The next level

written by Pramod Viswanath on August 23, 2010 in blog and Photography and thoughts and ruminations with 6 comments

Have been thinking about some easy ways to be a better artist. This was during my initial days of photography. What I have learnt over the years are few invaluable lessons. Some of them I would love to share.

Going to next level from the initial days is never easy. Below are six essential qualities that I personally feel that every photographer needs to have to be a better photographer:

1. Being patient and persevere what you intend to do and aspire for.

Patience and perseverence are the most important qualities that every photographer needs to excel the craft. To be specific to Nature Photography genre, without patience one cannot make quality images. If one looks at the portfolio of an experienced photographer who has been in trade since 12-15 years, it’s extremely easy for the uninitiated to think that, making images in nature is extremely easy. This is incorrect. A decade spent in making those images is not a small time. People forget the sacrifices done behind the scenes. There are instances where I have seen people forego personal possessions for art and bigger aspirations.

I have seen people starting off with zest and later falling apart after few months. There can be several reasons for not being able to continue the craft. If one is serious about the process of ‘making images’ rather than ‘taking pictures’, there is no short cut to success except to spend endless hours in the wild patiently, not just photographing but studying and understanding nature and its intricacies better. It would result in a dismal failure if one aims for instant success.

2. Join a community and get feed backs.

Being a part of community gets you an acquintance with lot of aspiring artists and photographers. The joy is always in learning and sharing what you learnt. There are a lot of nature photography forums that you can join, contribute positively and you will reap more returns than from what you put into it.

There are lots of advantages of becoming part of a community. Couple of them includes:
1. You get to know a lot of people, inlcuding the veterans in the community.
2. It would aid people know about upcoming talent in you.

Sharing one’s images in the community and getting feedbacks for improvements is one of the best ways to improve your craft.

3. Stay focussed, do not worry about what others are doing.

This is one common suggestion that I give all the people who constantly write to me asking me one simple question yet the most difficult to answer : “There are lots of photographers out there, how or what difference can I make to make myself known?”.

And my answer to all of them would be to stay focussed on what you are doing and never lose hope. Do not be a photographer just because you want to be famous. There can be serveral other things that you can do to be famous. Why be a photographer?

It is very easy to stray away from the path and get carried away, but, the chances are that, you may end up in a deeper mess. Staying focussed doesn’t mean that you should stop experimenting with your techniques or craft. That would be a grave mistake! By saying ‘stay focussed’ I only only mean that one shouldn’t be too worried about what others are doing. The information propogation these days are fast and abundant. Everyone of us is bombarded with more information than we can process, understand and implement. In such a scenario, it is extremely easy to get carried away by the whims and fancies of your collegue or a friend. What might be a keeper for him/her might not work for you. What might be interesting for him/her might not be interesting for you. What might work for your friend may not work for you. Think that your work is unique and stay focussed on what you intend to do and how you build up rather than changing your strategies frequently.

Filtering of information is the key.

4. Understand the process, create small projects.

As told before, instead of aiming for short term gains, learn to understand the process of photography. Every day is a new day, every experience is a new learning. Make every image unique.

If you have started photography an year back, just open up your archive and start looking at the images right from Shot 01. Evaluate the older shots with the recent ones. Contemplate on basics of composition / exposures and you make a startling discovery that you have improved! This is just an example.

Even your knowledge on the craft and intricacies of behaviour of your subjects would have improved in leaps and bounds. If you have experienced this ever, congratulations! you have a good foundation built. Write them down and start working towards bettering the craft as to how you can take it to the next level. Create small projects for your self and start working towards it. You will soon realise how easy/difficult it is to take it to the completion. It is this very process that would make you a better photographer.

5. Web as a resource.

Who doesn’t use web these days? Its an ocean of information out there. Just a small search on “Nature photography” on google would yield me 40,000,000 results in 0.13 seconds. Such is the power of information. Be it equipment reviews or about the places you intend to visit or basics of exposure and composition, you have some enormous information available for free!

Knowing how to make the most out of these information and information highway effectively is the key to success. Look at the portfolios of hundreds of thousands of photographers and get inspired, write to them if you have questions, network with people and get to know how they make such beautiful images. Learn to appreciate and acknowledge them. There is no stopping if you have passion and drive to do what you want to do.

Learn to tap the power of web.

6. Learn. Not just theory, go out and shoot what you learnt.

As an old adage goes – Knowledge is power. To be a successful photographer, constant learning is the key. Let go off your ego and pride. Be humble and ask questions. It is absolutely OK to ask someone what you don’t know even if you feel it is shameful. It is these barriers that would constrain you from learning. Once you learn something new, don’t just think about the theoretical aspect of it. Go out with your tools and try to execute what you learnt in theory and see if you can attain the results that you expected when you read about it or heard about a particular technique from your friend.

In the process, you might stumble upon something new and may be you discover a better way of doing things. It is these kinds of discoveries that makes you feel accomplished and gets you energy to pursue your quest further. Look for opportunities and challenge yourself with a project. It is absolutely fine even if you fail. You don’t need to care about what the world thinks about you and the failure(s) you encountered. It is better off failing than never trying something new! Be a non-conformist, tread a new path to be unique. It is the experience that counts and not what others think about your failure. It doesn’t matter to them and it doesn’t matter to your either!

Fearing to fail means fearing to succeed!!

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