Whether you're a newbie or a veteran, a hobbyist or a pro, we all want to improve our photography. But what sets the best photographers above the rest? In this post, I'm going to reveal the secret to getting the incredible photos you've always wanted!

Take Risks

Yep, that's it! All of us have our set patterns of shooting that we feel secure in. Things that we do that we're comfortable with, that we know will work. Whether it's a certain piece of gear, or a certain technique, or even a reliance on Program mode, what I want to do is to challenge you guys to step outside your comfort zone and to try something new.

Everyone has periods where we can't seem to come up with a new idea, or where our work just seems to be bland. I know I have. Despite the knowledge that there are awe inspiring moments going on all around us, we can't seem find them, or if we do, we fail miserably at capturing them.

Nothing great has ever been achieved without taking risks. Do you think Albert Einstein revolutionized physics because he thought inside the box? Did Joss Whedon become a great director by doing what everyone else was doing? Did the Founding Fathers (since it's the 4th) create the greatest political experiment in the history of mankind by following the rules? Heck no!

What do all these men have in common? They all were willing to take risks to achieve their goals. So what makes you think that it would be any different for you in your quest for incredible photos?

Case Study: Vadim Makhorov and Vitaliy Raskalov

The photo at the top of the page was taken by Russian Daredevils Vadim Makhorov and Vitaliy Raskalov from On the Roofs. These guys infiltrate active construction projects and go to places that most photographers will never see! Here's the behind the scenes video of their Shanghai escapade.

The photos and videos they capture are breathtaking! Do you think these guys take risks? You bet they do! Their infiltrations are completely illegal and extraordinarily dangerous! Now am I suggesting that you go out and break the law to get great photos? No. That said, they put their freedom and their LIVES on the line when they do stuff like this, but the photos and video they get out of it are completely different from what anyone else is doing.

But What If I Fail?

Good! Failure is one of the best things that can ever happen to you. One of my favorite quotes about failure is from Robert Greene, in his book "Mastery" (I highly recommend this book. It's a phenomenal read!)

“Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn. Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.” -Robert Greene, Mastery

Yes, you will probably fail at first, but that's ok. If you fail because you were trying something new, you haven't really failed. Instead, you've learned how to do better in the future, and that's well worth the blow to your ego.

Taking Risks in Practice

So how can we go about taking risks in our photography? I love the advice my photography professor once gave me. Every time you go out to shoot something, take a few minutes to approach your subject from a radically different perspective and try something that you wouldn't normally try. Sometimes, you'll come back empty handed, but most of the time, at least from my experience, you'll find that your best shots come from taking risks. Many times you'll even find that you develop a new technique or use for your gear. Here's a few ideas to get you started.

  • Use unfamiliar gear
  • If you use a DSLR, try shooting only with your iPhone
  • Rent a prime lens
  • Do Street Photography
  • Try a different angle
  • Shoot something different than what you normally shoot
  • Place restrictions on your shooting like having to include a certain color or only using a certain aperture
  • Use slower shutter speeds
  • Go into a photo studio and limit yourself to only using one light

These are just a few ideas to get you started, but remember. Take risks, and always be ready to try something new to get your best photo!

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