list, “102 Things I Have Learned About Street Photography“.

Written: 10-14-09

  1. Just because someone has an expensive camera doesn’t mean that they’re a good photographer.
  2. Always shoot in RAW. Always.
  3. Prime lenses help you learn to be a better photographer.
  4. Photo editing is an art in itself
  5. The rule of thirds works 99% of the time.
  6. Macro photography isn’t for everybody.
  7. UV filters work just as well as lens caps.
  8. Go outside and shoot photos rather than spending hours a day on photography forums.
  9. Capture the beauty in the mundane and you have a winning photograph.
  10. Film isn’t better than digital.
  11. Digital isn’t better than film.
  12. There is no “magic” camera or lens.
  13. Better lenses don’t give you better photos.
  14. Spend less time looking at other people’s work and more time shooting your own.
  15. Don’t take your DSLR to parties.
  16. Being a photographer is sexy.
  17. Making your photos b/w doesn’t automatically make them “artsy”
  18. People will always discredit your work if you tell them you “photoshop” your images. Rather, tell them that you process them in the “digital darkroom”.
  19. You don’t need to take a photo of everything.
  20. Have at least 2 backups of all your images. Like they say in war, two is one, one is none.
  21. Ditch the neck strap and get a handstrap.
  22. Get closer when taking your photos, they often turn out better.
  23. Be a part of a scene while taking a photo; not a voyeur.
  24. Taking a photo crouched often make your photos look more interesting.
  25. Worry less about technical aspects and focus more on compositional aspects of photography.
  26. Tape up any logos on your camera with black gaffers tape- it brings a lot less attention to you.
  27. Always underexpose by 2/3rds of a stop when shooting in broad daylight.
  28. The more photos you take, the better you get.
  29. Don’t be afraid to take several photos of the same scene at different exposures, angles, or apertures.
  30. Only show your best photos.
  31. A point-and-shoot is still a camera.
  32. Join an online photography forum.
  33. Critique the works of others.
  34. Think before you shoot.
  35. A good photo shouldn’t require explanation (although background information often adds to an image). *
  36. Alcohol and photography do not mix well.
  37. Draw inspiration from other photographers but never worship them.
  38. Grain is beautiful.
  39. Ditch the photo backpack and get a messenger bag. It makes getting your lenses and camera a whole lot easier.
  40. Simplicity is key.
  41. The definition of photography is: “painting with light.” Use light in your favor.
  42. Find your style of photography and stick with it.
  43. Having a second monitor is the best thing ever for photo processing.
  44. Silver EFEX pro is the best b/w converter.
  45. Carry your camera with you everywhere. Everywhere.
  46. Never let photography get in the way of enjoying life.
  47. Don’t pamper your camera. Use and abuse it.
  48. Take straight photos.
  49. Shoot with confidence.
  50. Photography and juxtaposition are best friends.
  51. Print out your photos big. They will make you happy.
  52. Give your photos to friends.
  53. Give them to strangers.
  54. Don’t forget to frame them.
  55. Costco prints are cheap and look great.
  56. Go out and take photos with (a) friend(s).
  57. Join a photo club or start one for yourself.
  58. Photos make great presents.
  59. Taking photos of strangers is thrilling.
  60. Candid>Posed.
  61. Natural light is the best light.
  62. 35mm (on full frame) is the best “walk-around” focal length.
  63. Don’t be afraid to bump up your ISO when necessary.
  64. You don’t need to always bring a tripod with you everywhere you go (hell, I don’t even own one).
  65. It is always better to underexpose than overexpose.
  66. Shooting photos of homeless people in an attempt to be “artsy” is exploitation.
  67. You will find the best photo opportunities in the least likely situations.
  68. Photos are always more interesting with the human element included.
  69. You can’t “photoshop” bad images into good ones.
  70. Nowadays everybody is a photographer.
  71. You don’t need to fly to Paris to get good photos; the best photo opportunities are in your backyard.
  72. People with DSLRS who shoot portraits with their grip pointed downwards look like morons.
  73. Cameras as tools, not toys.
  74. In terms of composition, photography and painting aren’t much different.
  75. Photography isn’t a hobby- it’s a lifestyle.
  76. Make photos, not excuses.
  77. Be original in your photography. Don’t try to copy the style of others.
  78. The best photographs tell stories that begs the viewer for more.
  79. Any cameras but black ones draw too much attention.
  80. The more gear you carry around with you the less you will enjoy photography.
  81. Good self-portraits are harder to take than they seem.
  82. Laughter always draws out peoples’ true character in a photograph.
  83. Don’t look suspicious when taking photos- blend in with the environment.
  84. Landscape photography can become dull after a while.
  85. Have fun while taking photos.
  86. Never delete any of your photos.
  87. Be respectful when taking photos of people or places.
  88. When taking candid photos of people in the street, it is easier to use a wide-angle than a telephoto lens.
  89. Travel and photography are the perfect pair.
  90. Learn how to read a histogram.
  91. A noisy photo is better than a blurry one.
  92. Don’t be afraid to take photos in the rain.
  93. Learn how to enjoy the moment, rather than relentlessly trying to capture the perfect picture of it.
  94. Never take photos on an empty stomach.
  95. You will discover a lot about yourself through your photography.
  96. Never hoard your photographic insight- share it with the world.
  97. Never stop taking photos
  98. Photography is more than simply taking photos, it is a philosophy of life
  99. Capture the decisive moment
  100. Write your own list.

89 thoughts on “100 Things I Have Learned About Photography”

  1. Well put eric… well put. But you were wrong about something…
    12. There is no “magic” camera or lens.

    There IS a magic camera… the camera that takes memories within the eye.

    I look forward to seeing you post some good stuff man. Good luck w/ ur blog.

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  5. Yeah great list !
    But i wil not go as far as ditch my backpack ^^
    The backpack is a great companion in travel because you can bring more lens :)
    Like if i want to bring my 24-70mm and another lens, in messenger bag it’s impossible :D
    But i agree if you just go out in your city the messenger bag is a good companion !
    I was just wondering what kind of camera you use when i saw your profil photo lol.
    Now i know that you have put some gaff tape on ^^
    But can you explain why putting gaff tape bring less attention ?

  6. Amazing list, I agree with you on so many points.

    1. Just because someone has an expensive camera doesn’t mean that they’re a good photographer.

    I started my obsession with photography with Kodak disposables and then bought an advanced Fuji 3.1mp digital camera…I took some of my most amazing pictures with that Fuji, some of them are even better than the ones I take now with my Canon DSLR. People ask me for advice all of the time about what kind of camera to get. They don’t know anything about photography, they just want to take beautiful pictures and I alway tell them they don’t need a fancy camera, they just need the passion and the eye for it.

    I’m not big on editing, I’m kind of obsessive about getting the shot right to begin with. At most I crop and adjust contrast, but that’s it. I need to buy something smaller, I want a Canon G11, because I need something I can shoot with all of the time and an SLR is bulky to carry every day. Lately I’ve just been using my camera phone, which is actually pretty great.

    This is a great list, thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Eric,

      I’m super late with this reply. I never got an email notification that you had responded to me. The only reason I saw this was because I was googling my name…not for vain reasons I promise…

      I actually have a Canon G12 now and I finally bought a 5D Mark II. I need better glass for those wide angles, but I managed to have a couple of pictures published in NME magazine recently, so a lot has happened in a year.

      Your list is still on point btw.


  7. Phew.. That was an exhaustive list.. But I enjoyed each one of it.. Very thought provoking and inspiring.. Makes me wanna think what I ve learnt about photography..

  8. Hi! Good list. I just have one doubt about rule #27: when it comes to film photography, and you have a lot of bright areas in your frame, the meter will tend to give you a wrong reading and underexpose your shot. In that case, shouldn’t you overexpose your picture by one stop, and not underexpose it, as you suggested? Cheers!

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    1. Hey Eric,

      Reading through your blog in a not very orderly fashion and thought I’d comment here. I use a neckstrap, wrapped around my hand, I find it comfortable and can sling it across my body when I don’t need immediate access. I have also been experimenting with sometimes carrying my camera in my hand resting just below my shoulder, to get some shots. In those cases I try to use a smaller aperture, so focus isn’t so critical.

      You’re such a wealth of useful information and I am so keen to get out there shooting again this weekend. I have rounded up a couple of friends to shoot with. That’s another tip, if you’re starting out, to go in a group. You get tips and over some of the initial shyness when shooting! :)

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  14. I like the tip that you don’t need to take a picture of everything. How true. The world would be a better place if there weren’t so many meaningless pictures taking up space on servers.

  15. just found your blog through commentluv and it looks like a great browse, cant make it through your whole list right now (long) but will be back to explore your whole blog!

    1. I’ll have to attribute it to anonymous because I said it to a friend one day and don’t remember where it was originally heard. I doubt it hasn’t been said before so I’ll avoid taking any credit.

  16. Hi!

    I didn’t know about your site till now, saw it mentioned in a comment by TJ McDowell at photographworks.com, so went through some of your articles and saved a few for reading later. Did go through this list now though, and you had me kinda confused with those two:

    15. Don’t take your DSLR to parties.
    45. Carry your camera with you everywhere. Everywhere.

    … but then I remembered this one:

    31. A point-and-shoot is still a camera.

    … and now #15 and #45 makes sense to me :)

  17. A friend sent this to me after I had posted on my facebook that I needed photo inspiration… It was just what I needed!!! So many great points that I felt alone on! Thank you very much!!

  18. I am a 26 year old wife and momma of two. I find photography to be this huge outlet for the side of me that doesn’t have to do dishes or change a diaper. I don’t really know much about techniques and my camera is a Canon power shot SX120, it cost less than 200 bucks. No big deal at all. But I am telling you when I get out with my camera and capture the moments in my life I find compelling or beautiful I feel alive and extremely happy. I LOVED your list, it was so inspiring for someone like me to not feel silly about what I Love doing and not be afraid. I live in Alaska and write a blog about my life here. If you ever have time check it out. I have a lot of photos on there too. Keep passen on your tips to the rest of us! xo! http://www.strongmomalaska.wordpress.com

  19. Greta list. Many i agree with fully some i dont at all. Some made me laugh as i say the same all the time.

    Number 70 has to be the one i used the most. Everyone thinks they are a tog these days. They get them a DSLR and some even call themselves a pro after a weeks shooting.

  20. “Carry your camera with you everywhere. Everywhere.”
    This is what I am really trying to get into the habit of doing. Thanks for a great list! Although there may be a couple I don’t agree with 100%, you’re pretty much spot on!

  21. I forgot how I even ended up on this website, but I’m glad I did. :)

    The first thing I learned in Introductory Photography class was the difference between PICTURES and PHOTOGRAPHS hehe.. Your list summarized my entire semester!

  22. Great blog Eric. There’s so much interesting stuff on here I’m still finding my way round it.

    This is a great list of tips which I can subscribe to, especially 6 and 69. I’ve wasted countless hours with both. Just one point; doesn’t 89 contradict 71?

    Now I must put put 14 into practice by closing my browser, picking up my camera and getting out there.

  23. Hi: one suggested addition to the list (and the first rule on my own list):
    1. when shooting on the street, do not take the time to review your shots. You miss the best opportunities that way.

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  27. A good photo shouldn’t require explanation (although background information often adds to an image).

    Couldn’t agree more! I’m always arguing this. A good photo will speak for itself.

  28. Mitchell Stoycheff

    Hi Eric, I seen this post on G-mail by somebody else, I guess it was shared. Someone though was good enough to put on there that it was YOUR list so I wanted to thank you personally. The tips in your list are extremely usefull, I love to take pictures, though I am more probably considered a hobbiest more then anything. But The tips about shooting RAW and also the one about trying not to get the perfect picture really helped. I always try to get the picture perfect and I forget just to go with it and enjoy what I am doing! So thank you again!

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  30. Estelle (Stella) Levi Komet

    Hi Kim,

    I agree with many of your “points”. I’ve been taking photos since 1950, when I was twelve, with my little box brownie camera. Now, I take with my nokia cell phone. The videos are quite good, and so are the photos. When my first grandchild was 6 yrs old, I gave her a camera and off we went for a day of shooting. It was her first time and I think she did a great job. (She is now 21) I told her to look carefully, and when she sees something she likes, to take the picture. She took some wonderful photos of balconies, tree roots, even some ants scurrying around, and, of course, of her granny taking pictures of her taking pictures! I was the chief photographer and video grapher for years with my children and grandchildren, the chronicler of events in our lives. Now, all the kids big and little have taken over my role, so I concentrate my photos on other interests. If I were to live life over, I think I would choose photography as my profession. I too have filmed many sights in the US, Europe and also Nigeria. I think you have chosen a great profession, and I wish you loads of luck. Estelle Levi Komet
    Will be in touch with you on facebook.

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  33. Girls do dig photographers. That is a fact. It doesn’t matter if the photographer is male or female. Women like photographers. Annie Leibovitz has a large female following.

  34. I wonder what it means ‘Straight Photo’. Mean about ‘Angle’ or ‘simple and strong’??
    I guess it menas ‘Simple and Strong’ but don’t sure..

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  40. Agree with most. Not sure about #84 (landscape becoming dull after a while). I suspect that’s a street photographers point of view.

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  45. fmlphotographer

    why can’t female photographers be sexy?! reading as a f.p. i assumed it was referring to women! perspectives ;) i guess it’s what art is all about!

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