Don’t Be Afraid To Roll The Dice

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife & Nature Photography

This morning, after a self-imposed exile from the online world, I made myself a cup of coffee, fired up my iMac and logged on to Facebook to see what I missed.

After almost four weeks I was secretly hoping for some inspiration, new images and whatever else we normally look for when we log on to our favorite social media platform.

You see, during December I took a break from social media, photography and doing what I normally do when I’m working.  As good a break as it was I was quite keen to get back online to see what people have been posting, to see some new images and find inspiration.

After only a few minutes on Facebook you know what I found?  Nothing.

Sure, all the regulars where there.  The age old Nikon-Canon debate. Photographers asking, begging actually, for likes and comments on their images.  People commenting on other peoples images imparting their wisdom.  Average wildlife images which has been given a funny title just in order to be able to post something online.  And then of course not to mention the standard ‘I just fed my cat’ type of posts.

But inspiration?  Nope, not a helluva lot.  Perhaps I was wrong in secretly hoping for something more at the beginning of the year.   Something different.

It seems to me that the online world and the continuous overglorification and preoccupation with getting ‘Likes’ and comments has become the driving force behind something which I truly believe should come from a different place.  A place of purpose.  A place of passion.

As we head into 2013 you then also see all the resolution posts in which people get all lyrical and carried away about how they are going to improve their photography.  How they aspire to be like this or that photographer.

Don’t do it.

Don’t set your goal based on other people on what other people are going to think.

That wildlife photographer posting wonderful images of leopard and lions every day?  That one who is so amazing and whose work you will never match up to?   He probably works at a game lodge and gets to photograph wildlife on a daily basis and you know what?  He also has shitty image but you just don’t get to see them.  You see, it’s a pure numbers game and the more you roll the dice the more often you will produce the goods.  Pablo Picasso, arguably the most influential artist of the modern era, produced more than 50,000 works of art in his career most of which never saw the light of day.  Why?  They were crap.  But Picasso kept on rolling the dice and by doing so, in between all the crappy art, he created eternal magic.

Posting images online everyday does not make you a good photographer.  If you try you will more than likely have to start digging into those images that are not really your best just to keep your fans happy.

I suppose it’s human nature, and the idea that practise makes perfect, that leads us to a place where ‘the more I do it the better I will get’. Yes, you need to keep your photographic muscle trained and strong but there is an aspect to photography that I think a lot of us do not pay attention to.  We are so driven to create the ‘perfect image’ and get more likes online that we forget to look after and nurture the most important part of the whole thing.  You.

Yes, as the photographer you are what makes you special and you are what is going to make you create image that stand apart from all the noise and clutter we see online.

So, as we head into a new year of adventure, experiences and photography my advise to you, and to myself, is this.

Do not forget to focus on yourself.  When you are stuck and feel like your photography is going nowhere nurture the creative spirit that is what drives it.  Don’t try and force it by doing more photography and for heaven’s sake do not just post images online for the sake of posting.  Rather do less photography.  Read a book.  Sing in the shower.  Listen to new music.  Spend time with family and friends.  Drink good wine.  Travel.  Get active.  Laugh.  Love.  Live.

More than that do not be afraid to make mistakes.  Actually roll the dice and try to make mistakes because then you’ll be working and photographing without the fear of what other people are going to think.  You’ll be trying new things on the edge of creativity and without any expectations you’ll be surprised what you come up with in this wonderful headspace.

I have a lot to be grateful for and am looking forward to a glorious year filled with adventure, photography and, yes, mistakes and wish you the same.  I look forward to seeing your mistakes and remember, don’t be afraid to roll the dice!

The image of the top, of a herd of buffalo walking into an African sunrise, is a wallpaper you can download for free to get your 2013 off to a nice visual start.

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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Comments 0

  1. Michael

    There is some good advice in this piece – i do feel that we all end up posting the same thing in pursuit of likes or comments, instead of being inspirational and innovative.

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  2. Roger de la Harpe

    Hi Gerry. Welcome back to reality (or maybe not!?). I couldn’t agree with you more. And here’s another two thoughts:

    1. Never copy other photographers. See what people are doing and how they are doing it. Then apply the information you like to your own images, creating your own style and vision. This is important.

    2. Remember, camera gear is no substitute for creativity and insight. Once you have got some good, useful kit, consider going out on a workshop of safari with a photographer you admire and learn as much as you possibly as you can from him or her. It will be money well spent and probably stand you in better stead than another body upgrade.

    All the very best for 2013.


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      Thanks so much for your input Roger.

      Could not agree more! Doing your own thing, after learning from other photographers, is the only way to grow.

      Learning on a workshop ir photographic safari is, apart from being a helluva lot of fun, a fantastic way to learn and be inspired! Best advise you could have given! 🙂

      Always appreciate your feedback and look forward to catching up when you have a chance!

      Best wished for 2013!

  3. David Lloyd

    Hi Gerry,

    Maybe I’m going to be the only one not to agree with you entirely.

    You’ll need a little more than a few minutes on FB to find inspiration. Social media is about sharing for the most part and so that’s what most people there do. Few aim to inspire, although many seek inspiration I’m sure. Many also just like to talk, just as we would in a pub or some such place. And people do enjoy discussing Canon vs Nikon, and showing pictures even average ones. That’s what most of us do in real life and people do because they enjoy it. And I think that’s what makes social media successful, it’s sharing.

    There is a place for inspiration but maybe that’s websites and other non-social media, if you like. Social media has its place, is important, which it serves well.

    To that end, I would not like to say “Don’t do it”. Do it, but don’t overdo it, maybe.

    Be inspired, but copying is ok too. (I refer in part to Roger’s comment). Many photographers, including me of a few years ago longed for some of the shots that others had. Seeing someone else’s head-on lion picture is wonderful but isn’t it just nice to have your own too? Even if they are many. To have your own take of a great image is very satisfying.

    But these are steps, and most if not all photographers go through these steps. Then they eventually get to the point where copying is not so satisfactory and inspiration and creativity is more important.

    This is the step that I’m sure you and Roger speak of, and I could not agree more. But until then, you need to get there first, via the early steps.

    Given FB in particular is largely made up of people who are in those early steps, that’s just what you are going to see. So those people just need to mature past those steps at what ever pace they wish to arrive at the place you describe.

    To encourage the inspiration and creativity that you clearly desire to, you need to be there to see them through those early steps, or at least wait until they come through.

    My views only of course. This post made me think, and that’s always a good thing
    All the best for 2013,


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      Hi David,

      Thanks a lot for your thoughts. Always appreciated.

      I agree with you completely that social media is like a cocktail party or bar. You mingle, chat to different people – some how you might like and others not so much – and then decide what value to take from which ever person you feel will add the most value to you or, in this case, your photography.

      Yes, social is most definitely about sharing but, and I think this is where this particular post came from, some people fail to see that Facebook and other social channel is not the way to define yourself as a creative. These people seem to take whatever anybody posts as gospel and then strives to ‘be like them’. Copying somebody as a way to learn and grow is definitely a start and, as you mention, something we have all gone through but it is very important to take Facebook and similar platforms for what they are – noisy with dashes of inspirations sprinkled all over the place – and as you grow you will be able to see the difference!

      I think that the rate of maturation (if I can call it that) in today’s world of social is a whole lot easier as you have access to so much more info, images and inspiration but the trick is to know the difference.

      In the end I reckon we are all saying the same thing – albeit with the focus in slightly different places. What I do agree with completely is that it is good to think about all of this and your own photography so if I was able to get you and other people to do that… great! 🙂

      Thanks again for your input and wishing you a wonderful 2013!

      Warmest regards,


  4. Roger de la Harpe


    Please don’t get me wrong on the copying thing. I look at an awful lot of pix and do a hell of a lot on the various social media platforms – it’s part being aware of trends and how people (including photographers are thinking). This is important. What I’m trying to do is to get people to think about their photography and what they are doing and seeing. By all means look at that head-on lion shot (perhaps this is an over simplification) and try to figure out how the guy shot it. Then try to do it better, differently perhaps, applying the techniques to your own photography.

    And yes. FB and other photography social media platforms like 500ps (have you had a look at 500px?) are the new photo albums with more people viewing you pix than you ever thought possible. But keep a level head when reviewing comments and remain true to what you believe constitutes great images. Sift out the nonsense and verbiage and try to get a true meaning of what people are saying.

    Happy shooting!


  5. Barry Tanner

    Nice article and comments guys, definitely food for thought for those of us in the early steps David mentions. I have to agree that IMO social media is for sharing, I have thousands of digital pics and only a handful of prints and zero photo albums like the ones I used to love paging through in my youth. So if I was taking pics just for me then that wouldn’t be a problem but I like my pics to be seen and commented on, the good and the bad. Some people will like everything I post (thanks mom and dad) and others will really wait for something different before liking or commenting and I take each for what it’s worth. All of them contributing in some way to my growth as a photographer, I love looking back at some of my older pics and seeing the differences when compare to more recent stuff!

    Thanks to you guys, Gerry, Roger, David for sharing at least some insights freely! Looking forward to taking the next step of my journey in 2013.


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