3 Things You Must Master to be a Great Photographer.

by Gavin Seim: We all see differently and that’s good. We should never stop working to improve. One might even contend that you can never really “master” photography. But perhaps you can get pretty close, if you really nail down these and perhaps a few other essentials, taking control of the way you plan and capture images.


1 – Your Tools – A camera does not a photographer make and neither does fancy software. But don’t underestimate how important the tools are. Some sluff off knowing their gear, settings, apertures, shutter speeds, lights, software another tech stuff. That’s usually a fatal mistake. Don’t fall into the crowd that says “I’m an artist, so I just don’t get into that technical stuff.” Photography, like most arts, is both art and a science. And if you don’t master both, you’ll never be a master of the art.

2 – Storytelling – A great image has to have a subject and a story that can reach out and grab people. Uninteresting subject matter, too much clutter, messy composition, bad details, distracting lighting, the list goes on. Fail at any of these and you’ll never be great at photography. It’s hard to nail all these elements down with anything but years and years of practice and experience. But then, no one said this was easy. Until you can start clearing out distractions and really convey feeling. You’re just making snapshots. Those are fine, but remember. Everyone else it making them too.

3 – Tone Control – This may be the biggest of all. And yet it’s finer points are the most ignored. It’s the one most will never truly master. Everything needs to lead to the subject. And mastering tone gives you that power. Tone control is about seeing light in your head, understating how to manipulate it, and understanding how to control tones to make your subject and your story, sing like the sound of music. Even most professionals have not nailed down tone control, but until you do, you’ll never be fully able to control your light or the impact of your photographs. For more on controlling tone check out this article.


If you’ve mastered all these things, then you should be writing this instead of me, because I’m still working on them. But working I am and getting closer each day. Just remember that a camera is no more an artistic tool than a typewriter. It’s knowing how to tell a story with light, tone and line that matters. Like nearly all arts, there’s an aspect of science and an aspect of art you must master. Otherwise you’re just another person with a tub of paint or a ream of paper. For more

So lets get to work. Science + Knowledge + Vision = Art


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  • Laurie Hemmer says:

    I Just listened to a podcast (a random one from itunes)that says photography is in the eye of the beholder basically and not to get to hung up on tech stuff. I agree it’s both art as well as some tech. But I also agree it is in the eye of the beholder and lighting can be pretty bad on some so called pro images, but I have taken some bad lighted images and manipulated all of them to look very artistic. All of what you mentioned about iso, shutter speeds on and on I know , but light I am constantly studying. We have a tech photography school here now and we have literally hundreds in our area. I took all the classes offered in college back in the film days, but feel there is a disadvantage to these kids now not getting that exp. I do lots for people with no money here. I always call myself a work in progress. I am not even sure I want to do it full time. I do feel strongly though that as you said every one has a diff eye, but it is what it is now with thousands pouring in the industry. I suspect you have nothing to worry about, but I do not see how most of these kids graduating these tech courses will ever make money with so many. Maybe I will be proven wrong, but I suspect not. I’m on my way to DC right now and got tired of carrying my mark so switched gears and bought a little Nikon I can carry well just for a change too. Amazing for the size. I feel it has to be a passion as well and it will show in ones work .Yours does. Excuse typos been traveling all day and forgot my reading glasses and on my iPad . I thoroughly enjoy your site here just to let you know. Keep up the exceptional work. We who thirst to learn need these articles and help. God bless!

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