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What makes a good photogapher? The inspirations and motivations of Jo Bradford

We can’t wait to get stuck into reading Jo Bradford’s new book Smart Phone Smart Photography and learn how to take incredible pictures with just our camera phones! According to Jo, the best place to start is with something that motivates and moves you, so we want to know what inspires her as well as what she thinks helps to make a good photographer. Over to you Jo…


Photography is a heady mix of courage, knowledge, luck, rule breaking, chance and having conviction in your own ideas. Most of all it’s about learning to trust your instincts and being willing to try new things; failures are just stepping stones to success, so don’t be afraid of going through a few on your journey to get there.



Let’s take a look at the big picture for a second. All forms of photography are basically about the same set of skills, regardless of the camera with which you capture the scene.

The skills involved include knowing how your camera works and understanding a few key concepts, such as focus, exposure, ISO speed, and composition. Don’t worry— this is all simple stuff. Your phone camera isn’t overloaded with bewildering dials and expensive technology; it is simple and intuitive to use. You are going to be able to see something, shoot it, share it, and move on. No hassle, no fuss.



If I learned one thing from doing a 365-photo project, it is that taking a picture every day of the year makes you a better photographer. Practice makes perfect, and you will learn and find solutions in ways you never imagined possible. A daily photo project will teach you how to really see, and finding out how to do this is the most important thing you will discover on your photographic journey. You will learn to trust your instincts about what makes a good photograph. This is how you will find your own voice and start to make the pictures that sum up who you are. You are what you take, you are what you share, and you are what you feel. Keep this all in the back of your mind as you progress. Shoot what makes you feel happy and gives you pleasure to look at afterward. Enjoy the experience, do it just for you, and the rest will follow.



I live in a place with big skies; it is full of drama with lots of clouds, rain, and fast-moving storms. This type of environment can make us feel small and wholly insignificant in the face of dominating weather systems that we humans have no control over. It can be intimidating, overwhelming, and exhilarating to be out in the weather; it fosters an emotional response, and that is what I try to share in my images. Do you have feelings (good, bad, or indifferent!) about where you live? Try to make images that express what you feel. Striving for this kind of honesty is going to improve your photos significantly. When taking your pictures, take some time to think about how the light, the views, and the mood of the place are making you feel. Now you are tapping into true creativity; you are producing uniquely honest, emotional pictures, so keep at it—it only gets better.




Photographic vision—the art of seeing photographically—means that you have to learn the possibilities and limitations of your equipment and come up with strategies to allow you to get what you want from the kit you have at hand. This is never truer than when you are working with your smartphone. The kit may be limited in some ways, but there are plenty of creative solutions to help you overcome this. It won’t make you happy to point your camera at something, fire off a few shots without much thought, and then feel disappointed that you are not capturing the same scene your eye sees. I like to think about making photos rather than taking them. Whether you subscribe to mindfulness as a philosophy or not, there is a lot to be said for being in the moment and giving yourself the time to do things well and with purpose. Slow down, think about what you are trying to achieve with the photo, and think about how to use your tools to do it.

Choose the exposure that works for you instead of the one suggested by the camera software, and frame your chosen subject in a way that communicates something. This is the moment when you stop waiting for good images to appear before your very eyes; this is the moment you take control. Your photography will improve immeasurably if you afford it the honor of your full attention because this is when you stop taking photos and start making them.


Learn more about how to take great photos on your phone with Jo's book Smart Phone Smart Photography.

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