“Of the 10 photographers in the [international] workshop, I was easily the worst photographer.”
If we told you this is what seasoned photographer Justin Mott said about his photography career over a decade ago, for sure you would not believe it, given the volume of brilliant work he has done, both as a photojournalist and a commercial photographer. Yet, the humble photographer, who is also the host of competitive photography reality TV show Photo Face Off, revealed this to us, and also shared that he believes that regardless of gender, race, or equipment at hand, anyone can be a good photographer.
“I don’t think you need to have a natural talent [in photography],” Mott said in an interview with ABS-CBN Lifestyle. He recalls falling in love with photography back when he was still a journalism student in San Francisco. “I love the chance to be creative, and I get to see different parts of life and explore [the world].”
His current stature as one of this generation's most seasoned photographers out there boils down to hard work and constant honing of his skills, which he makes sure he does even at 38 years old. “You can’t ever be complacent; you always have to push yourself to get more because people are so interested in photography, they want to learn, want to get better,” Mott said.
As photography these days is more competitive, thanks to technology and new techniques, the Photo Face Off host shares a few of his insights on how aspiring shutterbugs can level up their photo game:
1. Change your perspective. While photography classes teach lots of rules, Mott thinks that sometimes you have to break them. “You get down on the ground, you climb up a chair. Don’t get hurt, but try to get a different perspective,” he said.
His suggestion when it comes to finding your own style in photography? “Make your own rules, [and] don’t be like everyone else.”
2. Keep pushing yourself. Just like the challenges given to the contestants on Photo Face Off, aspiring shutterbugs should constantly challenge themselves in order for their photography skills to prosper. “It’s important to stand on top of your game and keep pushing yourself,” Mott said
Be it a photograph of children, a photograph of your pets, or a snap of a breathtaking landscape, you’ll learn something on how to take better pictures in every episode and every challenge,” Mott added.
3. Learn from fellow photographers. As Mott was humbled in an episode in the previous season of Photo Face Off, where a 12-year old bested him, he explains that even professional photographers can learn new things from fellow photographers, hobbyists included. “I want people to have a chance to interact with a professional, and learn from professionals,” Mott said, which is why Photo Face Off has inspired him to do #AskMott, an online platform where he shares how he takes some of his shots.
4. Know your light. In any photograph, one should know and understand light well. “You need to understand and recognize gorgeous light in everyday life then you need to learn how to creatively expose for that light,” Mott said. In addition, he suggests that the first hour of the day and the last hour of the day give the best lighting for any photograph.
[related: Cheat Sheet: Forget Filters, We've Got Legit Shooting Advice from Mark Nicdao and BJ Pascual]
5. Keep on shooting. As photography is a constant learning process, it is through practice that makes a shutterbug a great photographer like Mott and other prominent photographers out there. “To be great you have to hone your craft and work on that,” he adds.
Whether you give yourself weekly photo assignments, or find photograph-worthy subjects around you, there are many ways one can hone their photography skills. “Trust me, you will learn new things about your surroundings and you will get amazing pictures.”
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Banner photograph from Justin Mott's Facebook Page