10 Photography Principles of Ivan Nava

Ivan Nava, whom we interviewed a year ago, is back with more exciting and inspiring stories as well as helpful photography tips. Today he will share with you his 10 photography principles—which he came up with during his 15-year-long involvement in photography—that helped him become a professional and globally acknowledged photographer. Come on in!

Ivan Nava is a self-taught photographer who was born in the US in 1983 and was raised in Venezuela. He first took a camera into his hands when he was only 16… But he never lost hold of it after that.

During his photography career he managed to work with Land Rover, Jaguar, Mercedes Benz, Franco Pianegonda, Koenigsegg, Rolex, IWC, Porsche, Rico Love, VOGUE, Latin American Idol, Moet & Chandon, P&G, Koleston, Mercedes-Benz AMG, Harper’s Bazaar, Haute Living Magazine, and so on. Let’s see what he has to say.

Passion is shooting for ten hours and then getting home to set up a tabletop studio because you want to try a new macro lens you just got. That’s the real drive, the one that you can’t stop. It will make you achieve the impossible. The price for success is hard work and dedication to the job.

I want to make beautiful things even if nobody cares. The only way to achieve that is to make something for the joy of making it and to the utmost best of your ability. Every picture has the potential to be the most epic in your life!

Try not to focus only on whether the image is perfectly sharp or if the highlights are blown. If you produce something that evokes an emotional reaction, then you’ve achieved something special.

Over the years, I’ve met a lot of “expert” photographers who are trying to decide if the chromatic aberration of their 24-70mm lens is worse at f/4 or f/5.6 using a mathematical formula! It’s important to understand how something works as well as the limitations of your equipment and your techniques, but for the most part photography is a very instinctive craft.

It’s not necessary to get caught in this cycle. Actually, why are you reading this? Go and start shooting right now!

You need a mentor, not the newest 750 megapixel camera or that rare vintage lens that goes on sale every blue moon.

The best way to learn besides practicing, of which by the way I’m a huge advocate, is to learn by offering your help, assistance and good vibes to someone who knows a lot about photography in exchange for the first-hand experience. But don’t get confused. It’s not about setting and editing styles, you’re not there to be a watered version of someone else, you’re here to shoot like you.

A 50mm lens! Get the f/1.8 version of your favorite brand. This all around lens will give you wonderful images while you learn to walk forwards or backwards to get the composition you want (Yeah! Old school zoom). Its simply the best compact and cheap piece of glass you’ll ever have.

Rule of thirds is the most basic rule of composition, but the rules are meant to be broken. Powerful images can also be created by placing your subject in the center of the image where symmetry is found.

Once I read in a book a really cool exercise to learn about composition and angles, and actually I did this a lot! You just need to find a subject, preferably something small, and shoot at least 50 different images of it. That will make your mind not only to find different and unconventional compositions, but also learn a lot about light and shadows.

Not everyone knows that I have a degree in Visual Communication. When I was learning about the creation process of a typeface, we used to talk about negative space.

The negative space is needed in every single character to maintain an appropriate rhythm. The same happens in photography. Think of the empty space as an object and think about where exactly you are going to place it.

Most people think that a good photograph is one that is perfectly lit, when in reality a good photograph is one that takes whatever light source you have—cloudy, artificial, dark, bright—and renders it into a wonderful breathtaking image.

The only way to achieve this is to shoot in every single possible condition. We are starting to see a pattern here, right? Shoot, shoot and keep shooting.

Many photographers avoid backlighting at all costs and others condemn this situation as if you just killed a puppy. In reality, this is a great way to separate the background from the subject in a way that can be quite dramatic. You can create patterns with the spilling light and the abstract shadows, turning them into strong elements for telling your story in a very unique way.

There are two types of risks to take when shooting: the kind that others demand of you and the kind at which you push yourself. Sometimes the ideas work out and other times they don’t, but you should always learn from the effort.

The previous nine points can serve as a roadmap if you want to become a professional photographer. I’m self-taught and my path was something like this. Today I shoot the most difficult things you can shoot: watches, cars, and trophies (they are a nightmare, by the way).

And the way I learned how to shoot them was by practicing countless hours a day for the last 12 years. Of course, there are a few tricks here and there that can make things easier, but nothing beats good old practice.

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