Photographic Age of Distractions

You wake up in the morning and run up to the computer, excited and eager to share with the world your newfound passion for photography. There is so much to explore and learn. You already know it is all about seeing, light, composition, photographic projects. It is about finding your own visual voice. You have a great plan to reach your goals. Now you just have to do it!  

Somehow, every morning as you open up the internet pages, you always find…something else. 

It often starts with gear! Which camera to buy? How about this new lens? It is not that you don’t have any lenses. You already own two or three but the thought “if I want to be a real professional I need to have more” comes back and hits you in the head like a boomerang. Which are the sharpest? 

Then you move on from gear to software. Lightroom or Capture One? Or maybe something else, more iPad friendly? You research and obsess for weeks.

It is time to plan some photographic projects. Maybe you will start working on one next week. But wait!? Today you saw those amazing pre-sets at 50% off—if you could only get them your images would look truly stunning. 

How about shooting on the street? Maybe around your neighbourhood? Today that’s exactly what you are going to do. What if you want to take some cool portraits—you just saw this post about photographing neighbours—amazing imagery! But there’s a problem. The photographer who published these images used those great lights. Why bother if you don’t have any lighting gear? Let’s watch another YouTube video. That’ll do it. You’ll feel better—after all you have done something today. 

iPhone 11 Pro? The entire internet is talking about it now. You even read that one photographer is shooting everything with it and he landed a cover. Wow! Maybe you should be an iPhone photographer?

All those political posts—should you engage—make you outraged and you feel you must act today. Photography can wait! 

Cameras, lenses, adapters, printing, colour space, sharpening, filters, pre-sets, destinations, website, blog, politics… 

The years go by and you are still in the same spot. What happened to photography? You still cannot see. You haven’t taken any great images. How time flies! 

I have no doubt that all the distractions we face every day as photographers keep us away from what’s most important—seeing and crafting great imagery. It’s remarkable how much time we waste every day occupying our minds with information which is not only wasteful but probably incorrect. 

Our passion of seeing and crafting imagery has been turned into binge-watching YouTube videos, mostly about guys talking about cameras, often without presenting an image! Before I sat down and wrote this article I clicked on one video which started with “Today we are heading downtown to shoot some street photography” in the scope of ten minutes. That’s how long this video lasted. There was footage of two guys travelling by car, parking their car, having coffee, high-fiving each other on five occasions, holding their cameras to their eyes and…not even one image or a word about an image. The video had 60,000 views! Go figure! 

Then, there is the never-ending search for a better camera, better lens, better pre-set, better sharpening formula. We are swimming in this pit of never-ending photographic temptations and sugar-high shows. 

We are being lured away from photography every day, from opening the internet pages in the morning to the last click before we put away our cellphones. 

I’m writing about this subject because I went through a similar time-wasting period many years ago. I wasted at least two years of my photographic life drifting in this mediocre fantasy world. So, my photographic friends, if I could share one piece of advice which will totally transform your photographic life it is this: FOCUS ON WHAT MATTERS!

First, set yourself photographic goals. Start working on a long-term photographic project. Now! 

Second, read and watch only high-quality and well-curated content. Buy a high-quality video course from a photographer you want to learn from. Buy their book! Subscribe to professionally edited photographic publications—there is a reason why it is costly to produce great content. Stop this “I can get everything for free” mentality. Think about all those hours you wasted surfing the internet in search of photographic content and ask yourself honestly what’s the percentage you read or saw today that was really helpful?

Third, produce and contribute high-quality content yourself. Even if you are just starting in photography, share your experience with others, write an article about it. Make sure your thoughts are clear, the flow of language top notch and grammar updated and mistake-free. Ask your English-major friend or a professional editor to take a look at your text and imagery. 

Fourth, don’t ask questions out of laziness or for the sake of asking another question. Please don’t ask the internet to tell you which lens is the best. You will get so many different answers that it won’t solve anything. Ask professionals or those who test lenses for a living. Yes, it may cost you some money, but it will save you tons of time and the cost of buying an inferior lens.  

Fifth, stop wasting your time arguing with strangers about the current state of politics. Do you really think your posts have changed even one person’s mind or converted anyone? Of course not.   

Sixth and most importantly, FOCUS on what’s important in photography. Maybe it is writing an article today. Or setting up a photoshoot with your friend. Or producing a new book. Or photographing your parents, which you’ve planned for years. Do it today! 

You won’t believe what you will achieve.

End of rant.

Here is my latest imagery from Vancouver. All taken with the GFX50R and the GF50mm 3.5 lens.   

next time…

2019 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

22 thoughts on “Photographic Age of Distractions

  1. Thank you for articulating how I feel about a lot of this stuff!! Esp YouTube (which I’m unfortunately addicted to!). At least I try and make my puny efforts on there be my photographs!!

    I too laugh at the “is the f2 better than the f1.4” questions on FB groups.

    “Just go and click the shutter with what you have got folks” I want to scream.

    (I love your second last image btw..”next time”?…fabulous use of the light.)

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me and thank you for your kind words. What a great conversation!

  2. I read this post yesterday, agreed on all points… And went back to procrastinating… But your words were resonating in my brain and made me feel so guilty lol! So today I went outside shooting 😁 thank you Olaf 🙏

  3. I agree as well. As an experienced film photographer but a new mirrorless Fuji user, I feel intimidated by all the possible settings on my camera and use this pretty much as an excuse not to shoot. Do you ever have workshops on the east coast?

    1. Katherine, I am also predominantly a film photographer (Pentax 645 and Bessa Rangefinder) and have a Fuji XT1 which I usually use for test shots. I keep it on manual most of the time and found that after obsessively trying to learn every friggin option on the Fuji, I really only use a couple of the options available on the camera. It is still my favorite mirrorless camera; however, even though analog is my preference 90% of the time.

    2. Hello Katherine,

      Last year I had some in Toronto and New York. Unfortunately, I have nothing in plans for 2020. Mostly Europe and San Francisco. Thank you so much for visiting my blog and finding the time to leave your kind note.

      Feel free to contact me privately and I will do my best to help.

      Warm Regards,


  4. Always pertinent comments, Olaf! After reading this blog, I thought “Well, if Olaf can acknowledge his hiatus from creativity, I can do the same and use it as impetus for me to disengage from the photographic “stuff” out there and take his advice “- out I go today…

    BTW, I am always so engaged when looking at your images and was struck this morning by the beautiful geometry in so many of them. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much Patricia. You observed it so well. Recently I enjoy exploring geometry and light in my imagery and finding the ways to convey some sort of feeling in the. It is hard to explain but I am working on a full-fledged article about it. Always appreciate your notes and support.

  5. I knew I was suffering from that illness.
    You described it here so comprehensively and accurately I have now no excuse to let it eat so much of my time !
    Thank you so much, Olaf

    1. NO MORE EXCUSES FRANCIS!!! 🙂 Just pulling your leg… we are suffer from it but it is important to be aware. Thank you so much for visiting and your kind note.

  6. This is so true. So much of my personal kaizen seems to be about eliminating distractions. And yet while you’re tidying one corner, the others can get cluttered up again.

    In my photography, a lot of what I’m doing now is carrying less. I no longer carry a backpack. I carry only what will fit in a Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 20, which can hold my X-T2 and maybe 2 lenses, some extra batteries, and a lens cloth. I’m further simplifying by taking just one lens.

    While the rest of the Internet is melting down over the changes Fujifilm introduced in the XPro3, I’m rather looking forward to the de-cluttered camera experience.

    1. Great points Magnus! You are certainly going into the right direction. For years I have been shooting with the X100S/T/F only. Now I have a similar set-up – one lens one camera – in medium format. I love simplicity! Thank you for visiting.

      1. When I’m going through a dark patch, thinking how vacuous or mimeographed so much in photography seems to have become, then you write: and at least the loneliness departs.

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