Make a splash with your work and own it!

Make a splash with your work and own it!

There has been lots of buzz about a platform called Unsplash. In fact, the idea has become so controversial that the one-and-only Zack Arias took it upon himself to tackle the issue. I don’t want to repeat all the arguments so please watch these two videos and make up your own mind about it. I did!


Over the years, I have been one of the biggest cheerleaders of innovation. It is natural that while some industries die something new is created; it’s never an easy process.

But there’s another side. As you know, every business cycle has its ups and downs. On the edges of real innovation there will be some companies and individuals who hitch on to the innovation and disruption bandwagon and try to make a buck or two. These companies often wave popular flags: community, collaboration, exposure, success, change, etc. No wonder many people jump on, afraid of being left behind, without doing any due diligence.

Some of the “innovations” are based on very clever ideas. Everyone wants to be associated with the novelty and reap the allocated fifteen minutes of fame. From FREE reporting, FREE news and FREE assisting to FREE images – industry after industry has learnt that there is no longer any need to pay for others’ work. FREE has become a buzzword wrapped up in, quoting Zack Arias, “Warm fuzzy feelings of contributing and giving back and inspiring others.”

Here is an example close to home. A local university used to hire a photographer to shoot imagery for their brochures (no, it wasn’t me). However, they figured out that instead of paying professionals to do that they could organize a submission process along the lines of “show us your best images from the university” and you will be featured and get $100. Of course, such a contest looks friendly, harmless and fun. But once you read the disclaimer (who reads those nowadays?) you quickly find out that they require a model release with each image and ask you to give up your rights to the submitted images. In other words, they can use your images for commercial purposes. Of course, they have the right to do so and I don’t blame them. It’s your choice to submit or not.

Let me divert again. Have you complained lately about fake news? If you are one of those who drink “FREE is great” Kool-Aid, then don’t be surprised that news and reporting is now done by inexperienced people who are paid 1/5 or less than full-fledged reporters or journalists. Those reporters who remain are working under the enormous stress of being cut next. Why bother with professionals if there is a line-up of volunteers who will provide reporting for free!

And why do they do that? For the sake of exposure and fame! Many organizations just cannot compete with the torrent of FREE, fast-food news stories, which often mingle complex problems, which really require investigative journalism, with flashy headlines. Think long and hard. You don’t want fake news so maybe it’s time to consider paying for your news and supporting professional journalists! You wanted FREE – you have it! But look at the outcome.

Let’s go back to photography. I have recently talked to some photographers who have reached a point in this FREE FOR ALL economy when they feel ashamed to charge substantial amounts for their services. They shouldn’t. When I go to my car mechanic, I don’t see him being ashamed for charging me for his services. Neither should you, my photographic friends. You deserve to be paid and you need to find clients who value your work. From my personal experience, I can say that if you pour your soul into your product (whatever it is) and deliver it honestly, your clients will be happy to support you! Many of us still value craftsmanship and want to pay for quality and individual experience!

Here’s the key point of today’s ramblings. You must own your work, believe in it and stand behind it! Stop giving away your hard work for free! You, as an individual, as a human being and artist, create one-of-a-kind “handmade products and experiences” – something no corporation can ever do. This is your advantage! 

You can still give back to your local photographic community! Charging adequately for your services, knowledge and products doesn’t clash with being involved in the community! I could even argue that those who value their work are often those who contribute to the community the most (Zack Arias, Tomash of FujiLove, the founders of Creative Live and so on). The idea that one excludes the other is one of the greatest fallacies pushed on us today!

In summary, don’t let bullies corner you with sugar-sweet propaganda especially if it is sprinkled with “free exposure” confectionary. If you don’t stand by your own work then who will?

Accept real innovation which improves our lives but always, always be wary of FREE. The price you eventually pay is much higher than you imagine. I don’t know about you but I certainly cannot afford FREE.     

Here are my visual explorations for today. Enjoy.




2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved

Confidence – a roller-coaster to seeing (Intro)

Confidence – a roller-coaster to seeing (Intro)

Josef Koudelka would say, “Look at something and think, this is right.” Unfortunately, it is a constant search and we often doubt if indeed “this is right.” In other words, photography and confidence (or rather lack of it) has much in common.

Wikipedia defines confidence as “a certainty about handling something.” When looking at my own experience and when working with students I’ve noticed that the subject of confidence in photography is crucially important. Not only can it determine success or failure but it can often shape the artistic direction of a photographer.

Of course, some people are naturally confident, others not so much. For me, it has never been an important determinant or characteristic, as today’s society has a tendency to put on a pedestal overconfident, disdainful or even rude individuals, then paint them as confident. I am not going to go there. Let’s stay on the subject of photographic confidence for lack of a better word.

Most people who start in photography lack confidence. This is normal or, I would argue, a highly desirable condition. Too often I come across horribly constructed images presented to the world by the author as “winners.” What’s even worse, those who have zero social breaks often attract a sizable crowd of cheerleaders, who like a magnet, are looking for another loud leader. Usually there is no hope here and no point discussing such cases any further.

When learning and practicing the craft of seeing, most people, including me, are going on an emotional roller-coaster ride. This is a normal and healthy condition. We often hear from photographers: “I don’t know if my work is good enough.”

Unfortunately, the answer they often receive is: “This is great, wonderful,” “Keep doing this.” After all, this industry is all about cheering and clapping. The logic here is to inspire and provide confidence, regardless of results – a noble idea! The problem is that many starting photographers gain what I call “fake confidence.” What many of us cheerleaders don’t even realize is that we are doing a great disservice to a generation of photographers.

Constantly assuring them that their work is great means that many continue along their path to not-seeing, which ultimately leads to huge disappointment and, in many cases, a painful divorce from photography.

There is another way. Yes, confidence in seeing comes after years of struggle, hard falls and successes but confidence should never be consistent! What do you mean, Olaf? It means that even the most successful photographers experience ups and down in their perception of their own work, especially those who have the guts to take visual risks! Josef Koudelka said, “I don’t want to reach the point from where I wouldn’t know how to go further. It’s good to set limits for oneself, but there comes a moment when we must destroy what we have constructed.” Such “destruction” comes with a hit to our confidence!

In other words, our confidence will vary as we go along our photographic journey and IT IS OK! There is no need to artificially buttress it or inject a stream of fake “you can do it” nonsense. The moments of low confidence allow us to pick up where we started and ride those high tides with new ideas. We need to trust in our own ability.

This ability grows from serious visual education. Learning about art, design and aesthetics has been put on the back seat in our productivity – and a low-price-obsessed society. Learning the craft of photography is a slow and tedious process, involving huge effort! Many people lack the time or willingness to learn a new visual language so instead, they fill the void with an “anything goes” scheme.

Interestingly, many aspiring photographers who do marvellous and innovative work lack confidence. In private settings, they often approach me and share their doubts and problems. I say to them, “I wish I could see like you.” I urge them to go out, show their work and own it! However, when you reach the point when you are becoming confident about your success, make sure to take on new visual risks. Make sure you start riding this confidence roller-coaster again.

The worst that can happen when you are riding a roller-coaster is that it could break down – when you are at the top! Then, you have a real problem on your hands. You will need many people to get you down.


I am preparing a series of articles about this subject. Looking forward to your own take on the subject.

Here is my latest work I did for my R-A-I-N project (the X-E3, X-T2 paired with the XF 35mm F1.4 and XF 80mm 2.8 lenses).


next time…


2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved

Start Simple

Start Simple

From time to time I come across a willing new photographer who has just bought his first camera and is looking for advice on where to start. Unfortunately, quite often a broad request such as “What I should do first?” is often directed at social media. It should not come as a surprise that we are all eager to help, regardless of our knowledge or expertise. After all, photography can’t be that hard, can it?

However, some communal advice I encounter wakes up the worst of my human instincts. Calm down Olaf, no need to go berserk!

Today, I am not going to write a long, in-depth article but let me share some simple advice for those of you who have bought your first camera and don’t have a clue what to do next.

  • No, your first step should not be learning Photoshop!
  • No, you should not worry about sharpening settings!
  • No, you don’t need all those accessories everyone is trying to sell you.
  • No, you don’t need this $500 camera bag to impress your friends.

Here is what you should do.

  • Yes, read the manual.
  • Yes, get to know your camera.
  • Yes, read about shutter speed, aperture and exposure compensation.
  • Yes, read tons of photographic, non-technical books.

Most importantly, find a small city plaza, street corner or a sport park near your home. Take your new camera with you and visit the same location daily or as often as you can.

Observe the light throughout the day and see how things change as the sun moves across the horizon. Try photographing this one location for a few weeks every day. Play with exposure compensation and learn to master the light. Then start imagining how the same scene would look if you underexpose (make the picture darker) or overexpose (make the picture brighter). Don’t be afraid to go crazy with the exposure compensation dial (read about it in your camera’s manual and use it).

Keep arranging the same elements in as many ways as you can. Try to construct your images from the fewest items possible (hint: focus on shapes, lines, etc.). Think as if you were designing a puzzle by changing your perspective.

The bottom line is this: learn to observe, get to know how light interacts with elements around you and compose simple imagery! Then go from there.

Below please find imagery containing a minimal number of elements. I enjoy this type of visual discovery as it helps me to train my eye to see the light, line and perspective. After all, that’s all you need.




London / March 9 – 11, 2018

Berlin / March 16 – 18, 2018

Toronto / June 8 – 10, 2018

New York / June 15 – 17, 2018

Vancouver / August 10 – 12, 2018

Paris / September 21 – 23, 2018

San Francisco – November 2018

Sydney – late 2018

Make sure to reserve your spot early!


2018 © Olafphoto. All rights reserved