A selection of our favourite images is available for PRINTS! 📸


Reaching mastery

Vietnam farm where a boy and his mother are working in the field

Reaching mastery

Today I am reading a very interesting article on The Atlantic about happiness, and how come educated and smart people are less and less happy.

Anyway, the author Raj Raghunathan talked about people never being happy when comparing themselves to their peers. Because honestly there is no clear way to compare yourself with other people: is it about how much money they make, how many awards they received, how many (in my case) students they taught, etc…?


Then the author said this:

What I recommend is an alternative approach, which is to become a little more aware of what it is that you’re really good at, and what you enjoy doing. When you don’t need to compare yourself to other people, you gravitate towards things that you instinctively enjoy doing, and you’re good at, and if you just focus on that for a long enough time, then chances are very, very high that you’re going to progress towards mastery anyway, and the fame and the power and the money and everything will come as a byproduct, rather than something that you chase directly in trying to be superior to other people.”

Raj Raghunathan 


These words really resonated in me, and in the way I approach my photography and teachings. I might be heading the right way 😉

Instead of trying to post photos online that will “please” people and get you as many likes as that other photographer who is being successful, why don’t you do your own thing and become the only one doing it, hence a “master” of it?


Of course I use the word mastery here, which is way over my head. One will only reach mastery after 50 years constantly doing something and making it a second nature. But you understand what I mean, right?




Founder of Pics of Asia, Etienne is a teacher with a photography habit.


  1. Lynn on April 27, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    There is a book called Bounce by Michael Syed (and I’m sure more by other writers) called the myth of talent and the power of practice. The myth part that talent is just innate and does not have to worked for.

    I guess with something like photography when you are starting out like me you start by trying to copy or recreate pictures you love. Of course its impossible as you cannot recreate the exact same conditions as the original but you also dont have the hours of practice that gave rise to the original. And yes you can be a bit crushed. But you just keep practising and eventually your own style or eye emerges and there is no need for comparison because it is your voice, your connection with the subject.

    You said to me that you are much more selective now even with the shots you take because you know tomorrow is another day and this time the light might be just right or the right moment appears. For me with a brief few hours I did not have that luxury so I can either be depressed at not being able to catch what was in my imagination (fueled by others photos before me) or I can look for the joy in just doing something so new and out of my comfort zone and what I can bring of me into it.

  2. Ed Cobb on April 28, 2016 at 6:07 am

    Good one Etienne. This has been my philosophy for many years and my only career advice to my kids. Find something you really love doing and do that. Money may or may not follow, but you’ll be happy doing what you love. Of course, for many just surviving life comes first, so we are very lucky if we are able to pursue enjoyment or “happiness”.

    As for mastery; it may be unattainable even for the “best”. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to do better as continuing to learn and improve is the most rewarding. If I were ever to master something then I would I think, be bored at that point, and have to move on and learn something new.

    As for making images, I started too late to ever master that but I’m happy that I enjoy the process and that sometimes an image I create can stir emotions within myself. If others also enjoy my images that is a bonus.

    On another subject; it’s only four weeks now until I’m back in Vietnam and I can’t wait to get out and about with my camera. I hope we get a chance to go walkabout around the end of June/early July.

    Enjoy you upcoming trip.



    • Etienne on April 30, 2016 at 7:33 am

      looking forward to having you in Hoi An again 🙂

  3. Jean-Pierre Goetz on April 28, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    How true a comment Etienne. Being engaged with a club and a regional association of clubs, I hear too many times that photographers seek the approval of judges (and work on their pictures accordingly to the likes of particular judges) and are then highly disappointed if the picture(s) they submit is not scoring well within other environments (clubs, photographic associations, etc…) or even their peers. Photography is work we need to do for ourselves! Reds Jean-Pierre

Leave a Comment