How mature are you as a photographer? This is a better question to ask rather than, “How many years of experience do you have in photography?”
Do you have the incredible urge to create the sensational photograph of what you see in your minds eye (vision)?
When we are introduced to the art of photography, we get very excited about our new gear and knowledge and the creator in us likes to respond by simply clicking/taking photos. Yes “clicking” or “taking” and not “making” photos.
At the beginning the goal is simply to record a photo with no artistic intent. Images are reasonably sharp and well exposed. The excitement of taking the image itself overpowers other conscious thought that would otherwise influence the image. After maybe some days, months or even years, one is awakened to the fact that the images that are being produced, lack the vision one had in mind.
Remember that photography is an art. The artist uses what is at his/her disposal to create his/her vision. For photographers we do not start with blank slate unless you are in control of the entire composition (Studio Photography). Most of the time one must compose from what is already available or set in place. Making a photograph involves two parts: the art and craft.
The art, is influenced by your vision and the craft, is your ability to get the camera to do your bidding. Becoming proficient in the craft can be perfected with practice and a good mentor. However, vision is more difficult to develop. Your vision is influenced by your nature and nurture. Therefore, initially everyone creates out of the heart, so to say, and creates images that identifies the artist in the images. I love aesthetics, people, nature and color, and therefore that will be a predominant theme in my images.
Once we have identified (thru personal quest or criticism from others) the areas that need to be responded to, in terms of inadequacy of vision being created in the images, we are lead to experiment with technical knowledge. This would involve gear in terms of types of cameras, lenses, lighting etc. What follows may be an improvement in image quality (for example, less noise, distortion, etc.), but it may still lack the ability to portray the vision of the photographer. Are you the type that asks “EXIF?” when you see a good image? There is a lot more than “EXIF” that you need to know to develop as a good photographer.
After one has exhausted reviewing and experimenting with gear, one’s attention is then drawn to the composition, quality of light, gesture etc. in the image. Learning to see creatively is a major step in the development of a photographer. One starts learning from the masters of photography from the past to understand how they were able to realize their vision. At this stage on is highly influenced by the work of certain individuals.
These influences will begin to show in one’s own images. The exploration of ideas and techniques continues to a point of saturation. This leads to the stage where one has mastered the craft and artistic tools available in order to realize one’s vision. This is the stage where the artist finds his voice and now able to not only develop but also realize the vision in the image. Reaching this stage take a long time. The length of time depends on practice and common sense. Yes, common sense. If you practice for hundreds of hours doing the same thing you will get the same result.
Introduce change in phased manner so that you are in control of and are understanding the process involved; this is the key to rapid development. For example, separation of the subject from the background is key to any photograph. You make want to start introducing this little change in your images while shooting to see how this helps bring out your vision better. Constructive criticism is a good thing, put your ego aside. You will learn very fast. Do not be part of a group of people who will praise each one of your photos. Believe me they mean you no good. It may not be intentional simply because of their lack of knowledge.
Therefore, to grow, you must have the humility and wisdom to choose your mentor appropriately. A mentor could also be a person, website or simply images chosen at random that appeal to your target vision. I have the habit of traversing multiple photographer community and award websites simply to see how others vision and also how they have incorporated it in their photos. Other photographers’ images will definitely influence you. Therefore, being part of an organization like PSI (Photographic Society of India) exposes you to the work of many good and award-winning photographers. These organizations will help you to grow much faster simple because they have the available talent!
I have learned photography by myself from books and articles. In the late eighties I would download 2 to 5 images per day (speed then was 14kbps! Not 14 mbps). These were professional well composed landscape images. I would look at all the pictures I collected every day. It was until many years later that I realized that this simple process taught me composition unknowingly. I was in a train in Switzerland shooting the mountains as they passed by. In my mind I was trying to duplicate the images that I has seen in the past. Little did I know that I was applying many composition rules without even knowing it!
Which stage are you at? Wake up … 😊
See my Travel Portfolio for more images! Enjoy!! :))
This article also appeared in Click Magazine – June 2022 Issue – published by The Photographic Society of India