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Mark Ali
I’m a writer, a photographer, a music lover, and a professional ice sculptor. I’m kidding about that last thing. (markaliphotos.com)
Image of a person holding a camera, photographing flowers
Photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash

Let me start by answering the question in the headline above. The answer is…

It depends.

You knew that was coming, right?

Photography contests typically don’t offer you any detailed feedback on your images, other than a pass/fail grade — you either win or you don’t. So, contests are not an effective way to evaluate your skills.

But they can be fun. And most of us got into photography because we enjoy it. So, if you enjoy entering contests, then of course there’s nothing wrong with doing so.

And whether or not a particular contest is worth the time, effort…


An image of colorful silhouettes of The Beatles.
Photo by Fedor on Unsplash

It’s no secret that the Beatles could sing.

As if it weren’t enough that they were brilliant songwriters, they had great voices. (I’m not including Ringo in that statement. I think he’s awesome — one of the best drummers ever. And I couldn’t imagine “With A Little Help From My Friends” or “Yellow Submarine” sung by anyone else. But he’s no vocalist.)

The tight vocal harmony of John, Paul, and George was used in many Beatle songs. But I’ve chosen five tunes that I think best showcased that classic three-part Beatle harmony sound.

“This Boy”

  • Recorded: October 17, 1963
  • First Released: Nov…


A photo of a person typing on a laptop computer.
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Photographers are always looking to get better. Or at least we should be. There’s always something to improve upon.

And if you’ve been doing photography for a while, you’ve no doubt heard that having your images critiqued is a great way to improve.

If you feel qualified, offering a critique can help your own photography too.

But it’s important to know how to receive a critique, and how to give a critique, to avoid hurt feelings — yours, or other’s.

Receiving a critique

Firstly, let me start by saying that it’s OK to NOT agree with the feedback you receive for one of…


Photo by Sean Robertson on Unsplash

When traveling, most of us want all the usual photographs of the landmarks and popular sights. And you probably also want shots of you and the family standing in front of those sights.

Maybe even one of somebody holding up the Tower of Pisa.

Because that’s just hilarious.

Taking candid portraits of locals is also a good way to capture the feel of a place. But that can get tricky — not everyone feels comfortable doing street photography. And not everyone likes having their picture taken by a stranger — especially an annoying tourist.

But there’s history everywhere, and where…


A woman holding a camera
Photo by Eduardo Gorghetto on Unsplash

There’s been an explosion of interest in photography over the last 10+ years. There are so many ways to take photos, and also so many ways to share photos. It’s a great way to express yourself artistically, without needing to be a traditional “artist”.

There’s also a scientific aspect to it. And that combination of creative expression and scientific method is what attracted me to photography in the first place.

But, as a result of the explosion of interest in the art and science of image-making, and advances in camera technology, has photography lost its appeal, and its uniqueness?

In…


A bird flies by an early-morning sky, just before sunrise.
“Bird at Dawn” (© Mark Ali)

I know what you’re thinking. You read the title of this article, and you’re thinking that true nature photographers don’t really need “projects” because there’s plenty of subject matter in the natural world all around us.

And you may be right, generally speaking. But even with an abundance of photo ops out there, even the most ardent nature photographer occasionally needs some new incentive to spark their creativity.

If you’re one of those people, here’s a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:


Photo by Kunal Shinde on Unsplash

The expression “First, do no harm” is often associated with healthcare. But it applies to nature photography too.

The principle essentially means that, above all else, no action of yours should cause harm to your subject. Or, put another way, the potential harm of your actions should be considered before you take those actions.

In nature photography, the “harm” could include damage to an environment or ecosystem, or the endangerment or harassment of an animal. That type of harm is absolutely, positively never acceptable.

And that’s why this rule, this principle, is so vitally important to know, understand, and follow…


Riff Summer Challenge

Flowers open up to gather in the morning sun.
Photo by Benjamin Kubitza on Unsplash

I had the best of both worlds when I was growing up. I was raised in the city, but I had family who lived out in the country.

So, I got all the benefits of being a city kid — mostly related to pro sports teams, but also parks, museums, and other attractions. But I also got to get away from all that and embrace nature and the countryside.

My family would often drive an hour or so to my grandparents’ house in the “country”. …


A photographer taking a picture of a bride and groom cutting the cake at their wedding reception.
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

If you’re a photographer, but not a wedding photographer, chances are you’ve been asked the question that’s the title of this article.

Sometimes it happens because people just don’t want to pay a pro photographer. And there’s nothing wrong with that — professional wedding photographers are often expensive. (The good ones are, anyway.) They’re well worth the money, and I encourage everyone out there to hire a pro if you can. But sometimes couples are on a very tight budget.

Whatever the reason, being asked to photograph the most important day in someone’s life is a high honor and a…


People don’t mean to be rude, but…

Man holding a camera and adjusting its settings on the back.
Photo by William Bayreuther on Unsplash

The internet is full of photography advice. Really. It’s everywhere.

And since it’s everywhere, it’s bound to come from a variety of sources. Sometimes it comes from professional photographers. Sometimes it comes from photography educators. Sometimes it comes from experienced amateurs or semi-pros who are sharing what they’ve learned. (Full disclosure: I fall into that last category.)

And that’s all OK, of course.

What’s not OK, and even a little annoying, are photography tips that assume you have a certain level of gear, or tips that insist that you need to do something…

Mark Ali

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