Amateur photographers who have just recently been bitten by the photo bug have one very daunting challenge to overcome: the fear of taking “the same photo” as hundreds of photographers who have come before them.

They’re approaching photography with fresh eyes, but the death of “originality” (if it ever existed at all…) in the modern age can seem an insurmountable obstacle. Why take the photo at all when hundreds or thousands of other photographers have photographed the same subject?

This is the exact question 500pxer Rebecca Ramaley had to face when she decided to embark on a project to photograph the world-famous Sydney Opera House.

Sunset Opera by Rebecca Ramaley on

“When I stand there, I know fully well that thousands of other aspiring photographers have stood in that exact same spot and shot the same subject with the same or better equipment,” she told us over email recently.

“I think to myself, ‘there are literally billions of shots of the Opera House, why am I wasting my time, what is going to make my shot so special?’ But I do it anyway and I’m glad I did.”

She’s glad because she’s realized something every amateur should take note of when the spectre of “unoriginality” rears its ugly head:

Now I know that every little detail counts. It’s the camera, it’s the lens, it’s the angle and composition, it’s the tripod you use, it’s the exposure, aperture and focal length you select, it’s the exact time you shot it on that exact day—with or without clouds, and with or without the pesky construction cranes in the back or the boat in the front.

It is the combination of all of these factors that makes every photo unique and gives it the chance to stand out.

Twin sails by Rebecca Ramaley on

Another fear Rebecca has been facing as a self-declared “amateur through and through” is about post-processing.

What is the limit before you start being called out by other photographers on not being true to the image—especially when you are working with RAW files?

Recently one photographer got roasted by another in an online community for adding some stars into his evening landscape even though the stars were just a very minor detail in the shot. That has stuck with me. I’ve gone through a real journey on the topic and will continue to do so as I grow in my photography.

So far her answers to those questions come on a case-by-case basis as she tries to find the line between necessary and too much:

Do I photoshop the construction crane out or keep it? No, better to leave it in or, if necessary, crop – it is part of the scene.


Do I dare add blur to the background and burn and dodge to help the image in the foreground to stand out? For me, right now, the answer is yes—dare—it is part of the art. Until they start making 100mm+ tilt-shift telephoto lenses, sometimes it is the only way to get my photo to do what I want it to do. But I have to do it well so it doesn’t detract from the photo and I need to be open with others about what I’ve done to achieve the look.

Fiery sunset by Rebecca Ramaley on

For the technical types wanting to know what Rebecca used to capture these photos, she offered us those answers as well.

The camera is a Canon 5D Mark III and the lenses range from a Sigma 15mm fisheye to a newly purchased Sigma 24mm 1.4 to a simple Canon EF28-105mm 3.5-4.5 USM all-rounder to her favourite, the EF100-400 f.4.5/5.6L IS USM (a birthday present).

Oh, and there’s one more piece of gear she’s recently acquired… rectifying a VERY common beginner mistake in the process:

I’ve recently purchased a Gitzo tripod with a simple Manfrotto ball head—that tripod is the single largest factor in the improvement of my pictures in the last three months. Before that I never used one… WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!?!

Thanks to the tripod and a dedication to going out and honing her skills and taking photos even if thousands of photographers have stood in the same spot before, she’s been rewarded with photos like this:

Icons aglow by Rebecca Ramaley on

To see more of Rebecca’s photos, head over to her 500px account and give her a follow. You can also find her on her website and Facebook.