A painter sits at his/her easel by a beautiful lake… the scene is picturesque, but not quite up to the artist’s vision; it needs a castle on the shore maybe, a few seagulls perhaps – there, much better. The artist is happy and everyone applauds the finished product. No-one worries about the fact that there isn’t a castle within a 100km or that the seagulls were actually mobbing each other by the bins instead of flying gracefully over the turrets.

Try the same approach as a photographer and even a pneumatic drill won’t cover the noise of the hoards shouting ‘CHEAT’, 'FAKE' and ‘PHOTOSHOP’! (Incidentally, if you’re one of those shouting ‘Photoshop!’ you’re a bit behind the times, there are hundreds of other/newer image editing apps out there and more being created every day - it ain't going away anytime soon).

It’s a bit like the heady days when the first digital cameras came out and no ‘serious’ photographer would be seen dead with one; in fact, if you didn’t condemn them loudly, swirls of suspicion would engulf your work like a dark cloud.

Yet I too briefly agonised over the Photoshop issue – if it wasn’t straight out of the camera, could it still be called ‘real’ photography? Then I discovered that the vast majority of award winning shots are modified in some way. This was followed by a light bulb moment: what really irked me was that I didn’t have the required knowledge to achieve similar results.

If you can’t beat them join them, right? So I took a course and made all the usual rookie mistakes: I over saturated, sharpened in all the wrong places and so on. Eventually I realised that the ‘saturation’ arrow can move left as well as right, and that subtlety has its place. It’s a process, knowledge, skill; it takes patience, savvy, talent, understanding and many, many hours of work.

But technical know-how isn’t enough: like the artist by the lake, what distinguishes a good work from a great one is the imagination of the creator. And that can’t be learnt: you’re either artistic or you’re not. If you listen to the critics carefully you’ll probably find that those with the least imagination shout the loudest.

Maybe we need a new word, like IMAGE for photographs that have been modified – but in the end, who cares? Surely what matters is that the finished product touches the heart in some way – then terms such as ‘straight out of the camera’ and ‘modified’ become irrelevant.

What truly counts is the instant when what the eye sees makes the heart miss a beat – for is this not the entire point of ART in any and every form?

In the words of Ansel Adams:

“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.”


So…. you got up at a ridiculously early hour, drove bleary eyed to your destination, walked up a steep path, scrambled through thick grasses twisting your ankles in hidden holes while carrying a heavy bag; you then lay on the ground for that special angle, getting wet in the early morning dew – all for that unique, elusive photograph.

Finally, two hours later, you’ve got it! It’s everything you hoped for, it took a lot of effort and you feel good about life.

It’s almost lunchtime when you get back, and what’s just been delivered? Yep, it’s your new macro lens. You rush out into the garden to try it out, and spot some nice flowers, all colourful and bright; you’re ravenous after a long morning in the hills, so they’ll do for a test shot.

Later you chose your very best early morning photograph, it’s a stunner and well worth all the effort; the single macro test shot that took 30 seconds looks pretty nifty too, so you post both on your personal National Geographic web page.

You’ve guessed it: the flower shot got all the likes! Well not all, but it’s nearing treble figures while your early morning shot is struggling much further down the scale. So what happened??

Several points here:

- 'Likes’ are not a measure of your talent; for example, any sunset photograph, however technically unsound, will get many ‘likes’ because it tends to trigger an emotional response in people

- Don’t judge your photographs through other people’s eyes. Your vision is unique, as is theirs; occasionally they are similar, and that’s when people love what you do

- Passion and technical know-how are what make your shots stand out; set yourself challenges, but never compromise on what you love

- Be true to yourself; if you are asked to shoot something you’re not comfortable with, it may turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done because it extends your knowledge base - but if you’ve tried it and still hate it simply say ‘no’ next time

- Never stop gathering knowledge about your art from books, the internet and other photographers; one of the most satisfying things about photography is that, however talented you may be, there is no end to what can be learnt


Think positive! Was getting up before sunrise really so bad or did it create lasting memories that you'll enjoy going back to? Your photographs reflect how you feel - in the end it's all about the emotional response, both yours and the viewers'...


A calendar of your photographs offers a year long reminder of your best shots; it also enables you to see what progress you’ve achieved in the past 12 months – and they make great presents for your friends! But are they a commercially viable proposition?

1. Choosing your photographs

So… you’ve got a thousand photos taken within the last year, and you need to pick the top 13 for your calendar – easy, right?

Well, maybe not quite so easy: calendars have a relatively short shelf life, from roughly October to end of January; anything beyond that and they’re likely to end up in the reduced price bin going cheap - so you need to be ready to go to print by September at the latest.

Perhaps you decide to have a theme for your calendar - this also narrows down your choice: for example, if you decide on ‘Beaches’ an artistic shot of your rusty toolbox probably won’t cut it! My choice for 2015 is ‘Serenity’ and it’s been the guiding principle for what’s in and what’s not.

Another important factor is that each image has to be interesting enough to hold the buyer’s attention for a minimum of 4 weeks; however beautiful or perfect a shot may be, it’s not the right one if the viewer is likely to get bored with it after 10 days…

2. Marketing your calendar

While complementary calendars can be good exposure, beware of getting too ‘gift happy’! In my first year I gave away far too many to people who didn’t really appreciate it and/or never got back to me. This year I’m targeting a select few, having first done my research, such as finding out the name of the person doing the buying for a certain shop rather than just handing my precious creation to an assistant who probably never passed it on. I also plan a follow-up call or email, perhaps a week after gifting.

3. Is it all worth it?

The biggest stumbling block is the cost of printing; yes, there are cheap alternatives, especially online, but do you really want your precious photographs to look like a bad 1950’s postcard? Some printers offer a reduced rate around mid-November, but by the time the calendars reach your letterbox they’ll be getting rather close to their sell-by date! It follows that, unless you can do your own printing or are already world famous, you probably won’t make much of a profit.

So why do it?

In my case I’ve looked at beautiful calendars for years thinking how much I would love to put one together, so in some ways I’m fulfilling a dream – for me, there’s no better reason to do anything, although making a little profit would be nice too…

What are your thoughts on this?