Study Other Great Photographers :: Digital Photo Secrets

Study Other Great Photographers

by David Peterson 1 comment

There is a resource out there that you can tap into, and it will improve your photography in ways you could never imagine. It will inspire you. It will show you what’s possible with a little determination and a willingness to learn. What am I talking about? Other photographers, the great ones who have gone down in history for producing some of the most breathtaking images ever seen. Many of them were the first do what they’ve done. It’s worth taking a moment to see how they did it.

What truly amazes me is how so many of the best photographers did their work with no access to any of the modern conveniences we have today. Without fancy digital SLRs, post-processing (at least with Photoshop), and memory cards, they were still able to capture images with a real artistic intent behind them. You will find that many of the great photographers were obsessed with planning because they had to be. They had a level of focus you’d be hard pressed to find in today’s world of photography.

Imagine having to do all of your work with a big bulky camera, a lens that you had to adjust with every shot, no autofocus, and no ability to take as many photos as you want. How might you approach your photography? What would you do to ensure you get the right image? I’ll tell you one thing. Studying the greats certainly makes me appreciative of all the tools we have available to us today. We are so lucky to be alive in this golden age of photography.

If anything, it further justifies what I’ve believed all along. You don’t need the best equipment to take an amazing photo. You just need to have an artistic vision and some practical knowhow. There are ways to make any camera product a great image. You just have to be incredibly persistent at it.

Paul Strand’s remarkably abstract photograph of Wall Street in 1915.

Take Ansel Adams for example. Many say he got into these frenzies of work where he’d spend greater than 18 hours a day just toiling away at his house. I can’t say I put that much time into my own photography, but I can assure you that if I were to spend that much time, I would know every little thing about my camera setup and how it works. I would know because I’d have to capture a certain feeling in my images, and I’ll have played with countless settings until it happens.

But you don’t have to open the history books to find great photographers. There are more amazing photographers alive and well today than there ever has been in the entire history of photography. These guys have all the tools available to them, and they are expanding the horizons of what can be done on a daily basis. Do you want to know what’s even better? A lot of today’s top photographers provide written and video tutorials on how they’ve gotten some of their greatest shots. That’s the wonder of social media for you.

Now I don’t want to dissuade you from coming here, but I’ve learned a lot of my secrets by studying them. In fact, I’ve taken a lot of their work and gotten rid of the jargon so most people can understand what they’re talking about. I think that’s what it’s like for a lot of artists. They get so wrapped up in their own world. My goal is to take some of their ideas and translate them so everyone can take advantage of their expertise.

The iconic “Afghan Girl” image by Steve McCurry was published on the front cover of National Geographic in 1985.

If anything, studying the greats will encourage you to push your own limits and try harder. Many of history’s best photographers were obsessed with the world around them. They just loved to take walks and simply observe. Perhaps by observing their lives, we can all learn how to create better images by seeing the world in a different way. I still stand in wonder at these amazing pioneers.

Top image: Kearsage Pinnacles by Ansel Adams, California, 1936.

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  1. Luca says:

    There's only one way to see a thing, untill somebody else shows you the way to see it with different eyes. (Pablo Picasso)

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.