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Follow Your Heart

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Mar 19

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Do What You Love, Love What You Do

This episode is all about why you got into photography in the first place, and how important that is to your actual work. If you are only making images that you think someone else will enjoy your portfolio will suffer. Putting your heart into your images will make them much more successful! Here I explain how my personal experience has led me to enjoy photography more than I ever have and why, and how other photographers have become successful by making their crazy concepts a reality.

New Contest!

This week  4 winners will each receive a Phlearn Pro. 2 will win by having the most “likes”, and 2 will be based on the best description of why that image represents something meaningful to you. Post your photo with an explanation below for a chance to win!

Winners will be announced on Monday, March 26

Make sure to become part of the Phlearn Family on Facebook, conversate with us on Twitter, and #hashtag your Phlearn inspirations on Instagram. We want to know what the Phlearn community social chatter is about, and who is sharing it. You all keep us motivated to do our best.

  • Abar Aranburu

    Meet people and share beautiful moments with beautiful people. Then, later, remember those good times. With this one, I can say, I love photography.

  • yamaha83

    I love motocross, raced for years and after collage i moved to a place where there just are not as many places to ride anymore so i don’t have the time to go as much. Well the other weekend i decided to blend my new love for photography with that love for motocross by going to the closest track (which is an hour away) strictly to take pictures. didn’t bring my bike at all. i find that when i go somewhere to do something and bring the camera to take pics in addition, i don’t think about the images as much or most of the time i don’t even take out the camera. so that’s why i wanted to go just to take pics! and i had a blast! i was literal rolling around in the dirt to get diffrent angles and i just had an awesome time! and i feel like i got some good shots!

  • Dale Richards

    Hi Aaron, I needed this video!

    I know you have told me this before but college has actually killed my inspiration and killed my interest in photography as I don’t feel like I am gaining anything from it any more. 

    I love photography, I love my JOB as a photographer but my WORK at college even if it is taking photographs is not fun, it feels far too rushed.

    I am actually tempted to write a full-on review/essay on why I don’t think College/University is worth it but also what I have gained from a photography course but I reckon it would be similar to what most others have said.

    My Story of Photography!

    My love of photography came from as a child when me and my family were on holiday I always hated poorly composed family ‘snaps’ and over-exposed images, so I always asked to take the instant camera off my parents and take the ‘snaps’ but back then that’s all they were to me ‘snaps’.

    When I got older I went on a trip to Kensington in London for Geography in which we had to document and write about the area of Kensington, this was also when digital compacts were at a consumer friendly price. So on this trip I was still taking ‘snaps’ that I was composing and getting them ‘technically correct’ however after the trip my Geography tutor told me that the images were incredible and showed it to the art department who also praised them. This was the first time anyone had ever complimented my photography and the first time I considered taking photography as a hobby and learning more about it, but I was still only in school and so I never considered pursuing it as a career especially as almost every teenager wants to be a photographer just like they want to be an actor so I assumed it was a ‘phase’!

    It was not until I left school and went to Veterinary college that I figured, I only really liked Animals because of the way they are, I loved animal documentaries but I could not stand working with them. So whilst I was on a course for Veterinary care I was shopping one day and walked past a friendly camera shop nearby, I walked in and go speaking to the salesman (who in another story now works in a ANOTHER camera shop which ironically is my local again – he must be a stalker lol) was talking to me about bridge cameras and how they would be a good upgrade from the compact without dedicating to a full SLR, and with that I bought the Fujifilm bridge camera and loved it, started taking images and posting them on Facebook and DeviantArt and I absolutely loved the feedback I was getting from friends, but due to not hearing much on DeviantArt I just assumed it was friends being nice. Despite that after Veterinary college I decided f*ck it! I like photography and I don’t care if I am good at it or not it is what I love! So I enrolled in a Media course as an entry into photography, I bought my first SLR and started taking images.

    Whilst studying at Media (and this is not brown-nosing this is 100% true) I stumbled across this image on DeviantArt which led me to learn more about this photographer called Aaron Nace, to which I learnt he was full of conceptual images, which gave me a real direction in photography, I learnt that photography is not just about straight-simple portraits and product shots. With a bit of creativity you can create astonishing images that go beyond reality. This is where my passion for surreal conceptual photography started and I was ready to start my photography course.

    One of the first and BEST lessons of my photography course was to find inspiration and then contact them and I am sure Aaron will verify this but I used this as a great opportunity to speak to Aaron, so I sent him an e-mail not expecting a reply as he was a busy photographer from Charlotte. Then the next day I receive an e-mail from non other than Mr Nace! I was astonished, you/he was so friendly and generous with sharing information and this was also around the time Phlearn had started. I remember asking him numerous questions and every time he would make time to answer then for which I can’t thank you enough, I even remember Phlearn Episode 11 of which you gave me a shout-out for a white balance query, you have no idea how special that made me feel, I was inspired to do so much more and I have been a keen follower of Phlearn since.

    But if there is one thing I will always have with me it is this card (see picture) which you/he sent with my Phlearn bracelet, when I feel like giving up I have this card in my wallet and it reminds me of the way you have inspired me and continue to inspire me throughout. The bracelet and card never leave me!

    This is not me brown-nosing at all in fact if this wins I will donate my Pro to anyone because I have bought a few Pros (can’t afford them all lol) and I want someone else to see what a great man you are and how much can me learnt from watching a video taught by you. People will call me a brown-noser I know, but without you I would have possibly given up a long time ago. You’re the reason I am still into photography!

    This is a great excuse to tell you that story on a public domain because I know when I tweet it with 140 words its not the same. I hope this puts a smile on your face as its sent with bro love!


  • Dan Hanus

    Hey guys! I really love photography so much. I can use my imagination and do crazy things with photos hahaah. I take lot of self portraits and i still learning. I like edit videos too, so i get these two things together and create before and after videos like this one for my newest photo .

    For this photo a was inspired by my favorite tv show Vampire Diaries… hope you like it:)

  • Eric Burgers

    Why I love photography – though question, really. For me,nowadays, it is a two-stage rocket. I started photography some 25 years ago when I bought my first camera, a Minolta Dynax 9000i. I took pictures and they generally s*ck*d – the love for photography died after a few years. The analog camera then collected dust for many years, unused. Ten years ago I picked up diving – i was immidiately addicted and I still am today. When I watched life underwater I wanted to share the experience with my famliy and friends – I bought a simple underwater camera (which was digital, 3.2 megapixels) and started taking pictures again. The first 100 or so pictures s*ck*d big time, but than I started to master the difficulties underwater. The pictures were getting better and better. When I felt the camera wasn’t able to capture what I wanted, I upgraded. So the equipment changed to Olympus and then to Nikon. I started to enter underwater photography shoot-outs, ranging from local competitions to the open Dutch championships.  So diving and photography were strongly connected for the last 8 – 10 years. Currently I am taking my first steps in concert photography – which is as demanding as underwater photograpy.

    The picture that encouraged me to push my limits is attached: it was the first image where people looked at me and said: wow, did YOU make this?

  • Anonymous

    I love photography because i can make anything i imagine come to life. I have been doing conceptual photography for a little less than a year and i have a long way to go before i can call myself good. but everytime i plan a shoot and i make that picture come to life, I get so excited ! 

    My photostream -

  • Anonymous

    My comments seem to be disappearing ! I ll check back in a few or comment again. Awesome episode as always Aaron.

  • Ian Arneson

    Im paraphrasing Ansel Adams, but when he said that “you shouldn’t just take a photography, you should create one,” I think single handily recomposed my whole view of photography. I like photography for being able to evoke a vast array of emotions. Most people don’t believe what they cant see, but when someone makes a piece of art that reflects a certain kind of pain or emotion, everything changes. The photography accompanied by this statement reflects a photo I very proud of, not just from a composition point of view, but to be able to express how I was feeling at that particular time. Photography in my opinion is the best kind of diary one can posses. You can tell people all day how good or bad you feel, but once you can actually see an emotion through art, its taken to a whole new level. 

  • Nikki F 

    I have a lot of feelings when I look at art, it is a special gift from the artist to me or to anyone that wants to let the artwork in, I have always wanted to achieve that with my photography, let people in and give them something like none other.

  • Amelia Fletcher

    This is Amazing!

  • Nick Bedford

    It’s interesting you should bring this up. While I’ve done some photography in the last few months, I really haven’t had any photo shoots in the last 3 or so months. But since then I’ve actually had a huge desire to get into filming. Being on some music video sets (of which one was my own band’s) and really getting to understand how things work has fired me up.

    I’ve since acquired two music video projects I’m going to film in the next month or so. I’ve been building rigs to shoot certain shots and angles, created some light setups and have been getting chops up with test footage and doing animatic cuts with that footage, not to mention scouring YouTube and the internet for any piece of filmmaking advice I can get.

    But the best thing about all this is that I’m finding that it’s all coming fairly naturally and I’m absolutely loving it. I’ve always been passionate about films and have always watched the behind the scenes documentaries on DVDs and such and it’s not until now that I’m really starting to see just how these things are done, myself, down to camera angles, scene composition, how best to portray action and emotion and such.The thing that gets me is, while I haven’t done a photo shoot in a while, filming and editing seems to me to be far more satisfying than photo shoots and editing photos ever were. I feel as though photography was really only a step in that inevitable direction.Sorry for the life story. The End.

  • Nick Bedford

    My actual entry.

    This is one moment when I knew I loved photography. It’s working with *fun people*. This was a portfolio shoot so we just mucked around. The guys in the band are really fun to work with and keep themselves entertained while I’m tinkering and setting up lights and such. For me, photography is all about the photo shoots and the icing on the cake is getting the final image or 3.

  • Alain Pilon

    I love photography for many reasons. One of these reasons, and maybe the best, is the feeling I get when I browse my old picture. I recently had to browse over 12000 of my old pictures to import them in LR4. It took my a few hours but it was an incredible ride and brought me back to 2002 when I shot my first digital picture. It is so long ago that I actually had hair back then!

    Browsing all these pictures gave me a sense of time, how thing, and I, have changed in the last 10 years. And it also showcased how my work changed. At first I was shooting mostly people, then travel photography, then wild life, weddings and now I am doing conceptual work, in the horror genre. 

    This new adventure in the conceptual/horror genre is the most fun I have had so far. I love the planning phase, doing sketches, looking for reference images, looking for location, finding models, MUA, etc… Putting all this energy into a single picture is very different than my old approach of shooting 300pics and picking the best one. Now I have a clear vision of where I want to go and the pleasure is in the journey as much as the end result.

    Here is one of my first conceptual picture. It means a lot to me because it was the first shot I scheduled, made the MU, envisioned, ect that matched my vision. Now I am moving to bigger things, and my discovery of Phlearn couldnt have happened at a better time!  


  •ė/100000099026223 Ieva Maliasovienė

    First time in my 4-5 years of being in photography,  I’ve lost sence of time in photoshoot. Me, my colleague and barely known make up artist organised photoshoot for her make up portfolio. We had 4 models ( just girlfriens), brought some dresses, shoes and other stuff. So it was nothing fancy. A little improvisation of beauty/fashion shoot :D
    But I never ever gonna forget that day. It was actually first time when I was proud of my work. That day I found love for photography again.
    About for a year and a half I was struggling – what I want to do with my photography – quit it or continue as it is… Every shoot it was this tiny annoying voise in my head “Is THIS what you wanna do?” That tiny voise was so critical about all my work, my skills.
    And that day during coffe breack it came to me. Looked at me with it’s all knowing eyes “Is THIS what you wanna do?”. I took deep breath. Looked straight in the eye “You’re wellcome to my world”. And smiled…
    So, every time I look at this photo ( and others from that shoot), I feel happy. And most importantly I feel confident what direction I want to go. In my photography and in my life.P.S. sorry for my english. Although I’m good in reading and listening, my writing and grammar skills are quit low.

  • James Warwood

    Here’s my offering.

    I’ve been interested in photography for a few years now and consider myself an “advanced beginner”. Around september last year I was getting very frustrated with a 365 Project. A photo every day is VERY HARD. Up to that point I considered myself a landscape/HDR photographer. However through Aarons images/tutorials and lots of different amazing images on Flickr I was becoming more and more intrigued with conceptual photography. Anything I may have done before was largely inspired by others images. Until this image. I decided that I would design an image from scratch. Quite a few designs later I came up with this….

    This was my Eureka moment. I saw what I am capable of producing photographically and conceptually. And this is my challenge for this year. The quantity of images produced is being purposely reduced to allow the quality to increase. For me images can’t be rushed. The design/idea needs to be right and the edit should be considered. I’m firmly head along the “Digital Art” route now (whatever that may be! :D ). I love this type of photography and for me that is all that matters.

  • Brian Maiorino

    My love of photography grew out of my love for traveling. Photography has given me the ability to share those experiences with others, while learning along the way .   My favorite pics are the ones that make people smile =)

  • Roudha

    HellooO, am in love with clouds ..
    i like to take sunset and sunrise photos ,also that was the purpose of buying my (sweet nikon d90)
    thanks Aaron for these videos <3

  • Reem

    I love photography for so many reasons, but mostly because it seems to be the best way to get my feelings out there without really “talking”I started out with photography and had to stop for two years due to the lack of support and constant criticism from a person that was suppose to be my biggest supporter,
    after I got out of an abusive relationship I decided to go back to photography and even though I lost all of my gear and I mean EVERYTHING!! I decided to do personal work with a point and shoot, 

    I posted images on Flickr in a set called “True stories” 

    this one is very close to heart for me because I said so much through it that I couldn’t say with words! (better to be viewed on Flickr for the notes on the pic) 

    I remember being marked like this Barbie by my ex, he used to mark my body whenever he felt like it and point out all the parts that should be improved or “re-created”
    Marking this Barbie was very emotional to me because I felt that I’m being as rude and heartless as he were with me,
    The markings will be explained in notes so just point your mouse at the pic to see what he had to say about those lines he drew !

  • Gina

    Hello :)
    I first discovered that I loved photography when I was twelve years old and taking a photography class in school. I was so fascinated by how a camera works and how you develop a film all by yourself (by this time I shot analog), it was just a huge fascination to me.
    Later I started to photograph everything around me and when I photographed everything I started to experiment with doing selfportraits and this was when I was longing for more. My dad saw my passion for photography and he was so nice to buy me a DSLR which I didn’t get out of my hands for weeks. I wanted to learn everything about how to handle it, how to create the shots that I desired to take. And with every day that passed I learnt more and at the end the camera became some kind of body part to me. Every time I have it in my hands I feel happy and more complete. I just love that feeling.
    When something really bad happened to me and my family last year my view on life and on photography changed. Photography became more than just a wondeful hobby and became an essential part of my life. I learnt that nothing lasts forever and that you have to cherish the moments that you got and I realised that photography gives me the possibility to catch these moments, to share them and make them unforgettable and this helped me to realise that the world is beautiful and that I have to embrace every day.
    Also photography really helps me to deal with personal problems and to express myself when I can’t find any words. So I decided to start a twelve-months-selfportrait-project to reflect my feelings and what has changed in my life during the year 2012.
    The following photo is the very first photo of this of this project and you can read the discription below to understand what it’s all about.

  • Gina

     I forgot…

  • Christopher Sciullo

    I discovered photography early on in my life as an outlet to channel my creativity and wandering mind.  Humans are all different in the sense that each of us share our feelings and thoughts in a way that is unique to each of us and though I did not realize this until recently, I use photography to communicate my story.  I have always felt that life is a blessing and everyday needs to be treated with appreciation and a positive attitude.  Staying true to how I am and being able to share what is most important to me in my photos is something I never take for granted.  For myself, creating art that has a meaningful story behind it is something that I hope everyone has a chance to experience at some point in their life.

    Sometimes I dream of the things I love most in my life and it inspires me with new ideas.  This photo represents all the things I love most and makes me thankful for how blessed I have been.  To be able to capture something so beautiful pushes me to learn more and understand more, and is why I continue to take pictures.  Sharing a one-of-a-kind night with someone who you care about so much always give you such a good feeling inside when you think back on the memories.  This photo was taken one night during a snow storm in the mountains when my fiance Keri and I went for a walk in the middle of the night.  There was one lamp that was shining bright in the middle of the woods and the light that is shined on Keri and the snow was absolutely beautiful.  It made me realize, right then and there, that I had everything I ever needed.  Ever since then,  I wake up every morning thankful for what I have.

    Thank you Aaron for creating an environment for others like myself to share our experiences and grow together.

  • Alfonso Barona

    Was 5 years ago when I realised I really want to study photogrpahy, i was studying bussines in that moment, and my mind it was always thinking in crazy photos to do!! When  I started studying photography, I did this crazy series without flash, just with a few lights my school let to me!
    Know, seeing this photos I realised I dont need much to create what I want, these last years I was always thinking on getting more and more gear!! Know i just want to go back…and create!! Thats whi I like this photo, it remember me to that momento 3 years ago! :)
    Thanks for the episode aaron!

  • Anick Morel Photographe

    I love all form of photography but
    especially abstract photography. When I do my abstracts, it’s my
    “alone time”. It’s a time when nothing else exist and I just
    focus on what I do and think and how I will do it. It’s very zen :)
    I also love photography for bringing all kinds of talent together. It
    creates synergy and enthusiasm in a way I haven’t seen anywhere else.

  • Eleazar Paradise

    For my first REAL attempt at a composite I decided to show the world a picture of my heart and my life.  My 3 year old daughter Helena Paradise has been with me every step of my photographic journey and my number one inspiration.  I decided to create some Christmas light Bokeh to act as a bubble background.  Then I got Helena to play with her favorite toy Bubbles and shot her playing with them.  The bubbles I had to add later because the original bubbles didn’t look right.  I feel that my image really captures her joy in the moment.  I call it Christmas Bubbles.

  • Alain Pilon

    I just noticed how ugly the thumbnail of my pic is. I think it was messed up by the blog image processor!

  • Bryan Petty

    It’s so ironic that you would come out with an episode like this! The other day I was thinking about how much I lately have loved what work I have been doing. Watching this video helped me realize why my work has been better recently, and why I have been enjoying it so much. I stopped taking pictures that stress me out!! I just cringe at the idea of taking wedding pictures!! So I just stopped doing them! Honestly I have stopped taking lots of pictures I didn’t enjoy. I stepped back and realized, I don’t want this to be a business, I want it to be a memory keeper for “Me”. Now I photograph my family! Like Annie Leibovitz once said (paraphrasing), she regrets not taking more pictures of her family, mostly her mother. So I am going to make sure I find every opportunity to whip this camera out and snap pictures of my awesome Family. My shot that reminds me of why I take pictures, is my Lovely Wife & our 7 month old daughter Everleigh Rae Petty. I hope you enjoy this photo as much as I do, I could just look at it for hours.

  • Bryan Petty

    Good stuff!

  • janiecakes

     I did exactly the same thing!

  • janiecakes

     By doing exactly the same thing, I mean stopping my 365 Project in order to produce better images. I miss the rush of having to do a photo every day, but I’m able to think about an idea and tweak it until I get just what I want to produce photographically.

  • Sebastian Ortiz

    This was my latest, that strangely ties into today’s video… I began to feel that I was becoming a lost soul with my images, feeling dried up, but then I see an image that releases a breath into what I like to call the “Lungs of my Mind”, breathing new life into them, and I remember what it is that I love about photography.

    I feel that an image should speak to you, but not in the common sense of the word, but through visual stimulation, evoking emotion of some sort. As music does to the heart, I want my images to do the same, to conjure up a lost happiness, a hidden memory a past life.

    Below is the what I posted as a description: 

    The emotions you get from a image, sometimes are overwhelming. Something digs into your side and being difficult for logic to prevail over emotion, it digs deeper, cutting into your soul. You need not Hear or Speak, the image is for viewing, through the windows that open your inner most thoughts of desperation, happiness, mystery and at times, rude awakening, a Revelation, as it may.

    Cast aside those thoughts of “It’s just another Photo”, I assure you, it is not. It is what you need to see at the moment, if you just let it become what it needs to be for you, never mind what it will become for someone else.

    Feel free to express your emotions, if only for a moment, you will delve into a world of of solitude, that will bring you peace, and only then should you move on…

    You’ll find it in my FlickR :

  • Albert

    People, family,  my own son make me love photography. As we made this photograph, my son Frank and me, we had fun. Fun before, during and after the making of the phtograph. We called it “The optimist”.

  • Todd Langkamp

    Well, here is a short version of my story. For as far back as I can remember I have always loved photography. Even as a young kid I would get in trouble for playing with my mom’s SLR, especially when I didn’t realize there was film in it. As I got older I still loved taking photos and had considered it as a career choice but many people told me not to even consider it. Mainly because I was born blind in my left eye. 

    In December of 2003 my dad and I took a road trip to Kittyhawk, NC to see the recreation of the Wright Brother’s first flight. It was the 100th anniversary and a group of people had built an exact replica of the plane to try and fly it on the same date and hour 100 years after the original flight. The trip itself was amazing but that’s a different story. On the day of the attempt it was pouring rain. I took my dad’s point and shoot digital and worked my way to the front of the crowd. As the plane stared to pick up speed I readied the camera and snapped a shot just as the nose lifted off of the ground. While that attempted flight was a  failure I managed to get a picture that was better than the man sitting next to me with a ton of fancy gear. He claimed to be from the New York Times. Looking back the photo was not very good but it was in that moment that I took the picture that I knew I wanted to become a professional photographer no matter what anyone said. My parents also encouraged me to follow my dream. 

    I began taking classes my junior and senior year of high school. I learned the basics of 35mm black and white photography. Every free moment I had was spent in the darkroom. My first teacher there was a big source of encouragement and urged me to continue it. So after high school I attended Arizona State for 2 1/2 years before transferring to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. In my first semseters at MIAD my passion for photography began to wane. One of the professors there began to ruthlessly criticize and tear apart not only my work but everyone else’s as well. While I don’t mind criticism at all he offered no helpful feedback. He told me at one point that I should quit, that my work sucked, and that I didn’t belong at the school. While others were praising my work or were providing helpful feedback I was still seriously considering giving it up for good. Then I took a class with a well known photographer here in Milwaukee named Francis Ford. It is him I have to thank for re-igniting my passion. Over the years he has become a mentor, a friend, and a source of constructive criticism and feedback. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be taking photographs.

    Today I love photography again. It has become fun again I especially love taking photos of people that show their personality, their emotions, who they really are. Recently I’ve been working on a personal series called “Working Hands” showing the hands of all different professions. With this series I believe a lot can be said about a person just by looking at their hands. This photo is a profession called an Ocularist. It’s especially personal to me becasue in the photo she is making my prosthetic eye.

    The photo that I took that made me decide to become a professional photographer is attached below.

  • Sol

    Thanks for sharing! 
    Before I came across your videos and tutorials, I experienced loss of enthusiasm because I found my work horrible and felt like an idiot. Photography is my creative outlet and hobby in a busy everyday life. 
    I have a studio at home, but have never really liked those typical “studio-photography-thing”. Whenever I go to second hand store or other shops, I buy weird things that may come in hand for my shoots. Recently the creativity came back to me, so now I m on a new inspirational wave. From you, I learn some new ways to build my images, and learn new things every time I watch your tutorials. Thank you :-)

    The images I´ve shown below, are from a live action role-play that I frequently join as their photographer. Afterwards I post the photos on their facebook group. Lots of joy!
    Through the last year, LARP is probably the only thing that has kept the passion going. 

    I long to bring my ideas into manifestation.<3

  • Sol

    for the contest :-)

  • Sol

    where is my picture?

  • Anonymous

    obvious having some trouble here…
    Aaron. would you please check you deviantart inbox?

  • Anonymous

    ok, last try:

  • James Warwood

    I’m very proud of completing the 365 project, especially as i work full time and study as well. However I do regret the quality of some of the images which had to be rushed/forced to be done. 

    Definitely giving my self more time has massively increased the quality I can produce. I always want to get an image finished within an hour or two of taking it. I’m forcing my self to slow it down, take some time away from it, and to take several days to edit the image a bit at a time. This gives me “fresh” eyes each time I come back to it. 

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