We Never Stop Learning

12 Sep
Snow Clouds in the Desert

Snow Clouds in the Desert

I challenge you to make your life a masterpiece. I challenge you to join the ranks of those people who live what they teach, who walk their talk. – Tony Robbins

Technology evolves, and to survive as artists, so must we.

One of the things I’ve struggled with for a long time – something I suspect most photographers struggle with – is coming up with a well-defined plan for success in the photo industry.  In my case, specifically, the landscape/nature photography genre.  There are so many angles that need to be considered…  How does one define success?  Is it simply being able to do what one loves?  To some degree, I think the answer is yes.


Love of what we do doesn’t pay the bills though, so monetary compensation needs to be considered as well.  How does one make a living as a landscape photographer?  Generally speaking, it seems you can pursue a living as a teacher/guide (running workshops, writing tips books, running blogs and G+ hangouts, or in the world of publications – magazines, travel guides, etc.  Or both. Haha


So, how do we break into either world?  First, you absolutely need quality images.  You need to educate yourself, practice your photo skills and be an editing champ.


But that’s not enough, is it?  The world is filled with many many many amazing photographers, and chances are, you’ve only heard of a fraction of them.  Just like any other company or business, you need to market yourself.


But then…is that enough?  From my perspective…that of a female…seems like it might be.  But then again, it might not be.  Fstoppers put out a little editorial a few years back that broke down the disparity between salaries (men vs women), the numbers based on what type of photography your pursue, and the overall numbers of photographers by gender.  According to FStoppers, as of the date of publication, yes…photography is still a man’s world (though the numbers of female photogs is growing).  For the whole article and its references, go here.


So, while I’ve always felt that landscapes tend to be a bit of a boys club, and sometimes struggle with how difficult it is to find a toe hold in the genre, the MOST interesting part of the whole read was the commentary at the end.  One of the readers mentioned that men are more gadget and math brained, therefore more interested in the technicalities of photography versus “making pretty pictures”.  This, as you can imagine, offended some of the ladies out there.  Personally though, I took it as a challenge.


Truly, we can never stop learning….there is always something to improve upon.  So rather than be offended at the potentially offensive view points expressed at the end of the article, I used it to fuel my educational fire.  These last few weeks I’ve been practicing my edits, trying to find new ways to attack problem photos that I had been putting off editing.  (At least one of those will be coming up in a future post, in which we are doing a group edit challenge between myself, David Pasillas Photography, WhereToWillie and Will’s photographer-in-training, Britta.)




 The finished edit (left) versus the RAW (right).

This particular image was one of those that required a little more work than just your standard curves and levels.  I took this bad-boy in Joshua Tree Nat’l Park in March, just as it was about to snow.  YES!  I said SNOW!  The sky was flat, so I took this image intending to change it to a black and white and rely on the texture of the rock and the interesting trees as points of interest.  The problem I was running into was that I wanted to adjust just a particular tonal range to make the trees pop without laying on heavy contrast throughout the whole image.  Now, there are a lot of time consuming, inaccurate ways to go about this that require a lot of work.


Or, there are luminosity masks, a super genius invention.  While I have used them before, I was not proficient in them.  I took my FStopper’s go-get-em attitude and applied it to practicing and playing with this image.  In the end, while I still don’t love the flat sky, I’m much happier with the tonal adjustments throughout the image and feel much more confident using luminosity masks.


So where am I going with this?  Don’t be afraid to try things that are intimidating, or outside of your comfort level.  The more tools we have in photo-tool-bag, the higher our chances of success become, by whatever definition you use.  🙂

7 Responses to “We Never Stop Learning”

  1. bulldog September 13, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    If there are more male than female photogs why do I find myself surrounded by females when out on some shoots… ?? It is not an easy field to break into, and I have no ambitions of trying, but I’ve always felt, a photo will have different meanings to different people… some photo wins in magazines do not get me excited at all yet the fifth or sixth might be my favourite… so my feeling is, judging as much what Jan Public likes is as important as judging what you like… just a thought…

    • seeingspotsphoto September 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

      A very good point. The public is made up of a gazillion (give or take haha) potential customers. And I agree 150%…any art, photography in general, is so subjective. I think thats part of the reason its so hard to make a living doing it. Besides living or dying by public opinion and the toll that takes on an artists ego and creativity, it’s hard to know if your work will produce enough income to survive by. That’s why I think having a business plan/goal is so important, and having the flexibility to change it is key to sucess.

  2. David Pasillas September 13, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    What was it Ron Burgundy said about women’s brains? I kid, of course.

    I really should finish those edits…hopefully it won’t take me 6 months like this one did for you 😉

    • seeingspotsphoto September 14, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

      You, sir, have bad hair.

      Also…yes. So far, I’ve done Will’s. I looked at mine and almost cried. I’ll save that one for last, so yours is next. haha

      • David Pasillas September 14, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

        I only did his too. Maybe we should mess with him and change our submissions since my reaction was the same as yours when I looked at mine again.

  3. Rachael September 13, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    That’s a nice edit. I read an article just this week that made similar points. The author thought that in the industry now talent and ability were second to business savvy and there were a lot of mediocre photogs making a good living and lots of great photogs failing to do so.

    • seeingspotsphoto September 14, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

      I think that’s so true. In an ideal world, we’d be artistic and business minded. Failing that, we’d be able to afford to hire someone with marketing prowess. Most small businesses run on a shoe string budget though, so it falls on the photographer to also be a marketing whiz, accountant, advocate, etc.

      I’ve often wondered how much photographic genius is out there that I’ve yet to discover.

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