Career and Life lessons from a Camera Lens


Early in life, he was a loner with few friends. But well known landscape photographer Ansel Adams was always curious – teaching himself the piano, and then photography.

Adams did things his way. For those of us struggling to build a career or find our way in this life, the philosophy of Ansel Adams is worth heeding.

1 – Make a purpose statement about your work

It is my intention to present – through the medium of photography – intuitive observations of the natural world which may have meaning to the spectators.

This was Adams’ purpose for his work, summarized in a single sentence. How many of us today can provide our own career purpose statement? Creating purpose gives meaning, a reason for going to work each day. If your company has no clear vision, then establish one for yourself – whether that is to be excellent at what you do, to serve others, or to make this a better planet.

2 – Forget the rules. Good is good.

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.

Many accomplished photographers like Adams, didn’t play by the rules. They experimented and established their own unique way of doing things. You are an original. Standards and specifications must be met – yes, but when it comes to creativity, it’s a wide open field without wrongs or rights.

3 – Focus on the objective, then how it will be executed.

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.

Today, we are in love with technology, tactics and delivery tools. Getting lost in the clutter is the actual reason we do things. Our concepts can be fuzzy, but our execution brilliant. Now more than ever – content needs to be relevant and insightful. There is a lot of information out there that says nothing. Rather than inform, offer perspective and viewpoint.

4 – It’s about feelings

A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.

When you look at an Ansel Adams photograph, you feel something. We human beings are more emotional than logical, whether we want to admit it or not. It is the reason people rally behind something, even if logic would dictate otherwise. We purchase things because of how they make us feel. Always remember, when selling – a product, service or even an idea – it is how the other person reacts in their heart that will determine your success.

5 – Draw on your experience

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”

Adams put all of his experience in life into each picture. He would choose a scene, an angle, a stance – all based on his previous learning. In today’s hectic world, we seldom give pause to contemplate where we’ve been. Inject your personal history into each decision.

In the 1930s, Ansel Adams began to take pictures of nature in the cause of wilderness preservation.

He was horrified when his beloved Yosemite National Park underwent commercial development, featuring a bowling alley, shops and of course, the traffic that went along with a booming tourist business.

Ansel Adams made sure his camera had a purpose.

Stand for something, and in so doing, give your life meaning.


Any photograph you have seen in an old magazine or poster of Yosemite National Park in California was likely taken by Ansel Adams. The park was his inspiration to get into the photography field and remained a lifelong subject of his work. But Adams loved taking black and white photographs of many National Parks, such as this one – Grand Teton in Wyoming. Ansel Adams died in 1984.


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