Hillsborough Forest iPhone

5 Things I have learned about Photography

4 mins read

2017 was an interesting chapter for all things photographic. There were new camera launches, music events and lots of mountains, hills and treks. At the end of 2017 I deliberately took a step back from photography to evaluate and thus, hopefully to improve. In 2017 there are five key things I have finally managed to learn and better still, managed to get over.

1. The best camera actually IS the one you have with you.

I used to hate this statement and in the past I have actively participated in debates over cropped, full frame, iPhone f-stop, weather sealing…. the list goes on. This photographic snob finally realised that if your main camera is at home it isn’t taking photos. More importantly I realised the humble old iPhone can actually deliver some great results in the right environment. I captured two photos in the same location running in the forest, the weather was ideal on both occasions and as a result both earned the mantle of  a place on Flickr Explore. (Top photo and below).

Hillsborough Forest Fog

Don’t get me wrong, I am not celebrating some sort of hollow social media success (see point number 5, below) but the point is simple, a photograph with 14000 views and hundreds of likes in 24 hours isn’t necessarily any better than a photo with a few views and no likes. Since when did we start measuring value in likes? The fact remains this isn’t going to look good printed at A0 but equally, I didn’t have my camera with me….. QED.

2. You can find your photos anywhere.

A hazard of posting your photos online is the likely hood they will end up being re-used without your knowledge or permission. If you use an image service to monitor your copyright (as I do) then this is a lesson you will have already learned and it hurts. This year it has amazed me how far and wide some of my images have ended up and how they have been used. Magazine ads, book covers, posters and a plethora of websites, it’s almost like the calculated risk of being caught is worth it. Don’t get me started in those who go as far as photoshopping out your watermark….. and worse adding their own.

Resolving such issues can be tricky especially as they could have purchased the image through my library on Getty. Pointing the finger is stressful, awkward and not without risk, it can often be like David and Goliath.

If you want to make yourself miserable then head over to Google images and upload one of your favourite photos. I no longer look, it’s another stress I don’t need, but an agency handling such things makes life that bit easier.

The Summit of Slieve Bearnagh

3. Photography hates negativity.

If you are not in the ‘creative zone’ to take photos you won’t ever be happy with the results. In other words if you approach photography with the view that you won’t capture anything good then you won’t be disappointed. In some ways expecting to fail it’s the easiest way to sample success. If you find yourself in this place creatively then take a break, leave your camera at home and revisit it when you are ready. If you are measuring your success by likes or flickr explore, take a break and return when you are ready. Why did you start capturing images in the first place? until that is your reason again, take a break!

4. Experiences are better than things.

Each year we produce a photo book, we call it the annual photo book, a name that shouldn’t be a surprise. When the 2017 book landed from blurb books we always revisit the book from ten years before. Looking back over the years it isn’t the queuing for the new iPhone, the jump to 24 megapixels and other such technological launches that appear. The book instead contain the important chapters, the experiences, the trips, the simple days out and the holidays. The simple lesson is that  money you are saving for thee new piece of hardware, car, camera that you (think you) need could be much better invested in experiences. Don’t put the experiences off to the future, you only have now.

Ben Crom from Slievelamagan

5. Social media stories aren’t reality.

I am not saying all social media is bad or fake for that matter, however how many times have you looked at the feeds of those on social media adventures, living perfect lives, zero stress, always happy and somehow always on holiday?

How many times have you looked at the lives of others and lamented your own? The fact is we all only post photos of the best bits of our lives and more importantly, if it seems to be good to be true, it probably is! I recently read an article that suggested some couples are bringing a professional photographer with them on holiday…. how much can you actually experience never mind enjoy a holiday if the focus is how it is presented on social media and with what hashtag? #justsaying.

If social media is making you unhappy then take a break and return when either,

  1.  you have enough photos for people to think you are a world wide adventure photographer who is happiness personified
  2. you can afford to take a professional photographer on holiday.
    or finally,
  3. you can treat social media for what it is, on the whole, relatively meaningless.

Use it to keep in touch with friends, use it of inspiration or news but don’t use it as a measure of anything important.

Redgate Surfer

 A turning Point.

2017 was a special year and yet I took considerably less photographs than 2016, in fact I captured less photos in 2017 than I did in the 5 years previous. It wasn’t that this year wasn’t busy, it was, after all it started with the launch of my favourite camera of all time – the X100F and it was a real privilege to be involved with the launch and work with the Fujifilm team. 2017 also had a handful of music projects, lots of landscape walks and climbs. We had the trip to Australia and the mega Cape to Cape trek. It was a great year on the surface but there was a lag in photographic excitement.

In conclusion, I plan for 2018 to have a simple approach to photography and social media, I am not competing with anyone on anything, 2018 is going to be an opportunity to rediscover photography as a form of relaxation, stress relief and enjoyment. Simply, evaluate to improve.

Software Shoutout

If you are an outdoor photographer and track your runs, rides and hikes on Strava then why not combine your activities with your photography, check out Velographic.

strava velographic

Velographic is free and imports your activities from Strava enabling you to add your route and other metrics to a photograph. I have about 25 already created that could end up a really nice Instax photo collage project of the future.


Review of 2016
Review of 2014
Review of 2013


David is a documentary and landscape photographer covering everything from dramatic long exposure landscape photography through to live music. David is a former Official Fujifilm X Photographer.


  1. Some great photos over the years
    Time to reflect on the creative process and the place creativity fills in your own life is what drives the process for all artists
    The pleasure your images give to others is a reward in itself

    The social media reflections and how it promotes the seemingly perfect images belies the actual reality surrounding that highlight snapshot and the life experiences alongside it

    Keep going and take the time to enjoy the best things in life ….. people, places, interactions….
    The instant nature of sharing the highlight reel of images adds to a positive social media experience ……

  2. Greetings from Glenarm David Well said and spot on I take photos to please myself and if others like them that’s a bonus enjoy your year paul
    Ps Have u got ur hands on the XH1 yet ?

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