It may be difficult to find something new and unique to learn with the saturation of websites giving photography lessons and every photographer or Youtuber uploading their videos on "5 Tips and Tricks in 3 minutes." Here are a few uncommon photography lessons that have stood out to me, and that I continue to use to this day.

Know Thyself

Let's start with the most important lesson first. When it comes to doing anything, having clear goals and reasons for doing so definitely paves a path to a better result. This applies to our passions as well. 

Understanding why you photograph is important for several reasons. The first is that it allows you to look at the world through your custom lens and knowing what you want out of the photograph you're going to take. The second is that it works as a reminder when you lose motivation, or when you are in a rut. It also lets you re-evaluate yourself, and consider how you're evolving over time. The rest I find are completely personal. 

Olivier Laurent is a photo editor for the Washington post and a former 'TIME' magazine editor who asked some of the most influential photographers and editors why they do what they do on a daily basis. The insightful article shows that to some, photography speaks to the heart, creates imagery that brings clarity to our chaotic world, brings a light that brightens the world's darkest corners, or it can convey a story worth any and all hardships. You will find your own reasoning.

Don't Underestimate Your Hometown

There is a limitless supply of compositions and subjects.

It may seem like a given to people from one of the "great" cities like New York, Tokyo, or Paris where every street corner seems photogenic, but this is still true for most settlements on the planet. 

Actually seeing and observing said compositions and subjects is the difficulty. Living somewhere for a long period of time, as well as considering it our home sort of extracts that magic that we would otherwise see. 

Photographer, Thomas Heaton, talks about how the north-east coast of England is a hotspot for photographers coming to take photos of moody skies on beaches lit by a bronze and amber hued sunset. It's also his home, and so he chooses to work extra hard and really fire those creative neurons to get images he can identify as "keepers."

Seriously inspiring dude. The longer videos are worth it. Always a journey worth taking.

I was in a similar rut with my home city of Mumbai, India. I'm sure that when non-locals hear of my city, they think of iconic 'National Geographic'-style photos or maybe some striking street photography, but I just don't see it; at least when I'm thinking my usual way. Here are a some ways I  find compositions in one of my most difficult environments.

Wait.... and wait.... and there it is: This is not advice unique to street photography, but important nonetheless. This doesn't just mean to sit in one location and look at the same street corner for half an hour until something works. It also means being willing to consistently have that phone or camera out in your hand, and constantly framing compositions, mentally and physically.

Be a tourist: I don't mean one who starts snapping away at anything loud, ancient, or colorful. I mean "tourist" as in being a photographer in a new location who's only there for a very limited time. Don't underestimate the potential of simple imagination.

Appreciate the details and the environment: As a resident, we start to phase out quite early on the amazing and mind-blowing things that make our hometown unique. For example, Mumbai has the world's second greatest number of Art Deco buildings in the world and its very own style of Gothic architecture. Appreciating and being aware of these little things allow us to better connect with our subjects, as well as make better use of them.

Try, Try and Try Again: Everyone from Scottish kings to 19th century poets have said this, but this applies more easily to photography than most other fields (except you film photography buffs, somewhat). Sometimes less photogenic subjects just means that a good photo will have a lot of time and effort put into it, since it takes more work to make the image captivating, and therefore will be worth even more to you, and hopefully, your peers.

Megapixels Don't Matter, A Bunch Of Other Stuff Do

This photography lesson is something a lot of professionals rant about, especially Karl Taylor and James Popys

A whole lot of aspects matter when it comes to your camera, whether it's a bulky DSLR, an annoying compact mirrorless camera, or part of a smartphone. Depth of Field, dynamic range, sensor size, F-number -- these facets matter when it comes to breaking down the barriers to "technically" better photos; megapixels don't. 

Unless you plan on printing large-sized images, where your face is inches away from the image when you look at it, or you don't really fully bother composing your image until post-production, it doesn't matter. A camera with a bigger sensor but lower MP will still turn out a better image, without even mentioning your level of expertise.

Rules Are Really Made To Be Followed, Not Broken 

Now don't get me wrong, there are times where I've thrown the rules of composition out of the window because the subject, mood, or environment is so deliciously perfect that it doesn't matter. Some of the best articles on composition I've read quite often openly end with "When you get the intuition and experience, you will be able to work beyond the rules." The problem is that we won't know when that'll happen until it does. As I mention further on, it's unlikely that we could accurately gauge our level if we tried.

As a photographer specializing in landscape photography, I sometimes see scenes and subjects I need to shoot (like the cover image of this article), but I don't know how to take one in the situation where every composition just doesn't seem right. I just take my best shot (literally and figuratively because I can't leave without it). Then I leave this marvel of a sight, and open it up on my editing software, crop it -- trying to make it work for Instagram ratios.

Hey, wait... that follows the rule of thirds (doesn't apply with everyone), and these focus points line up in thirdsLong story short, I end up using the rules anyway, and retrospectively realize the image could have been so much better if I'd have followed them in the first place.

At the end of this rant, I say this: When in doubt, stick to the rules. You'll probably be happy you did.

You Don't Need The Newest Gear, Know The Gear You Already Have

I find that people either find Yoda statements either wise or annoying. Here's to hoping it's the latter. Right now, we're in an age where photography culture is changing in ways not seen since Nikon's unveiling of the D1 DSLR in 1999, with the nearing death of DSLRs and Anamorphic cinema lenses on phones (which are relatively affordable).

You know you love those Anamorphic lens flares.

Everyone wants the newest, most awesome gear to up their photography game, but taking the time to learn how to control and direct your gear with finesse is where the difference really lies. 

Street Photographer, Mattias Burling, proves this point first-hand by using a 13-year-old Canon 5D. The age may seem like a century old tech-wise, but Burling shows that quite often, and I mean this beyond just photography, you only really need tools which do what you need. Extra features quite often are just that -- extra!

Smaller Apertures = Sharper, Deeper Depth Of Field

When we start out in photography basics, we learn how aperture changes DoF (Depth of Field). Large aperture, shallow bokeh-full DoF. Small aperture, everything-in-focus deep DoF, right? 

Now this far from a new discovery, but after a certain point (around f-number 11 or so), distortion starts taking effect, leading to not-so-tack-sharp images. This is especially relevant in landscape photography, where you quite often want every detail to pop. Unless you need a longer exposure, just focus to infinity or to your lens' hyper-focal distance (depending on your lens), and mmm... you've got that crisp detailed texture that you wanted.

Be Your Greatest Critic

According to studies, we human beings overestimate ourselves a lot. One of the photography (but really, life) lessons is to be honest and realistic with ourselves.

This is often attributed to the Dunning Kruger effect, which describes how people, in whichever fields they are lacking knowledge and expertise, make poorer decisions and greater mistakes. Moreover, that lack of expertise prevents them from recognizing and correcting these mistakes. 

Personally, I've experienced this with landscape and travel photography. When I started out, I would come across beautiful vistas and start snapping away. I'd end up with what I thought were breathtaking images, but in retrospect, with the post-processing I did afterwards, they're some of my worst images. Sadly, a beautiful landscape doth not a beautiful image make.

The same goes for a lot of Instagram travel pictures, where you'll have the standard *person in swimsuit (straw hat and sunglasses optional) looking out from the beach/boat/cliff.* The first few to do it really knew what they were doing. That's why it became a trend.

If you are part of an organisation, let's say you're a Spoon University Photographer, or do semi-professional photography or more, being both proud of your work while always aiming to improve is almost a necessity. 

Even further, look at the greats in your field, and don't aim for that same amazing image, but aspire to get their consistency in doing so. Look at their photography opinions and maxims and see how they can fit in your life.