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my guidance to photographers and creatives

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

If you have any interest in starting photography or any creative expression, this blog will have a lot of my helpful tips for you that I wish I had been told when I was just starting out. The main focus will be photography but this can be applicable to any creative expression.

The most common “beginner” tip that I’m sure you’ve heard before is to just go out and start taking photos. I’ve definitely told people to do this. This is the rule that I lived by when I was learning and in hindsight I don’t think it was the right approach. When you commit to the growing process of becoming a better photographer, inherently, you’ll start taking pictures, and probably lots of them. And that’s what I want to steer beginner photographers and creatives away from. In the beginning I had no vision, no experience and no tools to help me become an artist. I want to help lay a foundation for those who are serious about learning their artistic craft.

My Tips

  • Be intentional. (Don’t just point and shoot)

  • Capture the essence.

  • Explore a niche.

  • Copy others work.

  • Be attentive to the details.

  • Symmetry

  • Framing

  • Lighting

  • Find your vision.

Be intentional.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with getting shutter happy and capturing anything and everything when you’re learning or doing it for fun. That is one way to learn. But that path can be a long and tiresome process. You’ll have a million photos to go through and edit and then you’ll end up liking about 2% of them. So to save you some time, hard drive space, and help you learn photography better, you want to be intentional about the composition of an image. Just pause for a moment and think about what is in frame. My older brother taught me something when I was struggling with my golf swing. I know, golfing isn’t very relatable but this is something that I have found VERY valuable in photography. Develop a mental checklist before you swing. Or in photography terms, before you shoot. This will ensure that you’re doing all the right things and not doing any of the wrong things. You can address mistakes before they happen and not find them in the editing booth.

Capture the essence.

Before you go out on a shooting adventure or portrait shoot you should establish a goal, externally (style) or internally (vision), that will guide your work. By the final section of this blog you will learn how the internal can guide the external. But for now, what exactly is it that I’m trying to capture as a photographer. The “it” is the essence of a person, place or object. This is what gives your subject it’s look and feel. And you should craft your images to best exploit that essence. And your unique perspective, experience or relationship with the person/location will infuse an image with style and meaning. Good ways to build this connection is to talk to people. Learn about the person or place, it’s history, it’s purpose. This will help guide the direction of that specific work. An important thing to remember is that photos are more than just a moment in time, they are full of cultural and emotional information that is fueled and guided by the people/things in the image and by the person taking the image. And that’s why it’s an art form.

Explore a niche.

Many of the great photographers, if not all, have chosen a specific genre of photography. After 2 years of taking photos at a professional clip, I’m still exploring my niche. This isn’t something that is always clear to photographers right away. It’s like deciding on a career, you have to find what you’re passionate about, and that takes time. So experiment if you don’t know already. Try different genres of shooting and see if any of them make you particularly happy or excited. Find which style makes you feel alive, that’s generally the one that will fuel your work. I have narrowed down to two broad genres: travel photos of architecture and landscapes, and portraits. This is the content that gets me excited and wanting to go out and learn more and be better than I was last time. When you find the genre that makes you feel that way, keep shooting it, keep learning.

Copy others work.

This sounds bad right. This sounds like it could get you in trouble and make you a fraudulent artist. But don’t worry you won’t be verbally abused or ousted from the photography community by doing this. In fact, in art this is a common practice. Copying has been going on throughout history and its function is a learning tool. Each successful artist of the past or present can be used as a case study to help you learn about important aspects of mastering your craft. The stylistic and the functional elements of an artist’s work can be extremely valuable to a student of photography. By copying their work loosely, not blindly, you can learn how to infuse your work with their thematic and stylistic elements. This will help you learn a style and decide whether it aligns with the type of work you eventually want to create, whatever niche you may decide on. This is how I learned portrait photography. I would save, and still save, examples of work from “the masters of Instagram” to help me find new ways to shoot and pose models. It has been an integral way for me to become better at this genre of photography.

Be attentive to the details.

This is SO IMPORTANT. When you are taking a photo, everything in that frame should be purposeful. The environment should contribute to and align with the essence of the image. You can do this by using the various basic elements of photography: framing and symmetry, lighting, and depth of field. There are lots of other elements of photography but these form the foundation of photography.


In almost every photo you take you should try to draw focus to the subject. Symmetry is probably the most critical element to draw eyes to the subject. With the subject in center frame you can gravitate attention by positioning the subject in between two adjacent objects. Naturally this will direct attention. Wes Anderson isn’t a photographer but symmetry is one of the most prominent characteristics of his films, it makes him unique.


Framing is different than symmetry because you can intentionally position objects in the frame to address the tone of the image. For example, to isolate someone in the image, instead of symmetrically positioning the subject you can offset the subject and this will imply that the subject is isolated. There are many other ways to intentionally frame an image to achieve a thematic tone and that’s why framing can be so important to taking great photos.


Lighting is not always an element that is in your control. But understanding how lighting affects an image will help you become creative in how you shape and use light to achieve thematic undertones. Lighting is low-key one of the most important elements and often one of the most overlooked elements in photography. Lighting will be one of the most influential elements in shaping your image’s tone. Lighting can make an image sad, happy, angry, melancholy, etc. by the colors and tones you decide to use. It can also be just as effective at drawing attention to a subject as the other elements. In portrait photography, you almost always want the model’s face to be sufficiently lit. It’s the money maker, the “star power”, and the best way to highlight that is through the lighting. In travel photography, your worst enemy will be high noon, the lighting will be so harsh and overbearing. But if you have no choice but to shoot at that time, workarounds will be shooting in the shade and using reflections, or just generally using shadows. Again, when you understand the role of lighting in composing an image, you will be more inclined to use light strategically and creatively.

Find your vision.

This is the part where you can define your style. Your vision is the most important element in creating work that will satisfy your creative desire and tell a story, a message, your message, through the composition of an image. This will direct HOW you use all of the functional elements above and guide you in finding your niche. Often times we will naturally gravitate towards a niche and a style based on our personality and our ESSENCE. Listen to and feel that natural pull and go deeper. Ask why you might be feeling that and what about you is associated with that. Exploring this will help establish your niche, the path you want to pursue, and the messages you have to tell the world through photography. If you have a desire to start learning photography, you have a desire to create, to show the world your unique perspective of life. Your vision will ultimately shape your portfolio of work and guide the way you use the elements of photography. Before you go out and just start taking pictures of everything because your photographer friend (or I) told you to, think about some of these things functionally and intrinsically to help shape your path and your style.

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