11 Quotes About Photography

I’m not a big fan of quotes. Sorry, I know I’m in the minority here, but when I hear another photographer speak, or I read his or her writing, I want to know what THEY have to say. If the program is filled with a bunch of quotes by someone else, I leave a little empty. I’ve attended a few programs that were nothing more than a photo on the screen with a quote beside it, with no information about the photographer’s approach to creating the images. The only thing I took away from that was that the presenters were very good at looking up quotes.

Waterfall at night

Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, f/3.5, 20 seconds, ISO 1600. Light Painting with LED flashlight.

That said, I’ve been known to throw a few lines out from time to time. “Luck favors the prepared mind” is written on my back with a Sharpie and will soon be a permanent tattoo. As I’ve said many times, I play the part of walking contradiction very well.  

I attended a program last week by Bryan Peterson during which he threw out an old quote about composition. “When is the best time to shoot a vertical?” “Right after you shoot a horizontal.” I was surprised at the number of people in the audience who—making an assumption by their response—had never heard this before. Bryan wasn’t trying to pass the saying off as his, mind you; he was just using it—very effectively in this case—to make his point. Actually, come to think of it, as long as Bryan’s been around and as legendary as he is, he could have been the one to coin the saying decades ago.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about some of the more common quotes out there that photographers like to use when teaching. I’m not talking about any of the Confucius kind of things where the teacher calls you Grasshopper before he speaks and you have to ponder what he’s saying for months before it clicks in your head. I’m just talking about the short and sweet blurbs that are intended for nuts and bolts photo teaching. These are the ones I heard in my first years with a camera and the ones I keep hearing. (Well, except for that one about film. Haven’t heard that in a while.)

I’m afraid I can’t give credit for most of these, because I don’t know who first said it. If anybody knows the author of any of these, please let me know. 
11   “When is the best time to shoot a vertical? Right after you shoot a horizontal.”

10   “What’s the difference between a pro and an amateur? The pro knows when NOT to take the picture.”

9    “You don’t TAKE a photo, you MAKE it.” (I like this one. I think it’s from Ansel Adams.)

   “If you want to make better photos, you have to put yourself in front of better subjects.” (Or something like that. This one is from a National Geographic editor, whose name I can’t remember.)

   “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.” (Another one from Ansel, I believe. I wonder if the Nat Geo editor got his inspiration from this one.)

   “Film is cheap.” (For years, I tried to find the place where everyone was buying that cheap film. Never found it.)

5    “F/8 and be there.”

   “Your first 10,000 photos are your worst.” (Henri Cartier-Bresson. That’s for him. For me, it was 100,000!)

   “K.I.S.S.” (I’m betting this didn’t originate from the field of photography, but we sure latched on to it, didn’t we?)

2    “Don’t edit in the field.” (The idea being, shoot everything and wait until you get back home before you throw most of it away. There’s nothing worse than getting 50 miles away from a subject and wishing you had shot it from a different angle.)

1    “When is the best time to use a tripod? Right before you take the picture.” (Okay, I’m cheating. This one’s mine.)

Thinking about number 11, I’m thinking that the best time to show a vertical image is right after I’ve shown the horizontal. So the shot I’m including here is a vertical of the shot I posted yesterday. And it isn’t real, either!


Leave a Reply