Monday, January 5, 2009

The Secret to Successful Photography

A friend, who visited over the holiday period, left me a book to read. It’s called “Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting” by Lynn Grabhorn. It has 308 pages of densely-typed text, but really only one thing to say: “Feel good about yourself and you will get good things in return”.

Her basic premise is based on “The Law of Attraction” – a theory (if we can use a scientific epithet) that is as simple as it is profound – “like attracts like: feel like a winner to become a winner”. This theory was given a wider audience than even Ms Grabhorn acquired, although she got there first, through the multi-million selling book and DVD “The Secret”. In chapter 2, of her book, Lynn Grabhorn writes:

“You can take every book ever written on the subject of feelings and emotions, every class every taught on the dark Freudian mysteries of the mind, every counselling group that has ever attempted to get us in touch with that obscure inner child, and anyone else trying to show us how to emancipate those frightening things we call feelings, and boil all the fancy techniques down to one simple remedy for creating an abundant and fulfilling life: Learn to identify a good feeling from a bad feeling. That’s it. Learn to do that and you’ve got the course made. You can create anything your heart desires."

Now, this is something of a personal challenge for me. Not least, because in that one paragraph Ms Grabhorn attacks and all-but destroys the cornerstone of what was my life’s work (or at least 25 years of it). Not only did I study and practice Freudian analytic psychotherapy, but I taught the subject at universities for many years, and I have facilitated untold numbers of counselling groups and helped to train hundreds of people to become counsellors and psychotherapists. So how do I feel about her supposition that the secret to a happy life is simply to know when you’re giving off a bad “vibe” and to give off a good one instead?

But anyway, Let’s talk about photography. No, that’s not as much of a cop-out as it might seem. Because, for me, a big question these days is: How do I know when I have taken a great photograph?

Sadly, Lynn Grabhorn died not long after her best-selling book on the Law of Attraction was published, so I can’t ask her that question. But, the truth is that I discovered the answer to my question some time ago – and long before I had heard about “The Secret” or the “Law of Attraction”.

The answer is: A good photograph is one that makes me feel good when I look at it. Sometimes, it makes me feel good at the moment I am taking it, too.

I often talk about “not getting into my stride” when I’m on a photo shoot, for perhaps the first 20, 50 or even 100 shots – and then, suddenly, something “clicks” (pun intended). Things start to feel right. In Lynn Grabhorn’s language: I start to vibrate at a higher frequency. I feel good and excited about my work - it feels thrilling!

In the case of the image above, I felt good at the split-second that the model bent toward her foot and I pressed the shutter (after I had said “there’s something on your foot Jane” – there wasn’t) and I feel good every time I see it. I have sold that photo twice, via exhibitions – and over the holidays, I got an email from a potential buyer, who said: “This is the most beautiful photograph I have ever seen in my life...I would love to purchase a copy of this photograph to place it in my general counsel (lawyer) office in Kansas.”

So far, the image hasn't done as well as I might have liked. But I do have high hopes for that photograph; I expect that it will do well, eventually. I don’t know how, or when. I just have a good feeling about it – and maybe that good feeling will encourage me to do things that will introduce it to a wider audience - including posting it here - and maybe, just maybe good things will come of it - and to it.

And that, really, is the Secret. Have a good feeling about your work. Believe in it. Believe in yourself. And perhaps you will make it come good. But if you don't feel good about yourself and your work, you'll do nothing at all - and then nothing will definitely happen!

A Happy (and Attractive) New Year to you.


  1. You just confirmed my views :) Have a good feeling about your work. I would also add that it can change rapidly when people develop and learn. I found out that i dun like any single photo I took few months ago. I just learned more and started taking better shots and older ones are irrelevant now ;)

  2. Enjoyed the read....You have a very informative blog....Thanks for your posts....Thomas (Miami, Fl)

  3. Great post Stephen - and actually very inspiring. Confidence in ones chosen vocation is, in my opinion, 90% of the battle. If you don't have confidence in what you do, then how do you expect other people to too? Positive vibes do attract I believe... good luck for 2009 (and with the bride & foot shot too!). Kevin

  4. Just poppped in to read your blogs - very enjoyable and viewed some of your photography too - its wonderful. Hope you are happy Stephen

    Fionnuala x

  5. A good photograph can be subjective. I agree though that the one that makes a person feel good is a good photograph. I am not good in photography and sometimes I get lost when some pro would describe why a photo is good - the lighting, contrast, etc. So I guess the one that makes a person feel good is still the best photograph.:)

    By the way, I like your post about the law of attraction. I am practicing it as well since I saw "The Secret."

  6. and there I was Stephen all this time believing that it was opposites that attract( just goes to show what I know}........ Mind you I don't know how that would work with "the photography"
    Time for more reflection - ah well.



Please give your name when commenting.

All comments will be moderated, so please allow for a slight delay before your post appears on the Blog.