15 Insights From 15 Years in Photography (Part 1)

15 years ago I picked up my first dslr camera. I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning. It started as a creative hobby but quickly turned into a new career path.

At the time I was working as a therapist, running a successful coaching business that I loved. In fact, I was sure I was going to be a therapist for the rest of my life. But deep down, there was this creative spark longing to be free. And when I finally got my hands on my very first camera, it was like the universe whispered, “This is it,” and I couldn’t resist its call.

For a while, I juggled therapy sessions by day and photography by night and weekends. It was a lot of fun, but also exhausting. I knew I had to choose for the sake of my family and my own well-being.

So, I took a leap of faith, and jumped into the world of photography, not knowing exactly what I was getting myself into. Spoiler alert: it was a rollercoaster ride of trial and error, with plenty of mistakes along the way.

But here’s the thing: every stumble, every misstep, they all taught me valuable lessons that I’m here to share with you today—raw, real, and straight from the heart.

If I had known then what I know now, those early years would have been a whole lot smoother. But hey, my journey is your shortcut to success!

When I picked up my first DSLR camera those 15 years ago, I started out as a portrait photographer. Every day, every shoot was an experiment. Seriously! I had no idea what I was doing. But you know what? That didn’t stop me. I embraced the unknown and dove headfirst into it.

It was all learning by doing. And I wanted to make it work so badly, which made me motivated to find solutions. Within one year I worked full time as a photographer, AND the truth is; I was still shooting in AUTO mode! YES, that’s right.

How’s that possible you might ask? I think the answer is creativity. My creative imagination was my secret weapon, far greater than my technical know-how. I wasn’t skilled like a professional photographer, and therefore I didn’t follow the “rules”, but I was creatively resourceful and able to make what I photographed look interesting.

I learned light, styling, composition and camera controls, little by little, as I moved through each client shoot. It wasn’t always easy though. Along the way, I’ve learned some valuable lessons, and from those lessons I witnessed the transformation of both my craft and myself.

So since it’s my 15-year photography anniversary I thought it would be fun to share 15 key insights that I’ve learned from my years behind the lens:

Are you ready? Let’s do this!

Insight 1 | Creativity Is More Important Than Having The Right Photography Gear

Many people worry about their equipment, and wonder if they have the best tools available. The truth is; being technically competent and having the most expensive camera and lenses has absolutely nothing to do with being a good photographer. It doesn’t matter if you choose to go for Nikon, Sony or Canon or any other brand: they are all good brands with amazing cameras.

The most important lesson in photography is to remember that the camera is simply a tool to capture the world as you see it. While high-quality equipment can enhance your work, true artistry stems from your creative vision and imagination.

Think of a chef: A skilled chef can make tasty meals with any pan, but if you don’t know how to cook, the type of pan won’t make a difference.

So, instead of focusing on the latest camera or lens, focus on honing your skills and pushing the boundaries of your creativity, regardless of the gear you have. Learn all the capabilities of your cameras, but understand that a photographer’s eye is the most important tool.

The best way to push through this phase of “believing you need better equipment” is to practice, practice practice. Preferably using the same camera and lens until you know it inside out.

Insight 2 | Never Expect Your First Few Shots To Be Your Best

Too often, we rush to capture the perfect shot without taking the time to truly see, understand, and connect with our subject. And while this eagerness is fueled by excitement, it can also lead to frustration and self-doubt when the results don’t meet our expectations.

What many beginners don’t realize is that artistic satisfaction rarely comes from the first few photos. Even the most seasoned photographers need time to immerse themselves in the scene, to observe and experiment before capturing that magical shot.

So here’s the truth: never expect your first few shots to be perfect.

It’s okay to take hundreds of photos in one shoot to find that one masterpiece. The key is to keep shooting, keep testing, and keep experimenting until you start to see something you like. Trust me, you’ll feel it when you’re onto something special.

I have a personal rule that I follow in my photography projects: the “one shoot – one good image” rule. It’s all about removing the pressure to perform and allowing myself to be fully present in the moment. Instead of trying to capture multiple images, I focus on one object, one scene, one project at a time.

This approach gives me the freedom to explore, to play, and to experiment without rush. And my goal is simple: to end up with just one good photo. Of course, if I happen to capture more than one, it’s a bonus. But ultimately, one good photo is all I need to feel satisfied.

With every shot I take, I ask myself: what can I do to improve it? Sometimes it’s a small adjustment in camera angle or settings. Other times, it’s about changing perspective or composition. It’s the little changes that often make the biggest difference in the end.

Just because it takes you time to get it right doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. Allow yourself the freedom to take as many photos as you need to capture that one image you truly love, without judgment. Embrace the process, trust in your vision, and keep shooting until you find that magical shot.

Insight 3 | Practice Is More Important Than Talent

Some people are naturally gifted for creative flair. Excellence though, doesn’t come from your genes, it comes from your work effort”.

When I first started back in 2009, I can honestly say that I didn’t have a “talent” for photography. I did however have the hunger to express my creativity through my camera. And that motivated me to learn all the technical aspects of photography even though I found it hard at times.

Every art form has tools that you must master to express yourself in the most optimal way. And those tools take time to study. Just like learning akvarel painting or playing the piano, actual practice makes more difference than just studying techniques but not applying them. Improvement and progression comes from practicing, getting it wrong, figuring out why it went wrong and trying again. 

Photography didn’t come easy to me when I started out. I wasn’t born talented. My skills evolved through obsession; I spent hours, and hours practicing. But some people are naturally more talented and prone to learn photography. It comes easier to them.

I remember borrowing my daughter my camera for the first time, and when she came back and showed me the photos a few hours later, I was surprised! The photos looked like a professional fashion photographer had captured them. She was a natural talent. Me…not so much. I had to work for it.

My point is; if photography doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t give up. You will get there eventually. It took me about two years to really get the ball rolling. That’s was when I started to feel my personal style emerge and I felt more creative satisfaction and confidence.

Practice ALWAYS award you with better skills. So never compare yourself with other photographers, because they are on another level than you. We are all different and we evolve in different tempos.

Don’t judge yourself if you feel your journey is slower than you would like it to be. Some day you might become better than the person you admire, and some day the person that struggles more than you might teach you something.

Insight 4 | Artistic Success Lies In The Handpicked

Artistic triumph isn’t just about taking countless photos—it’s about the skillful curation of your very best shots. Imagine a day where you capture 250 photos, each one a glimpse into a moment frozen in time. Your task then becomes the careful selection of that one photo, the masterpiece that truly captures the essence of your vision.

In that pool of 250 images, you’ll find a range of results. Some may be unusable, marred by technical flaws or boring compositions. Others may fall into the realm of mediocrity, neither exceptional nor particularly memorable. But nestled among them, like hidden gems waiting to be discovered, are those few images that shine with brilliance, that speak to your soul and demand to be seen.

It’s this process of curation that separates the amateurs from the professionals, the good from the exceptional. And yet, it’s a task that many photographers struggle with. How do you judge your own work, your own creative vision, with the objectivity it deserves? How do you narrow down hundreds of images to just one or two that truly represent your best?

The answer lies in honing your discernment, in cultivating an eye for excellence. It’s about recognizing the subtle nuances that elevate a good photo to a great one—the play of light and shadow, the composition that draws the viewer in, the emotion captured in a fleeting moment.

So take the time to go through your photos, to really see them—to appreciate the beauty in the ordinary, to find the extraordinary in the mundane. And when you do, when you find those few images that truly speak to you, that resonate with your vision and your voice, don’t be afraid to let them shine.

Because in the end, it’s not about the quantity of photos you capture—it’s about learning to recognise your signature style when it starts to emerge. And knowing exactly which photos to put in your portfolio.

The better you become at selecting your very best work, the more professional and compelling your portfolio will become, a testament to your skill, your vision, and dedication to your craft.

In The Lifestyle Photography Academy, I help you grow creatively and develop your unique signature style. Read about the course here >>

Insight 5 | Allow Yourself To Explore Different Styles and Genres

So often photographers are told to pick a niche a stick to it. I agree with that to some extend. The positive is that when you focus on ONE thing you can become really good at what you’re doing and therefore reach a mastery level faster. The downside is that you can end up feeling stuck and bored of doing the same thing.

What you find captivating today may not hold the same interest tomorrow, and that’s perfectly okay. As we grow and evolve as photographers, so does our creative desires. So, why confine yourself to a single style or genre of photography, if you feel the need for change?

Dare to go beyond what you normally do. If you feel a calling to try a new genre or style, just go for it. In my opinion those feelings rarely comes from nothing. They appear for a reason. It’s your creative soul guiding you to something that fits your personality better.

Allow yourself to explore new ideas, new subjects, new styles and experiment with different techniques. Let curiosity be your compass as you navigate the all the amazing ways of photographic expression.

As a photographer, I’ve taken some twists and turns in my career. I began my journey in portrait photography, capturing women styled in vintage clothing. It was a world of fun, laughter, intimacy and emotion, where every click of the shutter invited the women to see themself with new eyes.

Later, I ventured into beauty, and fashion photography. I remember spending hours editing photos because back then retouching was highly expected and there was no room for imperfections. I had a lot of learning experiences in those years, and it got me deeper into the art of light, shadow, and styling, honing my craft and expanding my creative palette.

Yet, as I continued my journey, I found myself drawn to new and unfamiliar landscapes. Travel photography became my passport to adventure, and I also fell in love with food and interior photography.

The last coupe of years I’ve mostly focused on lifestyle photography, as well as flower and landscape photography and of course teaching workshops.

Through it all, I’ve learned that it’s perfectly normal to make shifts in your career and embrace new passions along the way. Each detour has enriched my journey, opening my eyes to new possibilities and pushing me beyond my comfort zone.

So, embrace the journey, follow your passions, and never be afraid to start over. Your instincts are your most trusted guide. Following that inner calling is what allows you to be authentic, capturing the essence of your soul in every frame.

Okay, let’s stop here and let this be part 1 of a 3-part series. I’ll be back soon with part 2. If you want to make sure you get it simply join my Newsletter, and you’ll be the first to receive new updates from me.

Interested in taking one of my courses or workshops? This years workshops are almost sold out! You can read more about my courses here >>

About Christina Greve

Christina Greve is an internationally recognized photography educator specializing in creativity and mindfulness. She is known for her elegant storytelling photography and draws much of her inspiration from the Nordic countryside, travels, food and still life. With over a decade of experience in psychology, Christina transitioned her passion for photography into a thriving full-time business focused on photography and education. Her work, both in photography and writing, has been featured in numerous prestigious magazines, blogs, and books worldwide.Christina is dedicated to empowering multi-passionate women, artists, and creative individuals to find direction, overcome self-doubt, and pursue their passions. Through her curated tools, inspirational content, and transformative courses, she guides her students towards making a fulfilling living doing what they love.Having coached thousands of women from over 40 countries, Christina is renowned for her expertise. For 15 years, she has led the highly acclaimed Lifestyle Photography Academy, providing invaluable guidance to aspiring photographers. Through her podcast "The Empowered Creative," popular blog, and sought-after workshops, Christina has established herself as a trusted resource for creatives seeking practical photography knowledge, genuine support, and heartfelt encouragement.