by Nick Kelsh

posted Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 10:40 AM EDT

If Crystal Blackwell’s photograph of a boy saying good-bye to his soldier father is not enough to convince you that a powerful human experience trumps a bad background every time, I can’t help you.

This is either my weakest photo tip or my greatest; it certainly isn’t going to help you decipher the relationship between your shutter speed and your ISO setting.

It may, however, be the tip that inspires you to triumphantly slog through those annoying technical details and return to that place deep in your heart that made you pick up a camera in the first place. It’s possible to become so annoyed with practicing your scales you forget how beautiful the music is. Let me help; the music is really beautiful.

Whether you realize it or not, you take photographs because you have something to say about your experience as a human. It’s certainly what draws you to other people’s photographs. They have something to show you about the way they see the world and you want to see it. You are attracted to their humanity and they are attracted to yours. It’s a fact that prisoners in extreme isolation often die of unknown medical causes. They need human contact. Without it they can’t survive.

The human experience is as wide and deep as the cosmos. Tragedy and comedy pass through your lens unfiltered. It’s the content of your heart that decides where you point your lens and when to push the shutter. If Shakespeare were alive today I would happily comp him a subscription to my Photo Tips; nothing but good could come of Shakespeare taking pictures. (I suspect he would be a quick study.)

This wonderful drama teacher in Princeton, New Jersey loves her students as much as they love her. How many of us had the privilege of sharing a belly laugh with a memorable mentor? Times have changed.

Scoff if you will at my belief that pictures you take at your child’s birthday party are an extension of your spiritual being. Look at the accompanying pictures of the departing soldier and the teacher laughing with her drama students. Tell me you don’t feel something.

Now show me your vacation pictures from last summer. I have to look; I can’t turn away.

(An exceptional educator and a world-class photographer, Nick Kelsh is the founder of How To Photograph Your Life, an excellent source of affordable photography training and tips. Nick’s courses can be conducted by yourself in your own time, or with feedback from Nick and your fellow students. If you appreciated this article and want to improve your photography, visit How to Photograph your Life and sign up for a course today!)