So what does one of the absolute smartest people ever to live have to say about photography?
Albert Einstein did not say much directly about photography, but he said plenty indirectly. And just what he said might surprise you.
Here are 10 truths (in no particular order) about photography from Einstein:
#1 - Imagination Is Far More Important Than Anything Technical
"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination
is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination
encircles the world." --Albert Einstein
"Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere." -- Albert Einstein
"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions." --Albert Einstein.
In other words, there is no great photograph without imagination. Imagination is vision--a vivid and imaginative conception. If you have the greatest equipment in the world and are the foremost expert on it, but lack imagination, you'll only get so far. And if you have poor equipment and not a lot of technical skill, but tons of imagination, you can create anything.
#2 - Try Something Different
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." --Albert Einstein
If your photographs aren't what you'd like them to be, you have to do something different. If not, your photographs will always be the same. You cannot expect better results with the same process--shake things up somehow.
#3 - Find Inspiration In Others
"Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." --Albert Einstein
In other words, don't copy, but if you like what someone else has done or is doing, find a way to incorporate that into your own work. Take a little from this person, a little from that person, and a little from this other person, and use that to create what is unique to you. Look for inspiration from others.
#4 - Create Your Own Reality
"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." --Albert Einstein
If reality is merely an illusion, then you can create whatever reality you wish within your photographs. Don't just capture--create! You can make whatever your imagination can think up.
#5 - You Don't Have To Be Talented
"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." --Albert Einstein
To be a successful photographer, all you need is a passion for photography. Who cares if you don't know all the technical nonsense? Let your passion drive you.
#6 - Not Everyone Will "Get" Your Art
"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." --Albert Einstein
In other words, don't listen too much to critics. Yes, you should listen carefully to those who's opinions you truly trust. But, outside of that, let it go in one ear and out the other. There will always be people who won't understand what you trying to do. It's their loss, not yours.
#7 - Keep It Simple
"Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler." --Albert Einstein
"Out of clutter, find simplicity." --Albert Einstein
Remove all nonessential elements from your images. Poor photographs are often cluttered while great photographs are often clean. Photography is a form of non-verbal communication, so make that communication as clear and strong as possible. Anything that detracts from that clear and strong message should be removed.
#8 - Work Hard
"Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work." --Albert Einstein
Success has more to do with hard work than natural skill. The more you put into something, the more you will get out. If you are not happy with your photographs, then work hard to improve your photography. Guess what? You will improve.
#9 - Don't Give Up
"You never fail until you stop trying." --Albert Einstein
"Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them." --Albert Einstein
If you are not successful right away, keep trying. If your photographs are not improving like you'd like them to, keep trying. If an idea just isn't working out, keep trying. If you hit a wall, keep trying. Even if you think you've arrived, never stop striving. In life you must constantly move forward, or else you move backwards.
#10 - Great Photographs Are Mysterious
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious - the
fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true
science." --Albert Einstein
Ansel Adams put it this way: "There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer."
You should leave an element of mystery in your photographs, in which the viewer's imagination is intertwined with the creator's emotions. While the message of the image should be clear and strong, there should also be room for that message to breathe. There should be space enough for the viewer to put him or herself into the scene. There should be just as many questions as answers.