Dear friend,

If you are reading this, and you own a smartphone, you are a photographer.

I’m sick and tired of all these elitist saying nonsense like:

Everyone thinks they’re a photographer now, just because they have an iPhone.

The truth is:

Everyone is a photographer.

To be a photographer means that you have a passion to paint with light. That you are drawn to documenting personal memories, with your phone, or any device with a camera.

To be a photographer means to have a passion and curiosity for life. To have an inner-historian. To find meaning in life, through making art with a camera.

The iPhone was the best thing that happened to photography. It democratized photography to the masses.

The problem is that a lot of photography elitists are scared. They are scared that now everyone can make a good photo with a phone, their art school and photography school degrees are meaningless. They are afraid that now that everyone is a photographer, their personal livelihoods will be compromised.

Also to be honest, today’s brave new world of photography is scary for professional and working photographers. Any kid can buy a Canon 5D, a Sigma lens, a cheap YN flash, and make phenomenal photos, all in P (program) mode.

You don’t even need to shoot RAW anymore. Your photos will look great in jpeg.

VSCO is the second best thing to happen to photography. Now anyone with an iPhone or smartphone can make good photos, and actually process them to look good. VSCO (both Lightroom presets and Mobile app) can turn our cold, lifeless digital photos and breathe soul and life into them. They make our soulless digital photos have panache and flavor– by adding pastel tones to our images, adding grain, grit, and human emotion. Huge shout out to Zach, for making some stellar post processing presets.

Also huge shout out to Henrique Penha and all of the Apple photos team– you guys made the best camera in the world. Of course, we still like to shoot with our Leica’s and film cameras, but at the end of the day, just shooting with our phones is easier, and helps us capture more meaningful daily moments.

Just because everyone is a photographer doesn’t mean everyone is a good photographer. To make good photos isn’t actually that hard, but does take a lot of practice.

My idea is this:

Your first million photos are your worst.

I think Henri Cartier-Bresson or some other photographer said, “Your first 10,000 photos are your worst.” But that was in the days of film.

In today’s digital world, your first million photos are your worst.

Honestly, if anyone took a million photos, it is impossible that they will still take bad photos.

To make better photos, we need to embed our photos with personal meaning, soul, and our life experiences. We need to photograph only what has personal significance to us. To photograph what makes our eyes quiver, and to photograph images that only we can make. The rule is this, to ask yourself:

Have I already seen this photo on Google images?

If the answer is “yes”– your photos can easily be made by a Google Street View camera, or any tourist with flip flops and socks.

In today’s brace new photographic world, you gotta stand out.

To stand out, share more personal photos. Share photos of your partner, kids, or self portraits of yourself. Because those are photos only only you can shoot. Look at the work of Sally Mann, only she could have made those soulful portraits of her family.

Also, make Street photos that really evoke emotion. Don’t just use a zoom lens and snipe people behind bushes. Rather, interact with your subjects. Talk with them. Share your heart and soul with them.

When you photograph strangers candidly, look for hand gestures, eye expressions, or body language– which shows the human condition. To show the human condition of pain, suffering, joy, friendship, happiness, and elation of the spirit.

So friend my challenge to you is this:

Declare proudly you are a photographer. But just ask yourself,

Why do I make photos?

Question your own personal motives.

Don’t make photos for Instagram; make photos for yourself.

Be strong,

For more inspiration, buy PHOTO JOURNAL: Personal Photography Reflections by HAPTIC.

Learn more: PHOTOGRAPHY 101 >