This is my fourth year of taking photos. Should I continue?

I have been shooting with a half-frame camera (Fujifilm XT4) for four years. I have tried documentary, portraiture, street photography, pets, landscapes, and astrophotography. Should I continue? If I choose to persist, how can I improve myself? I am open to learning and not afraid of criticism.

I looked at it with a rather complicated mood.

On the one hand, the image quality is really good, although it has a very traditional Instagram-style aesthetic, the technical skill is unquestionable. Some of the documentary photos also reveal a hint of depth.

But on the other hand, I feel like the original poster is quite exhausted, describing photography as a matter of persistence and mentioning all the attempts made. It’s as if photography is not for personal enjoyment but rather a task to be accomplished.

I think the most important thing is for you to clarify why you take photos. If you treat photography as an exam to pass or a series of tasks to complete, you will undoubtedly feel tormented, even if your photos turn out great. However, if you take photos to capture the moments of life, the joy of drinking and barbecuing with friends, the festive gatherings with family, then these photos, even if they are not “perfect,” are precious.

If you were to ask me, I believe what you need most, as the original poster, is to return to the basics. You don’t need grand wide-angle shots or long exposures, nor do you have to search for the perfect angles. Don’t treat photography as a task. Just carry your camera with you every day, capture whatever catches your eye, and if you’re not interested in something, let it be. Take it easy. The most important thing in life is to be free and at ease.

“Technology has already advanced significantly; let’s capture something that can move us.

“Occasionally come across and say a few words.

There’s really not much to say about the technical skills of photography, and various themes, as the original poster mentioned, have also been attempted.

Generally, at this stage, I would recommend that the original poster choose specific themes for specialized photography.

To a large extent, one key point in distinguishing a photographer’s level is whether they have the ability to create “series” of works. It’s like being good at writing individual essays but unable to write a novel. Usually, most photographers we know, even National Geographic photographers, have their own areas of expertise and themes, as well as a strong personal style. However, at the moment, I can’t see any distinctive “personal style” from the original poster. With technical skills already satisfied, I suggest the original poster start thinking about creating series and “series works.””


“You take photos quite well, which should be considered top-notch among amateur enthusiasts.

In my impression, many users choose Fujifilm because they either don’t know how or don’t want to do post-processing. They use film simulations to simplify the process. The original poster is obviously not one of those people. It’s clear that a lot of effort has been put into both the shooting and post-processing, and it’s not something that can be achieved by just applying presets.

It feels like you’re treating photography as if it’s a job with KPIs to meet. Describing it as ‘persistence’ doesn’t seem quite right.

Amateur enthusiasts don’t make a living from photography. Going out to take photos is not work, and you don’t need to satisfy a client. There’s no need to impose so many restrictions and pressures on yourself; you can take it easy.

Capture the scenes you see at the moment, photograph things you love. Sometimes it’s not necessarily about the outcome; the process itself is a form of enjoyment.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t produce blockbuster shots; as long as it pleases you, it’s good.

Author: He Zi

This is one of the most intriguing questions I’ve come across in photo discussions, and it’s a question I’ve been contemplating for a while.

Namely, how much importance does the technicality of photography hold in the medium, and where does the subjectivity of photography manifest?

From the photos, it’s evident that the original poster’s technical skills in operating a camera are already quite mature. For example, in the image below, from a technical perspective, as an urban explorer, choosing to shoot during the “blue hour” results in softer lighting, and capturing a fiery sky requires planning ahead using apps like “Clear Outside.” The low light conditions during the blue hour demand the use of a tripod or a sturdy clamp for stabilizing the camera, along with a small aperture and low ISO sensitivity. Perhaps an ND filter is needed to achieve longer exposures or stacking to capture light trails, all to achieve an image like the one below.

Image Source: hankongYi

However, why would the original poster ask, “Should I keep going?”

This leads me to address the question I raised at the beginning, namely, how much importance does the technicality of photography hold in the medium, and where does the subjectivity of photography manifest?

Certainly, mastering the technical aspects of photography is essential to achieve images like these. Yet, it seems the original poster has realized that such images can be obtained with common urban landscape tutorials, the purchase of appropriate cameras, lenses, tripods, and some learning.

In the end, as we marvel at the marvels created by urban architecture and natural light, and the rich details offered by high-pixel bodies and high-resolution lenses, it seems that not much emotion is left. We become part of a mass production assembly line for sugary photos.

I can take photos, and so can others, as long as we use the same photographic techniques, we will get very similar photos. How different are my photos from others, and where does the photographer’s subjectivity manifest?

Image Source: hankongYi

Take the image above, for instance, it’s quite interesting, clean, minimalistic, and offers a unique aerial perspective. Each element in the frame seems meticulously arranged. However, the original poster doesn’t seem to be the first photographer to capture such an image; we can find many similar photos.

Furthermore, I can tell you that such photos can be traced back to a certain point in time. The appearance of small cameras allowed photographers to shoot from high angles.

Photography’s characteristics are hidden here, it’s too realistic, making it difficult for us to control all elements as we would in painting. Therefore, AI-generated photographic images seem to offer a solution, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Photography follows one paradigm after another as it advances. There are many photos in the history of photography that are hard to understand how they entered the history of photography. However, these nascent photos in the history of photography show the form of the medium in its infancy.

Returning to the technical level, if I were a professional photographer, then technology would be about meeting the client’s demands. However, as a photography enthusiast, free from the constraints of a client, unconsciously pressing the shutter seems to be a self-conscious act of photography, but in reality, it only follows a common photographic paradigm.

As Lacan said, “The unconscious is the discourse of the Other.”

This makes photography an entertainment activity similar to a game. We only need to follow tutorials, adjust aperture, shutter speed, ISO, choose subjects, and unconsciously press the shutter. In fact, we are all expressing someone else’s aesthetics.

At the same time, photography has a tendency towards the aestheticization of daily life. For example, in the photo below, we can compress an ordinary scene into a single frame using a longer focal length: trams in the foreground in the shade, people in the sunlight in the middle ground, and distant mountains, all captured in one frame. However, this also means that we are already viewing the world through a photographic lens, as Susan Sontag said, “Photographic seeing.” [1] However, this also means that photographic seeing has forcefully imposed on us a way of looking at the world through optical lenses, and when we see the beauty of nature, it makes us think about what kind of focal length lens we should choose.

Of course, this thought is not born in the digital age. In fact, it can be traced back to before the birth of photography, back to when the pinhole image was discovered. People tried to observe the world through the pinhole imaging structure, and it is said that nomadic tribes in the Middle East used the principle of pinhole imaging to observe the environment outside their tents by puncturing holes in the back sail of their tents and projecting the image that came in. The advancement of optical technology allowed the dark box structure to obtain lifelike images. The vivid images projected onto the dark box made people view the dark box as an inspiring visual and entertainment device, providing a more vivid way to convey images and colors than other reproduction methods. [3]

This is the inverted image formed by the dark box, Image Source: Cover of “The Mystery of Large Format Photography”

As a result, the dark box became a form of entertainment, a new way of viewing. It also gave rise to the desire for still images, and the emergence of photography allowed us to freeze the images from the dark box. In the digital age, photographic images began to proliferate, digitization made optical structures disappear, and mirrorless cameras replaced DSLRs as the key to digitalization. The dark box also disappeared into digital structures, and we may not even be aware that this way of viewing is a continuation of the dark box.

At the same time, in unexpected places, the emergence and development of computational photography have led algorithms to combine with the dark box. When we use a camera for production, engineers have deeply intervened in what seems to be our free activity. Apple’s display of new technology fragments elements in the world into individual aesthetic modules and controls them. While we survive in controlled images.

It is the development of photographic media technology that to some extent has produced dual control over photographic paradigms and photographic techniques, and subjectivity has disappeared.

So, what’s next?

I don’t know.

Because I am also searching for this path, and I encourage you to do the same.

Author: Unknown


Why call it perseverance? I don’t understand!

Your level outshines many, okay!

Author: Unknown

The original poster has been taking photos for four years, and in reality, they should have self-awareness and a clear goal. In essence, it’s about what pursuit you want to continue with photography, the meaning and purpose, which ultimately is a part of positioning.

Based solely on the few photos you’ve posted now, it seems you enjoy capturing visually pleasing subjects. These are the types of photos most people take, so your photos are not particularly unique. What’s truly challenging in photography is the ability to stand out in this industry, and that’s where the real challenge lies.

To excel in the field of photography, you need a combination of skills and a strong mindset, along with unwavering determination. These conditions are not something you can achieve just because you want to; they require time and effort. As for your positioning, it’s something you should ponder on your own.

To be honest, every photo looks good, but there isn’t anything particularly memorable. Of course, purely from a technical standpoint, I can’t see any issues; in fact, the post-processing techniques are quite good. However, it’s hard to explain, but I just don’t feel it.

So, my suggestion is to first set aside the camera, and even don’t think about how to take photos for now. Instead, go and observe, especially in Western art history, starting with sculpture and oil painting. Then, come back to look at your own photos, examine the issues in the original shots, and consider if there are any problems that can be addressed from the initial stages.

Your work has awakened long-forgotten memories in me, but this critique might be rather sharp, so please take it with moderation.

I attended primary school at Renda Fuxiao and junior high school at Renda Fuzhong.

My deskmate was the art class representative. We had a good grasp of traditional Chinese painting in primary school, and in junior high school, we often complained about the grape paintings by our art teacher, Yang.

However, what left a deep impression on me was an experience shared by our junior high school art teacher, who was also the grade director. He said, “Some graduates invited me to see a digital art exhibition, and all the colors were extremely bright, which made the entire artwork lack focus. I believe that whether it’s digital art or traditional painting, colors should have both light and dark shades to depict hierarchy. If all the colors are overly vibrant, it can easily lead to fatigue.”

He said this when I was in the first year of junior high school, in 1997.

As for the principal of my primary school, I think his last name was Yun, and he was an art teacher. He placed great emphasis on art and craft classes. He even invited some aesthetically talented teachers from outside the school to teach us extracurricular classes.

One of them had a bookstore on a diagonal street in Shuangyushu, and she was an elegant elderly lady. In extracurricular classes, she taught us how to paint plates. We used disposable paper plates as canvases and used watercolors, origami, and other techniques to create paintings and decorations on the plates. Her own works could capture the essence of a modern woman with just a few strokes, leaving our primary school craft teacher in awe.

She taught us not only techniques but more importantly, “aesthetics.” She broadened our horizons and helped us develop the ability to judge beauty. This happened in the third grade of my primary school, in 1993.

On that street, besides the bookstore run by the elderly lady, there were also model shops and stores selling trading cards of basketball stars.

These are my memories, and now let’s take a look at your works:

All these images share a common issue, according to the standards set by my junior high school art teacher: they lack a clear subject. It seems like you want to capture the flow of traffic on the street, the buildings, the colorful clouds, and even the shape of the overpass. But in the end, you seem to have lost all of it. The overall impression is just ordinary beauty, nothing more.

Now, let’s examine this image. There are issues on two fronts:

What color should the night sky be? What color should the starry sky be?

Among the tree, the person, the lake, the distant mountains, and the starry sky, which one is the main subject and which are the supporting elements?

The practical problem here is similar to the previous landscape images, but it’s more pronounced. There is a lack of hierarchy, a lack of color contrast.

The elements in a single photo should be singular and clear. For example, in a photo I took:

Color: Cold and warm contrast

Main and supporting elements: I focused on the cleaner

Color: Black and yellow contrast

Main and supporting elements: The cat is the main subject, the person is secondary

It’s simple and straightforward.

Now, let’s look at your works:

Color: Warm tones

Main and supporting elements: According to your description, the main focus should be on the sunset piercing through, with the buildings as the background. However, this image fails to convey that due to the structural constraints of the buildings. The composition of the image is very weak, monotonous, and dull.

You might as well use a telephoto lens to capture the sun.

There’s no need to show all of the bridge arches on both sides, just leave two or three. The focus should be on the central building. After cropping, the sunset piercing through becomes evident, and the small boat under the middle bridge arch is also noticeable.

However, there’s a problem with the colors, they are too uniform without contrast.

This image

Color: Can’t really talk about contrast

Main and supporting elements: Can’t really talk about hierarchy

It faces the same issue as the night scene, trying to capture everything but ending up with nothing.

For example, if the theme is “crepuscular rays,” you should abandon the vibrant blue sky above and the vast, meaningless mountain scenery below. The focus should be on the crepuscular rays, with the mountains in the background. After cropping, the crepuscular rays become prominent, and the sky should have a stronger sense of scattering.

Color: Cold-warm contrast, cold predominates

Main and supporting elements: Scattered light is the main subject, mountains are secondary

Of course, such cropping would reveal that the clouds are not that impressive, and there’s still room for improvement in conveying the scattering effect.

This image is also trying to capture everything but ends up with nothing.

The main subject is unclear, and there’s a lack of layering in the composition.

You can bring out the layering through post-processing.

This image aims for a fresh and natural feel, but it doesn’t quite achieve it. It does have a large expanse of reflection on the water’s surface, which adds texture.

So, I made some simple adjustments:

Color: Cool background, warm main subject

Main and supporting elements: The person is the main subject, the background is secondary

By cropping out the clutter along the shore and the extensive but chaotic water surface, the main subject becomes more pronounced. If you want to maintain the proportions of the person but keep the background simple enough that the focus can’t help but be on the person.

In summary:

First, you need to have aesthetics.

Then, you need color and contrast.

Composition needs to have a clear hierarchy.

Like this purely external-focused photo, the reason it looks good is that it has cold-warm contrast, light-dark contrast, virtual-real contrast, and a simple

Great, you can persevere for a lifetime.

I feel that the original poster’s photos are really beautiful. I, as a shutter enthusiast, probably can’t capture such shots in my lifetime.

In my personal opinion, if you don’t rely on this for a living and don’t aim for awards, you can just take photos of what you like. It’s just like playing a game for fun; hobbyists don’t necessarily have to clear a level without any damage.

Your skill level is A, and your post-processing is A++.

Compared to most people on Zhihu who ask about how to take photos, you are already above average. At least there are some photos among them that I would even consider using as wallpapers or illustrations.

But what I’m concerned about is the question you raised about whether to continue or not.

I don’t know if you consider photography as a hobby or as a means to make money.

I have always believed that hobbies are something that you should persevere in no matter what. People get tired from work and are busy with life, and if they don’t have some hobbies to relax themselves, life becomes too difficult. I have never thought that I’m good at taking photos, and my equipment is just average. I don’t even have a flash or a good tripod, but that doesn’t stop me from taking photos and recording memories.

If you’re in it to make money, I don’t know if you’ve taken on some small photography jobs or small commercial projects over the past 4 years. If you have, I believe you already know whether to persevere, whether to upgrade your equipment, or whether to learn from a master.

Don’t ask others whether to persevere; ask yourself.

Technical proficiency, aesthetic sense on point.

You can relax a bit. Let yourself enjoy it more.

You’ve taken some fantastic shots!

This is already at a master level. Even if Starbucks' old guy came, he wouldn’t be able to criticize. If it’s not for winning awards or making a living, it’s already enough. So, I suspect this is a fishing question.

At first glance, the first and second pictures seem to be one stunning photo.

But they are not.

To be honest, there is very little market for static photos. Finding a way to turn them into videos is the way out, and they need to have a sense of storytelling.

People nowadays are lazy and need videos to bring them pleasure without thinking. That’s how the current market is; it gets people excited in thirty seconds.

Leaving the computer, you haven’t really learned photography! Excessive post-processing.

Like other respondents, I also think the photos taken by the original poster are excellent. I’m not sure if the original poster is intentionally showcasing a sense of superiority or genuinely feels that the photos haven’t met their own goals.

From an enthusiast’s perspective, the original poster has already surpassed many people. You have a good grasp of both the pre-processing and post-processing stages, as well as equipment, techniques, composition, and exposure. If you want to continue taking photos casually, then just take photos. Why talk about “persistence”? If the original poster wants to venture into commercial photography, then you’ll need to take on assignments and find clients, which may also lead to higher equipment demands.

Even someone with my mediocre skills is still taking photos for fun. The moment of pressing the shutter can bring joy and relief, and as for the final results, that’s not important to me. Adjust your mindset and think about what you really want!

If you’re looking to show off your superiority, then consider this response as if I haven’t said anything.

Really great, I really like the second one.

The photo of the starry sky, was it taken with a modified camera? The Barnard Loop is visible.

If it wasn’t modified, the post-processing is incredible.

But if the post-processing is so advanced, why not remove the airplane trails in picture three or choose a photo without airplane trails? I assume you had plenty of time for the shots.