5 Important Photography Lessons I Learned from The Art of War


What can a book that was written 2,500 years ago teach us about photography?

Photography Lessons and the Art of War is an ancient Chinese book on military tactics, the ideas of which have been commonly applied in the world of photography and business in the last few decades. It has been such a hit, as the information is not just about war — they are teachings of common human psychology, of fact, the psychology of competitiveness.

The Art Of War

Photographers are more competitive than you would think. Often we compete with many other photographers, or even with our subjects, but most often with ourselves. Our weaknesses, our fears, our lack of self-respect-work together to keep us from reaching true potential. But that is natural human psychology, right there in a nutshell-working to resolve our weaknesses.

As photographers, it is also crucial to know how broad the definition of art is. This has enabled us to describe our work more thoroughly as artists and has also addressed the mystery of why we feel the necessity to make images in order to display our view of the world.

Why Photography is Different from Other Art

Photography is a true technical discipline. It is part of a vast category known as Third Art (also known as Digital Art) or Seventh Art (also known as Visual Art). Yet photography is art different than that of others since it is focused on fact. The photographer employs production methods to create a picture that is an understanding of fact at the precise moment of the shooting.

In this blog, we’re not concerned about photocomposition or photomontage strategies like we said before. Such artistic methods are no longer photography but photographic. The artist uses multiple images to create a two-dimensional world, a world that has little in common with the actual universe at the time of the film. Also, if it is an understanding of the natural world, it is no longer observable. The brief moment is no longer there.

Sun Tzu has been at the forefront of art and human creativity and, 25 years ago, has given us principles that extend to all forms of human rivalry-including photography.

5 Photography Lessons

Be Prepared

“To … not prepare is the greatest of crimes; to be prepared beforehand for any contingency is the greatest of virtues.” 

– Sun Tzu

Have all your gear prepared and organized?

The best thing you can do to alleviate fear is to get prepared. Hold all of your photographic gear in one place, keep your batteries charged and your spares packed, and create an efficient way to transport everything. Not trying to search for something at the last minute would make things flow much easier.

If you have a lot of equipment, create a checklist for packing to use when you’re about to transport your equipment. Cross it out of your list as you load every item. You’re going to consider the final checklist, with everything complete, a satisfying sight in itself.

Be Patient

“He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not will be victorious.”

– Sun Tzu

The perfect shot can allow you to sit back and do nothing for a long, long time.

If we look at photography, we may assume that great shots rely on chance, but that’s wrong. Most of the great shots are the product of cautious, strategic preparation (see: Secrets of Talented Photographers). And it’s a lot of preparation to find out the best spot to wait for the perfect clip.

Know, it’s not about taking 100 decent shots-its about taking one perfect shot.

Be Quick

Rapidity is the essence of war.”

– Sun Tzu

When the time comes, you have to be fast.

Do not compare being cautious with keeping your guard down. If the time comes, you’ve got to be able to grab it. Whether the subject runs fast, or you’re only pressed for time, you need to take a lot of short shots and forget about post-processing framing and composition.

The toughest part of being swift in photography is realizing when the time has arrived.

Know Your Limits

“He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, will be victorious.”

– Sun Tzu

Don’t take the next step until you’re ready.

If you are just beginning photography or trying to move your talents to the next level, you need to know your boundaries. We all have them, in every aspect of our lives-it’s just a part of being human.

Although you should still be able to challenge yourself, pushing too far will always make you exhausted.

Then Move Past Them

“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” -Sun Tzu

And when you’re ready, leap.

Then, when you’re able to take a dive, the all-too-human self-doubts prevent us from going on too much, and it’s up to you to decide whether or not the right time has come to take the plunge. When you are in doubt, jump.

Now that you have learned the lessons that Art of War has about photography, it’s time for you to set up your photography portfolio online. If you already have one, improve it!

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