How Believing in Yourself Leads to Better Photographs

You have checked the weather maps, you have a clear idea of what you could photograph to get a masterpiece, and then, things are different, and you have no idea what to photograph? That’s fantastic, because this is the best starting point to become a better photographer.

In my latest video about landscape photography at a stream, I got some photographs I like. Some of them were even worth printing on fine art paper, but I have to say that the day didn’t start awesome at all. I was hiking to a giant waterfall at the end of a gorge in the Austrian alps, but my ambitions got interrupted at the very beginning at the entrance of the gorge, as the trail was locked. What now? Going back to the car, driving home, enjoying a warm cup of tea, and dreaming about photography? I decided on something different.

The Power of Attention

With years as a landscape photographer, I have learned that whenever I am walking around in nature, paying attention to everything that attracts me is the key to discovering compositional opportunities. Although I was busy with vlogging and recording b-rolls for my video, I got attracted by the features of a little stream beside the trail. The dark, nearly black water built a fantastic contrast to the snowy shore. The shoreline, as well as some rocks inside the water, appeared with awesome patterns. Although I had no idea which compositions I would find down there in the end, I decided to go closer just to have a look and to inhale all its beauty.

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

It is quite easy to do something exactly in that way you feel comfortable with. It is not that I had never photographed at a stream in winter, but I prefer to be prepared before I enter a location. This doesn’t mean I know all my compositions already, but preparing and planning offer me at least the opportunity of thinking about my options. I am more efficient on location then, and in my experience, it leads to better results.

The big waterfall had been my comfort zone on that day. I was simply not prepared for photographing something different. As that waterfall was not an option anymore, and I had no plan B, I left my comfort zone as I arrived at the stream.

Believing in Yourself

As small as the stream was, it looked just amazing with all its shapes. I had no idea about compositions, though I did something I learned from my grandfather, who was a landscape painter and a professor in art: I got rid of all my expectations and simply believed in myself. And so, without any expectations of getting a masterpiece, I started to frame some intimate landscape scenes, just as warm-up shots — and even got rewarded. Not only that, most of the intimate scenes were fantastic, so I printed them in the end. As I followed the stream, I got to a little waterfall, and although I was still unprepared, I also didn’t feel uncomfortable anymore. Photographing in snow-covered areas is always difficult, as walking around and trying different angles would destroy your foreground, but if you feel comfortable, you will find a composition in the end that feels right.

So, whenever you should struggle in your landscape photography: believe in yourself, and you'll be rewarded. The entire adventure with all photographs and many tips about landscape photography are revealed in the above-linked video.

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6 Comments
J H's picture

Also gear does not matter

Christian Irmler's picture

Hm. If a quite expensive lens was not better than a very cheap one, I would start to ask questions :) There are differences in my experience, but it doesn't have that impact most would expect and not everyone could take advantage of the expensive gear. Interesting topic. Maybe there will come a video and article here about that in some time ;)
Nice greetings,
Christian

Catherine Bowlene's picture

While believing in yourself does lead to better results but I'd also say that believing in yourself after being criticized or rejected is even more important. It's easy to believe you can achieve great results when your are only getting started but when you have been told your composition sucks or your editing can't be fixed by no amount of Photoshop or Photoworks applied, collecting your confidence once again may be hard. But if you do collect it back, that's when you are on the road to better results.

Chris Rogers's picture

This is the toughest part of photography right here^^^

Christian Irmler's picture

Definitely. This can even be the starting point of frustration for beginners.

Christian Irmler's picture

Hi Catherine, never believe a photographer who says your composition is rubbish :) I really mean that. There is a reason why we decide for a composition and why we decide to order the elements in the way we have arranged them. What I do in my workshops is: I don't show how the compositions of my members would get better, because this is simply not possible. I can show what I would do, but not I should take the photograph, my members should. So, instead of that, I always try to find a discussion with the photographer, to find out what he wanted to express and based on that, we discuss different ways to reach that goal and in the end, the photographer says by himself, how he would make his own image better next time. This is a kind of "Critique 2.0" if you want. Something like "Your image is bad because the subject is not in the thirds" is useless, to be honest :)
But you are right: believe in yourself when you got criticized. Always think about, that the photographer simply didn't understand your photo. That's not your problem :)
Thank you for your kind comment and nice greetings,
Christian