Rudyard Kipling on Success in Photography and Life

December 27, 2016

If I’ve learned anything in my many years it is this:

“You succeed by learning a skill, applying what you know, failing, learning something more, trying again. You repeat, failing a bit less each time until finally, if you persist, you succeed. Learn, fail, learn more, try more, eventually succeed.”

It is THE process for becoming good. Even “The Best”. True in photography, true in life.

I think Rudyard Kipling summed it up very well when he said:

“I keep six honest serving men,
they taught me all I know,
their names are what, why and when,
and how and where, and who.”

If you want to be great in whatever you do, make use these six counselors to help you. Persistence and dedication are your allies. Most folks will never be great simply because they lack the will to do what others won’t, to have what others can.

Want to be great? Do what the majority won’t!

Let’s take Mr. Kipling’s six honest serving folks one at a time and see how they can help us become more successful photographers.

What: Do you take pictures of the same things everyone else does? Stop it! People crave variety, something with a “Wow!” factor.

Why: Every great photograph answers this question. “Why am I looking at this?” If your photo doesn’t instantly offer your viewer the answer to this question, you’ve got to try harder, try again. Because the viewer shouldn’t have to, won’t think. “Why are you showing me this?” if you can answer that question with your photo you’re miles ahead. Capture the emotion, the drama, capture a color, a light, something special.

When: Do you shoot all your photos at the same time? Stop! Mix it up. Early morning and evening offer the best lighting for outdoor scenes. Cloudy days can be great too. Shooting on a sunny afternoon will put awful shadows in your work, so unless you’re going for a harsh look, avoid these times. Often it is helpful to add a “When” to your photos. Including weddings, birthdays, and other special events can add greatly to the interest of your photo.

How: How much do you study photography? Study proven and new methods? You should always be asking, “How is that done?” As long as you stay curious about your interest, and try new things, you will improve. Often before an assignment I’ll flip through 100’s and 100’s of photos on the internet to search for ideas and inspiration. Not to copy someone, but to see “How did they cover this subject?” I’ll look for an hour or so and then go to bed. Almost always, the next day I’ll have dozens of ideas I’ll want to try based on images I saw from the day before. Look at the light in all the great photos you see and try to figure out how they achieved that look – so you can do it yourself. You can also physically change how you shoot. Shoot telephoto. Shoot wide angle. Shoot macro. Try fixing your aperture for a day and adjust around that. Try fixing your shutter speed so it forces you to learn to compensate with aperture. Change how you shoot your subjects, lie on the ground and shoot up, get a ladder and shoot down. Great photographers (designers and other artists) often have a signature “Look”. What’s yours?

Where: Where do you go to take photos? Go someplace different! Often we get in a rut, shooting the same things. Go somewhere different to find different subjects. If you normally shoot outdoors, shoot indoors. If you normally shoot pets, shoot kids. If you normally shoot kids, shoot teens. Shoot weddings. Shoot still lifes. Are your backgrounds always the same, change them. Change where you typically stand. Get closer! You can also change where you get your knowledge from. Hundreds of site on the internet. Try a new one.

Who: Who are you learning from? If it’s not working, change that. If is is working, honor that pro by learning faster! Maybe you need to change who you shoot? Or maybe you need to join a club or forum so you can get feedback from some different “whos”? Anywho, changing your reference source can be a great way to change your results.

So there you have it. Six ways to shake up your habits and make great strides toward becoming better at photography and everything you do.

Photography: What you need to learn in photography, you’ll need to learn to be successful in everything. So, you might as well grab your camera and have some fun. Make photography part of your total fitness package. Mind, body and soul.

It’s total fitness photography.

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