the secret to being a great photographer that is what I want to talk about in this video this is an observation of mine based on the fact that I’ve had a lot of fortune in my career to work with some incredible artists and some incredible photographers I spent seven years in an art museum and then in the years that I’ve done this show which has been eight of them now and a lot of you that have followed the show for a while know we have talked about a lot of the great living photographers we’ve talked about a lot of the icons in the history of photography even some people who have been rediscovered that we’re kind of forgotten for an amount of time what makes them the best what makes them the best at what they do what is the secret to that this year I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve done the artist series which I’ve released the first three videos and I have six more that I’m editing right now and I hand-picked all nine of the artists that I worked with on that and these photographers represent the very best of the best some of them are very successful in their careers some of them you probably have never heard of but they are all at the very top of their game and if you look at the things that make somebody the best at what they do I mean there are a lot of things that go into that obviously talent is one sometimes it can be the commercial set of things for instance Ansel Adams was a very talented photographer but he was also commercially successful he had a very good business sense he hired somebody to work with him on this and that’s how he became a household name and not to discredit him at all he was still incredible but what was the one thing that makes him incredible because there are other people you’ve never heard of that don’t sell a lot of work but they’re still amazing and you know in all the people that I’ve had the chance to work with the one common thread that I see between every one of them is extreme determination and it really is nothing more nothing less is extreme determination as I mentioned everybody works a little bit differently everybody has a different process everybody has a different style everybody has a different way that they arrive at the work that they produce they have different backgrounds some of the photographers that I’ve worked with went and studied in the university system others are completely self-taught so that common thread though it doesn’t matter what the background is it doesn’t matter what the process is it is extreme determination now inside of that extreme determination is a seed of self motivation that operates on a very high level as well and the reason I’m saying this and the reason I wanted to do this video and talk about this a little bit is that you know we’re underway with photography assignments right now and I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from you guys on that and I did a video on motivation the other day and after I did that video I’m still thinking about it and the next day I was actually driving back from the store and I’m still thinking about it and I guess some of this comes to mind because in a week I’m going to be a year older and I do mean older and it’s interesting I’ve noted of the way that I think things now versus the 18 year old 20 year old Ted and the way he dealt with things I’ve changed a lot over the years I think that’s fairly normal I think most people do but when I was younger I would tend to overcomplicate everything back in those days I photographed on a very amateur level but I was really serious about music and that’s what my degree is in I went to music school we got my degree and I studied composition I stayed jazz performance at one point in various things and there were at that time there was still photographers that I looked up to but there were also musicians that I looked up to an artists and I wanted to be on that level and when I would look at that and I would like trying to figure out okay what is the difference between me and them I had such a respect for people that I looked up to and my heroes that a lot of times and I didn’t even realize it was consciously doing this but I was putting a mental blinder up into whatever I was doing wasn’t good enough it wasn’t because I was able to do it I was mortally able to like do something to get me closer to something and I would put a block up and I would over complicate everything that I did and it’s funny looking back at that now that’s why I’m smiling because now that I’m much older I look back and I think it was so simple I mentioned this in that motivation video if you are a photographer if you want to be a photographer you need to take photographs it is that simple that simple every one of the photographers and I talked about this extreme determination you can tell that every one of them gets up in the morning and it’s not a question of oh my gosh I should shoot something or I haven’t done this yet or it’s just when what are we doing today and I can tell every one of them it’s like that’s what drives them in life I’ve made comments about some of the feedback that I’ve had to help you guys with this along too and it’s it’s really interesting the variation that I’ve had on that and I used to teach as an adjunct professor to local college here and it’s actually similar but you know within the see system or any kind of higher education for that matter you have assignments you have deadlines you have tuition you’re paying you have teachers that are expecting things out of you you have finals you have midterms and all those things but even then having gone through that system myself and having taught in it you still need to be self-motivated you got to get your work done you’ve got to figure it out and if you’re there because you think that the system is somehow going to hand you some secret that you don’t know I think you’re going to be very disappointed because that doesn’t exist now I’m not bagging on collagen for anybody who wants to pursue a college degree even in photography I fully support that I think that’s a wonderful idea because there are things that you will learn in colleges and experiences that you will have that really aren’t available anywhere else and they’re very special in that regard are they necessary no education is a tool it’s just like this camera this microphone or the monitor or whatever it’s a tool to help you get something that’s going to get you down the road you know from point A to point B and it’s going to do it much differently can you be self-taught absolutely there’s no right or wrong way to do anything but that is still at the core self motivation I remember when I was in college it was my last semester there and I got paired up the summer actually is the last year I was there but that summer I got paired up with a composition teacher who ended up being one of my favorite teachers there and we the way we did this is we would get all of his students together in the summer even though we were going to be studying privately with him during the year and we would kind of have a little meet-and-greet ooh get together and he would kind of give us some of his ethos into musical composition I’ll never forget this because it was one of my favorite it was a life-changing afternoon and he was talking about the difference between Mozart and Beethoven and he said when you know you have Mozart over here who represents the extreme savant Mozart he couldn’t write a bad note he performed it at a very high level of consistency he was extremely prolific and it was dr. Windsor said he would just the music out you know and it didn’t seem like he had to try for anything it was so natural with Mozart and and just in this huge volume of work that it was just this Herculean effort to get that out look on the other end of the continuum you have Beethoven who struggles Beethoven is constipated he can’t get it out sometimes and he has to think about it mull over it and over it and it’s a very different extreme but the thing that’s beautiful about both those is that you have the mozart that’s exciting the the natural spontaneity of it the olympian and then on the other side you have Beethoven who is more human and it’s more like okay this is achievable because he struggled on this this is you can identify with that and that’s what’s amazing is those two sides of that spectrum on that and so that was really life changer for me because I think it put me in a place one where okay never learn this over the years is that you can admire the people that it comes very easy for and at the same time it’s okay to work that’s why on the photo assignments this is really important guys is that really my goal on this is I don’t care about deadlines I don’t really even care I mean some people won’t do these I get it it’s okay I’m actually pleasantly surprised with the response that I’ve got so far give you an example I have not introduced the social component about this yet and I already have people and the reason I did that it was very deliberate because what will happen every time I do this is you’ll announce something here’s the social component people just go grab old work and put it up which is okay and you can analyze your old work but I want you guys to be in the moment with this and I want you to work along with with the group on this as much as you can and I want you to be excited about these and I want you to get something because really the the entire point of me doing these photo science is I want to provide something that’s going to be challenging that it’s going to allow us to discover things about ourselves in our own work that’s going to end up making a difference it’s going to impact us creatively it’s going to affect the way we think and it’s going to allow us to fail now we will give ourselves permission to fail because failing is important failing is what you learn from and a lot of people end up ultimately failing because they don’t give themselves permission to fail ever and it’s very sad but that’s the way you need to work and it’s the way you need to approach these and I think we’re gonna have a lot of fun in the end anyway to the people I really appreciate those that have gone ahead and already started putting these on Twitter and tagging me because they’re excited and that is pretty exciting to me and I’ve also had people did a little more timid about it and they’re asking a lot of questions don’t overthink these have fun with them they’re going to be experimental which means you can kind of do whatever you want um you can even amend the assignment if you think that’s the way to go I don’t know it just depends but then I’ve also had people that have talked to me about time constraints and time concerns and like I said it’s really hard for me to help you if you can’t figure out what that time is and I don’t think that with photography or anything I think time is what we make of it sometimes and I know this has definitely been this way in my life there have been times where I have been extremely busy when I started this show actually when I started making videos and putting them online I had a full time day job in our Museum that was more than 40 hours a week and it was an adjunct professor at that time and I taught at least three classes a week and one semester I did an online thing too and I had very little time and it was funny because I come home I still really wanted to make my videos and so I knew that I had one hour to make a video or 30 minutes to make a video I’d get a video done I didn’t allow myself any time the way time works with me anyway is that if I have it I’ll try and fill it again back to the younger Ted making everything more complicated than it need to be I think when I was younger and I still do this now sometimes if I have six hours to do something and you finish it in three then I feel kind of weird like well there’s three hours left I did it wrong I got to spend much more time on this all spend more time and so as a result what I do is I will overthink everything and then I’ll do it all real fast at the last minute so we all work in different ways but what I’m saying is even if you have time constraints if you have 15 minutes a week 30 minutes a week an hour a week and that’s it then use it wisely get something done in that hour go make some photographs that’s what you’ve got to do remember this is the secret to being a great photographer and I’m not kidding it sounds like a click Beatty title and all I really am not kidding this is the common thread that I’ve seen in all the photographer’s that I’ve had the utmost pleasure to work with Gregory Crutzen William Wegman um Graciela Toby day you know I’ve worked with some of the best of the best and that’s one thing that I’ve gotten the sense of and talking to them they’re all determined there’s no question am I going to make pictures it’s I am a photographer and this is what I do and prepare because here it comes you know anyway so I hope that helps you guys I hope that makes sense I know some people have still had trouble getting their heads around the journal idea and I know the journal idea is a little bit old-school and it’s little bit foreign to some people and so to help you out I will do some videos later this week we’re going to show you what I’m doing with mine there is no right or wrong way to do it you don’t have to do it but maybe it would help to see some stuff is what I’m saying if you guys enjoyed this video please remember to like it share it and as always subscribe to the art of photography so you’ll always be up to date on all the great stuff that we do here and until the next video I’ll see you guys then later

Posts created 3303


  1. I can't help thinking that some of the so-called greats were first and foremost fantastic self publicists.

  2. Great video Ted. I was interested in your comments about self-education versus college, etc. I've always fared better with the former, although both have their strengths and weaknesses. I think that teaching yourself probably gives you more originality but might cause blind spots too.
    Also, the Mozart/Beethoven dichotomy has interested me as well. I suppose there are various ways to conceptualise it but one idea that I like is the thought of the artist who draws out what is already there – into something like art – and the shaper, or moulder, who transforms to his or her will. Apart from Mozart/Beethoven, think Michaelangelo/Rodin or Capablanca/Alekhine. As for photographers in this respect, I'm not savvy enough to comment.

  3. I just simply love this channel, I have a couple weeks watching your videos, and well they are really good, I realy feel your passion for photography, cheers from Venezuela!

  4. Found your page while looking for a review on the XT-2, and have been  watching for the past 2 hours; appreciate the insight, and dig your music! you're a fascinating guy!

  5. Hey Ted, @Theartofphotography i subscribed a couple of years ago ,,, Im self thought, i like how you talk about photography, come check my instagram if you got a few minutes, check out how i change as time passes. I didnt us eit much but i ve been active the past months. @fusk4 . See ya!

  6. I'm a musician as well. Music is my passion but photography is my new passion. Investing so much money in music and photography! Love your videos man!!

  7. Just stumbled onto your site, as others may have confessed………..I am grateful, this is what I needed when I needed it.

  8. Ted, you hear all the time " look at the camera " these videos you post here you probably look away from the camera more than you look at it.

  9. Thank you for your channel! I was having crisis with passion but your videos got me back on track. Thank you again!

  10. This is relatable to so many situations/careers on so many level. Not just photography. Truly inspired and motivated 😀

  11. Thank you for this, I find myself falling into all these pitfalls you talked about all the time, part of it is my anxiety which I struggle with reaching out to people to collaborate with, and when I'm out I'm always scared I'm doing something wrong. But it's nice to hear these creative pitfalls are common and that I'm not the only one out there experiencing them. This video was definitely one I needed to see so thank you for making it.

  12. I just paused for a moment and felt Beethoven across the vast expanses of time and space. And I have heard his music since the crib. Just had a mystical experience.

  13. Looked at some photo assignments and I can't do them :/ (no wide angle lenses etc.) but I'm gonna try to some of the other ones. Great video!

  14. As stated earlier….. YOU……. ARE……………………………………. a fucking badass.

  15. Rich. Few seconds go by without your saying something I"m glad to hear. Thank you. You do a great service for us.

  16. Though I may be discovering this video two years late, I’m happy I did. Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to hear.

  17. Great video! I found you because of Peter McKinnon. He unboxed a camera that you sent him in the mail and he linked you in the description, I found this channel and am currently doing the Assignment #1 Variations! Love your teaching so far! 👊

  18. Hey! Great video, I loved it. However, I would love to see a recap space on your videos ! I'm motivated now, but It feels bad when you got lots of information and you remember a half of the video. Thanks!

  19. You're completely right. In fact, I've observed this to be the case for every successful artist in any medium, that the one consistent thing they have is DRIVE. They do it and do it and they live it and breathe it. David Lynch recently called this The Art Life.

  20. I love everything you said here. This is what I am talking to my students about. Never stop taking pictures, you grow every time. It is in stewarding the mundane as some would call it, where you find the extraordinary.

  21. This video gave me so much motivation and i really felt better about everything after watching cause most of it was the things i am struggling with

  22. Good video.
    Reminds me of the old saying, “Art is never finished. It’s abandoned.”
    One of my teachers in school told me great photographers throw out all of their bad photos.

  23. Anybody know how to customize ads? When I clicked on this video, our beloved leader popped up to yell at me about building the wall and "adding my name"! Blech.

  24. So yeah, there are some people working at youtube to put dislike on any fucking video there is… it is fact with this video, because there is no way to dislike what is being talked about here.

  25. Well said. It’s that simple!!! Just do it. Over and over. Until you get good at it. Life is not a competition. Do what you like for little time you have here.

  26. What?… Sorry, I like you and I like your channel, so no bad vibes, but this was just a whole bunch of waffle. You lost me on more than several moments… Love you though 🙂

  27. the best artists and photographers are mainly unknown or seen until somebody decides they are great which as usual will be a case of follow the money. Then it is down to taste as personally I think Ansel Adams stuff is not that good ~ Mostly what "informed" critics deem as great is not admired by the general public.

  28. “Whatever I was doing wasn’t good enough, because I was able to do it”

    Great vid but I particularly love that quote. I think the difference is ‘worthiness’. I know you said ‘determined’, and I agree to a degree but I believe that naturally comes from a sense of worthiness. I got into photography a few months ago. I only had a very old and slow laptop so couldn’t really edit much. I dreamed of getting a powerful device and a good photo editor so I could unleash my creativity. After saving up I purchased an XT2 for the manual controls that I wanted to use, and I bought an iPad Pro, a big investment for me. And then it all stalled. There I was with the things I said I wanted so much, but then I was frozen because now I could do it. So then I went looking for more excuses, such as “My photos should look as good as theirs, and I don’t know how to do that, so I’ll do nothing”.

    But what makes that person have thousands of followers, and me a handful. Why do I think I have to copy someone I admire, instead of just enjoying the feeling of appreciating them. It’s about worthiness and acceptance of self. Occasionally over the last 10 years I’ve been making music with a couple of friends. I’m self taught and don’t even consider myself able to ‘play’ in a technical sense. Nethertheless I’ve come up with some seriously catchy bass lines and guitar riffs. Over time I pretty much completely stopped listening to/and making more of the music I made with my friends, even though I really enjoyed listening to and making the music. Instead I would listen to those musicians I admired, yet with a sense of wishing I was as good as them. Where did the joy go?

    The fact is the joy never went, it’s still as accessible as it ever was. There is room for everything to exist, and nothing is any better than anything else, other than a personal preference. Isn’t that reason enough to accept oneself and feel worthy of ones expression, Who wouldn’t prefer to dig themselves, to know and feel that whatever they produce has value without conditions.

    We wouldn’t have had such things as expressionist Art if everyone towed the line. Some Art movements started with just one or a few people that are now part of the history of art, recognised, appreciated and valued by many. There would be no new movements if it weren’t for those with a sense of worthiness. Impressionist art can sit alongside Renaissance art, or whatever. I dig many art forms and one doesn’t have to take the place of the other. Nothing has to take the place of you.

    So don’t let your admiration of another detract from yourself. Instead appreciate that they feel worthy, and sprinkle some of that fairy dust onto yourself.

    Thanks for your channel Ted.

  29. As a musician (and still learning my craft.) I think this is relevant in all kind of medium you're working in and I greatly admire people who dedicates their lives into their own medium of preference and choice and nothing beats hard work and dedication it doesnt matter when you're achieving success. The most important factor is that you don't stop improving yourself on the never ending journey. It doesnt matter if you're 25 of if you're 45.

  30. Great video as usual! Why is your black shirt so "blocky" though? If it's you post-processing, or my monitor, I'm not sure, but the black blocks on your shirt is moving around being a distraction. Edit: I looked into it, and it seems it's a compression artifact. Don't know how easily it can be prevented, or if you care at all about it, but I just wanted to make it known 🙂

  31. I shoot street 7 days week and never go anywhere without my camera I always carry 2 In a knapsack that is has be converted to carry my cameras without damaging them. If I shoot under 100 in a couple of hours I am so disappointed. I love photography I love taking photos and it's been a passion since 1982. I am so inspired by other people's art. I applied for a photojournalism program but never got excepted, do the program director a slight disagreement during an interview. He was the editor of the Toronto Star. So I stopped shooting 4 a couple of years and painted and did film making. But eventually got back to photography. My influences are Vivian Maier , Mary Ellen Mark and Saul Leiter amazing photoghers. I could not even imagine what it would be like to be paid for taking photos. Being paid for something you love. Thank you for your amazing videos

  32. Constant failure is another aspect of success. That sounds dumb, but you only need to succeed once with most things in life. Every bad photo is a step forward, so make sure to take lots of bad photos.

  33. Knowing the secret doesn’t mean you’ll ever be a great photographer, and many not knowing the secret have become great.

  34. It takes a lot to make this photo thing work. But you're right, what you need is –
    1. Endless work ethic
    2. Love of photography
    3. Customer service

    So many people forget that third one.
    I already regret typing it 😉 Trade secret haha

  35. Thank you so much for talking about your amature phase. I'm going through a similar phase where I think over complicating simple things is the only way to get good images. I went on a trip a couple of months ago with a bunch of friends and I was absolutely determined that I has to shoot manual focus and I had to shoot at 1/4000 or tiny apertures to get sharp images. The result? Really blurry images shot at 6400 ISO in broad daylight. Looking back now after I've gotten some experience in this art, I cringe so much. How I got so arrogant when my friend wanted to shoot and just gave up after seeing how he had to manually focus or how I refused to give images to my friend "because I haven't edited them yet", because I was doing so much in photoshop and in lightroom, spending hours upon hours on a sine image, trying to make everything perfect, but I couldn't because I hadn't chosen the right settings. I'm pretty sure at some point I was even clone stamping the ISO grains away Of course, you're situation was different since you did fully know I to do what you were supposed, where as I was just an idiot with a camera.

    I've been really beating myself more than I should've been because of it, but now I've learned that I can change, and I hope I can become a much more humble and passionate man as yourself.

    You are my inspiration for photography ted, your tutorials have taught me so much over these months and I can only imagine how much better images I could get now.

  36. Awesome!! You are correct on that determination. I see that being the key as well in my life and those around me.

  37. In the 70s and 80s my dad was a professional wedding photographer. Twice a year he would go to different seminars on photography and out of all of them the lecture that stood out the most was the difference about a good photographer and a great photographer. A great photographer disposed of good photos and kept only the great ones…

  38. What I do often is take some photos, I like them, then after a while I think its crap. Then after about a year or so I kinda think they are good and sometimes I even re-crop them and by slightly adjusting composition I find them better. It actually makes sense as I improve my eye over time. But the biggest problem for me is not managing to capture what I see on the spot. If I just went a bit more to the left, or just slightly lower, or if I've waited for that person to move few steps further or time this shadow to fall a bit more to the right…

  39. ted, your presentation style, eclectric subject matter, knowledge, passion is what makes your channel really great – i hope they never find a cure for ocd! thank you.

  40. The simple way to be a good photographer (if not great). 1: Take lots and lots of photos — if you take enough you are bound to get some good ones. We were shooting for an annual report for the largest multifamily REIT in the US, and I asked the photographer how many pictures we was taking. He told me he usually takes 600 pictures for every one picture that he ends up using (I'm sure there are great photographers out there who don't have to take that many to get one good one — but I'm telling you the simple way, or at least a way to get great pictures even if you are not "talented"). 2: Learn how to crop and edit pictures well. This tip I got from some very good photographers (including a leading National Geographic Magazine photographer). You might take a picture that looks pretty boring, but there is probably a small piece of it that when cropped and blown up in size (and maybe using some other editing techniques) that would look amazing. I think that's the real value of having a high megapixel camera — it allows you to crop away all the bad stuff and still end up with good photos. Again, "great" photographers can probably get award winning photographs without doing these things — but these are tips to get great photos without really having to be a "talented" photographer. At least you might be able to fool your friends that you are good.

  41. Sir at present I and while I'm in my retirement life. And also a bucket list of things wildlife photography has always been a part of my life . So I'm doing my best to put together a set of my best works ( photos ) to do a photo showing presentation. Both for me and get the insight critique of others .
    I'll be including some landscape and some portraits works ….

  42. There is no secret to becoming a great photographer.
    It is possible to take a mediocre photograph and think it is fantastic.
    It's also possible to take a fantastic photograph and think it is mediocre.
    The best photographers know the difference between a good shot and a bad shot…..and they throw away the bad.
    A great photographer will not settle for mediocrity.

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