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My Six

I am by no means the end all in photographic instruction, I’m a fellow explorer of the creative frontier with passion for cameras, art, adventure, and travel. However, I do get questions from folks about how to improve their own photography. If you visit this site regularly, you know I try to share both information and inspiration so others can find their own unique vision. Normally I add tips to the individual posts, but I thought it might be a good idea if I solidified a short list of guidelines that I have been using to help me refine and realize my own vision. I still have a long way to go, but I believe that following these tips will get me there. Hopefully they will help you get there too.

  • Know Your Hardware – You need to know the basics. You need to know what the command dials do, how to read your exposure meter, how to manually focus your lens, etc. Beyond that, you also need to know the advanced features of your camera. I am guessing your digital camera has more horsepower than an Apollo mission so make sure to read the manual. Know what every custom setting does. Know how to change those settings quickly. You also need to know about any other hardware you decide to add to your system. How do your filters work? How do you use your tripod to make the sharpest image? How do you use your flash? Armed with this ‘know how’, when the image presents itself, you will be able to realize your vision.
  • Know Your Software -With the advent of digital photography the computer is the new darkroom so spend time learning your software. You don’t have to dive into the deep end right away, or buy the most expensive toolset. Just learn how to make simple adjustments in the toolset you are currently using. Eventually, as you learn, you will discover the tools that you want and your darkroom will expand right along with your vision.
  • Practice – Like any other endeavor in life, photography takes practice. So go out and give yourself an assignment. Take your camera to work, family functions, the grocery store…just be sure you are making images! It will not only help in learning your hardware, it will give you more material to process so you can learn your software. As you become more familiar with the capabilities of your tools, you will find that your vision will expand and your images will improve; which will fuel your desire to make more images, which will result in improved images… see where this is going?
  • Seek Inspiration – We are all photographers and love images, but try and expose yourself to something new. Don’t get me wrong, feel free to keep reading, but seek your inspiration from new environments and art forms. Whether it is sculpture, paint, music, etc. take the time to fill your life with art and experiences. It will improve more than just your photography.
  • Experiment – Call it what you will; ‘Shoot Review Adjust’ (SRA), ‘Spray and Pray’, ‘Chimping (take a photo and quickly look at the back of your LCD as if it is a coconut you would like to open)’ but digital photography has turned your camera into an incredible photo workshop and the instant feedback that your LCD provides is one of the best instructors you can hire. Film is cheap now, so don’t hesitate wasting an exposure or 200. Have fun!
  • Share Your Knowledge and Work – I tried to keep the list short and limit it to 5 principles but I couldn’t leave this one out. Share what you learn with others (friends, family, fellow photographers) because others will be willing to share their knowledge with you. The internet has made it possible to collaborate with artists from around the world. Put it to use. Who knows, maybe you will inspire someone else!

Here are some of my favorite images that I have made while applying these principles.


  1. Jeffery Chavez says:

    Justin thanks for your hard work, creativity, and knowledge of photography and post processing. In the short time that I have been visitng your blog I have learned so much.
    I appreciate the tips and tutorials you have to offer, the outside sources that you recommend to us such as Chromasia which I have subscribe to just yesterday. (Very informative and educating)

    As busy as you are yet you still have that intimate feel to your blog, makes it feel like I have my own personal mentor that I can look for guidance in your blog when I go online.

    Even though “” first caught my interest in photography with Trey’s hdr work, it is your site that keeps me comming back for more motivation and inspiration for real world photography and post processing.

    I love Trey’s work but I guess he just got to big now to keep up with his visitors. But I’m happy for him anyway he’s good people and from the short time visiting your blog I see you as such.

    That’s why I hope you succeed in everything you do at “”
    Just saying thanks and keep up the good work.

    Jeffery Chavez

  2. Justin –

    You insight is “on focus” in regards to improving ones’s craft of photography. I agree with all 6 points. Each is vital and without working on all 6, you will not reach your potential as a photographer/artist…


  3. Thank you both for the thoughtful words. I am still developing as a photographer, and I hope to continue to do so my entire life. Hopefully these principles will help us along the way!

  4. Excellent images here, Justin! So engaging!

  5. Stunning photography! And great tips. They seem so obvious but are easily overlooked.

  6. Justin, I absolutely love your site look. I sent you an email about it a few minutes ago. Well done and keep shooting awesome photos!!

  7. Hey Justin!
    As always, fantastic images and a big thanks to you and your site in my learning,..thanks!

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