My latest YouTube Video Tutorial is now up! In this lesson, I discuss the element of luck in photography and how much it plays a role in our image making process.
Whenever I get an awesome shot, and I’m sure this happens to you, people often remark how lucky I was to get that image. Sure, with all great photography, there is certainly an element of luck involved, but to simply chalk it all up to luck totally discounts all of the hard work and effort that you invest in the process.
Your viewer doesn’t see all of the planning, physical effort, courage, patience, persistence, technical skill, experience and personal creative ideas that were involved in making that image: Getting out of bed while it’s still dark, staying out late, hiking back to trailhead by headlamp, traveling all the way around the country (or the world), the hours, days and years spent practicing and refining your technique, your expertise with the camera and your mastery of light and composition…
That’s what makes for great images.
The dictionary defines luck as “good or bad fortune in life caused by accident or chance.” It also goes on to explore luck as “that which happens to a person beyond their control,” as well as the idea that with some people, luck is a self fulfilling prophecy that is based on their own belief system. Basically, if you tend to think positively, you’ll more likely to experience good luck and vice versa.
Since “good or bad” events occur at random to everyone, I tend to agree with the notion that we can self-reinforce our own fortune in life. If live by the credo that “things always work out for you in life,” then they probably will. This applies whether you have a camera in your hands or not.
Good photography is about putting ourself in the right place at the right time. It’s about doing our homework, scouting locations, anticipating how the scene might unfold, and being ready with our equipment and competent with our technique, so that if, by mere chance, something amazing happens in front of us, we’ll be ready to capture it with our cameras.
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Luck is by far the smallest part of the equation in photography. It can’t be relied upon, but it can easily have the biggest impact on our images, whether it’s the way that last bit of alpenglow kisses the mountain peak, the perfect fleeting expression flashes across a model’s face or when the sky clears just at the right moment and sends golden god beams down upon your subject.
In the end, it’s your skill and your experience that leads to great images. If you’re not already a competent photographer, it won’t really matter how lucky you are. The fact is that all photographers take advantage of luck when it occurs, but they don’t rely on luck to make good images and neither should you.