The Photographer Blues

All photographers experience what I call the  “Photographer Blues” every now and again. It’s that feeling that our photos  aren’t good enough. One component is what is called “Photographer Envy”. That’s when you look at the work of other photographers and feel that your work is inferior. It’s completely natural to look at other photographers and compare your work to theirs. You shouldn’t however become despondent but rather become motivated. Remember, there will always be someone that’s better than you. Try and be the best that you can be. Don’t try and be someone else.
This is not a tutorial on how to become a good photographer, but a few tips to help you improve.

Take more time

I know many photographers who just aim and shoot. You don’t get the best shots by being in a hurry or not thinking it through. Unlike other advice, I would say shoot LESS not MORE. Be more selective. Take more time. Don’t hurry. I know some photographers that shoot 500 frames with the hope that a few of them will be good. Well that is like shooting a shotgun and hoping you hit something. A good photographer will rather walk away from a mediocre opportunity than trying to squeeze something out of it. If it’s the right opportunity you will know it.
Good opportunities are few and far between. Stop trying to think that every shot has to be an award-winning shot. It doesn’t work that way.

Plan your shots properly

You can’t just aim and shoot and think you’re going to get a great shot. It just doesn’t work that way. Getting a good shot is not “luck”. If the light is not right, don’t shoot. Come back at another time. Plan you angles and do a few test shots first. Look at the result and if it’s not right then do it again.

Shoot multiple exposures

Shoot the same shot with multiple exposures. Even the best photographer don’t get it right all the time. When you get back to the PC you can look at all the exposures and choose the right one or combine them when you edit. This way you won’t be disappointed that you got the exposure wrong. Remember, it’s always better to get the best possible exposure with the shot than trying to fix it afterwards.

Don’t shoot RAW

I find shooting RAW a waste of time. The gain in quality and editing capability is so small that it just doesn’t justify the editing time. Streamline your workflow to give you more time to do a professional editing job.

Almost ALL unedited shots look crap

A camera just doesn’t capture what you see effectively. If you look at the unedited shots of professional photographers you will be shocked how similar they look to yours! You need to see the potential in a shot, but that potential is only realized in the edit.

It’s all in the Edit

Ye it’s true. It’s all about the edit. I would say that 70% of the final product is in the editing. Don’t skimp on the time to edit. Don’t skimp on software and learn the tools of the trade. I spend 1 minute taking the shot and 2 hours editing. The camera today is actually a very small part of the end product.
You need Photoshop. Don’t even think about it. There is nothing that beats Photoshop, ok? Got it?
You need lots of Photoshop Actions. These are plugins that automate post processing. Many are free, but the really good ones cost money. Invest in a few really good Actions. It makes everything so much easier and faster.

Learn, learn, learn

We all know about aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc. That’s the easy stuff. You need to learn about cross processing, levels, HDR and all the other cool stuff you can do with your images during the edit.

Ask People

Don’t be afraid to ask people around you if they think your photos are cool. You will soon judge their reactions. If they flip out then it’s good. If they smile nicely and tell you it’s very nice, then it’s crap. Go back to the drawing board and do it again.

Save you PSD files

Always keep the layered PSD files safe. I think I have gone back to my old photos a thousand times to re do some of them. Especially if you get some new actions or learn a new trick. Then you can take that old, mediocre photo and turn it into something special.


Submit your photos to something like Pixoto. The community votes for the best photos and it gives a quick and fairly objective indication if your photo is special or not. There are many flaws with the system but I only use it as a fairly crude bench marking tool to identify those images that are truly special and have potential.

Develop a style

You need your own style. That’s the most difficult part. If you’re just like everyone else then your photos won’t stand out. I can’t help you with that unfortunately. It’s something you will discover after many, many years of practice. But if you keep going, then you will get there and one day, people will start to recognize your photos. That’s when you have arrived. Until then, keep trying!

Booking online is not cheaper

With the proliferation of online travel services one can easily forgive people for thinking they are clever consumers by booking their holidays online. Online travel services including airlines aggressively punt their online booking services as the future of travel.

With online travel services I am of course referring to booking your holiday without the assistance of a travel agent. There are a myriad online travel services such as, Expedia and many other. Most hotels across the world offer direct booking to consumers through their websites. All the airlines offer direct booking through their websites as well.

It’s very easy to book your own holiday. All you need is a credit card and Internet connection and for all intents and purposes you are a travel agent. Or so you think. Here are some fallacies about booking direct.

Booking direct is cheaper

What you don’t know is that despite all the marketing hype trying to convince you otherwise, it is still much, much cheaper to book through a travel agent. The travel agent has, in most cases, preferential rates with the hotel or airline. Hotels have two sets of rates. “Rack Rates” are the rates you find on their website. If you book direct you pay Rack Rates. Travel agents get “STO” rates. STO stand for “Standard Tour Operator” Rates. The agent then adds commission and you will pay the same or less than booking direct.

So why would you book through a travel agent? Because the travel agent offers you all her expertise in exchange for the commission. The agent will do everything for you and make sure that you get what you pay for. Now, you may think that you can do that yourself but what you don’t know is that the travel agent knows the destination and knows exactly where to book and more importantly not to book.

You look at the ratings and believe that if a hotel has a good rating then it’s safe to book with them. Unfortunately most of the reviews on these websites are fake. Created by a thriving industry created exclusively to manipulate and create fake reviews. You actually have no idea if your holiday is going to be a good holiday. By booking through a travel agent you pay the same but significantly reduce your risk.

Booking direct is safe.

If something goes wrong then what do you do? Believe me, things go wrong, all the time. The hotel burns to the ground. They have unscheduled renovations, the hotel doesn’t exist or they have double bookings and no availability. I have heard of clients arriving at the hotel (booked through and the hotel physically does not exist. Where it’s supposed to be is nothing but empty land.
Who do you turn to when things go wrong? Good luck calling the Internet! When things go wrong it’s a life saver to have a real person at home who can sort things out. Believe me, being stuck in some foreign country trying to find a place to stay on short notice is not a joke.

Booking direct with airlines is cheap and safe.

Go online and you will be sure to find great deals at the airlines. The problem is that the lay person has absolutely no idea what they are buying. Airline ticketing is hugely complicated. Each aircraft has a myriad of classes. These are essentially seat categories. There are many more categories than just economy class and business class. In addition there are categories for the different channels that tickets are sold through. Some tickets are refundable and others are non refundable. If you don’t have access to a GDS (global distribution system) that travel agents use you have no idea what you are buying. You may think you got a good deal only to find out that you can’t do a date change or even if you have an emergency you could end up losing all your money.

If you find a flight online that is cheap it’s normally for good reason. There are many, many potholes when buying tickets online and timing is one of them. If you need to catch connecting flights knowing the airports is very important. Some airports are so big that it can take you an hour just to get from one terminal to another. Many, many people that think they can do this without a travel agent learn the hard way that it’s not that simple.

Over the many years that I have been in the industry I have heard horror stories of clients losing large amounts of money. The biggest fallacy out there is that you can save money by booking direct. That is just not true. In fact it is almost always more expensive to book direct. You are just replacing one intermediary (the travel agent that actually does work) with another intermediary (that does absolutely nothing). At the end of the day you pay more by booking online and you don’t have access to the expertise of a travel professional.

Smart people book with travel agents.