The Key to All Your Photography

As a photography teacher, I have the pleasure of running a one-day photographic course on how to “Enjoy Your Camera”. Over the past few years, hundreds of people of all ages and skill levels have joined me in my class – showing up with all manner of different equipment.

photography teacher's photo of a sunset on a beach

In addition to holding classes, I act as photographic workshop host on a number of cruise ships which means that I’ve met another few hundred people interested in photography. Suffice it to say, I’ve heard my fair share of photography questions.

sunset photo by experienced photographer

By far the most popular questions I get asked are, “What is the most important thing in photography?” and “What is the best type of camera?’” My standard response is to ask them to wait until we have finished the course as the answer should become self-evident.

Searching for the Key to Photography

On the internet one can read any amount of advice covering any aspect of photography – how to enjoy it, what camera to use, how to get the most out of your camera, what techniques to use, and on and on. Most of it’s really good, helpful information, but there’s just so much of it. How do we distill the essence of what we need to find our own key to our photography?

photography class teacher explains key to photography

I believe these two quotes point us to the true key to photography.

From the 8th Century Chinese philosopher Hui Hai:

“Your treasure house is within. It contains all you will ever need. Use it fully instead of seeking vainly outside yourself.”

From the doyen of landscape photographers Ansel Adams:

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind the viewfinder!”

photographer's unique vision for sunset photo

What I think these quotes clearly say is that the key to all your photography is you and your vision – which is unique! Your vision and what you decide to capture is yours and yours alone and you should celebrate this.

This is where another quotation from Ansell Adams becomes very important:

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions and to build confidence in the creative spirit.”

The first person to impress with your photograph is you. If you like it, it’s a win. If other people also like it, it’s a bonus! It’s all about building confidence in your creative spirit.

With your photography you should be aiming to create images that express what you see, feel and experience in the world around you. Remember that your vision is unique. Ten photographers can have the same subject, but all their interpretations will be slightly different.

photographers unique interpretation of subject flower

Your Vision

Your vision is crucial and you need to decide what you’d like to capture before you even begin to think about technique and equipment, remembering that first and foremost you are taking images for you. Meaningful images come from what you’re seeing and not from what you think other people may want to see.

take photos that are meaningful to you

Converting your vision to what you capture in your camera is where the learning and the techniques begin. When you understand the basics of your camera, even when you’re working on Automatic, it becomes easier to expand your photography and to capture your vision as you’d really like to see it.

be creative in getting your photos to reflect your true vision

This can give you the creative control to take photographs that truly reflect what you’ve seen and aren’t just a record of an event, time or place.

Photography is a wonderful, creative hobby – enjoy it!

About the author:
Roger Lee is a Johannesburg-based photographic trainer and a cruise ship Photographic Workshop Host. He runs a “Enjoy Your Camera” course and has eBooks for people who don’t want to drown in detail just take good images at

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