How To Make Better Photos | A Philosophical Approach

Glenn Guy, the Travel Photography Guru, at his Moments Of Transition exhibition at Quadrant Gallery in Melbourne, Australia.

February 2018 marked my 39th year in the photography industry. I haven’t always worked as a photographer, but my love of photography has underpinned all the other jobs and endeavors I’ve been involved in, including teaching, within the industry.

Over the years I’ve been a wedding/portrait photography; landscape photographer; film stills and travel photographer; and a photography tutor. I’ve also worked in retail, manufacturing, customer support and product management roles, all within the photographic industry. 

Why It's Important To Separate Self From Other

The most important thing I ever did for another was to give my father permission to die.

The most important thing I ever did for myself was to travel, which I began to do in 1988. Marrying my love for photography and travel has given me purpose and motivation and a range of self-initiated projects have kept me traveling and, during what now seems like those difficult middle years of my life, prevented photography from being left behind due to the pressures of career and the like. 

Nine years of tertiary education, culminating in a Masters of Photography, helped keep me focused on my art, even if it was just during lectures and on vacation when travel and photography provided such excellent adventures.

While it might seem like a selfish life I've endured a lot of hardship to be in the position I'm in today. But what maters most is how I've gone about my photography and my travels and, ultimately, why it is that I do what I do.

Central to the life of the artist is the commitment to their art. Artists protect themselves and, on occasions, lead insular lives so that they can accomplish their projects and, in doing so, contribute to our world and the evolution of our species by drawing attention to the things that matter.

It's not about doing what you want to do. It's about doing what you have to do to help others by realizing your purpose in this life. That's why we do what we do.

Glenn Guy , the  Travel Photography Guru , during a midnight cruise on  Jökulsárlón Lagoon ,  Iceland .

Glenn Guy, the Travel Photography Guru, during a midnight cruise on Jökulsárlón Lagoon, Iceland.

Your Identity As An Individual And A Brand?

What’s in a name?

These days I brand myself as a Travel Photographer. It’s the perfect fit as travel photography includes landscape, architectural, wildlife and people-based photography. But, so there's no confusion, photographing models by hotel swimming pools really isn't my thing.

My life in photography continues to be an amazing adventure and, regardless of the subject matter or the genre before me, the underlying themes of my work remain consistent. This is an important learning for those of us who work intuitively. It’s one thing to make images, but our direction and purpose is made ever more clear when we spend the time editing, selecting and organizing our best work into collections, presentations or portfolios that make sense.

Want to know who you are and what you are about? Stop talking and allow your photography to tell you.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

Pathways provide the traveller with both a perfect metaphor for life and a way across the spectacular scenery of Huangshan (i.e., Yellow Mountain) in Anhui Province, China.

Your Journey In Life Will Bring You Home

Alpha and Omega, from beginning to end, life is a circle and the purpose of the journey is to discover your true self. In doing so you’ll find yourself home again, where it all began.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

Along the way, depending on your interests and the opportunities you make for yourself, you may get to explore all manner of photographic subject matter. However, it’s your underlying world view and the way you approach your photography that determines the actual nature of your work. Documentary fine-art, photojournalist, travel, portrait, landscape and fashion photographer are all tags that help separate us from each other and also define our place in the market.

But, regardless of the genre and whether we are commercially successful or otherwise, we are artists at heart. What matters to me is whether our work is based upon self or other and if it relates to wider concerns beyond the genre or subject in front of the lens. 

A candid image of a merchant pouring a cup of tea from a green jug in front of his establishment in Kolkata, India.

Don't Allow A Label To Hide Who You Really Are

To help make sense of this let’s try to move away from genres such as landscape, portrait and fashion and begin looking at our photography, and the work of others that we admire, and begin to describe images in other terms.

Your Photos Can Be A Study In Composition

Light, line, shape, color and space are all examples of composition that photographers employ to produce compelling images. The image of the tea stall operator uses color to help draw the viewer in and to help tell the story.

An arrangement of colorful barrels, stacked by the side of the road in Ubud, Bali make for a vivid, symmetrical and well balanced composition.

Likewise, this photo of a pile of barrels in Bali, Indonesia is quite literally a study in composition. If you look beyond the barrells, the objects photographed, you'll see the image is composed of circles, color, shape, texture, balance, repetition and symmetry. As I say it's a study in composition.

The tomb of Mother Teresa in Kolkata, India.

How  Story And Narrative Can Make Better Photos

We all make images where the subject or story in the photo is very much front and centre. A great example would be this picture of devotees around Mother Teresa’s tomb in Kolkata, India.   

    I consider myself to be non-political. Yet, one of my favorite sayings is that everything is politics. As a mirror of life, photography allows us to explore that concept.

    By combining interesting subject matter, composition, technique, symbolism and metaphor we’re able to make more meaningful images that carry with them the opportunity for the viewer to consider a range of issues including the following:

    • conservation
    • ideology
    • the worker
    • class
    • domesticity
    • fragility
    • joy and hope
    • the natural world and our place within it

    We also make images that are emotively based, often because they explore the Human Condition and our relationship with nature and the sublime.

    Such images allows us to explore a range of notions such as the following:

    • beauty
    • love, relationships, family
    • duality
    • metamorphosis
    • being alone
    • loneliness
    • interdependence
    • authority and power
    • war
    • heroism
    • transience
    • the ethereal
    • devotion
    • spirituality
    • identity

    How To Connect Through The Photos We Make

    I create life affirming images.

    My mission in life is to share the beauty of the world and its people with an ever wider audience.
    — Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

    You can find out more about me and my work in the hundreds of blog posts and the extensive About pages on this site. My Travel Photography Guru podcast, which will be released next week, will provide an even more personal connection.

    I hope to meet you one day, whether on line or at some special place with great opportunities for photography. Until then may a gentle light illuminate your way and may life’s trials and tribulations bring you, though your own creative pursuits, to a place of peace and beauty.

    Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru