1. People love to make rules. It’s ok to listen, but it’s also ok to totally disregard them.
When I first started making nature photos, I ran into many rules and rule keepers. Everything was already laid out: – this is not allowed, this is allowed.. if you want to be one of us that is – . I did not understand what was all of about nor why. Trained as a contemporary painter I was taught to break all the rules, as long as you knew why you were breaking them. In other words, know the theory but in practice try to achieve your own voice, your own artistic statement. When I looked around at all the photos I was exposed to back then, they all looked similar to one another. Luckily I was eventually exposed to great wildlife photographer (Vincent Munier, Markus Varesvuo… ) that were doing whatever they felt like and doing it in an amazing way. I don’t think I have achieve a unique voice… yet. But I’m on my way!
2. Loving and respecting nature is more important than getting the award-winning shot.
I have met wonderful people traveling the world, but I’ve also met people willing to do anything to get a shot, including destroying nature or disturbing it. I love nature first, I love photography second. Is that simple. The end does not justify the means, not in life and certainly not in nature photography.
3. There is natural beauty all around us, you just have to learn to observe.
I now walk any street, anywhere, at any time and I see beauty. Just as a lawyer sees liabilities anywhere he goes or an architect sees design in every corner, once you learn how to see, things pop-up everywhere: bird songs, tree roots, rainbows in oil stains, fungi in the sidewalk… you name it! Learning to really “see” the world is the most valuable thing I learned in art school.
4. The decisions you make editing your images are as important as the decisions you make taking them.
Lately I find my self spending almost as much time in front of the computer as getting the shot. Editing your images is a second stage in the creative process. As photographers, our format is predetermined by our camera’s sensors, so within certain boundaries, you can be very creative when it comes to editing. I never add anything o remove anything from my photos, I think ethics are a big part of my love and respect for nature and my craft… but I think cropping can be a great way to tell a story within the story. I mean, photography in itself is the art of cropping. I also think playing with your white balance can create atmospheres to enhance the narrative in your image. So go ahead, play around.
5. There is too much information out there. Learn to filter.
Wow!! Every where you look there is a guy telling you 10 things he learned by being a wildlife photographer!! WTF!! Anyways, read, but filter… no one has an absolute truth. If you pay attention to everything you read you’ll never have time to make photos. Get inspired, not psycho!
6. Dare to try different things.
Sometimes is an image that was incorrectly exposed or an egret that was blurry in your shot.. All I’m saying is, do not become an expert in your own style, do not set your self too many personal rules or boundaries. Experiment! Try to feel uncomfortable by trying things you thought you would never try (and I only mean that in photography, do not come blaming me if you apply this rule to your personal life and wake up in a traveling circus wearing flippers and spooning a clown).
7. The story behind an image is usually greater than the image itself, so savor the moment and become a good story teller.
Being out in the big outdoors is the most rewarding feeling I can think of. The only reason I take nature photos is so I can be out there as long as I can and try to capture a little bit of that feeling in an image. Do not obsess over the perfect image, but rather over enjoying the place and the moment.
8. There are two kinds of wildlife photographers: those who focus on collecting species and those who focus on the beauty of an image. Both are correct!
I know examples of both. Personally I am more on the second group, but I think either one is fine. I have a lot of very good friends and fine photographers that enjoy what I call photo-birding; keeping lists of species and obsessing over growing that list… just as birders do, but by taking the image, not just the note. I rather make a beautiful image in a beautiful moment of a very common bird than to capture a rare species in an ordinary moment and an ordinary image. Photos are a tool to tell stories, and I like to tell stories, not to keep lists.
9. Traveling is one of the best ways to learn how to love nature.
What can I say? Traveling is the most enriching experience a human being can have. It will make you smarter, it will make you more humble and grateful. Traveling feeds the souls. Traveling expands your capacity to be amazed and enjoy the natural world. There is no other activity in life that contributes more to making you a better human being that to travel. And by travel I mean to take a journey into the place but also into the culture.
10. No, the eye does not have to be sharp and the background does not have to be totally clean to make a great photo.
Ah! This rule… I couldn’t leave it alone could I? I was so close!!!!
I hate this rule. I really really do. Every one obsesses about getting eye contact and a sharp eye. You will read this over and over again on forums and photography groups:
– Great eye contact -, – Very sharp eye.. congrats, great capture –
I don’t know who made that rule, but it is stupid and arbitrary. An image is an image, it may be well crafted or not, it may be beautiful or not, it may be inspiring or not, it may be provoking or not… but trust me, there is no body part that HAS to be sharp to make it any of those things. Do not let rules kill your voice!