I Hate Stupid Lists Like “5 Things You Need for Better Landscape Images”

Stupid ListsIt torks me off when I read e-blasts and blogs with titles like: “5 Things for Better Landscape Pictures: 10 Things To Do for Bluer Skies; 22.5 Places You Must Photograph This Weekend,” and on and on it goes.

Give me a break!

Most of these titles are click-bait, designed to grab you, and once you go to the 5 steps to better ‘dog licking food bowl pictures’ page you are asked to sign up for their course, buy a filter pack, and so on. Don’t get me wrong, honest tips are necessary and useful for your photographic growth, but list bloggers would have you believe that their lists of techniques are all you need to become a great, famous, or ‘killer’ (List writers use the word ‘killer’ a lot) photographer.

Give me another break!

Photography is a creative pursuit and if you want to kill your creativity use someone else’s list of things to do.

Photography is a creative pursuit and if you want to kill your creativity use someone else’s list of things to do. You will wind up duplicating the same mundane sunsets, slippery waterfalls, gooey baby pictures, and folks will tell you— “that’s nice,” “oh how cute,” “great fall colors”, “that’s interesting”, and “my, my what kind of camera did you use— I need to get one like that.”

Here’s a truth— Ok call it a tip if you must— creating great photographs forces you to face the painful fact that there is a gap between what you intended to capture, and what you captured. This also implies that our personal and professional shortcomings are often impediments to creating a strong photograph, but they are also our prime resource for improvement and maybe— just maybe— making great ones. Making strong, significant, emotionally extended photographs has to do with overcoming things, of following a path that we have always known we should follow, but have been afraid to.

Rather than working through a list of tips, improve your work by asking and then honestly answering some questions.  Here are a few to stimulate the process.


  • What images would you make if you were not afraid?

  • Why did you squeeze the shutter last week?

  • How come you did not squeeze it this morning?

  • What were you thinking when you decided to shoot images today?

  • Are you looking or are you seeing?

  • If your current photographs were all in one collection what would the title be?

  • When was the last time you read a book about photography as opposed to reading a ‘how to’ photography book?


Bloggers who create tip Lists imply control and certainty. Folks who need safe bets in their lives are less likely to make creative photographs that explore risk, complicated approaches, innovative compositions, or spontaneous breakthroughs. You don’t need a list of tips to create strong images; you need to simply determine what you are looking for, some direction on how to find it, and the courage to forget your mistakes and love your surprises.


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