The Worst Photography Advice I’ve Ever Received


I’ve gotten a lot of good advice in my life;  don’t look a horse that gives gifts in its food hole, eat your vegetables or you’ll get rickets, never put cats in the refrigerator…  Things like that.  I’ve also got some really crappy advice in my life;  buy expensive things so you’ll go into debt and have to work harder (someone really told me that), women don’t like nice guys (not the women you want to settle down with), and you should photograph everything.  I’m sure you’ve figured out we are going to talk about horses that give gifts the “you should photograph everything” advice and why that is bad advice.

What Do I Mean By Everything?

For this article everything refers to a photographer's inability to decisively choose her subjects or shots..

Photographing everything is the equivalent to fishing with dynamite, it takes no real skill to drop a stick of dynamite in the water and you spend the rest of the day looking for usable pieces of fish floating in the dirty water (I assume, I’ve never fished with dynamite…).  No, the skill comes from the fisherman who deliberately selects the proper bait, carefully affixes it to his line, and strategically casts his line where he thinks the best fish will be.

Why Photographing Everything Is Bad

If you can’t discern a good subject from a poor one then you may be taking too many photographs.  I know that sounds absurd but stay with me here…  If you don’t take the time to previsualize what a photograph will look like once you’ve taken it then you’re not allowing yourself to develop your mind for photography.  By “spraying and praying” you stunt your growth as a photographer, you rely on luck as opposed to developing any real skill.  Rarely do great photographs just happen, the majority of the time they take hard work and determination.


Photographs like this aren’t spur of the moment, they require you to stay out later than usual and use your knowledge of your camera to push it to its limits and realize your vision.

What You Should Do

Well, first thing is first, stop looking at horses mouths, avoiding vegetables, and putting cats in the refrigerator.  Now you can focus on taking great photographs.  Instead of hunting for shots like a gangster with a machine gun look for a shot like a skilled hunter going after the perfect game (maybe not the best analogy if you’re photographing other people).

Sometimes I like to pretend as if I don’t have thousands of shots I can take, like I’m shooting film rather than digital.  If you approach photography in this way you’ll find that you contemplate a shot before you take it, you’ll think about what it will look like once you’re done processing it and you will be more deliberate with what you photograph.  If you do this you will certainly end up with less photos cluttering your SD card but your percentage of good photographs will undoubtedly increase.

Consider This

Is the timing right?

Is the light right?

Is the subject unique?

What story will this photograph tell?

Why do I want to photograph this?

Is it worth my time?

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received in regards to photography?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.  Don’t forget to check out PhotolisticLife’s Flickr page to join the community and take part in future photo contests.

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