Answering the Most Important Lesson in Photography

Ted Forbes has done it again. He has a way of stating the obvious in a way that elevates the thought from pedestrian to poignant. Here, he attempts to answer a fan letter about the most important lesson he's learned in photography.When a 14-year-old reader composed a hand-written note to Forbes, he felt compelled to answer, not only because of the age of the writer, but also because the content and method of asking the question. Hand-written letters are few and far between these days, but the simplicity and directness of the question from a child demanded a response. I'll let you watch the video to get the details of his answer, but it comes down to this: Always remember why you started in photography, and keep it fun.

The advice particularly resonates with me in my journey back into the film world. Of course, making a buck and putting food on the table for yourself and your family is of incredible importance, but there needs to be a balance with feeding your passion. For me, that came in the form of film. I started on film, loved it, but quickly moved to digital when it became viable. Throughout the years I've always come back to film, but never as a primary shooting method.

That changed about six months ago. I started shooting and developing my own film, choosing to work in medium and large format almost exclusively for my personal work. And I need to tell you, my work has never been stronger. I feel like I'm making images that I can be proud of again, and I firmly believe that coming back to the original reasons I started shooting has a lot to do with that.

Definitely take a look at the video and let it roll around in your head. Have you let go of the fun and passion to make a living? If so, what steps can you take to make those original reasons a part of your life again?

Log in or register to post comments

19 Comments

Thoughtful response to a good question there. I count myself fortunate in many ways because I do not make my living through photography (other than microscope photography for my work) and pursue it solely as a hobby. Nonetheless, even doing it simply as a hobby brings up bottlenecks and periods of lack of inspiration. I, too, found returning to film gave my photography a real boost.

Anonymous's picture

This video was particularly interesting to me because, reading a lot of comments on this and other photography site, it would be easy to think we're (photographers as a group) some of the most miserable folks on the planet. We argue, p!ss and moan, and generally act like A-holes over stuff that just doesn't matter, about a subject we all love.
Good talk, good talk. :-)

Hans, photography is not my vocation; but for me, it is a creative outlet. I'm new to shooting digital (2013), but I started film photography and enjoy shooting both film and digital.

Hans, putting aside large format film as something that can not yet be reasonably matched with digital, I'm sure you could have attained the same quality of work and satisfaction with digital as you have with film. As I've said before, nothing is forcing people to work fast with digital and to use less care. The same goes with over processing their digital images.

Hans Rosemond's picture

You misunderstand. The reason that I'm producing better work is not because of some notion of the superiority of film. It's because I feel more connected to the process and the work. That was just a personal anecdote connecting myself to what Forbes is saying. Everyone has their own reasons for shooting. A lot of mine are connected to the film medium itself.

My post is in regards to the number one reason that people have for shooting film, about being forced to slow down and to be more considerate of the process. Of course those are things anyone can do with digital if they really want to. People that shoot digital could feel more "connected" to the process if they did the same. That's all.

Hans Rosemond's picture

Sure, but what does that have to do with this post? This is about finding your passion and fun, whatever that is. Mine just happens to be film.

Well, you never mentioned what your "original reasons" were. Considering what I mentioned is likely the number one reason film shooters give for shooting film I felt it was relevant to address that. That's all.

Anonymous's picture

Having a prop helps you to do things that you could anyway but don't. For me, photographing nature helps me to see and concentrate on it in ways I certainly could but never _did_ before. It's also the reason I use a tripod when I really don't need to.

Anonymous's picture

An object that helps you concentrate. Some folks hold an object while meditating to help focus their thoughts. Some people tie a string around their finger to help remember things.

Using a camera that's necessarily slow helps to force you to slow down rather than depend on your will power. You hear of a lot of photographers who like prime lenses because they force you to slow down.

These are all props.

Oh geez, not the slowing down thing again. A simple and reasonably amount of self-discipline can get anyone to slow down.

Anonymous's picture

A simple and reasonable amount of self-discipline would have slowed you down enough to spell your comment correctly but we, obviously, can't always accomplish that. I'm not trying to be a jerk...you just happened to perfectly illustrate my point.

My tablet auto correcting incorrectly is irrelevant. The discussion is about photography, not English 101.

Anonymous's picture

I disagree. The subject is human nature. But don't worry, I won't vote you down for having a different POV. :-)

By bringing up votes you are once again bringing up another irrelevancy.

Don't be offended by the downvote; it isn't a judgement of your "human nature." It is only a judgement of what you said at that given point in time.

Anonymous's picture

Humor is NEVER irrelevant. :-)

I'm not offended.

BTW, are you the guy who tried to convince me that sensor noise was indistinquishable from film grain?

I'm sure you would find humor irrelevant is you had a child that was hiding behind it to mock you. Bye.

Anonymous's picture

I'm not sure how you would react to anything. You're so smart! :-)