We all started somewhere. The professionals of today, besides a combination of hard work, talent, and skill, have become who they are through the most important aspect of all – learning and growth. We speak to six photographers across genres to find out about the words of wisdom that have shaped their craft.

Taking cues from sports heroes

Sage advice is typically dispensed from mentors, but not in Mark Teo’s case. The sports and action photographer gets his inspiration from a lifelong fascination with skateboarding and extreme sports.

“I learned about the importance of freedom of expression growing up watching skate videos, and listening to interviews with athletes, where they talked about their reasons for doing the sport.”

Canon EOS 5D Mark II | f/7.1 | 1/160s | ISO 100

He adds, “Freedom to choose to focus solely on my topics of interest helped me tune out all the distractions.” And that includes ignoring advice asking him to widen his portfolio beyond action shots!

“By focusing on what you truly love shooting, your skills naturally progress faster,” he says.”The time to diversify may come later naturally!” And the results are telling in his powerful snaps.

Canon EOS-1D X | f/5.6 | 1/250s | ISO 100

To take his passion for sports photography even further, he has embarked on some personal passion projects, including starting a small print magazine about extreme sports culture.

Canon EOS M5 | f/7.1 | 1/20s | ISO 200

Breathing colour into everyday items

You may already be familiar with her eye-popping and colourful work featured here on EOS World recently. Food and product photographer Dionna Lee attributes her bold style for food and product photography partly to a book called “Interaction of Colour” by Josef Albers.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II | f/9 | 1/100s | ISO 160

“It was an eye-opener into the world of colours, and it made me question and become aware of the relativity of colour in our photography work. Therefore, I started looking into exploring colour juxtaposition and harmony in image compositions.”

Canon EOS 5D Mark II | f/7.1 | 1/160s | ISO 100

She reveals that “colours help create movement in images. A dominant colour can be perceived as the main subject and complimentary colours can lead the eye to secondary subjects.” Such techniques can even lead “viewers to explore other scales, texture and details in the image”.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II | f/7.1 | 1/160s | ISO 100

When conceptualising, she says that “colour is one of the first to be discussed as it suggests the direction moving forward.”

And one cannot deny that every tint, hue and saturation in Dionna’s pictures are planned to perfection.

Putting famed photographers’ quotes into action

For BP Chua, words of wisdom, from famous photographers who paved the way before us, help guide him in his photography, whether he’s capturing animals or snapping famous faces at events.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II | f/7.1 | 1/640s | ISO 500

He shares, “I’m inspired by great photographers such as Ansel Adams. Their sayings sometimes make me rethink my photography approach and to explore new concepts.”

Canon EOS-1D X | f/2.8 | 1/400s | ISO 800

On how it has changed him, he says, “In the past, I was very concerned with the technical aspects. These days, I concentrate more on the subject and capturing the moment.” As a result, he’s more mindful of composition and story-telling.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II | f/2.8 | 1/1000s | ISO 2000

He enthusiastically shares some of his favourite influences. David Alan Harvey said, “Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.” For technique, he lives by this simple Ansel Adams quote: “A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”

Conquering anxiety with a legend’s words

Rosemarie Yang accords her portrait and fashion perspective to this line from legendary fashion photography, Peter Lindbergh.

Model: Jessica Bass of Basic Models
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | f10 | 1/160s | ISO 100

“Before you try to do something, try to feel what it could be, and feel what you can do with it and how it speaks to you. Don’t let anybody else tell you what it feels like. If you try too hard to move, to impress, then you will only create more problems.”

Growing up with a father who works in the advertising industry and being around professional commercial photographers all the time, Rosemarie felt the pressure to excel in the field, which was why this advice changed her life.

Models: Madeline M and Irina B of The Nu Management
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | f5.6 | 1/800s | ISO 100

“I was so absorbed by my own anxiety that my initial goal of telling a story through each image was neglected,” she admitted. “It was Lindbergh’s word of advice for photographers that struck a chord with me. I started to make a conscious effort to live in the moment, especially at photoshoots.”

Model: Nicolette Sara
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | f3.5 | 1/250s | ISO 100

“I always believe that if I am unable to feel an underlying sense of narrative in an image I produced, my audiences will feel the same way as I do, too.”

A stranger’s advice that resonated

And sometimes destiny has a hand in things. Yik Keat, who frequently snaps street photography, had a chance encounter with a stranger at a camera shop. He told Yik Keat to “look at the little things that make up the whole picture. They have plenty of stories to tell.”

He reveals that “even though I focused on the big picture when I first got my camera, those words made me realise that the little things do matter. In fact, they have so much impact if photographed beautifully.”

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II | f/4 | 1/160s | ISO 2000

He shares an example. “This photo, which shows an elderly man on a bus reading a newspaper so up-close is an example of an uncommon but interesting scene that people would typically miss. Despite the sights and sounds around him, he’s completely absorbed in reading the paper.”

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II | f/1.8 | 1/160s | ISO 1600

Yik Keat continues to exercise keen observation whenever he’s out shooting. From people commuting to neighbours chatting, he sees the details that breathe more life into his urban photography.

Canon EOS-1DX Mark II | f/3.5 | 1/8000s | ISO 1000

A push to go beyond the gears

Feng Shuo, a landscape photographer, received a wake-up call when he was still new to the photography world.

“When I was learning my photography basics a few years ago, I was so possessed by Canon L lenses that I dreamed about owning them all one day.” But a mentor told him this: “If you think it is the gears that limit your work, then you should buy them.”

“Suddenly, I realised I still had a lot to learn when it comes to technique,” Feng Shuo realised as that advice threw a spotlight on his capabilities rather than his gear.

Combined panorama of 3 photos
Canon EOS 5D Mark II | f/10 | 1/25s | ISO 100

“Your gears determine the quality, your photo showcases your own skills, and your eyes explore the extremities.”

He shares, “My greatest takeaway would be to not let the type of cameras I currently own limit my creativity and imagination. It’s true that under special circumstances, we do need a more professional camera to take good photos. However, good gears do not guarantee better images as after all, photography is never all about what you use but rather, how you shoot.”

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | f2.8 | 30s | ISO 2000

“There are millions of reasons as to why I want to buy a new camera—higher resolution, better image quality, faster focus speed etc. But instead of dreaming about my next camera upgrade, I’d rather focus on my current camera and push its limits.”

And with such stunning visuals, we can hope that Feng Shuo carries on challenging those limits.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | f5.6 | 1/25s | ISO 100

Do you have a valuable photography advice to share with the Canon family? Post a photo along with the advice, and remember to tag us at #canonsg!