Photos You Should vs Must Take

Kyoto, 2014
Kyoto, 2014

I just finished reading an excellent book on art, creativity, and following your passion titled: “The Crossroads of Should and Must” by Elle Luna. The original idea was written on Medium here, and then blew up on the internet.

The premise of the idea is this: in life you are pulled between things you “should” do vs things you “must” do. But what brings real happiness? If you want to learn more, read on.


The “should” things in life are what others (and society) expect from you.

For example, you should go to college. You should get a good-paying job. You should buy a house and a brand new car. You should care about what others say about you. You should aim to be “successful” and rich.


However the “must” things in life is what you feel that you absolutely must do (regardless of what others say).

For example, I must spend time with my family and loved ones. I must create art. I must stay connected with my community. I must try to live a life true to myself.

The conflict of “should” and “must”

I think in life, most of us would be much happier if we followed our “must’s” vs “should’s” in life.

For example, rather than living a life according to the expectations of others (how you should live), you would probably be much happier living a life true to yourself (how you must live).

Things you “should” do in photography

I think that the tension between “should” and “must” is something that we always have to fight with in our everyday lives. Especially in our photography.

Here are a list of things that people say you should do in photography (and my apologies, some of these concepts are actually from this blog):

You should

  • Shoot with one camera and one lens
  • Work on a long-term project (if you want to be taken seriously)
  • Get honest feedback and critique on your work (if you want to improve)
  • Shoot with the newest and best cameras and lenses
  • Aspire to have an exhibition or a book

But honestly, screw all of these “should’s”. These are simply the expectations others have for you.

Things you “must” do in photography

Live the photography life you want to live. Follow your own heart and intuition.

So instead, consider the “must’s” in your photography life.

Here are some of my “must’s”.

I must

  • Shoot everyday (or feel crappy)
  • Collaborate with other photographers
  • Make images that make me happy
  • Work on projects which are personally meaningful to me
  • Surround myself with photography books and other inspirational resources to feel creatively alive

Focusing on your “must’s” in photography

It is hard to figure out what your own “must’s” are in photography.

A way you can figure out what is your “must” in photography:

  • If you could only do one thing today as a photographer, what must that be?
  • If you were 90 years old and on your deathbed, what must things in your photography would you have wanted to accomplish?
  • What is a photography-related activity that you must do everyday (otherwise you feel like you’re dying creatively?)
  • If you were the only photographer in the world, what must you do as a photographer?

A must in photography is much more internally driven. A must in photography is something that makes you feel spiritually and creatively alive. A must in photography is what keeps you going. A must in photography is what brings inner-peace, satisfaction, and achievement.

Also a photograph you must take is an image that you will deeply regret if you don’t shoot.

For example, sometimes I’m out shooting street photography and I see a photograph I must shoot. Sometimes I get nervous, and don’t end up taking the photograph. I end up deeply regretting those moments when I’m in bed at night.

But most of the time, whenever I feel that a certain image is a photograph I must take, I am able to overcome my own fears to take that image.

Photograph and live your life without regrets.

You are in control

Know at the end of the day, you are in control of your own art, creativity, and photography.

So disregard the things you “should” do in photography. Follow what you must do in photography.