Photography, like many forms of art, has varying levels of complexity. Despite the phone industry putting a camera in the hands of nearly every citizen, it is still obvious that there are those that are great at photography and there are those that are not. The photos from a camera phone in the hands of my roommate won't look like the photos from the same camera phone in the hands of Peter McKinnon, Lindsey Adler, or Sean Tucker (Just a few of my top favs btw). Why?
The Difference is rooted in the reality that there is more to photography than "point and click." There are numerous skills involved in the process of creating a great photo. Composition, light placement and awareness, communication, observation, ISO and aperture setting, etc. all impact the look and style of the final product. But the use and mastery of these skills are not, in my opinion, the number one skill needed for a photographer to be great. So what is?
Continual Learning is a skill that many of us were not taught in high school or even college. Which is wild considering that these institutions are learning is the very place we should have learned this concept! The only reason that I have made it as far as I have in my photography is that I have trained myself to seek knowledge fro other photographers and even creatives of other fields as well! But WAIT?! Why do I call this a skill? Because learning is more than something you just DO. Being a continual learner requires a measure of development and training to do it well. It requires intentionality and training. It's more than just taking in knowledge or listening to a tutorial. The type of learning I'm talking about also includes trial and error experience/testing new ideas and theories, engaging with other artists, reflecting on personal growth, and challenging oneself. Lastly, this also includes UNlearning old theories and "facts" in light of new knowledge. This one I think is very understated and very challenging for people to embrace. We often cling to old knowledge and throw out new information that doesn't reconcile or mesh with what we already know (any flat-Earthers out there?). Even though it is difficult, it is vital to growth to let go of former knowledge in order to embrace new knowledge that has been proven true and has strong evidence to support it. A Challenge I have for you this week is to try something out of your comfort zone. Whether it be doing a photoshoot in a new environment, changing your camera setting, using a different lens, etc. Just get out there and test the waters! After your shoot, ask yourself the following questions:
1) What did I enjoy about this change? What did I hate?
2) What can I take away from this that I can apply to the rest of my work?
3) What do I think I should have done differently?
4) What challenges will I attempt next?
Good luck out there photo-friends, and may the light always be in your favor!