This Week’s LIDLIPS

71. When you’ve got nothing to lose, don’t be afraid to lose.

72. Choose your friends wisely.

73. Listen for answers to questions you didn’t ask.

74. “Thank” and “you” are two of the most powerful words in the universe.

75. If Columbus had been a photographer.

Lessons I Didn’t Learn In Photo School 71–75

71. When you’ve got nothing to lose, don’t be afraid to lose.
It’s not failure that holds us back. It’s the fear of failing. More often than not, when we’re afraid of failing, we won’t even try. Or, if we try, we’ll try timidly rather than boldly. The ironic part about this is that when we’re starting out as photographers and have virtually nothing to lose is when we’re the most fearful. If you have nothing to lose, put your fear in a box and shoot like you’ve never shot before.

72. Choose your friends wisely.
In a world full of Flickr groups and Twitter, it’s too easy to make “friends” today. If you surround yourself with people who always praise your images (as is often the case on Flickr), then you’ll rise to a solid level of mediocrity. What a photographer really needs are friends who will give honest, qualified opinions about your work. So, if all the feedback you’re getting about your work is positive, find a different set of friends.

73. Listen for answers to questions you didn’t ask.
Recently I was interviewed by a college student majoring in photography. Her assignment for “Photo Business Practices” was to talk with a professional shooter about the development of his or her career. When asked “Which of your shoots was most instrumental in changing your career?”, I replied “There’s never been a shoot that changed my career as much as the relationships that I’ve developed along the way. This is a business of relationships, not shoots.”  I’d given her the most valuable bit of insight I have about the world of professional photography. She totally missed it because it was an answer to a question she didn’t ask.

74. “Thank” and “you” are two of the most powerful words in the universe.
Never underestimate the value of being respectful. When my boys were young, I convinced them that “Please is the magic word that gets grown-ups to do what you want them to do.” Likewise, a sincerely delivered “Thank you” can turn a disinterested laborer into a strategic partner. The return on just a bit of respect can be huge. As strange as it sounds (at least to me) being courteous these days can be a way to distinguish yourself in the market – with clients and vendors alike.

75.  If Columbus had been a photographer.
Photography is a process of visual exploration. Start with a concept or a bit of inspiration. Then make a photo based on your assumptions about what you see and how the camera will respond to it. Take what you learn from that photo and make another. And another. Continue to explore, evaluate and fine tune your efforts. The journey of a photographer often heads across distant horizons into uncharted territory. Don’t fret if your shoot veers off in a completely new direction and ends up someplace completely different than where you originally intended. I bet that Columbus would have made a fine photographer.

Previous Lessons I Didn’t Learn In Photo School

The entire LIDLIPS Series


10 Responses to Lessons I Didn’t Learn In Photo School 71–75

  1. LisaNewton says:

    I don’t often comment here, but I have you in my RSS reader, so I do read your stuff. All of these are of value to me, but #71 is particularly of value.

    When I started taking photos a few months ago, I could visualize my shots, and loved some of them. I saw my potential, and knew with practice, I’d get better.

    Recently, a much more trained photographer commented on my website about my growth over the last few months, comparing a few of my new shots to my older ones.

    Because there are so many great photographers out there, my stuff often seems very amateur, but knowing I’m improving, really helps.

    Thank you for hosting the upcoming Photo Walk. I’m looking forward to meeting you and learning more. 🙂

  2. Mark says:

    Honestly, I sent the email before I read #74.

    But it still stands….thank you!!!

  3. These are great! I hope people read, reread and then reread again #73.

  4. […] Valuable lesson in my inbox today. Again, from Syl Arena’s Lessons I Didn’t Learn in Photo School series (this time, 71-75). […]

  5. Joanie says:

    You never cease to amaze me with your mindreading prowess. Once again, PERFECT TIMING!

    Thank you for sharing your insight and your time.

  6. Kjartan says:

    I agree completely with #72. It is very hard to get honest feedback for your work – Even the Flickr critique groups. So far 99% of the feedback I’ve gotten of my photos have been positive, with no opinion of what can be improved.

    #73 is true for all kinds of business – not only photography. It’s got nothing to do with what you actually do in your job, but with the people you meet and make your friends…

    Finally – It was great meeting you yesterday at Joe’s workshop. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  7. […] Arena keeps cranking out his great Lessons I Didn’t Learn In Photo School posts, LIDLIPS for short. I love reading these, but I have to ask, what DID Syl learn in photo school. […]

  8. Rich C says:

    Always great posts on your lessons. 🙂 Thank you for continuing to share them.

    #71 gave me a laugh. A few “physical friends” (not on flickr) often offer compliments and wonder why I solicit from people I don’t know all the time. No insult or slight on my friends, I need input from folks willing to be brutally honest with me, and usually not knowing someone makes it easier to pop out a zing or two. 🙂

  9. sgazzetti says:

    I always look forward to reading these.

    I’m struck by how many of the photography lessons you share extend far beyond taking pictures. I like #74 (and it seems to me that a similar sentiment was contained in another LIDLIPS not long ago, but I am too lazy busy to track it down). I agree with you that respect, gratitude, and simple courtesy can be remarkably powerful tools, and it saddens me to think that the reason they’re remarkable is because they’ve become so rare.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your hard-won expertise.

  10. Jane says:

    how right is #72.. on the internet the critique is often positive, and you so often nedd something honest

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