April 3, 2009

Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School

For a few months now I've been following Syl Arena's blog PixSylated and in particular his ongoing series "Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School".

It originally started when Syl was asked by the omnipresent Scott Kelby to guest blog on his weekly "Guest Blog Wednesday" series.

The first twelve of that series include:

3. Powerful photographs touch people at a depth they don’t anticipate.
4. You have to let your images go out into the world without you.
10. Your photographs have value. Don’t give them away.

11. Your photographs have value. Give them away.
12. Resist the temptation to become a pro photographer.

For each of these points Syl shares valuable wisdom and insight on photography and what it means to be a "photographer." And they're not just some cheesy points. A lot of them, if not all of them, make me sit up, think and go "hmmmm," and a lot of them, although photography centric, have great application to the rest of the world and our daily lives.

A few more of Syl's "Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School:"

13. Learning photography is just like becoming fluent in a foreign language.
14. Invest more in your education than you do in photo gear.
18. Make tons of mistakes and fail frequently.
Don’t worry about “having a defined look”.
27. Ultimately your career as a photographer, amateur or professional, will be defined by the lives you touch through the images you make.
28. You can seldom pay your mentors back.
35. Look at other photographer’s work more than you look at your own.

Obviously there are a bunch of other lessons in there that I'm encouraging you to also check out, and the ones that I did mention have explanations that go so much deeper than what I have shared here.

In an industry that looks so closed, elitist and foreign to the bystander (cuz photography is like being fluent in anohter language), I'm continually amazed at how giving many photographers are. With amazing cameras being more easily owned and billions of pictures being constantly snapped, it's encouraging to see wealths of knowledge paid backwards to people who really want to learn this craft.

I already owe a debt to numerous photographers out there who are known both on the international stage, more closely in the Toronto area, and within my group of friends and family. I can't imagine ever being able to give back to any of them what they've so freely given to me, but no one who shares like that ever really expects something in return.

I guess one way I try to return the favour to photographers who have helped me is to share with you what they helped me with or how they inspired me. It's a constant circle of give and take.

So thanks Syl! I'm paying forward your gift of knowledge:

Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School - 13-17
Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School - 18-21
Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School - 22-27
Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School - 28-31
Lessons I Didn't Learn in Photo School - 32-35

More soon...


  1. Kathryn -

    Many thanks for spreading the word about LIDLIPS. Your comments help me understand what I'm seeing in my own reflection.

    Ciao! Syl

  2. You are most welcome Syl! I just experienced Lesson 27 yesterday, and it made any moment of self-doubt disappear. Hearing you've impacted someone in a profound way makes it all worth it!