Throw Away the Pencil

We get better at photography primarily by doing. It’s so important to actually get out into the field and give yourself projects. The learning process is a little like showing someone how to do something with photoshop. They can stand and watch you perform a technique over your shoulder seeing it time and time again, but until they actually do it themselves, they don’t really know the process. Application is the key. This is the Socratic method of teaching, one I believe in more than any other.

I tend to be an analytical person. And this has helped me out on occasion when working with computers and developing strategies that work. Over the past few years, I’ve often gone over in my mind the behavior that I’ve used when taking photographs, then trying to figure out where I went wrong. In so many instances the reasons behind my poor photos kept coming back to one thing: being in a rush.

1.) Making mistakes is all about teaching yourself how to develop strategies that work.
2.) Practice then allows you to reinforce what does work and perform the techniques until they become second nature.

I remember when I was learning Morse code for my advanced ham radio ticket. I started out like everyone did writing each letter down on paper immediately after I heard it. Five words per minute was nothing. Ten was ok. Fifteen was becoming a challenge to keep up. And, for the longest time it became the dreaded “barrier” that I could not get past. Then one day, I came across a paragraph in a magazine article written by some old timer who seemed to know what he was talking about. I’ll never forget it. These few words were the best advice I ever got when learning to be fluent in Morse.

He said, “Throw away your pencil.”

Soon afterwards I was hearing whole words at a time instead of individual letters. It wasn’t long before I could just sit back in my chair and have a conversation in Morse at thirty-five to forty words per minute.

My point here is that developing a strategy for using good technique when taking photos is very important. But even more important is practicing this technique until it becomes totally intuitive and you don’t have to think about it anymore. Why? Because photography is not about being a mechanical robot pushing buttons on the back of your camera. It is about art. It is about creativity and seeing. Get the camera stuff out of the way and free yourself up to be the creative individual that you’ve always wanted to be.

Take your time when learning how to do things properly. Make sure you get it right.

Practice, practice, practice.

Throw away the pencil! Let the artist take over.




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