What Is the Right Skill to Succeed in Photography?


In the world of photography today, it is pretty common that the relationship between creative concept and photography skill is intertwined and very much expected from a photographer. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into this discussion between these two relationships to see how photographers can unleash their artistic potential and bring their work to the next level and how one skill affects the other skill. Everything from the spark of inspiration from the basis of creative concepts to the technical skills required for project execution will be discussed in hopes of achieving balance between creativity and technical skill to push a photographer’s work to a greater height.

What Is Creative Concept?

“Creative concept” in photography refers to the underlying idea behind a photograph, which is what I called the key to artistic expression. A skilled photographer subconsciously has the ability to envision and conceptualize captivating ideas for their work. That usually includes visualization, planning the desired message, tone, mood, and story that the photographer wants to deliver through their images. Creative concept is usually also known as the foundation for the entire photographic process, forming the essence or, commonly known as the “soul,” of a photograph. It also provides a base guidelines to the image composition, lighting, subject choice, and ultimately, post-processing decisions in the image. 

What Is Photography Skill?

Photographic skill is the technical proficiency and knowledge to operate and manipulate camera settings in the process of image-making. This includes the ability to understand exposure, composition, lighting, focus, and post-processing techniques. This skill involves learning most of the technical aspects of photography, such as camera settings, equipment operation, editing software, and even honing the eye of the photographer to read light and recognize visually pleasing composition. By being proficient in technical skill, it will enable photographers to bring their vision to life, which, in turn, unlocks the full potential of their creativity. In short, this is known as the key to artistic expression.

Which Skill Is More Important?

Here comes the golden question: which is more important? When it comes to photography, the dilemma between what’s more important between creative concept and technical skill often resurfaces. The urge to succeed in a short amount of time compared to our competitors doesn’t help any further, as we have to decide which to prioritize. As a result, you may find it difficult to produce artistic results despite having excellent technical skills or not capable of translating your ideas into high-quality images despite having excellent creativity skills. This happens due to the lack of ability to make stylistic decisions or technical skill to deliver the final output. 

In today’s world, we are almost expected to have both good creative concept and technical photography skill, especially in smaller scale commercial projects where there isn’t much budget and client awareness at that level of work. The clients at this level will often relate your inability to produce a creative result to having a poor photography skill. Therefore, you may need to cover your shortcomings with all sorts of fancy stylings to impress lower-level clients. As one progresses to higher-level clients, the emphasis will shift from fancy cheap tricks to having an outstanding, clear, and precise creative sense that truly captivates and aligns with the client’s creative direction. 

I understand, as photographers, we have the tendency to only focus on delivering images with our solid technical skills, but honestly, in real-world practice, if your technically perfect image does not have a solid creative concept to back it, it will not be enough to capture the interest of viewers. It is our creative concept, unique point of view that helps clients sell their service and product that is what attracts client’s attention. Therefore, ultimately, the goal is to work towards creating a workflow that is capable of combining a strong idea, distinctive style, precise vision, and good technical skill that will eventually make your work distinctive and outstanding compared to others.

A Marriage of Both

As we like to say, harmony begins when two lovebirds take flight as one. The very same concept applies here as well. When a photographer successfully merges both creative concept and photography skill, they can produce a really captivating result, which effectively delivers the intended message, story, and mood while bringing their vision to life. While technical proficiency is important, photography is still an art form by itself. It is the demand from creative concepts that pushes the photographer to experiment with different techniques and creatively solve issues in technical requirements that ultimately enable photographers to truly express their perspective beyond image limitation and leave a lasting impact on viewers and the end users.

Tips for Achieving Balance

After expressing my thoughts above, where we know it is important to balance both having creative concepts and photography skill to be successful in photography. While I am still nowhere near the realm of being extremely successful as a commercial photographer, here are a few tips that I have gathered through my years of building this career path that I can offer from experience to make your journey in professional photography a little easier. 

Tip 1: Collaborating With Artists and Stylists

Artists and stylists are people who are surrounded by art all day and all year long. In fact, they breathe art. By collaborating with them, you are able to offload the creative stress and rely on them to come up with a creative concept while you work on the technicalities in photography. This will result in a unique and compelling images, as each team player is playing their strengths, with a common goal, which is to produce outstanding work.

Tip 2: Study and Reference the Work of Other Successful Photographers

By studying and referencing, I do not mean directly copying what they do. Although there is the saying of faking it until you make it, I generally would not recommend that. The goal here is to study their work that attracts you, learn the thought process, and approach that they have when making a certain image that caught your attention. By learning from their work, you are able to broaden your own artistic horizon, which will eventually build into your subconscious and skill sets.

Tip 3: Work With Creative Briefs

Working with creative briefs is one of the best ways that you can develop your skill set. Not only are you able to challenge yourself creatively, you can also learn how to execute a specific request and put your technical knowledge to use. Your ability to translate concepts into tangible output will be greatly expanded.

Tip 4: Printing and Curating Your Work

Printing will open a new dimension of your creative journey. As you learn to appreciate your images in physical form, it unlocks a new way for you to analyze your work and think of the medium that your photos will be used in. Printing will also improve your technical skill, as it allows you to correct mistakes that are made in the process of image-making that are not visible on digital screens. Curation is probably the most important step in the creative process, as it involves carefully analyzing and organizing your images to tell a cohesive story to the audience. This will, in turn, train your creative skill. 

Tip 5: Find a Mentor

Lastly, a mentor or someone that you look up to will be able to help you in the pursuit of your photography career. They are able to provide useful advice, guidance, and insights based on their experience that is invaluable. However, it is important to approach this relationship with an open mind and be receptive to feedback. As photographers can sometimes have a high ego and tunneled vision, it is important to note that the willingness to grow from the expertise of others will significantly improve our skill. 


By following these steps and continuously striving for improvement, you can nurture your photography skills and elevate your creative concepts to new heights. Remember, the journey of a photographer is a constant evolution, and embracing these practices will help you develop your own unique style and leave a lasting impact on your images.


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