Shoot Smart

Just because you are creative, it doesn’t mean you have an excuse not to use the rational part of your brain. Photography and art are both intellectual and creative pursuits and benefit greatly from the application of both.
Photography and art are complex and varied disciplines. They are both creative and technical. Depending on the type of photography and art you do, you may be required to understand chemistry, physics, optics, light behavior, thermal characteristics, psychology, business, accounting, web search engine optimization, computers, software, composition, design, color theory, decoration, nature survival skills, mathematics and more and more. This is one of the things I really love about photography and the visual arts in general: you can well exercise both sides of your brain.

So how do you engage the intellect?

Learn, read, study, talk to people and explore. The best photographers are knowledgeable about their art and craft. Be one of them. And don’t just stick to photography. You can learn equally well from artists, sculptors, geologists, in fact anyone and anything.

Depending on your own personality, location and resource, you could make use of training courses at local colleges, workshops and seminars by famous photographers. Just make sure they are not just famous, but also good educators. There is a difference between being able to do something yourself and being able to teach others to. Many learn best by having someone teach you. Mentoring is available in photography, as in many other areas like business; you just need to find the right person. For others, self-directed learning from books, magazines, videos and websites works well. There are also the many website forums dedicated to photography where you can ask questions. Just show respect on these. Make an attempt to educate yourself first and when you do post a question provide as much information as possible so that people can answer it. There is the saying that there is no such thing as a stupid question, only a stupid answer, but on forums you come close sometimes to invalidating this. I am amazed how often you see questions like: ‘What is the best digital camera?’ Best digital camera for what purpose, with what budget and what other criteria matter?

Many institutional galleries will have public talk programs, as will specifically photography-oriented organizations. Professional photography organizations run workshops, talks and get togethers. Camera clubs can be a great place to meet and discuss. Artist groups can be fantastic, as you can learn a lot from artists.

There are myriad books and magazines. Set yourself a reading program. Don’t just stick to the magazines you buy. Go to Borders and look at their magazines over a coffee. Checkout libraries, especially including any university that has a strong photography and art program, and look for magazines you might not normally find, such as overseas ones. If you have photographer friends make use of their personal library.

All the above also apply beyond photography. A backpacking magazine could fire you up for some landscape work. A car magazine could have you off trying panning shooting motor sport or a nature magazine could have you shooting bugs in the back yard. You never know what will have something that is the key to advancing your photography or art.

When you read interviews with famous photographers and artists you generally find they are very knowledgeable people, not only about their craft, but also about other things. There is a reason for this. Imitate them.

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