NatGeo's Jimmy Nelson shares 7 inspiring lessons to keep in mind as a photographer

For the last 31 years of his life, photographer Jimmy Nelson has been traveling around the world taking photographs of the most incredible people and places our Blue Marble has to offer.

Throughout this journey, Nelson has learned more than a few lessons. As part of a video created in collaboration with COOPH, Nelson is sharing with us seven of his most prized pieces of advice.

The video comes in at six and a half minutes long. While sharing each of his seven lessons, Nelson presents them alongside anecdotes he’s gathered throughout his expansive career.

While the video is a must watch, purely for Nelson’s narration and presentation of the lessons and accompanying stories, we’ve gathered the seven lessons and paraphrased Nelson’s take on them below:

  • Humor — Laughter is an international language. Whether you’re laughing with your subjects or being laughed at by your subjects, let the humor of the situation break down any barriers of nervousness or shyness.
  • Knowledge — Know your situation. Know your subjects. By knowing what it is you’re looking to capture and the environment you’re shooting in, it’ll be that much easier to capture the decisive moment.
  • Vulnerability — Don’t be afraid to let down your guard at times. Connecting with your subject matter in unexpected ways can make for incredible moments and connections you might not otherwise experience.
  • Pride — Be strong in your craft and your spirits, but don’t be afraid to be humble. Let your subjects know that it’s just as much — if not more — about them as it is you when you’re taking a photograph. A subject that knows you appreciate and respect them will be much more willing to work with you, in even the toughest of situations.
  • Judgment — Judgment is a powerful thing. If you never look deeper than surface level, be it in your photograph or someone else, you will find it incredible difficult to find the true narrative that the photograph is painting. As said by Nelson, “the truth is different from what the eye beholds.”
  • Respect — Much like pride, learn to respect your subjects in such a way that you learn more about them and their experiences. Little more provides context and understanding in a photograph than being able to translate respect into the composition.
  • Reflection — Reflect on your work. Reflect on your experience. By better understanding who you are as a photographer and what it is you want to do with your images, the better the final result will be.

The lessons shared are beyond insightful and go far beyond the surface-level advice we so often hear in similar videos. Take the time to watch the video and take with you the inspiration within it.

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