Guest Columnist – Sept 2009

 The GO PHOTO Principles for More Self-fulfilling Photography

by Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston 

As an artist I have felt the joys when I click the shutter and know that I have captured something truly beautiful.  I have also felt the dismay when my efforts were futile in capturing the light, composition, or eliciting the emotion that I had envisaged.  Through contemplation of my experiences over the years I have come to find that for me there are 7 main points that when followed have helped lead me to more self-fulfilling photography.  These are the GO PHOTO principles: Goals, Organization, Perseverance, Holism, Observation, Trail and Error, and Optimism.

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston


When successful people are interviewed about their rise, they almost always cite effective goal-setting as a key to that success.  Everyone has dreams and most dreams require years of hard work and dedication.  Often, success isn’t immediate and thus many give up on their dreams.  Successful people, however, set attainable goals in a stepped fashion helps to build to their dreams.  A photographer doesn’t buy a camera one day, take 100 photographs the next, and then publish a book on the third day, there are many, many, interim steps. 

There will be many disappointments and many setbacks, but attaining your goals can give you the lift to take you to the next attainable goal and then the next.  When I first began shooting I set goals that were easy for me to reach, such as capturing a landscape shot of a prairie sunset.  I then moved on to the goal of shooting a bear in the wild, which lead into the goal of capturing 25 intimate nature shots.  All these steps led into the next.  Without writing down my goals and pursuing each one of them vigilantly, it would be difficult to move to the next level.   When you achieve one, go for the next and always have two or three levels of goals planned ahead of time.  There must always be goals, without goals, there is a lack direction and without direction there is a lack of motivation.  Lack of motivation ultimately leads to a failure to produce meaningful images.


©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston


Disorganization can be downfall of many great artists.  If settings are not tracked, techniques are not noted, and if work is not labeled properly, sorted well, and filed in an easy to use system, how can any of it be referenced when needed?  If you are experimenting with filters wanted to know if the image that used the 3-Stop Reverse Grad was better than the one that used the 2-Stop Hard Grad, would you know which shot was which?  If you need to find a specific piece and there are no methods by which the item can be searched, how would you identify it?  Any additional time spent looking for settings or images becomes tedious and unproductive.  By keeping things labeled, noted, and documented, the extra time that would be used to identify these properties will be minimized.  Additionally, that organization can extend to your portfolio which you can periodically reference to evaluate your progression.  With an accessible portfolio, successes and failures become easy to track. 


On our artistic paths we often find barriers that arise preventing our vision from becoming reality.  Sometimes we’re missing inspiration or perhaps we feel a lack of creativity.  When learning a new method, a new technique, or a new piece of equipment, it is quite often not the first time that we get it right.  It is probably not the second time either.  Giving up when something is not easy will not bring growth or success.   The best photographers have dedicated years to the craft and have suffered similar tribulations and ultimately prevailed.  I know that when I have endured problems and persevered it has made me a stronger photographer and a stronger person.  There will be many blocks ahead, but by overcoming them it will constantly increase your momentum to take on the next challenge.

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston


Holism is the philosophical concept that an individual is greater than the sum of his or her parts.  Each part of the person is important and those parts all join in force for the greater good.  If one of those parts is not in synch, the whole suffers as a result.  I firmly believe that if there are negative controllable factors in your life that are preventing you from achieving the goals that you have set, you must address these issues.  Frankly, this is good advice for almost any situation.  Ignoring issues rarely cause them to disappear.  Anything negative in your life that you can prevent or address and don’t ultimately becomes a distraction to your artistic vision.  Once everything is working in unison, the resulting force is commanding and powerful.


Without understanding the nuances of light, the strength of composition, and the elegance of form, we are lost.  For years scholars have sought understanding as to what constitutes pleasing aesthetics.  They polled the populous, studied the mathematics, and built upon what previous predecessors had discovered.  Above all, they learned that observation requires more attention than simply seeing.  It is an unending journey of discovery and one that requires an adjusted view.  Strong photography requires strong observation.  Strong observation requires a strong imagination that can build the scene in the mind’s eye.  Learn the art of observation by gazing upon your world, studying your surroundings, and by searching for beauty in chaos.

Trial and Error

We all have our successes that we want to build on.  The important thing is that those successes do not root us to the same type of photography or image all the time.  By trying new things we expand our experience of our art and we can move in directions that previously may have seemed daunting.  Error may be found more frequently than success in the beginning, but it is from learning from those errors that we can become more compelling artists.  This may be as simple as trying a new filter to something more complex such as capturing portraits when your primary experience is macro photography.  If you see a new technique by an artist, try it!  If it worked for them, it may work for you and subsequently you can expand and grow upon what you have learned.  Digital photography is great in that we can try and try and try and we don’t have to pay to process anymore.  Unless what you want to try is film and then go for it!


Optimism is key in life as well in photography.  We have all felt despair at one time or another, it’s part of the human experience.  Sometimes it can be easy to lift ourselves out of that feeling and move on.  Most times, it’s not.  For example, I often chase light on the prairies of Nebraska for grand landscapes (yes, in Nebraska!).  I would look at the weather reports, gauge cloud cover, and then scoot on out to where I predicted the show would happen.  Guess what?  I’m only right some of the time.  I used to get frustrated and dismayed and return home empty-handed. 

Once I became a father I was reminded as to my primary purpose of being out there.  As my daughter looks with wonder at all the scenery and creatures and with excitement yells “turtle!” or “froggie!” I too feel that excitement.  Simply being outside with nature and breathing in the fresh air is a reward in itself.  Once I had that reminder, I began witnessing other things that I may have dismissed before – the graceful blue heron taking flight, the symphony of frogs at dusk, and shimmering dew drops on blades of grass.  I have found that by having a positive outlook on life, most negative thoughts will fade away and I can immerse myself in my work. 

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

By embracing these philosophies, I believe that I have grown, not just as an artist, but an individual as well.  My vision is more certain, my techniques continue to expand and grow, and the feelings I have regarding my photography have gone from black and white to Velvia color.   When I pick up my camera I feel that whatever I choose to capture will be more self-fulfilling and meaningful and shouldn’t that be the most important personal elements for any artist? 

Journey Of Light Photography




9 Responses to “Guest Columnist – Sept 2009”

  1. […] 1 votes vote Guest Columnist – Sept 2009  The GO PHOTO Principles for More Self-fulfilling Photography by Derrald […]

  2. Hi Derrald. How fun to see you as a guest columnist here. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article, and what great 7 points to take away! Your outstanding work is testiment that you follow these principles. I appreciate the wisdom you share and encouragment you offer.

  3. Very motivating article. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of these points. A photographer can get lost in their efforts to succeed and need some rules of guidance to follow.

  4. It is always great to discover new (to me) photographers through these guest columns. I love the theme of this post, and the images.

  5. An excellent assessment of what is needed to grow in photography and indeed in life in general!

  6. Words to remember…with or without a camera at hand!

  7. […] If you would like to take a look at an on some things that I have found make my photography more meaningful, head over to Darwin Wiggett’s blog and check out The GO PHOTO Principles For More Self-fulfilling Photography. […]

  8. […] #1 The GO PHOTO Principles for More Self-fulfilling Photography […]

  9. Felt motivated on your article! Cheers!

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