How to Be a Better Photographer with Less

How to Be a Better Photographer with Less

Mike Tyson
Oct 7, 2011

Have you ever felt the desire to take up photography as a hobby but don't know where to start -- what camera should you buy, what should you shoot? Or maybe you're already a photographer but feel yourself stuck in a rut, shooting the same things over and over again? Writer and photographer CJ Chilvers thinks he has a solution, and a simple one at that. He has a blog called A Lesser Photographer and recently released a short and free ebook that provides some key insight for the wannabe photographers and those caught in a photographer's-block.

CJ was once like so many other photographers, feverously collecting equipment, comparing lens, agonizing over Flickr stats, and constantly struggling to get any kind of paid work. But one day he realized somewhere along the line photography became less about the photos and more about the products and everything else. He wanted to find a way to return to photography in a more humble manor and eschew the mentality of constantly buying the latest and greatest and playing into photography trends. So CJ sold all of his expensive cameras and picked up a consumer grade point and shoot camera.

He quickly found that putting restraints on himself forced him to think more creatively. He reasoned that the camera produced results that were just as acceptable as a more expensive DSLR yet it discouraged the use of fancy lens and encouraged more impromptu photo sessions since you can literally put it in your pocket and take it anywhere. After testing this theory for some time and blogging about his process on his website, CJ decided to write a book to share his experience and knowledge and hopefully help people embrace the concept of being a lesser photographer for greater photographs.

The free ebook is called A Lesser Photographer: 10 Principles for Rediscovering What Matters. It's a quick 10 minute read but it contains some salient information about the importance of photography and how little of it actually relies on an expensive camera. Some of our favorite principles are:

Artists Thrive on Constraints:
As mentioned above, this is about creating self-imposed constraints in order to force yourself to be innovative. As one of our favorite Abstract Expressionists, Ad Reinhardt, once said, "There is nothing less significant in art, nothing more exhausting and immediately exhausted, than 'endless variety.'"

The Most Important Tool:
The importance of editing -- being highly selective and critical, reducing the waste -- is a crucial part of taking photographs. Also, He makes a point to avoid the cliché subjects of photography that have been done to death: waterfalls, sunsets, flowers, etc... Force yourself to look closer at the world and see if you can discover something new, something untouched by photographers before.

Go Amateur:
Don't stress yourself out worrying whether your photography is marketable and how are you ever going to make a living by doing it. Sit back, take it slow, and enjoy your progress as it comes. There is no need to rush things. The creative process often takes time to evolve and if you try to rush yourself into a professional career, you're likely to miss critical steps in a photographer's development.

Now all of this is good and well, but we're still skeptical about the trade in from a DSLR to a point and shoot. We own a Nikon D90 after owning a point and shoot for many years and the quality difference is beyond compare. The clarity of the images, even with the stock lens, is so good we can't imagine trading that in and going back to a point and shoot for good. But it may be an interesting experiment to test for a month or so. Maybe we could get a few of our friends and take the challenge together to see what kind of images we could come up with.

Has anyone else had experience doing something similar? It almost seems possible to sell all of your cameras and just stick with your phone at this point since camera phones are becoming so powerful.

(Image: Flickr member licensed for use under Creative Commons.)

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