Being an artist has nothing to do with your camera, your kit or your photo knowledge.

It has nothing to do with how long you’ve been taking photos or if you shoot on manual or automatic.

Being an artist is totally and completely about the mindset you inhabit when you are out shooting, and what you create from this state.

It’s about looking at the world in a way that is different from how we usually see it. It’s ridding ourselves of the habits to ‘get somewhere,’ to accomplish and tick things off our to-do lists.

It’s all about immersing ourselves, our senses, our beings in this beautiful, wild, chaotic and amazing world.

It’s diving deeper, seeing more and finding new and interesting ways to capture what we discover.

Your photos become about expressing who you are, encompassing everything that you have seen and experienced in your life.

This to me is the joy of photography. So I have some simple, but immensely powerful tips that will help you connect to your inner artist.

“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.” – Ernst Haas

7 Powerful Techniques to Help You See More Compelling Images

First – ignore everyone

We spend so much of our lives in contact with other people. At work, our efforts are analyzed by our colleagues, boss or clients.

At home, our children, partner or family will comment on how we live, wash clothes, what we eat etc. We post something on Facebook and someone comments; everyone has an opinion.

As we are in constant contact with other humans, we find ourselves playing a role, fitting into expectations or rules or ways of living. We probably don’t even think about how the constant stream of people in and out of our lives makes us adjust and alter our behavior.

Creating art operates in a very different space – completely outside this interaction with other humans.

Being in the space of creativity is about forgetting what other people might think of our work, what other people are doing, literally everything that connects us to other human beings.

We need to release ourselves from our ‘normal lives’ and the way we live.

Because art can never be created by a committee. And what is completely unique and interesting about you is what will make the most compelling photos.

2. Know that we aren’t seeing the world as it really is

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” – Jonathan Swift

Did you know that your brain processes two billion pieces of visual data per second? And yet we only see about 50 bits of this information.

Of course, our brains are doing us a massive favor. If it didn’t block out most of what was happening around us, we couldn’t focus.

What’s interesting here is what 50 bits of information are you seeing, and what 50 bits am I seeing?

If we are seeing such a small selection of what’s available, then it’s highly unlikely we are all seeing similar things.

Which makes our personal world highly selective.

I find this so exciting because it shows how we are always able to create something new if we only open up our awareness.

This explains why we can all stand in front of the same scene and take different photos (this happens all the time on my workshops.)

Let’s celebrate that there is so much more to discover in the world around us.

3. Take your time to really observe the world around you

One thing I constantly see in my workshops is when people find a subject they love, they shoot it, then move on way too quickly.

I think it’s a natural response to how we live in this modern life. We are very driven by results. We shoot something, then we move on to the next thing. Almost like we are ticking a box.

But the way to be more creative in your photography is to forget about where you want to go next.

In fact, forget about everything that is not totally related to the present moment you are inhabiting, and the subject you are facing.

Take your time. Watch the light. Maybe wait for the light to change to see what would happen to your subject.

Look at the shadows. The people that are passing. What’s happening around your subject? Feel the atmosphere, and maybe how it is changing.


As you see more and get to know your subject more, new angles will open up on how to shoot. Maybe the weather will change, making more dramatic images, or the light will soften creating a totally different feel to the mood of the shot.

The more you observe your subject the more it will reveal different qualities to you. You will notice more subtleties.

There is no rush. Allow yourself all the time you need to observe and shoot your subject.

4. It’s all about the light

“I am forever chasing light. Light turns the ordinary into the magical.” – Trent Parke

When people ask me what I photograph, I always say the same thing – light.

My biggest passion and main subject in photography is light. I love light in all of its forms.

The joyful, effervescent light of a spring morning; the deep, brooding, metallic grey light before a storm; the deep, deep blues of twilight in the city; the misty, melancholic light of a winter’s afternoon.

Light is always changing. Each day brings us something different and each part of the day has different qualities. And when you have interesting light it makes your subject so much more compelling.

Your job is to play with light and your subject, seeing what happens when the light changes.

What qualities are revealed in your subject in different light?

“Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman

5. Photography is all about feeling

When we see a photo we really love it’s rarely only because it’s nice to look at.

Beyond the composition, color, light and all of the things that we can organize, there is a more important element to a photograph that is more elusive and hard to capture.

This element is emotion.

“Photography’s a case of keeping all the pores of the skin open, as well as the eyes. A lot of photographers today think that by putting on the uniform, the fishing vest, and all the Nikons, that that makes them a photographer. But it doesn’t. It’s not just seeing. It’s feeling.” – Don McCullin

When a subject stirs emotion in us – joy, love, fear – it will transfer into our photo. And when the viewer sees that image, we want that emotion to be evoked in them too.

Capturing emotion is an art, and it’s not automatic. But it’s totally worth focusing on. Find subjects that stir your emotion, and try to capture that feeling in your images.

The most iconic photos that we remember for years, or the ones that really speak to us personally, will be communicating a powerful feeling.

6. Be in awe

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” – Mary Oliver

If we think that photography is all about feeling then the most sensible option when deciding what to photograph is to find subjects that fill you with emotion.

I like to ask myself – what fills me with such deep excitement I am in total awe when I see it?

You can probably guess that light is what makes my heart burst with excitement and makes me want to get my camera out.

But there are other things too.

Exploring nature is always something that excites me. Spending days walking through the hills near where I live in Southern Spain, or through the pretty English countryside of my adopted homeland on a beautiful summer’s morning.

Cities too, especially at sunrise when they are empty and beautiful. I like to explore, wander and see what I come across.

It doesn’t matter though what your subject is, the most important part of your decision of what to photograph is that it has to be something that stirs your soul. It has to thrill you. It has to fill you with awe.

Otherwise, what’s the point of taking the photo?

7. Stop thinking

Now, the last step is often the hardest. We are trained from an early age to be in our heads. To be thinking and doing all the time.

However, if you want to hit that artistic mindset where you are present, connected to the world and in total creative flow, you will not be thinking or analyzing what’s happening around you.

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things” – Ray Bradbury

Once you have made the choices of when and what to shoot, then you can let yourself go.

Being an artist is losing yourself and becoming part of this magical and amazing world.

It’s daring to lose yourself to see what you can find. It’s being prepared to forget all the things that you have to do or worry about.

For this we have to be a little courageous, we have to experiment and try, we have to make mistakes and trust that we will take good photos (eventually). But –

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” – Vincent Van Gogh

I hope you enjoyed these ideas.

The post Learning to See Like an Artist – 7 Powerful Techniques to Help You See More Compelling Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Anthony Epes.

This is blog #979


An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph

Many beginner photographers, and some more experienced ones, fall into the trap of thinking a good subject will make a good photo. It’s not true. I’ve seen loads of terrible photos of fabulous subjects.

A good photographer makes good photos, no matter what the subject. I like how British photographer Martin Parr describes his work. He says his aim is to make the ordinary look extraordinary.

New Zealand dairy farm in the morning light.
The late afternoon light makes this landscape more interesting. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

To make the best photo, whether or not your subject is impressive, you need to:

Achieving all these five aspects of interesting photographs in a single frame is challenging. It takes skill, practice, and patience.

Being mindful of these pillars of good photography will lead you away from the snapshot trap when you see something interesting. Learning to keep these things in mind, you will gradually improve and be able to make the most mundane object look great when you photograph it.

Without the interesting cloud formation, this landscape would be rather dull. © Kevin Landwer-Johan

Master your camera technique

Confidence in managing your camera is essential. Using your camera without understanding much of how it works will frustrate your creative growth. Learning what each of the main settings does on your camera is not difficult.

Control of the exposure is made using the apertureshutter speed, and ISO settings. Focus is either automatic or manual. None of these are hard to master when you put your mind to it and spend some time practicing. Figuring out what part of your composition needs to be exposed well and where the focus point needs to be are part of your creative choice.

Mastering the basic technical aspects of using your camera will free you up to become more creative with your photography.

Careful exposure makes this winter tree more interesting.

Press your shutter at the right time

Choose the optimum moment to take your photo. Consider the action happening in front of you. Look at the colors as they change when the sun is rising and setting. Watch a flower blooming in your garden. Each instance you take a photo, make sure it’s the optimum one.

What determines the decisive moment for when you take a photo depends on many things. Each circumstance is different, so it’s important for you to observe what’s happening carefully.

Sometimes you’ll need to respond quickly. Other times you’d best be patient and wait, or come back another time. This is so for landscape and architecture photography where the right light and weather conditions are so vital.

Anticipating when the best time is will help you nail it more often. Think about what will happen next. What is the sequence of events that will unfold? How are clouds moving in the sky? Will they cover the sun before it sets?

In situations where you have some control over your subject and the action, timing is not so difficult to predict. You can ask the model to flick her hair back on the count of three. You could ask your kids to run and jump over the sleeping dog and be ready for them.

Timing is one of the key elements which influence good photos. Each picture you take is a short moment in time. Making sure you capture the right moment can often make or break your photographs.

The day I took this photo it was raining – all day. The sun came out in the evening and it was worth waiting for. 

Craft your compositions

Relying on your subject to make your photo interesting means you may not compose it well. Don’t just plonk it central in your viewfinder, focus and click. Everyone with a camera can do that.

Move around. Look for a better background without distractions. Take a little time to think through some rules of composition. Are there strong lines you could incorporate? Will using the rule of thirds make the photo stronger? What else is in the frame and is it relevant to your photo?

Use different focal length lenses to incorporate more or less background. With a wide lens, you’ll see more background. Using a longer lens will cut more of the background and help isolate your subject. Longer lenses also give the impression of compressed distance where wide lenses do the opposite.

Lots of the best street photography looks as if it’s been made in a hurry. People rushing past, glancing at the camera. Or absorbed in what they are doing. Mostly these photos are not snapshots. The photographer has planned well and anticipated the action. Then waited.

Action is more easily caught and composed well when patience and observation are applied.

The whole dam was interesting, but it was too hard to find an interesting angle for the whole structure, so I cropped in tight.

Lighting for feeling

Hard light or soft light will create different moods.

Strong contrast when you have hard light is more dramatic. If you want a softer, more romantic feeling, hard light is not the best. Even with an interesting subject, such as a newborn baby or a flower, harsh lighting will not provide a gentle feeling in your photograph.

Matching the lighting to the mood you wish to create in your photograph will make the photo feel right. There are no fixed rules. You must decide for yourself with each photo. This is part of your creative expression as a photographer.

Think about the direction the light’s coming from. It is hard or soft? How is it affecting your subject? Is there too much shadow or contrast for the mood you want?

Old cross in a cemetery.

Connect with your subject

No matter what you choose to photograph, the more you connect with your subject the better photos you will make of it.

I always thought this applied only to people, and maybe animals. I’ve changed my perspective, and now think it can apply to anything you photograph.

I love flowers. My wife loves them more and loves to grow them. She takes much better photographs of flowers than I do because she has that passion. It shows in her pictures.

If you love the location you live in, or maybe where you grew up, you will photograph it more intimately than a stranger to it probably will.

How you connect with people you’re photographing will certainly make a huge difference in your photos.


Take your time. Be more observant. When you find your next alluring subject, consider how you can make the best photo of it. Don’t rely on its interest value alone.

Travel photography is prone to snap-shooting. When you travel, you always see new and interesting things to photograph. This is part of what makes travel so interesting. I often encourage people who take our photography workshops not to be travel snapshooters.

Ansel Adams said, “The most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” Think about your subject and how you can treat it.

Remember, it’s the photographer who makes the picture interesting, not the subject.

The post An Interesting Subject Does Not Make An Interesting Photograph appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Kevin Landwer-Johan.

This article and all photos were done by Kevin-Landwer-Johan. A special thanks to his great talent for sharing his talents in presenting this article to Digitial Photography School.
This is blog # 978


Photos of the Week: 6/13/2019: National Geographic’s 2019 Travel Photo Contest Winners Announced!

Some of the most amazing Photo Contest Winners seem to always come from National Geographic. And here we show them, as they were shown on the MSN.com/ Travel Website. Here is the winning Photos and the details of the winners:

Grand Prize Winner, Cities: GREENLANDIC WINTER
“Upernavik is a fishing village on a tiny island in west Greenland. Historically, Greenlandic buildings were painted different colors to indicate different functions, from red storefronts to blue fishermen’s homes—a useful distinction when the landscape is blanketed in snow. This photo was taken during my three-month, personal photo project to present life in Greenland.” — Photograph and caption by Weimin Chu

Second Place Winner, Cities: IN THE AGE OF AVIATION
“There are four runways at San Francisco’s International Airport (SFO). This is a rare look at the approach end of runways 28 left and right. I had dreams of documenting the motion at SFO and [arranged] permission to fly directly overhead. What a windy day it was. Winds at SFO were 35-45 miles per hour, which meant a bumpy flight, and it was much harder to control the plane while photographing. The flight was challenging, but it was also so thrilling that I couldn’t sleep for several days afterward.” — Photograph and caption by Jassen Todorov

Third Place Winner, Cities: STREETS OF DHAKA
“People pray on the street in Dhaka, Bangladesh during Ijtema. Bishwa Ijtema is one of the major Islamic religious gatherings which is [observed] annually in Dhaka and millions of Muslims visit [during this time]. Dedicated prayer grounds are not [large] enough to handle this huge number of people, so large numbers of people come to [Tongi], the main street of Dhaka. All the ground transportation and [pedestrian crossings] are suspended during that time.” — Photograph and caption by Sandipani Chattopadhyay

People’s Choice Winner, Cities: FOLLOW THE LIGHT
“This photo was taken at Seda Larung Gar Buddhist Academy. It’s around a 14-hour drive to get to Larung Gar [from the nearest city], and the journey is quite tough due to the mountainous roads. This view [shows] small red homes on the left side, while empty green roads [curve] on the other side. The monks follow the lights to [return] home. I was lucky to document [the area] and was deeply moved by [the monks] faith. I plan to [return] to Seda next summer [to make] more photos.” — Photograph and caption by Junhui Fang

First Place Winner, Nature: TENDER EYES
“A gorgeous griffon vulture is seen soaring the skies in Monfragüe National Park in Spain. How can anyone say vultures bring bad omens when looking at such tenderness in this griffon vulture’s eyes? Vultures are important members of the environment, as they take care of recycling dead matter. Vultures are noble and majestic animals—kings of the skies. When looking at them flying, we should feel humbled and admire them.” –– Photograph and caption by Tamara Blazquez Haik

Second Place Winner, Nature: DREAM CATCHER
“What happens before a wave breaks? That question has been my assignment this past year. On this particular day, I decided to shoot the sunset on the east side of Oahu, Hawaii. About 100 photographers were out in the morning, but I had the evening to myself. The textures from the trade winds [created] subtle colors from the west and blended well using my 100mm lens. I had to look into my viewfinder while this wave was breaking. Not an easy task when a wave is about to crush you.” — Photograph and caption by Danny Sepkowski

Third Place Winner, Nature: DUSKY DOLPHINS
“Dusky dolphins often travel together in great numbers in the deep canyons of the Kaikoura, New Zealand in search of food. They glide through the ocean effortlessly, coming up only to breathe. Dusky dolphins are fast and will often keep pace with a speeding boat. I waited on the bow of the boat as the Dusky dolphin almost broke [through the surface]. Their elegance and streamlined bodies are built for speed and maneuverability—accentuated by the smooth, clear water of the New Zealand coastline.” — Photograph and caption by Scott Portelli

Honorable Mention, Nature: KING OF THE ALPS
“A herd of ibexes in Switzerland’s Bernese Oberland cross a ridge above Lake Brienz. Their powerful and impressive horns show who the king of the Alps are. Ibexes are ideally adapted to live at dizzying heights. The continuing ridge path and the rising fog show the natural habitat of these animals. After a few hours of observing the animals, I spotted the ibex herd on one side of the ridge. Several ibexes stopped at the transition [to view the world around them].” — Photograph and caption by Jonas Schäfe

People’s Choice Winner, Nature: COLORADO RIVER
“The Colorado River is very shallow due to the active withdrawal of water from it for agricultural purposes. When [the river] meets the ocean in Mexico, it is almost dry. This aerial photo was taken from a Cessna [airplane].” –– Photograph and caption by Stas Bartnikas

First Place Winner, People: SHOWTIME
“Actors prepare for an evening opera performance in Licheng County, China. I spent the whole day with these actors from makeup to [stage]. I’m a freelance photographer, and the series ‘Cave Life’ is a long-term project of mine. In China’s Loess Plateau, local residents dig holes in the loess layer [to create cave living spaces, known as yaodongs] and use the heat preservation properties to survive cold winters. This series mainly records the life, entertainment, belief, labor, and other [daily] scenes of the people living in the caves.” — Photograph and caption by Huaifeng Li

Second Place Winner, People: DAILY ROUTINE
“This photo was taken at a public park at Choi Hung House in Hong Kong. When I visited during the afternoon, it was very crowded with many young people taking pictures and playing basketball. But when I visited at sunrise, it was quiet and a different place. [The area] is [designated] for neighborhood residents in the early morning, and there was a sacred atmosphere. I felt divinity when I saw an old man doing tai chi in the sun.” — Photograph and caption by Yoshiki Fujiwara

Third Place Winner, People: HORSES
“Every year on the feast of Saint Anthony the ceremony of the purification of animals, called Las Luminarias, is celebrated in Spain. In the province of Avila, horses and horsemen jump over bonfires in the ritual that has been maintained since the 18th century. The animals [are not hurt], and it is a ritual that is repeated every year. To make the photo, I moved from Seville to San Bartolomé de Pinares because I am very interested in photographing ancestral rites.” — Photograph and caption by José Antonio Zamora

Honorable Mention, People: MOOD
“I captured this layered moment during sunrise along the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi, India. This boy was thinking silently, and visitors were enjoying the loud musical chirping of thousands of seagulls. The early morning golden light from the east mixed with the western blue light, creating a [ethereal atmosphere]. I am a regular visitor [here] and have photographed this place for the past three years. Now, many national and international photographers have begun visiting [too].” — Photograph and caption by Navin Vatsa

People’s Choice Winner, People: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
“People in Meizhou, China perform a fire dragon dance, showered by molten iron spewing firework-like sparks to celebrate the Lantern Festival. Showered by molten, firework-like sparks, people in Meizhou, China performs fire dragon dance to celebrate the Lantern Festival. This celebration has been performed since the Qing Dynasty and was listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage in China in 2008. [The festival] marks the first full moon night in the Chinese lunar year, symbolizing unity and perfection.” — Photograph and caption by Léo Kwok


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This is blog #977