What is the most important thing you’ve learned about photography?

The most important thing you've learned about photography

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about photography

As students of the photographic arts, we are on a wonderful journey of learning. The more we learn, the greater our ability to express ourselves artistically. From learning to use equipment, or pushing our knowledge of post-processing software, or coming to terms with marketing ourselves, each new day can present a new challenge from which we can develop our understanding, and improve as photographers. On this incredinble journey of discovery, we constantly learn and pick up new tips. It’s great to share these tips and help other photographers by sharing the most important thing you’ve learned about photography.

The most important thing you've learned about photography


My question to you is this: what is the most important thing you have learned about photography this year? (Please leave a comment in the comments box below, including a link to your work online).

Image by Felix Merler from Pixabay


One of my biggest learning points is surprisingly obvious. For the past couple of years I’ve carried with me a strong torch, and a medium strength headlamp. Using them was clunky, to say the least. I ditched both for a single, strong headlamp, which made my life significantly easier. My 350 lumens headlamp is strong enough to help me compose my image in near pitch-black darkness, while freeing my hands up to deal with the camera equipment, and balance myself while standing on slippery rocks. If you don’t have a headlamp, I strongly recommend you add one to your arsenal. This headlamp comes highly recommended: Boruit RJ-3000 LED Headlamp with Red Light.

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I also learned the hard way that it is important to have a spare pair of socks in your bag when shooting seascapes on a cold winter evening!

And finally, a ritual I’ve established when shooting in hectic scenes is to breathe slowly, focusing on one thing at a time without letting my excitement get the better of me. With a calmer mind we can see more clearly, while a frantic mind sometimes leads to simple mistakes.

With that in mind, I’d love to know what piece of knowledge, or nugget of experience has been most valuable for you this year. So please do leave a comment below.


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What is the most important thing you’ve learned about photography?

37 thoughts on “What is the most important thing you’ve learned about photography?

  1. I’ve learned that there are few things more painful than watching your camera and tripod fall to the hard concrete floor and eventually smash!

  2. One of the most important things I have learned this year is not to venture out alone and then put myself in harms way to get a photograph. Had a bad fall in the Llanberis Pass in Snowdonia a month back. Isolated spot, no one around, fortunately I was able to walk out but ended up in A&E with a totally closed eye and bad bruising on my leg. Thinking back, I was lucky…my Olympus E-M1 could have been badly damaged.

  3. 2014 has been a real step up year for me in term of post processing after several years of using third party programs for HDR photography. Mostly through Jimmy’s tutorials, both free and premium, I’ve learned a lot of tricks, tips and techniques which I now use for every shot I deem worth to spend some time editing. Volume of batch edited pictures using more or less the same settings has been replace by quality, creativity and precise control of the editing process. So I’d like to thank Jimmy for giving a good glimpse of what’s possible to do with PS luminosity masks for free on Youtube, which ultimately pushed me and taught me to get more involved with my images through the premium class packages.
    Cheers from Switzerland.

  4. The best thing I have learned this year about postprocessing is, luminosity masks. And yes I bought your courses and it is an eyeopener. Now I am familiar with the technique I see great photographers using this technique too. I am making big steps in my progress. The nicest thing is, I find, is the more you know, you create choices in how to approach your work flow.
    I will be following you ;-)))

  5. (b)lumin mask s are very useful post processing tools thanks Jimmy …and that even a sandbagged tripod can still be blown over and send a Big Stopper and ND Grad find their final resting place .. but at least it was in the Lake District though, so great views lol.

  6. Probably managing HDR images by hand, rather than using Photomatix. That being said, I spent money on Photomatix that I could’ve used elsewhere 😛 Also, using ND Filters for daylight long-exposure, manually controlling my aperatures for exposure times, and using my old 75-300mm lens as a macro lens as seen in shots like this:


  7. To be totally honest. (1) If you live outside the USA you are a lepper when it comes to many of the firms that make photographic products offering special deals on the equipment. I watch many webinars and always when there is a special offer it says USA only.
    (2) There is so much information out there on the web that you just cannot take it all in. (3) Hyperfocal distance, Natural looking HDR’s, Masks, Lightroom. I just wish the digital age had come a bit sooner because at over 60 it gets harder to keep it all in the head.
    Hope everyone has good Christams and a photographic New Year.

  8. I learned to follow my heart and instincts…… yes….. sometimes mistakes are made….. but then there is that one shot when you say……Oh my god!

  9. What did I learn this year as a professional photographer. I improved my post processing of my photographs by entering my work into contests. In doing so I realized my work flow had flaws in it. The technical problems in my photographs were easily fixed. Just took time and the proper technique. Now my work flow is strong and I have the confidence I need to enter my work in contest against the very best photographers in the world. I also have learned that all contest are not equal. Some are legitimate and some are not. I base that on their comments. And I have also learned that one needs to keep their large successes to themselves. Being too proud of ones accomplishments like I do sometimes can work against you. Therefor I have learned I need to be more humble. Here is a link to my work … enjoy http://markallenreesephotography.zenfolio.com/p552390982

  10. The best things in photography this year were in learning to use luminosity masks. This has radically changed and improved my post production work on my images thanks to you and to Tony Kuyper. I’ve also worked to improve my camera’s performance using hyperfocal distances where applicable and working out techniques for maximum sharpness. I live in Hollywood so there is no limit to the weird and wonderful things you can shoot!

  11. This is what i´ve learned these last months about luminosity masks and it´s been very difficult for me because the language and but i´ve tried it.I know i need to improve it.Thanks so much Jimmy for sharing your knowledges with us and Happy Christmas to all audience.

  12. The best thing I learned is that the more you pay for your camera, the best the picture cames out. Peace, I almost quitted taking pictures 😉

  13. Hi, Jimmy,
    One of the most important thing I have learned about photography (post production) this year is Luminosity Masks, it really rocks! I really appreciate that. Thanks for that.

  14. I would have to say post processing especially using luminosity masks. I feel that it has taken my images to a new height. I own the training tutorials from Jimmy McIntyre. I have also notice and use the huge availability of You Tube tutorials from camera and lens evaluation to post processing. They is no subject out there that you can’t find information on.

  15. I learnt the value of putting my photos out on public display and finding out which ones were most liked and which ones nobody seemed to like, and using that information improving my approach to taking photographs that had wow effect. I photograph landscapes and nature rather than portraits

  16. Patience! In the past I’ve gone to a location, hopped out of the car, and started pretty quick. A few years ago, I realized I was missing things with this approach. Sure I got the shots quick and was on to the next spot but when viewing other’s shots of the same area I saw things I missed. January I made the resolution to slow it down and spend time looking at the scene with the camera in the car or case and just walking around. This proved helpful in a couple of ways. I saw things that I would have missed and I think, just as important. I calmed down, relaxed, and was able to shoot as slower speeds hand held even with a long lens. The patience goes further to the post processing phase of the photo. I study photos longer and in greater detail and have begun to see the here to fore unseen. All mounts up to a great year. A combination of serious and fun shots can be seen at http://photoblog.com/pdsdville. There are several years of photos there

  17. 2014 was the second year of my photography journey. It seems like I learn something every time I take my camera out. There are two things that stand out in my mind.

    I learned how to use my live view to focus on detail and get it tack sharp. That is an invaluable tool, especially in low light.

    I discovered that using long exposure in low, soft light creates a little bit of magic on some subjects. Mushrooms take on a special translucent quality when shot this way.

    Jimmy, my new years resolution is that I am going to actually sit down and use that tutorial I bought from you. I’m terrible at post work, I detest sitting at my computer, and I’d much rather be out in the wilderness somewhere. I have learned a couple of tricks with Lightroom and the Nik Software, but Photoshop still intimidates the heck out of me.


  18. Hi Jimmy and Happy Holidays to you and your family.

    I feel like everything is new with my move to digital. I have taken a step back and decided to invest in learning photography all over again. I look at the work of other photographers and feel that there is a process in finding a style, you try a little bit of everything to see what works and what does not. After getting it right in the camera, post processing opens up a world of possibilities.

    HDR seems to be one of those things that everyone has a few of in their portfolio. In the beginning I liked the grainy, high contrast, saturated effect; but now I better understand how to use it for a more balanced tonal range thanks to you.

    But the best thing I have done for my photography is recognised how much I have forgotten over the years and I have spent a lot of time learning the digital tools again, especially colour balance. I am paying more attention to the numerical evaluation of my images, ensuring that I correct all my colour casts before I do anything else.

    Here is some work I went back to, 12Mp Sony images, reevaluated in Lightroom before working on the tones. http://bit.ly/1Iux21z

    Thank you for all of your lessons and articles, they have helped me immensely.

    Drop me a note if you are ever in Toronto, I would love to show you around.

  19. To me 2014 its a before and after in my workflow with the discover of Jimmy’s luminosity masks technique. Thank you so much Mr. McIntyre!!!

  20. 2014 has been a bell weather year for me, too, Jimmy. I think I’m understanding more deeply why I have loved photography so much for 50+ years; that it’s the experiencing the scene more than the image I come away with that drives me to return often and become familiar with people and places — because there will be some new way to experience the scene or explore the area more fully. Perhaps as an experienced photographer, the think I’m still learning is that it IS the experience that is it’s own reward. Each of these images shot over the space of a few months this year were taken in the same location with the same lens but with widely differing experiences. Even without the images to remind me, I’d not forget this place or it’s beauty no matter the mood.

  21. I think the key thing I learned this year is that despite all my knowledge and experience, I know a scant fraction of what I thought I did. It’s a daunting and discouraging realization, but I must keep working to move forward. I bit the bullet and subscribed to PSCC Photographer’s Program this year. Learning Photoshop in earnest, including luminosity masks has proven to be the greatest learning curve and it will take a lot more work. I have nothing of substance to view online, mostly because I’m so dissatisfied with my work to date. I plan to completely eschew Photomatix moving forward and do things ‘properly’. I loved your courses Jimmy. Thank you, and Happy New Year!

  22. With making the changeover from film to digital after being away from the profession for years. The biggest things I’ve learned is shot, shot, shot, I’m not bound by exposure limits on a roll :{))) Still learning and gather knowledge of all the “post processing” programs also. Here’s a link to examples: https://500px.com/hisson33 And you’ve been involved in this “re”learning process Now I just need better gear to get up to steam !!!

  23. I feel I’ve finally started to make some progress on my composition this year. I took an art class and read some art books. They gave me a different perspective on composition than the photography books I’ve read. I still have a long way to go. But this year I saw progress. I still spent some time learning new techniques. The luminosity masks from Jimmy have definitely improved my processing workflow. Some of my work can be seen at

  24. I have learned luminosity masks and am still learning, because am new in this game of multiple exposures i love it esp on cityscape, landspace. Hopefully next year i will be a master. I question Jimmy, any recommended tripod strong & affordable? becase, when i change aperture for another shoot, it totally shakes, and makes me a bad time merging layers and i hate that. Thank you. Again for your tip. From Tanzania, Africa. UR Welcome.

  25. For me the single most important thing I have learnt, or is it really re-learnt, is to take my time and pay attention to details all the way though from seeing the shot, taking and post processing. Check all the time and when in post play close attention to edges, distracting areas in the image which draw the eye away from what I’m trying to highlight and generally keep reviewing what I’m doing..
    This lesson has come by joining, after years of internal debate, a photographic club and entering competitions. It has focused my mind when listening to judges comments, even allowing for the times when I strongly disagree with the comments,

  26. This year has been a huge learning year for me in photography on all fronts, so it’s hard to pick just one thing.

    In the field: I started learning how to use flash for macro, which completely changed my life; I’ve also become much more aware of natural light for landscape and cityscape work.

    Long exposures: a beanbag and some creativity can go a long way (sometimes you get really interesting angles – of course, sometimes you can’t find anything decent without a tripod, so it’s a tradeoff – but overall, I like being able to travel a little lighter, and not everywhere allows tripods).

    Post-processing: luminosity masks (thanks to your tutorial and actions!) and I’ve started doing some very minimal 2-3 image focus-stacking on insect macro. In general I’ve also learned a lot about how to use Lightroom more effectively.

    Equipment: full-frame and reasonable-quality lenses make a much bigger difference than I expected. Before I felt like I was fighting with my equipment to get reasonable images; now I feel like I’m working with it and so many more things are possible.

    Overall, I feel like I’ve come a long way this year, although there are still many areas for improvement: https://500px.com/natureodes

    More flippantly, insect repellent is not optional.

  27. Just started to experiment with long exposure using up to 16 stops of ND filters and thanks to the discovery of Jimmy’s actions my B&W photography has improved imeasurably, it’s got my juices flowing again and I owe a lot to Jimmy for this.

  28. I learned that ‘What we see’ is overwhelmingly faked. Your memory of a scene you looked at is made up of about 15% objects looked at in detail and committed more or less to memory, 40% background skimmed over and only a vague impression retained and the rest is filled in by your brain based on past experiences. On that basis arguments about ‘You can’t photoshop that beer can out! It was there and must remain in the photo!’ can safely be ignored as I did not see it at the time so it won’t be an accurate photograph of what I ‘saw’ 😛

  29. To create your vision you need skills and gear…
    Skills you can learn, equipment will come some day…
    I learn to be patient also…..

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