Book Review: The Passionate Photographer, Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great



Seattle Night

While not written with an eye specifically toward travel photography, following the steps outlined in The Passionate Photographer will help travel photographers improve their craft – both beginners and experienced photographers alike. Steve Simon writes from his many years as a freelance photojournalist, and his book truly brings out his passion for photography. He explains in a step-by-step fashion how to turn photographic passion into unique, strong images.


Brick and Blue

Though Simon briefly discusses camera gear and settings, this book is not about what f-stop, ISO setting, or type of lens to use. Rather, the book provides tips, advice, and inspiration on how to take your photography to the next level. In the book introduction, Simon tells the reader “If you’ve ever been disappointed by the gap between the picture you envisioned and the one you actually got, this book will close it for you.” In writing the book, he has distilled his 30 years of experience into ten steps. He promises his readers, that if you read the book and make a serious attempt to follow the steps, “you will become a better photographer and your passion fire for photography will ignite, and stay lit always.”


The Needle

The book consists of ten chapters, each one covering a step toward “becoming great.” Each chapter explains and discusses the step, shows how the step fits within the larger goal of improving your work, gives examples from Simon’s career in “lessons learned” sections, and provides action items for the reader to work on to help learn and integrate the step into their photography.

Step one concerns passion and personal projects, particularly projects that will challenge you as a photographer. Simon discusses how working on personal projects can fuel your passion for photography and keep you fresh. Step two concerns volume – shooting lots of images. Simon says “Confidence is accumulated. When you go through a volume of work, you get to the other side of great images.” Essentially, his point is that while practice may not make you perfect, it will get you closer.


The Reading Room

In the third chapter, Simon talks about working the scene, making sure you cover your subject from all angles. He gives an interesting example, showing 48 different images of the world’s largest cow (statue) in North Dakota. His point – work the scene for all its worth. If you truly work a subject, often your best shot is your last, not your first. Step four concerns concentrating on your work, relying on instinct and intuition, and learning to leave your comfort zone. He gives concrete ideas how to fight photographer’s block and shoot when you don’t feel inspired.

Step five is vitally important to shy travel photographers, like myself, who want to cover all aspects of a place. It discusses portrait photography – how to get over your fear of taking images of people you don’t know, how to talk to strangers, how to get “real” smiles, and getting beyond a smile to other emotions. Once again, Simon gives solid ideas how to get battle your own personality and gain confidence when taking people pictures. The next chapter also presents another topic essential to travel photographers, essential to all photographers actually - a discussion of light; how to follow it and how to master it.


Fishing Boats

From here, the book turns toward what to do with your images after you’ve captured them. Step seven, for example, is titled “The Art of the Edit: Choose Well and Be the Best You Can Be.” Simon states that editing “is a crucial and challenging task … almost as important as the shoot itself.” Step eight concerns assessing your strengths and weaknesses; how to learn from your mistakes and keep growing as a photographer. Step nine is about setting an action plan for yourself, about creating goals and strategies. Here Simon discusses artistic goals, technical goals, business goals, and equipment goals. He also writes about making your goals specific and measurable. The final step concerns following through and sharing your photographic vision with the world – a step many of you have already started on by sharing photos here at the Travel Photographers Network.

Just reading The Passionate Photographer, Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great, without practicing the provided actions items has helped my photography. It inspired and challenged me. Currently I am starting to re-read the book with the goal of specifically working on each step, planning to work on each action item presented. Already Simon’s book has led me to think of several personal projects to work on. One project that I’ve already begun is documenting Seattle from a travel photographer’s point of view. The images included with this article are a result of that project.

If you are feeling like you’re a rut with your photography or that your passion for photography needs a lift, I recommend this book. If your passion is strong, but you just want to become a better photographer, I recommend this book. The Passionate Photographer has something to help every photographer closer toward greatness.

Book Title: The Passionate Photographer (purchase on Amazon.com)
Author: Steve Simon
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: New Riders Press
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0321719891

About the Author

Joe Becker is a freelance photographer based in Tacoma, Washington. His work has recently been published by Northwest Travel magazine and Washington State Tourism. You can see more of his images at his website seldomseenphoto.com and on his blog joebeckerphoto.wordpress.

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Good review Joe, and your images are helpful illustrations.

 Should be getting my copy on Monday - looking forward to reading it!