Shoot or Create More

Ideas of natural talent are being overturned by a focus on practice. Practice makes perfect.
Like many skills, photography requires practice, practice and more practice. Recent research is presenting a convincing case that our old ideas about some people possessing natural talent and genius are wrong. Sure, people may have a natural predisposition in certain directions, such as strong visual skills, but hard work and practice are what makes for success, not just relying on the natural talent. All the evidence is showing that people with some natural talent will not reach their full potential, or even a tiny portion of it, if they do not practice and develop these talents. Likewise, the evidence is showing that even people with no outward signs of extraordinary talent can perform at the highest levels with practice.

Often talked about is the so called 10 year rule, that it takes 10 years of concerted, dedicated effort to excel. This is true in sports, science and the arts. Tiger Woods had a golf club in his hands before he could walk. Researchers go through years of preparation of their undergraduate and doctorial studies before they start doing their life’s work. Most artists don’t make it overnight, though sometimes it can seem like it. What you don’t see are the years of study, learning, practice and poor work that is often destroyed by the artists themselves. Jackson Pollock’s early work is really not very good and would be of no real interest if it wasn’t for Pollock’s later drip paintings, for example.

Others have expressed the idea that there is some number of photographs you need to take before you become any good as a photographer. Some say 10,000, others have said 100,000. It is a similar idea to those in art that suggest you need to do a certain number of drawings or paintings before you are producing good work.

So we should not expect things to come easily or even quickly. We need to be prepared for a sustained and focused effort. The old principle of carrying a camera everywhere you go is not a bad one. If you have a camera with you, you start to see the world through a photographer’s eyes all the time. This means that you will see more interesting subjects to shoot and, in fact, start to see interesting material for your camera where previously you might have walked right past without a second thought. Also, if the ideas of having to take a certain number of pictures is correct then having a camera with you all the time may mean that you get to the magic number more quickly.

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