101 Pearls of Wisdom To Make You A Better Photographer

A long-time pro shares his knowledge, in small, bite-sized bits.

Want to be a better photographer? It's about much more than f/stops and shutter speeds. Here are 101 things you should know about photography if you want to become really, really good at it. (Feel free to add to this list in the comments, below!) The following is being posted simultaneously on the Adorama blog and on Joe Baraban's Digital Photography Blog—Stretching Your Frame Of Mind. And if you really want to immerse yourself in Joe's inspirational ideas, check out his class at the Perfect Picture School of Photography.
And so, without further ado, let's dive right in...


101 things to know about photography:

1.  It’s not the camera; it’s the ten inches behind it that’s important.

2.  Never photograph a child without asking permission from a parent first.

3. “When you get lucky, be ready”…Eddie Adams.

4. Be sure to always have a tripod with you.

5. Light is everything.

6. Remove the Histogram from your camera. It’s not what you want to be looking at when you have seconds of light left.

7. Get up close and personal to your subject.

8. Always have a roll of gaffer tape and WD-40 with you.

9. Crop in the camera so you’ll know where the edges of your frame and the four corners are.

10. Shadows are your best friend.

11. Clip the highlights for more energy.

12.  See past first impressions.

13. Always consider the scene and its outcome.

14. It’s not what you put into a picture that counts, it’s what you don’t put in that matters.

15. Always carry a camera with you.

16. Marry someone whose father owns a big camera store.

17. Bracketing in the camera will make you a better photographer.

18. It’s ok to get dirt on the front of your shirt when you’re composing a photo.

19. Always shoot in RAW.

20. Lens shades help.

21. Pick up the trash in your composition before shooting.

22. Sometimes a pretty sunset to you is just another pretty sunset to someone else.

23. Challenge yourself. Try shooting with your least favorite lens.

24. Only show your best photographs.

25. Study the ‘Masters.’ They were here way before you.

26. Pre-visualize. Try to see it in your mind first.

27. Use the elements of visual design and composition when taking pictures.

28. Shoot on manual, don’t let the camera tell you what to do.

29. Take an online class or a workshop to hone your skills. (Adorama runs workshops regularly in its New York headquarters)

30. Break all the rules you can, but first, I suggest you learn them.

31. Have your camera body facing down when changing the lens.

32. Let someone who knows what they’re doing clean your sensor.

33. Bring along protection for your camera, and shoot in the rain.

34. Photographic prints make great Christmas gifts.

35. Golden light is the best light.

36. Don’t let your camera fall into a Lava Pool.

37. Manufacturing excuses for your photos is not cool.

38. Underexposing looks better than overexposing.

39. Make pictures, don’t just take them.

40. Martinis and photography don’t mix very well.

41. Taking art classes will improve your photography.

42. The Rule of Thirds is boring.

43. The Horizon Line is the most important line.

44. You need not go any farther than your bathroom to take good photos.

45. Sometimes asking forgiveness is better than asking permission.

46. A copyright stamp won’t protect you unless your photo is registered with the library of Congress.

47. Taking a great photograph is a lot like scoring a touchdown. Never tell anyone it was your first one.

48. A camera on a tripod is like a canvas on an easel.

49. Make the viewer an active participant in your imagery so he’ll stick around longer.

50. In photography, bigger (cameras) is not better.

51. “ You can’t depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus”…Mark Twain.

52. You find the Light, and you’ll find the shot.

53. When you buy a new camera, read the manual.

54. Good pictures are like good jokes. If you have to explain them, they’re not so good.

55. Shoot to live, live to shoot.

56. Stick with one ISO, and you’ll never have to worry about switching back.

57. Back up all your images all the time.

58. Controlled distortion can work.

59. Always brake for photographs.

60. “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but having new eyes”…Marcel Proust.

61. We perceive in a 2x3 aspect ratio (a rectangle).

62. An active imagination is the Fountain of Youth.

63. Learn to see, feel and sense the ever-changing Light.

64. The background is just as important.

65. Have your subject walking or looking out of the frame.

66. Don’t show the sky in bad light.

67. Vertical formats have more energy than horizontals.

68. Make sure that when you format your memory card, you really wanted to.

69. Sometimes when more is better, too much is just right.

70. Always know the direction of the light.

71. Set your camera on AWB and ‘Fuhgetaboutit’.

72. Don’t come home with an empty memory card.

73. Including Patterns in our photos is good; breaking the rhythm of the pattern is even better.

74. Photographers are artists who use a different medium.

75. A triple-colored mat won’t make a bad photograph look better.

76. A glass of wine after a great sunset shoot is intoxicating.

77. Balance the Negative Space and Positive Space.

78. “Been there shot that” is not a good thing to say.

79. Create ‘energy’ in your photographs.

80. Try to lead the viewer around your composition.

81. Adobe Photoshop is a good thing, used sparingly.

82. If you really want to be a better photographer, shoot on manual.

83. Buy your kid a toy camera on his first birthday.

84. Be objective, not subjective, when editing your pictures.

85. There’s nothing like seeing the world through a viewfinder.

86. 1/60th of a second at F/8 is the same exposure as 1/125th of a second at F/5.6.

87. Color communicates ideas.

88. If you had to choose between Lightroom and Photoshop, pick Lightroom.

89. Follow Photography Blogs.

90. Don’t loan equipment to friends without including this phrase, “you break it, and it’s yours.”

91. Take portraits with wide-angle lens.

92. Learn “The Decisive Moment” by studying Henri Cartier-Bresson.

93. Give the viewer several ways to enter and leave the frame.

94. Don’t forget about silhouettes.

95. Setting your WB to cloudy on an overcast day won’t necessarily make your picture look better.

96. More shots per hour.

97. HDR prints sell like hotcakes in the decorative center of a Wal-Mart.

98. The early bird always catches the best light as well as the worm.

99. Use ‘gesture’ to communicate an emotional response.

100. When you have a gray day, be funny. Humor conquers all.

101. Never leave any of your equipment in your pictures.


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