The Joy of Crafting Imagery

It has been an intense few months. I have embarked on new photographic journeys and I cannot wait to share more with you. Despite all the news, today I would like to touch on something very important but often misconstrued – the joy of photography.

A few days ago, I came back from San Francisco where I had the pleasure of shooting with a group of amazing photographers. It was only three months ago that I led another Visual Poet Experience Workshop in Paris. During these events, we had intense discussions about the craft of photography, including a fascinating exchange with our guest, Ibarionex Perello.

One of the comments I often hear on the internet or in large group discussions is: “I am doing this for fun.”The underlying connotation is the notion:“I don’t care what others think – photography is fun – therefore whether my imagery is good or bad doesn’t matter.”I respect such a stand. However, after working with my students for the last few years and having in-depth conversations with other photographers I am more inclined to believe this attitude causes more harm than good.

Let me explain. There is no question that photography brings us great satisfaction and joy otherwise we would not be doing it. However, this feeling of joy, self-fulfillment and connection with our inner seeing is much richer if we produce strong and articulate work. In other words, hard work, internal discipline and unwavering commitment are prerequisites in crafting great imagery.

The process of crafting a great image can be a long, frustrating and risky experience. In conversations with my students they describe their frustration and fear. They tell me that the proverbial “joy of photography” is somehow lacking. I have to admit that it is partially our own industry fault.

In order to sell products and workshops, etc. photography is presented by many as something easy, trivial and commitment-free. In other words, anything goes! Unfortunately, this drug-of-the-moment doesn’t last long. With such a laissez-faire attitude many photographers tell me in private that they eventually crash as they lack direction and confidence. The chorus of “have fun” and “it is great” becomes both a distraction and an annoyance. You can ride on the wave of “fun” for only so long when the final results are lacking.

Are you saying, Olaf, that photography should be a miserable and duty-like exercise? Not at all! The real joy of photography comes from learning, working hard and crafting great imagery, not from covering every failure with “I am doing this for fun.” I see students who have the courage to strip off the veil of merrymaking and push themselves hard to create great imagery. Yes, they accept frustration, hard work and the risks such an approach brings but…when they see their first innovative and unique image, the real joy kicks in.They know very well how hard they worked to craft this one visual!Not only does such ardour last a long time but it builds the photographer’s confidence and provides a strong foundation for further development.

Let me share with you some recent imagery shot with the GFX50S, GFX50R and Hasselblad X1D.    

For those interested, the next Visual Poet Experience Workshop is in Melbourne, Australia, February 22-24, 2019. You can register here. There are two spots left. 


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11 thoughts on “The Joy of Crafting Imagery

  1. I agree completely with your comments. I find it very hard to create images that are satisfying on a consistent basis. Unfortunately for the rest of us you make it look easy! I love your images, they are a constant source of inspiration.

  2. Love the first and seven images. It’s great to have you here again!

    I take my images seriously, and I am extremely sensitive to opinions of people worth to me, like you. Showing my work leads to feelings that can last for days. Recently attended a collective photowalk and my seeing was blocked, I was so anxious that was even unable to frame, literally. You have seen me this way.

    On the other hand, I have real problems with my own work, usually I can’t decide if a pic is really worth or a bluff. Postprocessing becomes an endless session of blind trials that ends in deception..

    I just feel happy shooting my kids videos with x-pro2. Shoot, cull, edit, adjust sound and nothing else!

    Hope this helps somebody, best regards!

  3. Hi Olaf…That first shot takes my breath away. SO well composed and so dramatic. The lines are impressive and unforgettable. I think you know how seriously I take my photography but how much enjoyment I get from doing it and seeing my results. I am committed and relaxed at the same time. Does that make sense?

    1. Susie,

      It makes perfect sense! You are such a wonderful person. What I see in you is this passion and drive and you do it with an incredible grace. At the same time, you are improving and pushing your photography all the time. Bravo!!!

      Warm Regards,


  4. Olaf, I completely agree with you, but I do believe you are on the precipice of a very slippery slope. Your prescription for commitment and hard work in crafting articulate imagery will be taken up by a select few, who will find the joy in the results of that craft.

    Many individuals are very content with participating in an activity and don’t strive to master that activity. They will experience a different kind of joy, but not the joy you strive for and achieve.

    Keep making interesting images and commentary.

    All the best,

    1. Don,

      No question I am walking on the edge of a very steep cliff with my photography, as well as my writings. Having said that, I write exactly how I see it. You make a great point here but based on my observations some people undercut their development too early in the process. One thing for sure – this is a very interesting discussion and I really appreciate your perspective.

      When are you coming to Vancouver? Our coffee together is so overdue!?!?!



  5. Awesome, Olaf. There is joy in facing the challenges and failures, and then everything comes together for 1 image. Certainly not a permanent state.

  6. Everything is depend on person who is doing some for her/his “joy” – some people just happy to be in process and not to go too deep in knowledge bcos exactly this deep digging destroy the feeling of enjoying something that is not too mandatory as let’s say their job and doing for their living.
    nice results and great cameras to go to streets. 🙂

    Just would like to ask – why to have both GFX50S, GFX50R ?
    thank you

    1. Hello Victor,

      Thank you for your perspective Victor.

      I need to clarify. I don’t own all 3 (I cannot afford even 1 🙂 I only own the GFX50S. Having said that, if I could afford it I would probably get the GFX50R or X1D for travel as they are definitely more portable than the GFX50S.

      All the best my friend,


      P.S. Is my memory lacking or we suppose to have a cup of coffee together?

      1. This perspective just coming from my numerous conversations and discussions with a ppl and not always they relate to photography but to many other sides of doing.
        Great to have thos ability to use a nice gear.
        About coffee – we never met 😉 but if we will so whuly not. Also beer is great for the nice conversation 😉

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