How Watching Bob Ross Painting Videos Made Me a Better Photographer

How Watching Bob Ross Painting Videos Made Me a Better Photographer

When you think of Bob Ross, what comes to mind? A soft-spoken man, painting beautiful landscapes. But, Bob Ross was so much more than a painter. For me, he has changed my life and transformed the way I see myself as an artist.

Whenever I find myself down in the creative dumps and I am on the hunt for a jolt of artistic inspiration to help propel my work to a new level, I turn to various other art forms like painting, watching movies, or reading old books on other artists. But, there is nobody quite like Bob Ross and the impact he has had on me and my work. His impact can not only be seen in the world of painting, but his lessons and outlook on life can be applied into various other art forms like photography and filmmaking. 

A few months ago, I started a daily ritual: every night before I went to bed, I watched a 30-minute episode from Bob Ross's series, "The Joy of Painting." It's a time of the day that I always looked forward to. Watching Ross bring beautiful landscapes into existence in just a matter of brush strokes, combined with his soothing voice, made for a great daily habit. At the beginning, I was simply watching videos of a man painting pretty landscapes, but after a while, his words and his optimistic way of seeing the world started to appear in my work. I began to realize that Bob Ross was so much more than a painter. He was a visionary in how we see and interact with art today. He made art accessible to anyone. After watching dozens of episodes in his series, I decided to jot down a list of the lessons he had taught me and continue to preserve his legacy forever.

Lesson 1: The Importance of Staying True to Yourself 

Before you pull out your camera for the first time and start to take pictures, the most important thing is to first know yourself. Know what makes you click as an artist. Establish what you love and what you hate. Once you find out who you are as a person and who you are as an artist, it is crucial that you stay true to yourself and your voice throughout your career. In the beginning, it may be easy to just copy what the latest trends are on Instagram, but as your voice develops, follow your vision with all of your will and create work that is unique to you. As Dr. Seuss liked to say: 

Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you. 

When you pick up the camera, like in Ross's paintings, you can choose to put whatever you want in the frame. It's your own unique world, so don't be afraid to embrace that. 

Lesson 2: Embrace the Happy Accidents

The more you shoot, the more you will fail, and the more you fail, the more you will learn. Often, the shoots we remember are the ones that went terribly wrong. Those shoots are at first painful to reminisce about, but in retrospect, those are the shoots that have the most impact on our future work. A lot of times, we will not start something because of our fear of failing, but as Bob Ross liked to put it: "In the time you sit around and worry about planning a painting, you could have completed a painting already." Just jump right in and shoot. Trust the artistic process. It's ok to fail and make mistakes, but choose to embrace them instead of shying away from them in shame. Done is always better than perfect. Trust the process, take risks, and embrace those happy accidents that you will inevitably come across. You never know where they will take you. 

Lesson 3: Staying Humble 

Bob Ross was more than just a painter. Ross was a positive role model in the eyes of many to be humble and positive in life. When we reach a level of fame or success, there is the darker side to a person that is put on display. Staying humble is the virtue that will keep you grounded and allow your work to really grow. When people are looking to book a photographer for their next shoot, they are not going to work with you if you're an arrogant jerk, regardless of how impressive your portfolio may be. Ross serves as a constant reminder that in my journey as a photographer, no matter how much success I think I have reached, it's only the beginning. When you learn a new technique, don't be afraid to share it with the world and help someone be one step closer to achieving their dreams. As artists, we have the ability to transform the way people see themselves and the world around them. Use this platform for good, and make this world a better place through your art. 

Lesson 4: Don't Be Afraid to Follow Your Passion

When you tell someone you're going to become a professional artist, typically, their reaction is: "That's nice, but how are you going to make a living?" When pursuing a career as an artist, the odds are stacked against us, but it's imperative that we push past that stigma and pursue something that we love doing. If you follow what society tells us to do, which is to get a steady job, working from nine to five every day for the rest of our lives, a lot of us would lose our minds. If you don't love what you do, you'll never want to work another day in your life. Bob Ross exuded passion in every piece that he created. He truly loved his job, and it showed. He liked to remind his audience that: "If you do what you love, the money will come. Don't worry about the money, just focus on creating work that speaks to you." So many times, I find myself worrying too much about my monetary goals, but at the same time, I witness my motivation to make creative work plummet. Money is important for us to survive, but it should not stand in the way of our passions. If you have an idea in your heart, just do it. Remember, there are no mistakes, just happy accidents. 

Lesson 5: Put in the Work to Achieve Your Dreams

When people pick up a pencil or paintbrush for the first time, they often believe they can't paint or draw, because they don't have the talent to do so. Sure, talent might come naturally to some, but if you want to become great at what you do, you have to put in the work. It's that simple. Talent is a pursued interest. If you want to get better at photography, then shoot. Shoot a lot. Then, shoot some more. Some people are gifted with a talent at a young age, but the talent becomes a waste if it's not constantly being nurtured. So, you need to consistently keep building your portfolio and pushing out meaningful work. But, most importantly, be patient. You will not get better overnight. 


What have you learned from watching Bob Ross painting videos? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

If you would like to see more of his videos or watch an insightful documentary made about his life, you can check it out here!

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Guy J. Sagi's picture

Wow. A positive article with gumption enough to even mention making the world a better place, one project, one photo, one person at a time. Good work young man, keep it up. I'll be watching for your byline in the future.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Wow, thanks so much Guy for the very kind words! I really appreciate it! So glad you got something out of it! I'm just sharing my perspective with the world, glad you were able to resonate.

Larry Wynkoop's picture

Great article, thank you for sharing. Photography means different things to different people. For me as a hobbyist, it serves as a way to encourage me to seek out the beauty around me that I otherwise would overlook. This has been invaluable to my state of mind and general outlook on life.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Thanks Larry! Glad you liked it! What a beautiful perspective. Thanks for sharing!

Darren Loveland's picture

1. Thank you for adding more written articles lately, it's a welcome refresher in a wave of steady vlogs on this site.
2. I'll click on anything with Bob Ross in it.
3. This article was actually quite nice, well done!

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Hi Darren,

1) Ha ha of course! I usually aim to release only original content. There is also daily written original content everyday here on Fstoppers. :)
2) I knew it! Same!
3) I appreciate the kind words! So glad you liked it!

Nice article. One difference between Ross and landscape photographers is we can't put a happy little tree wherever we want it. Well....not without a spade and a sapling. Neither fit well in the camera backpack.

Did y'all know Ross was a master sergeant in the Air Force? He said he was the guy who yelled at you to clean the latrine. He became the Bob Ross we know, because he got tired of being that guy. Though in fairness master sergeants have their place.

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Hi Mike, thanks for the kind words! Glad you got something out of the article. Good analysis too-you're very right :D