How to Make Perfect Photos

What's the secret to creating great photos? The biggest secret is that you're already making perfect photos. You've been told that you're not, because of the second biggest secret: the teaching of photography has always and will always make more money than the photographs themselves.

This is why professional photographers are trying to get you to buy a new camera or buy a spot in their next workshop. Believe me, they would rather be taking pictures. That's what's most fun about being a photographer.

But, that's not where the money is. The money is in convincing you that your composition needs a little work, or your lens has a an aberration that a prime lens wouldn't.

The professionals don't do this maliciously. It's just that they have little choice. It's how they learned and it's what they need to do if they want to make a decent living.

But, you don't have to take my word for it...

The Most Important Photos Ever Made

I put a question out on Twitter a few weeks ago. I asked, "what are the most important photos ever made?”

I got a lot of great suggestions, but what you'll see below are the most important important photos ever made...I can show you without getting sued.

Wright_first_flight.tif.jpg
AbuGhraibAbuse-standing-on-box.jpg
1009px-Hindenburg_burning.jpg
1024px-NASA-Apollo8-Dec24-Earthrise.jpg
857px-Nagasakibomb.jpg
788px-Lange-MigrantMother02.jpg
1280px-Lyndon_B._Johnson_taking_the_oath_of_office,_November_1963.jpg

Here's a few more I can't show you, due to copyright limitations.

These photos have more in common with your everyday snapshots than anything hanging in gallery.

Let's consider what they teach us.

Technique doesn't matter.

It's nice to have, but a lot of these photographs aren't even in focus. They break just about every rule you'll find in a textbook.

Those textbook rules, by the way, almost always originate with what a client wanted at some point. Even the rules of composition, which originate with painters, can be traced back to what their clients wanted.

These techniques work for pros trying to sell something, but have nothing to do with the photographs we (the 99.9% of photographers who are not pros and the public at large) consider important. 

Equipment doesn't matter.

Most of these photographs were made with very primitive and beat up equipment. Some were made with a wooden box. None of the cameras used for these photos would do well in a review these days.

The Only Rule That Matters

The only rule in photography is to tell a story with a compelling subject - for you.

Think of it as a Maslow's Hierarchy of Photographic Needs. Every decent photo needs to tell a story. Telling a story with a compelling subject can make the photo historic (as seen above). But a step above even those photos, is a photo with a subject compelling to you specifically. That's what makes your snapshots even more important than the most important photos ever made.

Just remember, there's nothing the pros can teach you about technique or equipment that's going to put your photos on the list of most important photos ever made.

Your snapshots are already there.

Embrace the perfect imperfection of the snapshot, making sure the photo means something to you, not a textbook, and you’ll realize you’re already making perfect photos every time.

One More Thing

Just in case anyone still believes technique and equipment actually matters, consider the single most requested photograph at the U.S. National Archives:

1024px-Elvis-nixon.jpg