Collectibles are anything of value that people might, well, collect—from stamps, coins and cars to the newly popular rare digital art known as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Investing in collectibles is a great way to diversify your portfolio while also owning things you love.
Can collectibles deliver the same returns as stocks, bonds and other traditional investment classes? That depends. Typically, the value of a collectible is in the eye of the beholder, and like any other investment there’s no guarantee you’ll make money.
What Are Collectibles?
Collectibles can be defined as items that are worth more now than they were when they were originally sold. Art, antiques, stamps, books, coins, trading cards and comic books are common types of collectibles. Rare collectibles often fetch higher prices, and the value of collectibles tend to appreciate over time.
Take, for example, the ultra-rare “Rabbit,” a stainless steel sculpture created in 1986 by artist Jeff Koons, which sold at auction for a record-breaking $91.1 million in May 2019. It’s still the most expensive piece of art ever sold by a living artist.
Other items are mass-produced and become collectibles—Beanie Babies, anyone? Believe it or not, some of these plush, pellet-filled garage sale treasures may still be worth something (to someone, anyway). A recent eBay search yielded a listing for the 1997 Princess Diana Purple Bear with an $900,000 “Buy It Now” price.
Ideally, collectibles should pique the passion of the collector. An authentic Babe Ruth baseball card is likely going to be worth a lot more to someone who’s into baseball and collecting vintage sports cards than someone who couldn’t care less about the history of the sport.
Nostalgia also plays a role in a collectible’s value. Nostalgia cycles tend to arrive in 20- to 30-year waves. That is to say, something that’s popular now, such as clothing or collectible toys, has the potential to become a collectible 20 or 30 years in the future as people get the itch to reconnect with their past.
There are no guarantees that’ll happen, though. In other words, if your retirement plan includes hoarding today’s top-trending items in the hopes that you’ll get rich by selling them to nostalgic Gen Zers two or three decades from now, you may want to consider another strategy.
Finally, price is often determined by a collectible’s condition. Even the smallest imperfection can wipe out its value. Again, that same vintage Babe Ruth card will garner a higher price in its original and pristine condition versus one that may be rendered worthless because of a few scratches or a bent corner.
Collectibles Are Alternative Investments
Collectibles are considered to be an alternative investment, a group of investment assets that fall into the “other” category. Put another way, alternative investments aren’t the usual suspects like stocks, bonds, mutual funds or cash.
Here’s the difference: When you put your money into traditional investments, like stocks, you expect that they’ll return income payments or profit (or both). Collectibles, on the other hand, have no intrinsic value.
“Collectibles are often subject to the tastes, moods and perceptions of buyers and sellers, which are typically temporary and can diminish overnight,” says Rob Drury, executive director of the Association of Christian Financial Advisors.
While investing in “alts,” as they’re called, can be exciting and rewarding, it can also be risky. With collectibles, there’s zero guarantee that you’ll recoup your initial investment or that you’ll be able to sell it in the future for more than it’s currently worth (it’s worth noting this is also a risk factor for many other investment assets).
Collectibles and Fraud
The world of collectibles also has a dark side rife with scams, con artists and fraud. For that reason alone, it’s critical that you be on guard so you don’t get ripped off. Understanding how to vet dealers and discern between genuine and fake collectibles may not only save you money, it could prevent a lot of heartache.
Take this tragic tale, for example: The family of a retired New Jersey firefighter found out the hard way he’d been duped out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. After he died, his family discovered that the sports memorabilia collection he’d spent more than $100,000 building—including balls and bats signed by Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and other baseball legends—was full of fakes.
All were sold to him by the same dealer, who’d achieved credibility and fame by purchasing the personal collection of New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio. That dealer later became infamous for selling counterfeit baseball memorabilia.
Potential Rewards of Investing in Collectibles
Of course, not all collectibles investing ends as cautionary tales. When purchased intentionally, with thoughtful research, collectibles have the potential to appreciate in value and deliver better-than-decent returns.
You don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to reap those rewards, either. For instance, consider this recent study on “Star Wars” collectibles from Self Financial, a fintech company focused on helping people build credit. It’s no surprise that one of the largest and longest-standing franchises of all time—the first movie, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, was released in May 1977—also boasts a vast trove of collectible treasures.
Some of those items sold for just a few dollars 40 years ago. Today, Star Wars collectibles could be worth thousands. For example, say you’d purchased an original 12 Back Vinyl Cape Jawa action figure for $5 back in 1980. In mint condition, that collectible toy Jawa could fetch upwards of $7,739 today—an increase of 4,000%, according to Self Financial’s study, which used eBay listings from April 2020-21 to conduct its analysis.
Another oft-cited example is the first edition of The Amazing Spiderman comic. Stan Lee’s timeless story of Peter Parker, a high school outcast turned superhero by a radioactive spider bite, sold for a mere $0.12 when it was first published in 1962. In 2011, ComicConnect.com CEO Stephen Fishler sold a copy for an eye-popping $1.1 million.
Advantages of Investing in Collectibles
Diversification. Collectibles may provide your portfolio with diversification. It’s always helpful to have your eggs in more than one basket, instead of investing only in stocks and bonds.
Portability. Collectibles are a physical asset. You can hold rare collectible coins in your hand, for example. You can also transport them easily, so you can sell or trade collectibles anywhere in the get more info world.
Follow your passion. Unlike a share of stock or a bond investment, you get to enjoy your collectibles while waiting for them to appreciate in value. You can display a rare painting on your wall, or drive get more info a vintage car on weekends.
Fun. True collectors revel in the thrill of the hunt—searching out the item of their desire is almost as satisfying as owning it.
Easy access. Getting your hands on collectibles is relatively simple through online marketplaces such as eBay or in local stores. If you know what to look for, you may even be able to pick up items of value at yard sales, thrift stores or pawn shops.
Downsides of Investing in Collectibles
Rampant fraud. As mentioned above, unless you’re an expert, collectibles are extremely risky. It’s an unregulated industry full of frauds, fakes and forgeries, and even experts can be fooled by a convincing knock-off.
Markups. Collectibles dealers are notorious for marking up items so they can make a profit. Unlike collectors, most dealers don’t have the luxury of buying and holding an item that may or may not increase in value. They need to make a sale so they can pay their overhead and restock inventory.
Tough comps. When buying and selling collectibles, it’s a good idea to look at the going rates for similar items. Bear in mind, though, that if a comparable item is appraised at $5,000, that doesn’t mean yours will be valued in the same ballpark. A collectible’s value depends largely on its condition and rarity.
Lack of liquidity. Collectibles are largely illiquid because cashing out depends on your ability to find a buyer willing to pay your asking price.
Damage diminishes the value. Any scratch, ding or blemish can cause a once-coveted collectible to decline in value or become worthless.
You have to store and insure collectibles. If you don’t store them properly, collectibles can easily get ruined from sun or water damage and other hazards. And the cost to insure them is about 1% to 2% of the item’s value, per year. So a $10,000 piece would cost about $100 to $200 a year to insure.
No income stream. Investments like stocks and real estate may yield an income in the form of dividends or monthly rent payments while you wait for their values to rise. Not so with a collectible—you have to hold onto it until you can sell it.
How Are Collectibles Taxed?
A quick word on taxes: The government isn’t a fan of buying and selling collectibles, so their sale is heavily taxed.
If you’ve owned a collectible for more than a year, it may be subject to a maximum long-term capital gains tax of 28% when you sell it. That’s notably higher than the 15% capital gains tax for vintage photo frames traditional investments like stocks and bonds. If you sell a collectible after owning it for less than one year, you’ll be taxed at your ordinary income tax rate.
The amount you owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is determined by your basis—the amount you paid for the collectible when you bought it, plus any auction or broker fees. You can also add to your basis any money you spent restoring, refurbishing or maintaining your collectible. Subtract your basis from the sale price—you’ll be taxed on the difference.
Should You Invest in Collectibles?
Collectibles aren’t for everyone. They’re risky and speculative, and require in-depth research and a fair amount of experience to truly be successful.
If you’re website sold on investing in collectibles, consider getting expert advice and working with reputable dealers. It’s probably a good idea to consult with your financial professional to understand how these investments may impact your portfolio and estate planning. Know what you’re buying, and where the market is going. Don’t invest more than you can bear to lose if the collectible doesn’t produce read more the return you expected. Finally, find gratification in owning the items you collect, and don’t purchase them with the expectation that they’ll return anything but years of enjoyment.
Another thing to keep in mind is that collectibles are illiquid, taxable investments that don’t produce an income unless you can sell them. They can also lose their value in a heartbeat if broken, damaged, lost or stolen. If you’re inspired to purchase a collectible, it should be something you truly love and can afford, and that you won’t mind holding onto, potentially forever.
18 BEST SITES TO FIND THE BACKGROUND MUSIC IN 2023
Video content has become one of the most effective investments that are engaging a huge audience. Many individuals are currently investing more resources in video production for marketing. With the increasing competition in video content creation and marketing, it’ll be wise to choose the appropriate background music to make your content stand out.
Background music significantly impacts your video content, audience response, and your brand’s success. Choosing the right music aligning with your video and audience plays an integral role in generating more leads and traffic to your brand. Nonetheless, selecting the best site to download suitable background music for your video content is usually challenging. This article outlines the best sites to find the best background music in 2022.
Pixabay is a top and popular resource for downloading images and photos. Despite being well-known for downloading pictures and videos, it’s a suitable option to get the best background music. The platform allows you to browse for the right music based on the mood or genre to suit your video or audience. Pixabay offers a wide range of sounds you can use for your narration or audio drama. When getting the music, you don’t need to worry about paying a fee or giving the artist credit, as the site offers copyright-free content that they release under the Pixabay license.
2. Freeplay Music
It’s an excellent and secure website you can consider for your background music needs. This site has various subscriptions you can choose for the non-commercial or commercial categories. You can get an extensive production of music libraries at the Freeplay site with high-quality tracks. The collaboration of Freeplay Music and YouTube allows free personal use of the platform, while social media users pay only $0.99. Notably, the site licenses all the content, making it easy to use the music without crediting the artist. You can use Freeplay Music to choose the right music suiting your mood, scene, or genre.
It’s one of the best sites you can choose for your background music and downloads. Kevin MacLeod, a top musician, owns this excellent website that has an extensive tracklist. You can get suitable music for your background needs at the site, as it provides various genres and royalty-free tracks. The platform allows you to choose the right tracks, suiting your needs for free when searching or downloading the music. Nonetheless, when downloading tracks without the artist’s attribution, you’ll have to pay $20 for each track.
CcMixter is an exclusive website open to all producers, singers, or music lovers to get the appropriate background music. It’s a website with a wide range of music from different genres and artists worldwide. You can freely choose the appropriate music, tracks, or remixes without attributing the artists. You don’t need to attribute the artists as the platform licenses its tracks under the Creative Commons licenses. The platform allows you to download various high-rated music in different audio formats like Ogg, WMV, Mp3, etc.
5. Amazon Music
Amazon Music offers the best option for a top site to download your background tracks or songs. The site offers unlimited access to more than 70 million tracks for non-commercial purposes. Despite operating an online music store, Amazon became the first site to sell its tracks without Sony BGM, EMI, and Universal digital terms management. However, you have to pay a monthly subscription of $7.99 to download suitable music for your video content or audience. Many individuals prefer downloading their background music from the platform as it offers a wide range of options for your needs.
Beatpick is the best option when looking for quality music content for your different needs. You can get appropriate music for commercial purposes like internet videos, films, games, or advertising. Many freelancers or agencies prefer choosing music from Beatpick to enhance the video content or audience. Before downloading, the site allows you to test and certify if the music is perfect for your needs. You can use the search bar to choose the appropriate background music from the different instruments, genres, moods, artists, etc.
AudioJungle is an essential part of Envato Market, which offers different sound effects and royalty-free music. Experts reveal that this platform allows you to choose an appropriate track from the broad files, exclusive category list, and collection. It’s the best location or site to download various tracks from different sound technicians and the global music community. Furthermore, after downloading the tracks or background music, the platform has features that get more info allow you to customize the tracks to suit your content. After downloading your suitable track or song, you can use the music kit option for the customization to enhance your audience engagement.
8. YouTube Audio Library
Experts reveal that YouTube is the best platform for downloading or getting your background track or music. The platform has a wide selection of different royalty-free music for unlimited downloads and use by multiple users. YouTube has a simple interface that allows you to choose the suitable music library based on the track name, mood, genre, or artist. After uploading the podcast, the platform will enable you to overlay the track you’re downloading on the footage directly from the site. However, it’ll be necessary to create a YouTube account to enjoy these features and downloads.
9. 909 Music
909 music is the best site for your background music or track downloads. The platform provides cutting-edge, perfect, and modern options for different background music. You can get various background tracks, like intro music, theme, and outro songs, from this site. Many individuals prefer this platform as it offers unlimited music downloads, and you don’t have to worry about attributing the artists. You can get the suitable track by getting to the site, downloading the appropriate file, and incorporating the track into your podcast.
10. Free Music Archive
Free Music Archive is a top and open source approach to accessing and downloading quality background music. Like the other sites, it has an extensive library click here full of various high-quality tracks. It’s the best site you can choose to download suitable background music for podcasting. The platform has a simple interface you can use to check and download a good song for your video content or audience. Notably, the platform has the FMA app, making it easy to access and click here download these songs from your android or iOS device.
11. Free Beats
The free beat is an essential platform for downloading your background tracks when creating your video content. Many content creators prefer this site for the background music as it offers a vast list of music or tracks. Free beats offer a free and easy alternative for downloading these tracks. You can download these songs easily, provided you follow their social media pages and rate their services. Nonetheless, the site provides free tracks on specific tracks, like EDM, electronic, and hip hop music only.
Audianutix is the best alternative when looking for a reliable source to get your background music. The site is rich in various high-quality background tracks or music for different needs. You can easily download these free and unlimited audio tracks for your audience or podcast by following this platform on social media and crediting them. The platform allows you to search various primary song categories, such as acoustic or cinematic. You can use the keyword, tempo, or subcategories to get suitable tracks.
13. Public Domain
It’s a top site you can consider for your background music downloads, as it works with artists presenting copy-free songs. Thus, you can download the songs at this site without attributing or compensating the composer. You can choose a suitable track or music from the wide variety available on the website. The platform allows all the users to search and download various music that suits their different projects or purposes. However, some other songs or tracks require a monthly subscription to access or download them.
14. Epidemic Sound
Many individuals find epidemic sound a favorite site you can consider when looking for high-quality background music. The website site has an extensive library with numerous tracks or songs for your different purposes. Epidemic sound has a weekly updating program that adds various high-quality music for your needs. After getting to the site, you can get the best music depending on your favorite lengths, vocals, tempos, and genre to suit your video content or audience. When downloading the music or tracks, the platform only requires you to have one primary license for all your downloads.
Storyblocks is a reliable one-stop source for your background music download. It offers an extensive library with numerous songs and tracks for your different audience or video content needs. The site has one of the sophisticated features that allow you to search for the various categories like instrument, genre, and mood. It’s an essential option when looking for music or tracks to help you nail specific video timings. However, you’ll need a $10 – $30 monthly subscription for your unlimited downloads.
Jamendo offers a good platform that allows you to filter up to seven different categories of background tracks or music. You use the filters to navigate and choose the appropriate song or track from the catalog with over 250000 tracks. The site offers various in-store radio background music and single tracks featuring over 27 ad-free playlists. Before downloading from the platform, it’ll be good to check the appropriate songs that suit your needs or purposes. Jamendo allows you to use a single commercial track licensing to download and use the song without attributing the composer.
SoundCloud stands out among the other competitors in providing the appropriate background music with numerous global songs and tracks. This platform guarantees you the right high-quality music for your different purposes. You can download and use music from more than two artists for your content, as long as you attribute the tracks appropriately. However, when searching and downloading the songs for your different purposes, it’ll be good to consider the free options and copyright-free.
Bensound is the best source of free, high-quality, and royalty-free background music and tracks. Benjamin Tissot, a top artist, creates, uploads, and manages all the operations of this site to ensure quality downloads. You find a wide range of tracks from corporate videos, commercials, documentaries, and Ben’s more info work for your different purposes. Bensound guarantees you top-notch quality music or tracks you can use for various needs. Lastly, the site offers free downloads for non-commercial downloads, but you can choose appropriate subscriptions for the track licensing.
Adding the right sound effects or music is the best way of polishing your podcast or video content. However, you might find it challenging to choose the appropriate one for the music or tracks with the numerous sites available. The above are the top sites to download the best background music for your different purposes. You can get a wide range of copyright-free background tracks with varying lengths, intent, and monetization to suit your different purposes.
The Art of Photography
1. Is photography art?
For me, art is creating things out of your imagination and soul. Whoever says that photography isn’t art is a pretentious asshole.
2. Why do you shoot photos?
First of all, one of the things you want to ask yourself is this:
“Why do I take photos?”
By asking yourself this question, you have a deeper understanding why you click the shutter. By answering this question, you find meaning, purpose, and direction in your photography.
For example, I take photos because it helps me truly connect with a deeper level with the world. Without a camera-in-hand, I am another zombie on their smartphone. I fail to notice and appreciate the beauty of everyday life around me.
However when I have my camera in my hand, and I can feel the weight of the camera in my hand, I look around and actively look for photo opportunities. By actively seeking photo opportunities, I feel the sensitivity of my eyes go up. I can perceive colors, shapes, forms, and gestures on a deeper level.
When I’m really ‘in the zone’ in street photography, I can notice every gesture, facial expression of people on the streets. I feel connected with the streets. I lose a sense of myself, and I feel like I’m on a different level.
Not only that, but I take photos because I am trying to encapsulate my love for those I photograph.
If I am only remembered for one photo project after I die, it will be the ‘Cindy Project’ — photographing the love of my life with all of my heart and soul. I hope not only to photograph Cindy, but to photograph the feeling I have for her. And I hope this project can inspire others to photograph their loved ones with as much tenderness and compassion. Because we don’t know when our loved ones will die. Photographing your loved ones is to think about death.
3. What makes photography different from painting or other arts?
First of all, in photography — you have to deal with physical atoms, shapes, and forms in the real world.
A painter can sit down, and simply imagine his environment or final painting. The painter can choose whatever colors, tools, or materials to create what is in their mind.
In photography, we are a little more enslaved to our environment. Without the right subject, the right background, light, or color — we can’t make images.
Some photographers pre-visualize their photos before shooting them. Richard Avedon once had a dream of photographing an albino man, with bees all around him. When he woke up, he sketched it, then put out an advertisement looking for an albino man. Then he photographed it.
Other photographers (myself included) — we don’t know what we’re looking for until we see it. For example, I often wander the streets, camera-in-hand, just being open to any opportunities.
I feel especially in the art of street photography — the secret is to make yourself malleable, flexible, and fluid like water. If you close off any of your options, you will not be as reactive, and you will miss out a lot of street photography opportunities.
4. What is your style?
Going back to the point at hand, each photographer has his or her subject-matter. Some of us like to photograph landscapes, some of us like to photograph our families, some of us like to photograph strangers, some of us like to photograph buildings, and some of us like to photograph ourselves.
As for me, I don’t think you should limit your subject-matter as a photographer. I think it is dangerous to over-specialize in your photography. Because you lose creative energy and steam.
For example, when I was too focused on street photography, I became frustrated. When I wasn’t in a busy city with an exciting downtown area, I felt I couldn’t make any photos. Being frustrated, I soon discovered the best subject to photograph — Cindy, the love of my life. Then I started to pursue ‘Personal Photography’ with full zeal and enthusiasm.
Now my style is a combination of photographing my loved ones (personal photography), strangers on the street (street photography), and I’ve actually been shooting more landscapes and nature. I don’t want to define myself anymore. If a person on the street asks me what I like to shoot, I usually say ‘Street Photography’ (because it is easier). But personally, I don’t even define myself as a photographer anymore. Because I don’t want to limit myself to just one medium — I want to draw inspiration from Jazz and Hip Hop music, from the impressionist painters, from the ancient greek and roman poets, and from sculpture, dance, and theater.
5. Don’t specialize in your photography
So in the art of photography, my suggestion is this: don’t specialize in your photography. Be open to any opportunities photographically. Photograph anything that draws your eyes.
I still do believe if you want to commercially make photography your living, it is good to be a specialist. Then once you master your one field of specialization, then you can branch out. For me, I started off as a generalist photographer, then started to specialize in street photography. Then people began to know who I was. I built a career for myself, teaching workshops specializing on street photography. But now, I am starting to branch out of street photography — focusing on other forms of photography. Now I see all photography as photography — I wish I knew this sooner.
6. What camera should I shoot with?
My suggestion with camera choices: use the simplest, smallest, most compact, and ‘frictionless’ camera.
That might be a point and shoot camera, or your smartphone. It can even be a larger camera— anything that fits and suits you well.
“Not every shoe fits every foot.”
When you’re starting off in photography, you’re going to need to experiment with different cameras to figure out what fits you.
But after my personal experiences, the bigger your camera is, the less-likely you are to bring it with you everywhere you go, the fewer photos you are going to shoot, and the more frustrated you will be in your photography.
So my practical advice is this: optimize for a smaller camera, lighter camera, and more flexible camera whenever possible.
This advice can be given to any other form of artist. Artists often over-obsess about their equipment. The same happens with writers (what pen or paper should I write with?), it happens with painters (should I use acrylics or oil paint?), it happens with musicians (should I play electric or acoustic?). But with every art form, the simpler the tool, the better.
I know for me as a writer, I try to use the simplest writing tool possible. For my writing app, I use an app that is full-screen, has no other distractions, and just focuses on typing.
7. What makes my photography unique?
To start off, because you shot the photo, the photo is unique.
However, just because your photo is unique doesn’t mean it is a good photograph.
So in a sense, being a ‘unique’ photographer is overrated. You can take a commonly photographed subject (let’s say the Subway) — but you can make it great. It doesn’t matter how original or novel your idea— what matters the most is the execution of your images.
8. How to make better photos
In order to make better photos, you need to shoot with more soul.
That is what is lacking in today’s photography. There is too much emphasis on technical settings; rather than photographing with emotions and soul.
In photography, put your entire body, mind, and soul when you are shooting. Don’t over-complicate it. Don’t try to be too clever when you’re shooting.
What you should aim for is to create more authentic, personal, and transparent photos. Your photos should reflect who you are as a human being.
And of course, if you want to make good photos — you need to learn how to make good compositions.
To make good compositions is to have fewer distractions, less noise, and more ‘signal.’ Which means, when you’re shooting, try to make your photos as simple as possible. The simpler your compositions, the more emphasis you can put in the emotion and soul in your photos.
9. Limit your palette
If you want to keep your photos simpler, limit your palette. Start off in black and white, because it is the simplest form of photography. You can only focus on the blacks, the whites, and the grey in-between. By focusing in black and white photography, you will be able to focus more on composition, hand-gestures, body language, the light, shadows, reflections, and forms.
Then when you start to advance in your photography, I recommend picking up color photography. Because color is another variable which complicates your photography. With color, you have different shades, hues, intensities, luminance, and contrast. It is a whole new bag of worms.
Even when you shoot color photography, keep your palette and colors pretty simple. Nature prefers simple colors. You see green trees, with red fruit (so it is easy for animals to see the fruit). You see blue water, with some orange flowers sprouting out of the water.
You see animals that are colorful, yet limited in color. Peacocks are mostly green and blue. Tigers are mostly orange, black, and white.
Even when we see sunrises and sunsets— the hues are pretty much in harmony. Either there are mostly warm colors (red, orange, and yellow) — or there are mostly cool colors (blue, purple, green).
10. Dynamism in photography
To make better photos, you also want to make more dynamic compositions.
If you look at nature, there are no straight lines. Trees grow in a fractal pattern, which means they split out into smaller sub-forms in a “V” pattern.
Try to create compositions in your photography with curved lines. Or if you can’t find curved lines, try to incorporate more diagonals in your photos.
If you put a ball on a horizontal surface, it will not move. If you put a ball on a diagonal surface, it will roll, and gather speed. A diagonal line is easy to topple and push over. If we learn from physics, it can help our composition.
11. Eyes are the windows to the soul
In photography — if you’re photographing people, remember: eyes are the windows to the soul.
If you look at the last few thousand years, most portraits of human beings focus on the eyes. Either having the eyes look straight at the viewer, or off into the distance.
In real life, when we make eye contact with someone else, it is intimate, and often scary. If you make eye contact with a stranger, it can be a provocation or a threat. If you make eye contact with a loved one, it can sometimes cause someone (you or the other person) to cry.
As human beings, we are programmed to be drawn to eye contact. It is what kept us alive for thousands of years.
Even if we’re sitting in a public place, we can literally feel someone looking at us. I know personally, if I’m sitting at a coffee shop, minding my own business, maybe reading a book — I can feel someone looking at me (through my peripheral vision). My shoulders tense up, and the corners of my eyes twitch. I feel uncomfortable, and I have to turn around and look at the person.
So in your photography, if you want to make more intense images, make sure your subject looks straight into your lens. When I’m shooting portraits, I often ask my subjects: “Stare into the lens and don’t smile.” To capture more authentic portraits, don’t force them to smile. If you want a genuine smile, it is better to tell them a joke, or ask them to think of a pleasant memory— then start taking more photos.
12. Take a lot of photos
“Sometimes you need to milk the cow a lot to get a little bit of cheese.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson
One of the biggest misconceptions in photography is that you should only take 1 photo of the scene. While some photographers like William Eggleston use this technique, I think it is impractical for almost everybody else.
The more photos we shoot, the more likely we are to hit a home run. Very rarely is the first shot is the best shot.
Even if you look at the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson (the master of photography) — he shot many different photos of a scene. He would then choose the “decisive moment” after he shot a series of photographs.
Nobody can predict the future. Therefore when I’m shooting a scene, I often discover the composition and the ‘decisive moment’ while I’m in the process of shooting. The saying: “I don’t know what I want until I see it” rings true.
13. Push yourself 25% more
When you’re taking photos of a scene, another practical tip: try to shoot 25% more than you think you should.
I have a practical rule for myself:
When I think I ‘got’ the photo; I don’t. Then I need to shoot 25% more than I think I should.
Many of my best photos happen after I push myself. Many of my best photos happen on the last frame.
The mistake all of us make in photography is we quit too soon. This doesn’t only apply in photography; it applies to life. We quit our businesses too soon, before we turn a profit. As runners, we quit too soon — just when we are in-sight of the finish line. When we are climbing a mountain, we often quit before we make it to the summit.
So friend, don’t quit too early in your photography. Don’t become easily discouraged. Keep pressing forward. If you want to climb a steep mountain, you need to learn forward.
Also when you’re photographing a scene, I recommend shooting both horizontal (landscape) and vertical (portrait) photos. You often don’t know which will work better, until you go home and inspect your photos afterwards.
14. Focus on the edges
The best compositional tip I can give is this: focus on your edges when you’re shooting. Keep your edges as clean as possible. And make sure to get close enough to your subject, to fill the frame.
15. Get closer
Often in photography, we are too far from our subjects. Either too far physically, or too far emotionally.
You can get closer in your photos by using your feet. I am a big fan of ‘foot zoom.’
You can get closer to your subjects emotionally by engaging with them. If you’re photographing your subject, talk to them. Have a conversation with them. Ask them for their life story, their hopes, their dreams, or ambitions. Start off by opening up yourself— share your secrets, and make yourself naked. Then they will open up to you deeper, and then reveal parts of their soul which you can capture in your photos.
16. Creative constraints
I know my biggest deterrent in my photography is that I made too many excuses. My gear wasn’t good enough. My city wasn’t interesting enough. I didn’t have enough free time.
In reality, it is our constraints which help us be more creative.
If we are constrained in terms of our free-time; we don’t waste our free time.
If we are constrained in terms of our gear; we learn how to make the best out of our camera, which pushes us to innovate.
If we are constrained in terms of our city; we learn how to make the most interesting photos in a boring place.
The more I think about it — innovation is bred from necessity. Hunger is what drives us to move. Necessity is what pushes us to become more resourceful. Often the best entrepreneurs are born from refugee, immigrant, or poor families. Why? Because they were born hungry, and had to learn how to be resourceful.
Think about it— who is more creative: a kid who was born with an iPad, or a kid who has to make their own toys out of cardboard boxes?
17. Consistency and variety
In the art of photography; the two things you are trying to balance between is consistency and variety.
With consistency, you need to make your photos look consistent to build a certain style. That means, shoot all your photos in black and white, or color. Or only shoot in one city or area. Or only shoot one kind of subject-matter.
Yet if you did the same exact thing everyday for the rest of your life, you would want to die. Therefore, we need variety.
How can we integrate variety with consistency? We can integrate variety by blending it with consistency.
For example, you can have variety in terms of the different photo projects you have. When you start a new photo project, decide how you will be consistent within that project. So for one photo project, you can shoot it all in black and white film. The next photo project, you shoot it all in color with a digital camera.
Or let’s say you want to photograph a photo-project on men wearing suits. You can be consistent by photographing only men in suits, but you can have variety by photographing them in different areas, situations, and with different compositions.
Or perhaps you can be consistent in terms of where you photograph (let’s say one square block in your city). The variety can be that you shoot any type of subject matter you find interesting (buildings, trees, people, stuff you find on the ground, etc).
Or, you can be consistently inconsistent. Meaning, if you work on a photo project, you can intentionally alternate between color and black and white photos. You show a pattern through your inconsistency.
18. Pattern recognition
As humans, we are pattern-recognition machines. It is a mental shortcut for us to understand the world around us.
Therefore if your style is too random and all-over-the-place; nobody will pay attention to you. Because you have no consistency.
As Seneca said: strive to be the same person from the beginning of the play until the end of the play. But perhaps if you start a new play in your life, you can take on a different role.
A practical suggestion: stick with one camera, one lens, and only black and white for an entire year. And perhaps you can focus on only shooting street portraits for a year. I believe in concrete, focused goals in order to make progress.
Then the next year, you can experiment shooting color photography — and pursue some other project.
19. When to be flexible
In photography, you also want to be flexible. My suggestion: think of yourself like a captain of a ship. You know your general destination, but you need to adjust the direction of your ship based on the weather. Your goal as a captain is to reach a certain point on the map, but you’re going to have to change course depending on whether there is a storm, whether your boat has a leak in it, or whether some other interruptions occur.
Similarly, trees are born pliant, flexible, and soft when they’re small and first born. When trees die, they are brittle, and hard.
I also like the analogy of bamboo— bamboo is strong, yet flexible.
Therefore be strong in your vision, but flexible with your details in your photography, and photo-projects.
20. How to train your eyes
If you want to become a great photographer, you need to train your eyes. You need to train your eyes, like you train your muscles.
The photographer Jay Maisel calls it ‘visual push-ups.’ You can do a visual push-up by looking at great art. Looking at great photos from the masters of photography, or by looking at other visual artists. I know for myself, I gain the biggest inspiration from studying master photographers from the past, Renaissance painters, ancient sculptors, interior decorators, fashion designers, and by mother nature herself.
You are also what you eat. If you constantly consume McDonalds and Coca Cola, you will become obese, contract diabetes, and perhaps die. If you want to become strong and fit, you want to abstain from sugar, simple carbohydrates, and processed foods.
The same is with your visual health. You will ruin your visual health if you spend too much time looking at things on social media, advertisements, and crap.
As bountiful physical health comes from a variety of food sources, a strong visual health will come from a variety of visual inspirational sources.
Only consume the best.
21. Time either improves or extinguishes
In photography, time is your best counselor.
For example, there are certain photos I like more as time goes on. There are also certain photos I start to hate more as time goes on.
The photos that improve with time are your good photos, and should be kept. The photos that disintegrate with time are your bad photos, and should be deleted.
I like to call this process “marination.” The idea is that with good steaks, the longer you let your meat marinate, the better it will taste. Of course, there is a limit to this in the food analogy.
Another analogy is letting things ferment. The longer you let Kimchi marinate (up to a certain point), the better it will taste. The same goes with beer, wine, and other fermented-goods.
So if you’re not sure whether your photo is good or not, just sit on your photos. Don’t be eager to upload a photograph too quickly to social media. It is like serving a half-cooked steak to your guest. Or it is like picking a fruit before it is ripe.
22. All killer, no filler
Less is more. More is less.
The fewer photos you share with others, the better. You only want to share the ‘creme de la crop’ — the best of the best.
You are only as good as your weakest photograph. Just like a chain is only as strong as the weakest link.
I’ve often looked at photo projects which have 19 incredible images, but 1 really bad photo. That 1 bad photo ruins the entire project. It is like how one rotten egg can spoil the bunch.
When you’re working on a photo series, focus on which photos to subtract— rather than what to add. Start off with 50 images or so, and then edit it down to 40 images, then 30 images, then 20 images, and perhaps only 10 images.
If you think about our entire lives as photographers, we will be lucky if we’re remembered for just 1 photo, or 1 photo project. But if you achieve that goal— you’ve done your job as a photographer.
Leonardo Da Vinci is only remembered for the Mona Lisa. The photographer Nick Ut is remembered for ‘Napalm girl.’ Henri Cartier-Bresson is remembered for the guy jumping over the puddle. Every great artist in history has their own ‘Magnum Opus’ (great work) that they are remembered for. But it is rarely only 1 which is remembered (except perhaps Homer, who is remembered for both the Illiad and the Odyssey).
23. Shoot if today were your last
In the art of photography, death is our best motivator. If you shoot each day as if it were your last, you will never have any regrets in your photography.
There is no better time for you to be a photographer than now.
So why hesitate and delay? What guarantee do you have that you will live to see tomorrow? Who knows if you will get hit by a drunk driver, whether you shall get some rare form of cancer, whether you have a heart attack in your sleep, or whether you slip on the streets and crack open your skull?
Don’t delay being a photographer. Don’t wait until you go on that traveling trip next year. Don’t wait until you retire. Don’t wait until you move to a different city.
Photograph your surroundings. Photograph your own life. Photograph yourself.
An easy photo project you can do is a ‘day in the life’ (of your life). Photograph your morning routine. Start off by going to bed with your camera on your bedside. Wake up, grab your camera, and photograph your ceiling, or your loved one on your side. Then photograph the view from your window. Photograph your morning coffee, photograph during your commute to work, photograph at your job, photograph your lunch break, photograph on your commute back home, and photograph your evening with your loved one. And if you have nobody else to photograph, photograph yourself— in the mirror, your shadow, or just shoot a selfie.
The only way to be a better photographer is to increase the sensitivity of your eyes. To realize that each moment is a potentially beautiful and precious moment. To not take anything for granted.
The greatest photographer can make an ordinary scene extraordinary. Poor photographers make ordinary photos of extraordinary things.
24. How to steel your courage in photography
One of the most important things in photography is to build a steel spine.
Courage is your backbone in your photography. Courage is what will help you have the guts to take the photo. Courage is what will give you the self-confidence to share your work with others. Courage is what will help you take risks in your photography, in your journey of self-greatness.
To steel your spine in photography, know that you have nothing to fear but death itself. All of our irrational human fears stem from death, and the fear of pain. For example, we are afraid of shooting street photography because we are afraid of pissing people off, having them physically assault us, or to have strangers (possibly) kill us.
We are afraid of ‘putting ourselves out there’ in terms of sharing our photos, because we are afraid of begin negatively judged. We are afraid of being negatively judged, because we fear being ostracized by our peers, getting fired from our jobs, becoming homeless, and dying on the streets.
But the best antidote is to imagine the worst, and to not fear death. Don’t fear becoming homeless, don’t fear pain, and don’t fear dying. If you take a photo of a stranger, they will not kill you. If you share a photo online, the worst that will happen is that nobody will respond or ‘like’ your photo. If you want to pursue being a full-time photographer, the worst that will happen is that you will have to get a barista job to pay the bills (which actually isn’t a horrible back-up plan).
Another tip — expect to be criticized, and judged negatively. If anything, this is the only way you can measure your personal ‘success.’ The more people who hate your work, the more successful you have become. For example, if you are a nobody— nobody will criticize your work. William Eggleston first gained renown when he exhibited his color photos at the NY MOMA — and everyone hated his work. Daido Moriyama made a name for himself once people started to criticize his high-contrast, gritty, out-of-focus photos. Millions have called The Beatles ‘overrated.’
Also to have more confidence in your photography, know that photography is your duty. You were born to put out beautiful and inspirational images. You’re not just shooting for yourself— you’re photographing for others.
If it weren’t for you, who would have a document of your local town? If it weren’t for you, who would have a document of your family and loved ones? If it weren’t for you — who would appreciate the beauty of everyday life?
By knowing that photography is your duty, you elevate yourself. Your photography isn’t a selfish act— it is for the greater good.
25. Beginner’s mind / Child’s mind
One of the best ways to stay creative for your entire life is to embrace ‘beginner’s mind’ or ‘child’s mind.’
A child is born here as a beginner. A beginner has no concepts, theories, or ideas about art. Yet each child is born as an artist.
When we are kids, we take the paper and throw colors onto it. We create art with our soul, without any self-censorship. We don’t do it for the sake of making money, for gaining fame, or notoriety. We create art because it is fun.
I used to take my photography too seriously; which was a serious impediment to my progress. When I started off as a beginner, I just photographed for fun. This is when I was the most creative, and this is when I had the most motivation. I photographed for myself, and to share my photos with a few friends.
26. Create for yourself
Don’t shoot for an audience; shoot for yourself.
It is impossible to know what kind of photographers others would like. But it is easy to know what kind of photos that you like.
I used to be addicted to social media— worrying whether my photos would get a lot of likes. I would ‘crowd-source my self esteem’ by counting the success of my photos based on how many likes I got. But I started to realize that I became a slave to the opinion of others. I no longer shot for myself; I shot for others.
I therefore took a break from social media. I stopped uploading my photos online, and started to only focus on myself. I would make photos, and then look at them and ask myself:
“Do I like this photo?”
Without worrying about what others might think.
Ultimately, you are the most difficult person to please. And you are the most important person to please.
What if you had a photo that got a million likes, but you hated the photo? Would it be worth it? Or consider the photo that you love, but nobody else likes. I still think your own opinion is more important than the opinion of the masses.
I still think it is good to get honest feedback and critique from others, just to understand how others see your photos. But at the same time, take their opinions into consideration— but don’t listen to their opinion blindly. Listen to your own conscience before the opinions of others.
A practical tip to judge your own photos — if you saw your own photo in the social media stream of someone else — would you ‘like’ the photo, or share it with someone else?
27. You are not your photos
A lot of us falter in our photography because we over-commit ourselves to photography. We take our photos too personally. We think we are our photos.
Therefore when people criticize our photos, we feel like they’re criticizing us as human beings. Just because someone doesn’t like your photos, doesn’t mean that they don’t like you.
For example, if someone calls your photo “shit” — they aren’t calling you a shitty person. You are separate from your photos.
Therefore after you take a photo, remember: it no longer belongs to you.
Not only that, but don’t refer to your photos as “your” photos. Rather, call them “the” photos. This will help distance yourself from your own work— and judge them more objectively.
When you judge your own photos; imagine like you’re judging someone else’s photos. Be your own best self-critic.
28. Avoid boredom
A child stops playing if they’re bored. The same should be in our photography — don’t shoot if you’re bored. You want to have fun, or else it becomes a job.
How to avoid boredom in your photography? Pursue a different photo project. Choose a different medium for making images (switch to shooting film, to your smartphone, or switch to black-and-white). Perhaps shoot a different part of town, or start shooting a different subject-matter.
Excitement and curiosity should drive your forward progress in your photography. You should never ‘force’ your photography — it should be effortless. Only shoot when you feel like it, or else your photos will have no enthusiasm or soul.
29. Should I shoot everyday?
Some people are motivated when they do something everyday. Some of us don’t feel the same way.
For example, I don’t write everyday. But I have been able to stay quite prolific throughout the last decade. The same in my photography — I generally shoot everyday, but there have been times I haven’t shot everyday. And I’ve still made a handful of photos I’m proud of.
Constant toil will kill us. We all need rest, in order to recover.
If you feed a plant too much water, it will die. If soil has too much nutrients, your crops won’t grow. If you exercise the same muscle everyday, your muscles will never have a chance to recover, and grow stronger.
Sometimes we need creative breaks from our photography, in order to re-inspire our photography. If you’re lacking inspiration in your photography, don’t force yourself to go out and start shooting again. Pick up another art. Pick up poetry, pick up painting, singing, dancing, or sculpture.
I know for me, my biggest inspirations from photography come from outside of photography. I gain inspiration from hip hop music, through ancient Stoic philosophy, from Zen Buddhism, and powerlifting. Like a bee, I skip from flower to flower, collecting different pollen — and eventually, I create my own honey which is comprised of different sources.
You know yourself better than anybody else. So shoot everyday if it suits your personality; and don’t shoot everyday if it get more info doesn’t suit your personality.
30. How to make good habits in your photography
If you indeed want to take more photos, perhaps on a daily basis— know that you are your habits.
What is the first thing you do when you wake up? Check your cell phone, or your email, or your social media?
What do you do when you’re eating? Do you check your phone, or actually eat your food?
What websites do you check on a daily basis? What foods are you accustomed to eating? What albums do you regularly listen to?
Habits probably make up more than 80% of our day. We are like grooves in a record player. Time creates grooves, and once we create these grooves, it is hard to carve new grooves.
Or another analogy — when a tree starts to grow in a certain direction, it is hard to change the direction. But the good thing is, you can change the direction where a tree grows (by creating support, by binding the branches, or by changing the light source).
The same is in our photography. We should strive to build good habits in our photography, based on our goals.
For example, if your goal is indeed to shoot more photos, figure out how you can make a habit of having your camera ready as often as possible. Perhaps your habit can be to always have your camera in your front pocket, or better yet, in your hand.
Or let’s say you want to make it a habit to study more great photography. Perhaps keep a photo book on your breakfast table, and you will always look at a few photos when you’re having your morning coffee. Or keeping a photo book by your bedside, so you can go to sleep looking at great photos, before sleeping.
If you want to make it a habit to not always check social media, uninstall social media apps from your phone, and only check it on your laptop.
We all know what our bad habits are. Therefore, we need to learn how to change our environment to change our habits.
For me, I am easily distracted by blogs and websites that prevent me from writing. Therefore, I ‘tie myself to the mast’ like Ulysses, through pre-commitment. I know that I am lured by distracting websites (like the Sirens), therefore I install website blocker plugins on my browser, and block distracting websites. I can only focus by removing distractions.
If you find it hard to have time to make photos, figure out how you can change your daily routine. Perhaps you can leave to work 15 minutes earlier, and use that time to snap a few photos. Perhaps you can stop having lunch at your computer desk in your office, and use those 30 minutes to walk around and snap some photos. Perhaps you can take a different route home from work everyday, and you can use that to inspire yourself to make photos. Perhaps you can take photos on your subway or bus commute to work or back home. Or if you’re stuck in a car, take photos (carefully) when you’re stuck in traffic.
If you have a hard time staying inspired in your photography, perhaps you can start listening to photography podcasts when you’re heading to work. When you’re bored at work, don’t waste time looking at social media or distracting websites, use that time to study the work of the master photographers.
Become the photographer you want by changing your habits. And there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ habits in your photography. Just change your environment to become the photographer you want to become.
31. Light in photography
Photography means ‘painting with light.’ Without light, photography wouldn’t be possible.
To start off, there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ light in photography. There are different qualities of light — harsh, soft, or directional. There is also natural light and artificial light. You can shoot without a flash, or with a flash.
It doesn’t matter what kind of light you use. What matters is what kind of emotion and mood you’re trying to evoke in your photos.
If you want darker, more mysterious photos, under-expose your photos, and emphasize the darks and shadows in your photos. If you want softer, more intimate photos, photograph your subjects by a window — to give them softer natural light.
If you want more edgy photos, photograph your subjects with a flash (either on-camera, or external).
Whoever says that natural light is the best light is talking silly talk. I like to control my light, not to be the slave of the light.
The biggest liberation I got in my photography when I started to shoot with a flash. Because this allowed me to shoot whenever I wanted. Before hand, I could only shoot when the light was ‘good’ (golden hour, when the sun rises, and when the sun sets).
Once again, there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ light — there are just different types of light.
But you still want to be aware of the light. You want to be aware where the light is coming from. Or if you use a flash, you need to know the correct technical settings to create the type of images you want.
The biggest suggestion I would give you regarding light is to just experiment. Learn how to see the light, by photographing at different times in the day. Learn the temperature of the light, by photographing at sunrise, by photographing under fluorescent lighting, by photographing your subjects next to a window, and by photographing at sunset, and once the sun goes down.
In photography, you want to control your perspective to create a different type of mood in your photos.
For example, you can photograph your subjects from a low-perspective, by crouching down, by lying on your back, or keeping your camera on the ground. This will make your subjects look ‘larger than life’ — or as they call it, the ‘superman effect.’ By photographing people from a lower angle, you make them look bigger, stronger, and more grand.
If you photograph your subjects from a high perspective, you make your subjects smaller. Imagine the ultimate perspective— photographing from a tall building, looking down, making your subjects look like tiny ants.
We often don’t know what the best perspective is when we’re shooting, so the practical tip is this: switch up your perspectives.
For example, if you’re photographing a subject, take many photos from different angles. Shoot crouching. Shoot by taking a step to the left, or the right. Ask your subject to move. Or stand on top of a chair, and photograph them looking down.
33. Focal lengths
The focal length you use in photography will change how your photos look.
For example, if you photograph with a wide-angle lens (generally 28mm-35mm), whatever is on the edges of your frame will become stretched out, distorted, and seem longer than they are in real life.
The longer your lens (50mm-200mm) the more you “compress” the scene. You lose depth in your photos. All of the elements in your photo look like they are on the same visual plane.
Generally the wider your lens, the more intimate your photos feel. It gives a wider field-of-view, which makes your viewer feel like they’re part of the scene. This is why in street photography, I generally recommend using a 35mm lens, or a lens wider than 35mm. This puts the viewer in your shoes.
However traditionally in model or portrait photography, they use longer lenses (85mm-200mm+), because it makes their faces look smaller, and doesn’t stretch out their facial features. Many individuals think this looks more ‘flattering.’
But ultimately, there is no ‘best’ lens for photography. You just need to think of what kind of effect or mood you’re trying to create in your photos.
For example, I shoot much of my portraits at 28mm mode, sometimes from 20cm away. This exaggerates their facial features; but I am trying to create a surreal-looking face. Therefore the 28mm lens works well for me.
If you want to shoot a landscape, and make the sun, mountains, and foreground look like they’re all part of the same focal plane, you might want to use a 200-300mm lens.
But the ultimate suggestion I will give you to become a great photographer is this: stick with one focal length for a long time. This will allow you to truly internalize, and understand a lens.
For example, I shot with only a 35mm lens from when I was 18 years old until I was 28 years old. This allowed me to know how a photograph looked before I even brought up my camera to my eye. I could quickly compose on the go.
Using one camera, one lens is a good example of a ‘creative constraint.’ You force yourself to become resourceful and innovative based on the limitations of your equipment. Zoom lenses tend to make us lazy.
For 90% of photographers, I recommend a 35mm ‘full-frame equivalent’ focal length. Because it is the ultimate versatile lens. If you’re too far read more away, take a step closer and use ‘foot zoom.’ If your subject is too close, just take a few steps back. apparently the human eye is around a 40mm focal length. So 35mm (gives you a little more room) is generally ideal to give you more flexibility.
But once again, that is just my opinion. Experiment with different lenses, and figure out what best suits your eye.
34. Never stop painting
The last point I want to leave with you is this — the art of photography is baring your soul to your audience. It means to inspire yourself with the very marrow of life.
It means to never take anything for granted. It means to never stop creating, and never to stop capturing the beauty of the world around you.
Never stop painting with your camera. Treat yourself like a child with a camera, and you will never lack inspiration.