Last Week’s Instagram

Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. The pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.


The Big Leap

I often get the question what it takes to become a professional photographer. Here are some brief thoughts on what one should consider before making the transition, based on my own experience.

Photography is a wonderful craft, whether you are pursuing it as a professional or as an amateur. For me it’s brought me all over the world, connected me with people of all kinds and made me understand and learn more about the world at large and the various conditions that human beings seize to exist on this planet—not to mention how much it has taught me about myself. Still, and maybe most importantly, photography is a way to express ourselves through images; articulate our concerns, emotions and innermost opinions through a personal vision manifested in the multifaceted media that we call photography.

This is the basic drive behind most photographs I know. And that is also why many photographers who start out as amateurs—as most do—at some point dream about making a carreer out of their passion. Unfortunately, and in all honesty, it’s a tough path to choose, but if you bring the passion and a desire to succeed along with you, it’s all worth it. At least if you ask me. You will probably find that you lose the freedom you so much appreciated when you were still an amateur, you lose control of your artistic expression, and you lose yourself in the commerce and trade of the business. But it’s still worth it—if you ask me.

So what does it take to make the leap to become professional? I have already answered one part of it. It takes a desire to make it. Not necessarily to become the best photographer in the world, but to survive. It takes persistence to keep at it, even when it seems all in vain. It simple takes a hell of a lot of work, both as a photographer and as a businessman or -woman. You will probably work more than you ever thought you would do, but then again, if this is your passion, that’s quite okay, no?

There is a lot that can be said about making it as a professional photographer. In fact there are books written about it, so I will only point to two equally important abilities in addition to desire and persistence which for me are the ultimate prerequisites. To even be considered for hiring to shoot for a magazine or a client or whatever, you need to be able to show a coherent body of work. Not so much work you have previously done for clients, but work that shows your personal vision, work that shows your passion for photography and work that shows that you can handle the craftsmanship in such a way that your vision comes through in every picture. That is why the best recommendation I can give to any aspiring professional—or any professional who wants to stay in the business for that matter—is to produce personal work all the time. Do a long term project and/or do shorter projects. But do. And do it continuously. This is anyway where your passion will find its outlet once you become professional.

The final point I would like to emphasize here is a willingness to constantly develop. Don’t ever think that you have made it to the top, that you are good enough. The moment you think like that, you are not good enough any more. The world around you develops all the time—and faster and faster for each year—and you need to, too. Learn more about the craft, learn more about what you are photographing, keep developing your vision and don’t get stuck in old ideas just because they seem to have worked this far. And not the least keep develop your creativity. In the end this is what you are trying to make a living out of.

For me creativity is the most fantastic part of the actual shooting and also the reason why I have devoted my blog to this topic. To try to understand how creativity evolves and functions in our brains and how we can facilitate its wondrous act is nothing less than fascinating.

Just to make a few, final thoughts here, the four most important factors that will boost your creativity—as far as I see it are: First—and most importantly—be passionate. I am not talking about passionate about photography, but about the subject you shoot. With passion for the subject, the rest will come easily. Without you will never make interesting pictures. Secondly; do the work. As already stated, you will have to work and keep working, also when it comes to creativity. Without daily practise it will shrivel up and vanish. Nothing boosts the creativity as much as being creative. Again keep working on those personal projects. Thirdly; step out of the box, as the expression goes. It means challenge yourself, get out your comfort zone, do something you thought you would never do or dare do. Fourthly; keep your creative well inspired. Get out there, look at the world, enjoy Mother Nature, travel, watch a good movie, go to an exhibition or just sit down on a street café and enjoy a cup of coffee. A famous photographer once said; if your pictures are boring, it’s because you live a boring life.

So have fun, while you photograph the world around you.

Last Week’s Instagram

Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. The pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Different Perspective

I have previously written about the need to have a vision – or intent – when we are photographing (or doing any work of art for that matter). I wrote that a photograph without intent won’t convey significance to the viewers. If we start with an idea or are conscious about the reason why we take a photograph, the final result will reflect this vision of ours and be of much more interest than a random captured photograph. As I wrote; photographic vision is how you see life when the camera is put to the eye (se Vision is Beginning for more).

This concept of a vision driven photographer, isn’t the only way to approach photography, though. Of course you may catch a nice photo now and then if you do choose to shoot unconsciously or randomly, but that’s not what I have in mind. The fact is that many different philosophies about the process of taking (or making) photographs exist – probably as many as there are photographers. Although I believe in the vision driven photography, I am always open to other approaches if they can open up for a different way of shooting. As always it’s about expanding and getting out of the box.

One such approach is called contemplative photography. This practise picks up elements of Zen Buddhism and lets the photographer see subject matter differently than at least I would usually do. The word contemplative in general terms means to think things over, but in this case it means «the process of reflection that draws on a deeper level of intelligence than our usual way of thinking», according to the photographers Andy Karr and Michael Wood who practice and teach contemplative photography. In essence contemplative photography is about how to fully connect with the visual richness of our ordinary, daily experience. In many ways it’s a process of learning how to see.

The practise of contemplative photography has three stages. First you catch as sudden glimpse of something that in some way or another connects with you. It can be a beautiful flower or it can be something as mundane as a sink. Beautiful and mundane are actually words that aren’t supposed to be attributed to things according to the idea of contemplative photography, since all things have their own inherent value. Anyway these flashes of perception, as they are called, happen naturally all the time. You cannot make them happen, but you can learn to recognize them. The next stage is called visual discernment and in means to stay or rest with the experience of the perception. There is a holding-still quality to this phase that allows things to emerge, rather than trying to interpret the nature of the perception. The camera doesn’t come into play at all during these two first stages. Only the last stage does involve the camera and taking the picture. It’s called Forming the Equivalent, which means to use the camera to create the equivalent of the perception just experienced.

In contemplative photography the power of the final image comes from joining clear seeing with genuine expression, free from contrivance.

Contemplative photography is an excellent practice for opening up our ability to see. It enhances our vision and it can create some beautiful, reflective and tranquil pictures. However, if you are a sports photographer or shooting any kind of action it might not be the best approach. I still think any photographer can expand his or her photographic vision by practising contemplative photography. Since it’s impossible to give more than an idea about the practice in a post like this, if you are interested in further information, I recommend the book The Practice of Contemplative Photography by aforementioned Andy Karr and Michael Wood. It’s an inspiring book, filled with practical exercises and photographic assignments. Just to be clear about it, I am not a Buddhist myself but I still find this approach very useful in expanding my vision.

Available on Amazon:
The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last Week’s Instagram

Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. The pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Shake Free Steady Hand

I don’t often write about technical stuff here on my blog, certainly not about equipment. It’s just that I don’t think equipment is important for how we perform as photographers or creatively—with the exception of highly technical depended photography that is. Nevertheless, we cannot shoot without any equipment at all. As a minimum, we at least need to have a cell phone to be able to capture any kind of imagery. Thus, equipment or gear isn’t completely irrelevant.

Every so often some gear comes out that can actually make a difference. Not because it will make us better photographers, but it may make the shooting easier or even make us shoot something we otherwise may not have been able to. Such equipment may be worth a word or two, even on my blog.

Some time ago, I bought a gimbal that fit into this category of gear. It’s the DJI Osmo Pocket gimbal, and it’s its size combined with the capturing quality that makes the difference. The Osmo Pocket is not a camera for stills, although it does offer that option too, but it’s for video shooting, and more specifically for panning or moving the camera while shooting. A gimbal is like a steadycam that absorbs abrupt or shaky movements and make it into a smooth and gliding footage. It can be described as a pivoted point that allows you to rotate the lens along a three axis. With a gimbal, you can make steady movement shots that would otherwise require massive large camera rigs. It ads shake free motion to your camera.

The Osmo Pocket, not only does that, but it is so small, not much bigger than my finger, that it can easily be taken along anywhere you want to go. Combine that we 4K capturing quality and you have an amazing piece of equipment. I hardly produce video at a higher resolution than HD, but the image quality is equally impressive at that lower resolution. It’s also easy to use. After having signed in via the special DJI Mimo App, it’s ready to be used with the tapping of two buttons, one to ignite the gimbal and one to start video recording. And then you can run around and still get smooth footage. And if you need to, you can also dig deeper and do more advanced settings.

So what are the negatives about this gimbal (and of course it’s never all rosy)? Well, its biggest advantage is also its biggest disadvantage. We such a small device you will necessarily have to accept a small built in touchscreen, for instance. I have seen other reviewers complaining about this, but in the end that’s just how it’s going to be, no way around it. It can be bypassed by for instance using the screen on your cell phone instead (more about this a little further down). For me the biggest drawback was that I could not access any advances settings other than by using the cell phone. In particular, I need to be able to control white balance and adjust exposure settings manually. Which I couldn’t do when I first got the Osmo Pocket. But then Osmo released a firmware update, and alas, suddenly it was all available directly on the gimbal itself. It’s still more fiddly and cumbersome because you have to dig into the menu and don’t have dedicated buttons on the camera, but most importantly is still the possibility to be able to make necessary adjustments without having to use the cell phone.

I would also say that the image quality isn’t as high end as video I shoot with my big camera. But compare to the big gimbal rig I need to attach to this camera for steady shooting, the Osmo Pocket is so much more convenient. Other less impressive feature: The Osmo offers timelaps (along with photo, pano and slowmotion) mode, but this is significantly inferior to what for instance GoPro offers.

As mentioned already, the Osmo Pocket can be connect to the cell phone, either by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or directly by a smartphone adapter that fits into the phone’s Lightning or USB-C connector. I prefer the latter, it makes it into one unit, although the connection between the gimbal and the cell phone feels a little wobbly. So far, though, it has been working just fine for me. In fact, whenever possible, I prefer to use the gimbal connected to the cell phone. It gives me a bigger screen where I can actually see what I am shooting. In addition, all settings are much more easily accessible by the app’s interface. Particularly a little handle or virtual joystick right over my right thumb makes it much easier manually turning the lens head smoothly in any direction I want to. It takes a little practise and a light thumb, though. In the beginning, I quickly and unintentionally ended up with the lens pointing up in the air or down to the ground.

Overall, I think the Osmo Pocket is a valuable piece of equipment for video photographers. It’s small and the price is reasonable, around 350 dollars.

For a demonstration, take a look at the video underneath I have created about and with the Osmo gimbal.

Available on Amazon:
DJI Osmo Pocket

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last Week’s Instagram

Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. The pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Backyard Frenzy

I have been out in my backyard with a camera again. As anyone who follows my blog knows, I have this backyard photo project I enjoy doing. It’s been going on for a while. The project is 100 percent unpretentious and is meant to be a place for me to simply play and have fun with my photography. As a matter of fact, no ordinary shooting is allowed. It’s my rule, and since it’s my project I can set any rules I want. The backyard project gives me freedom to be foolish and do mistakes, even more so intentional mistakes.

Here in the northern part of the hemisphere spring is about to be unleashed. Which means that the leaves are unfolding and flowers are about to bloom. Some flowers have already blossomed, such as the crocuses and the snowdrops. They would be an obvious subject for any garden photographer. Now, I am not a garden photographer and my backyard project is not about the obvious, as I just mentioned. On the contrary, if indeed I am to follow my own rules. Nothing wrong with crocuses or snowdrops, or photographing them; I have seen many a captivating photo with either.

In my playfulness mode, I decided to complete ignore flowers or anything that could represent spring. I went out with my camera. Set the shutter to a longer speed, such as 1/4 of a second and up to 1/25 of a second as the fastest. Then I started to swing my arm while releasing the shutter. I went crazy for an extended period, knowing I would need a lot of photos to be able to get anything close to what I was hoping for. In the end, I captured quite a few hundred images, of which I picked and processed nine of them.

I am sure some photographers would think this has nothing to do with photographing, apart from the fact that I am using a camera. No, I don’t have any control of the result, and I have no idea what I would end up with. But sometimes that is exactly what creativity means. Taking chances, doing something out of the ordinary, breaking rules and just go with the flow—or as in this case, the swing of the arm.

According to the Canadian photographer David du Chemin, “Creativity happens in the space between taking in and incubating as many influences as the world allows us, and the sudden rush of a newborn idea that comes into the world in a mix of hard work and joy, sweat and tears. The birth of that idea, and the execution of it, are often on the crest of the wave. They are the high points for which we live.”

Do you have a project that is only for fun, one that you do in order to stimulate your creativity? I would love to hear about it.

If you haven’t seen my previous photos, here is the links to post about my backyard project: Backyard Abstraction, Shooting Sideways, Backyard Bliss, Experimental Backyard, My Photographic Retreat, My Backyard Project, My Personal Challenge, The World from the Backyard, Instagram my Backyard, Out of Comfort Zone and Challenge and Expand.

The quote by David du Chemin is from his book
A Beautiful Anarchy, which is available on Amazon:

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last Week’s Instagram

Once a week—or every so often—I will display one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. The pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.

Let Go of Comparison

One thing that kills our creativity is this constant urge to compare ourselves with others. We look at those who experience success in our field of work or are doing similar things as we are—with envy. We look at the masters who have developed their skills over a lifetime and feel that in comparison our attempts completely suck. And opposite; we might even be terrified to stand out from the crowd.

It so easy to be sucked into a downward spiral of “feeling not good enough”. Then we lose steam and get discouraged. And even if you aren’t completely dispirited, just the fact that this kind of comparison makes you insecure about your own creative skills, causes you to not be the best you could be. Instead of focusing on your work and feeling good about what you produce, you get sidetracked worrying about what other people might think.

In worst of all cases, someone might think that he or she lack creativity completely. Everyone acknowledge that certain skills, like playing the piano, take years of training. But a common misperception is that you are either good at something or not at all, particularly when it comes to creative expressions. Just think about how many who blatantly state that they cannot draw, they don’t have the talent, and yet have never put in the energy and time it takes to become skilled at it. Remember? As kids we could all draw.

I believe every single one of us have inherent creative capacity. It’s just that too many decide they don’t, without even trying. The main culprit for this: They compare themselves of today with those who are better, not with whom they can become.

Creativity has many elements that work together to push our imagination and desire into new directions. As such, there are many ways in which we can encourage creativity. One way to embrace creativity is to let go of comparison. If you are concerned about conforming or about how you measure up to other’s success, you won’t perform the risk taking and trailblazing inherent in the creative process.

Take skiing, which is something I know well, since I have done it all my life. Most of us accept that when we are learning a new sport like skiing, we will fall down, and other skiers on the slope will see us with our faces planted in the snow. But when it comes to creative work, we tend to freeze up. And not just when we are novices. With people who are skilled in something, perfectionism can be every bit as crippling as a lack of confidence in nonskilled.

Since I am writing about skiing, take myself: Although I am a pretty skilled skier, I still hate skiing under lifts or chairs. Others might see me fall or do something stupid! I know it’s dim, isn’t it, but even if I know, it’s hard to defuse this internal reaction.

Wherever you fall on the artistic skill curve, half the battle is to resist judging yourself. For a photographer, if you can raise the camera without caring about others, your are halfway there. Take baby steps, as I wrote in me post Incremental Progress a couple of weeks ago. Walk up to that stranger on the street and just start taking photographs. Don’t think about what others might think. And show you photos to others without thinking what they may think. Then do it again. I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it can be as long as you take that first step—in whatever it is you don’t dare to do because you are afraid of what other may say. More so, you will be surprised how good it feels afterwards.

Remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”

Throughout our lives, forces can push us toward or away from reaching our creative potential: a teacher’s compliment, a parent’s tolerance for tinkering, or an environment that welcomes new ideas. What matters most in the end, though, is this: your belief in your capacity to creative positive change and the courage to take action. Creativity, far from requiring rare gifts and skills, depends on what you believe what you can do with the talents and skills you already have. And you can develop and build on those skills, talents, and beliefs. After all, Hungarian essayist György Konrád once said, “Courage is only accumulation of small steps.”

Let me send you off with a last quote, this one by Nelson Mandela (and thanks to Through Rose Tinted Glasses that made me aware of it): “I learned that courage was not absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

So go out there and create, not fearlessly, but by conquering all those fears that comparison may raise. And most of all, conquer that urge to compare yourself with others.