Tuesday, January 21, 2014

So, You Wanna Become a Better Photographer?

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Becoming a better photographer-- That's the bottom line for a lot of us who do this thing we do, this photography thing.

Sure, some of us do it for money and some of us do it for fun and some of us do it for both those reasons but, beyond accolades, ego strokes, money and some other things I may have failed to mention, we all do this thing, we all keep doing this photography thing, to become better at it.

I hope none of us ever arrive at a point where we truly believe we've pursued photography long enough and hard enough to convince ourselves we do it good enough, that is, we do it so well we couldn't possible do it any better. Why? Because it simply wouldn't be true. Plus, I have empathy sympathy for photographers who lie to themselves or are delusional about their photography. They also annoy the crap out of me. (BTW, if you do believe that, three words: Get over yourself.)

Becoming so good a photographer that you can't get any better would be like arriving at Photo Nirvana.  But the thing is, Photo Nirvana isn't something we actually ever arrive at. Leastwise, you'd be hard pressed to name a photographer who's ever truly arrived at it. Some have gotten close, but I don't think anyone has ever actually gotten there.

Instead, Photo Nirvana is something we strive for. It's a journey. And it's the journey that counts.

But let me let go of the Buddhist analogies and get back to becoming a better photographer: that state of photographic betterment we all chase.

There's a few things that will help you on your journey to becoming a better photographer no matter where you currently are on the path or how far you've already traveled to get there.  They are like axioms or maxims. They're truisms. They're not theoretical. They are universal truths in photography's universe.  Here's a few of them. It's certainly not a complete list. I'll provide the only one that talks about how not to become a better photographer first:

1. More or Better Gear Will Not Make You a Better Photographer.  Sure, gear can make you a more efficient photographer. It can make your photography easier. It can often simplify the way you capture what you're trying to capture. Some gear can go a long ways towards making you better equipped to engage in certain genres of photography. But gear, on it's own, will not make you a better photographer.  If you think otherwise, you're not as far along the path towards Photo Nirvana as you might think you are. In fact, you might not have even begun moving and stumbling upon it.

2. Knowledge Will Make You a Better Photographer.  The greater your photographic knowledge, the more that knowledge arms you in terms of becoming a better photographer. Knowledge spawns more knowledge. The more of it you have, the more likely you are to seek even more and the more it manages to find it's way into your photography. Sometimes, you don't even realize how knowledge is constantly integrating itself into your photography. It just does.

3. Experimenting With New Techniques and Ways of Shooting Will Make You a Better Photographer.  Some photographers make a living constantly shooting in the same or similar ways. I'm one of those photographers. But that doesn't mean I don't experiment with new techniques and more. I just don't do it when I'm hired by someone else to produce the sort of imagery they expect from me. My experimentation is always on my own time and, leastwise at first, for my personal work. If I get good at something new I've tried out, I might incorporate some of it into my paid work. But mostly I do so after I've already captured what my clients want me to capture. If they like the new stuff, and they're a client who hires me again, it's usually they who ask for more of what I already offered them a glimpse of.

4. Practice Will Make You a Better Photographer.  There's a reason the best hitters in major league baseball still spend time practicing their swings or in batting cages. There's a reason the best pro golfers still spend time on the driving range. Practice.  There's an old adage we've all heard: Practice makes perfect.  I'm not sure if perfection is ever attainable, not true perfection, but practice goes a long ways towards getting us closer to perfection. Leastwise, as perfect as we can get.

The pretty girl at the top is Dylan.

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