January 2, 2020

Five Simple Steps to Create Award Winning Images


Five Simple Steps to Create Award Winning Images


You clicked on this link? Seriously, how gullible are you?

There are no simple steps or secret tips to creating a great image. If anything the title of this article should read:

5 Hard Things You Must Do To Create Images That YOU Love.

That’s the reality.

My goal is to create images that I love (not award winning images) and there are no set of rules, no camera, no magic settings, no new gadget, no plugin or secret technique that’s going to transform my work.

It takes hard work. It takes introspection. It takes persistence.

Since I tricked you into clicking on this link, I feel obligated to give you five tips. So here they are:


1. There are no simples steps!

It takes hard work to find and follow your Vision, to know what you love and then to single-mindedly pursue it.


2. A “great image” has little to do with your equipment.

Never has owning a prime lens, shooting at the optimal aperture or having a better camera made a poor image good or a good image great.

A friend and I were recently looking at one of Dorothea Lang’s images when we noticed that it was not very sharp. And yet that did not detract from the image. The image was powerful because of her Vision, not because of her equipment.


3. Don’t follow rules but rather see for yourself.

Rules are for people who have not yet found their Vision. Instead of following rules that will take you down the path millions of others are following, find your own Vision and create your own path!

Ansel Adams said “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.“


4. Create for yourself!

Create an image that you love and don’t be concerned if others will like it. Don’t worry if your photo club expert “Herb” will like it and don’t be concerned if it will win a contest or get a lot of likes.

Care only what you think of the image and don’t worry how anyone else will receive it. You are not creating for them (at least you shouldn’t be).


5. Create an image and then be brutally honest with yourself about it.

Ask yourself:

Do I love this image?

What do I like or dislike about it?

What would I do differently next time?

Is this image good enough?


That last question, “is this image good enough” requires so much honesty! If the image isn’t quite up to snuff…then admit it, trash it and move on.

And PLEASE don’t ask other people these questions about your work, you must answer them for yourself and then work to improve. This is hard introspective work and you must do it over and over again.


The next time you’re tempted to click on a link that offers a secret something, a simple something or a new something that will transform your work into award winning images…save your time and money and instead Find your Vision and work to create images that you really, really love.


4 thoughts on “Five Simple Steps to Create Award Winning Images

  1. Great article, Cole – right to the point and an excellent primer for the new year. Thank you!

    (my first thought when reading the title was “Oh no! Did some clickbait machine snatch his domain from him?”)

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