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Still Photo: Approaching Fine Photography Photography as a visual artform open to any serious picture, where classical photography is the mode of our expression. Open to all! Not curated. For works intended for clients and galleries submit to GALLERY ONE.

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Old December 1st, 2008, 06:56 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Lightbulb Work versus Nature & Nurture: Becoming a Pro Photographer! What exactly does it take?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alain Briot View Post
One thing that you may want to take away from this is that you can't go from beginner to pro overnight. It takes time to develop the necessary experience. I wrote elsewhere that researchers say it takes 10,0000 hours to develop mastery in any field. That's about 20 years at 2 hrs a day and 5 days a week. How often do you practice? They use to say "shoot a roll a day every day". Now it's more difficult to count because flash cards vary in capacity, yet you should work at this everyday, keeping in mind that the more you practice the better you will get. Also, getting advice from from people who are where you want to be is a good idea. And work work work. That's what I do. I work on average 12 to 16 hrs a day on the creative aspects of photography and on marketing my business. It takes that much to succeed. Anything less would let me out cold! THe other pros I know work just as much. It's not specific to me.
Well, Alain,

This might be a European concept, but from my own perspective, I find this like many shared aphorisms, too much of an unexamined statement. To put things in perspective, 3 years at 8 hours per day would mean only 2,920 hours.

Commercial Pilot's license (see learning-to-fly.com) is merely 190-250 hours! Not at all shabby!
Airlines might require 1,500 hours of flight time to get a job. Fighter pilots OTOH are lucky if they do 100 hours a year as they can be limited to about 20 minutes of flight per sortie

I have seen photographers who are trained in far less than a year. That would be about 2,000 hours and I think a talented artist could be trained in far less time. One son of mine shot for Elite and had maybe 100 hours under his belt as a photographer. However, he's grown up in world of photography. His grandfather was a very talented LF practitioner. My boys and I spent hours together walking around the streets doing photography. The cameras? Each had a rectangle with our thumbs and index fingers up to our eyes. It's that developed ability to see that's the beginning an end of photography. In between it's just a matter of easily learned technic and craft, no different than the master chef teaching low paid workers to cook up his recipes, perfectly, each time!

For some unfortunate folk, 10,000 hours would not get them anywhere since they lack vision or are closed to openness to new experience. As much as 10,000 hours sounds impressive to the extent that it really sounds true, I think it is a mistaken concept. It sends people off to too many false tracks.

One can learn as weddding photographer assisting a Pro. Gradually s/he does more and more significant work. If after 40 weddings (8 hours each and that time in editing) plus an extra 400 hours on one's own, ie ~1,000hours, one cannot do a wedding shoot as an independent pro, then one should do something else! I know for a fact that a lot of Wedding Pros started with far less. Now in Europe the rules may be more rigid, but I doubt anyone needs anything like 10,000 hours.

To learn Russian with a Kiev accent would take a person who has an aptitude and full immersion maybe 14 months. That would be 12 hours a day, 30 days a month X 14 months= 5,040 hours.

I just walked around town with an accomplished portrait and glamor photographer. He's never done or even considered architecture or street work. He was so thrilled to be challenged to frame in ways not even contemplated. That made me believe that learning to see is even different going from one field of photography to another. I guess it's because the esthetics and the related cultural imperatives change. This "seeing" might be something that can readily be brought out in a person with artistic gifts. We just need need to be awakened, even for such talented folk.

Then the person would not need much time at all. Maybe 10-300 hours.

Of course, one could go to an art school, then take photography courses, work for an established photographer and end up clocking 10,000 hours, but, like walking from LA to Boston, it's, IMHO, entirely unnecessary!

Asher
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Last edited by Asher Kelman; December 2nd, 2008 at 08:02 PM.
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  #2  
Old December 1st, 2008, 10:56 PM
Kathy Rappaport Kathy Rappaport is offline
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For most occupations, it takes years to master a craft. For any business to succeed it takes effort. For all levels it takes a variety of aptitude and intelligence.

When I first started taking photography classes, it was black and white darkroom work. Not only did I need to learn to use a camera with all new vocabulary of words like aperture and shutter speeds and ASA but also I needed to learn to use an enlarger and learn the chemicals. Today, much of that is replaced with software and another set of vocabulary. Light is the only real constant. The camera of today varies enough with the Yashica of 1970 that I borrowed.

For me the road to where I am was loving viewing the result of using a camera. Snapping away for many years of family photography and one day a new camera for my husband sparked an 8 year road to get here. Every day I learn at least one thing - usually more. I live to go out with my camera and shoot at every opportunity and when I am not doing that, I am doing what certainly provides me the funds to practice my craft.

On top of the skills needed to shoot, measure light, now you need computer skills; Printing is no longer relative to using an enlarger, baths and fix; You need to understand aspect ratios and color matching;

Add to that the business skills needed to be a professional. Professional is a very big word. Marketing and Sales, Customer Relations, Accounting and on and on

I hope the learning never ends. There is always a challenge to the ever changing knowledge needed to be successful at photography.
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Old December 1st, 2008, 11:50 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Kathy,

Now you have the advantage of also being a business and tax consultant! You have really moved from an enthusiast to a pro through hard work, dedication and a lot of talent. Kudos to you!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathy Rappaport View Post
For most occupations, it takes years to master a craft. For any business to succeed it takes effort. For all levels it takes a variety of aptitude and intelligence......
And you have more than needed of both!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathy Rappaport View Post
On top of the skills needed to shoot, measure light,
Again, I agree, since one should be able to measure light to be able to light subjects well, even sometimes with street photography or landscape.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathy Rappaport View Post
now you need computer skills;
Not really. One can hand the CF or SD card to the printshop and they know your style and can do what you require. However, one will pay a lot to have prints that are really different from Walmart prints. I still see wedding photographers using film and their processors are brilliant in handling the colors. Annie Lieberwitz, BTW also users retouch artists. So really one just has to be a talented and effective shooter with a business skills or a manager!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kathy Rappaport View Post
Add to that the business skills needed to be a professional. Professional is a very big word. Marketing and Sales, Customer Relations, Accounting and on and on
See note above! They can hire someone like you!

Asher
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 06:09 AM
Mike Shimwell Mike Shimwell is offline
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I'm with Asher on this one - there is, in my view, a significant difference in the skillset of a musician and that of a photographer. A musician's technical skills are almost entirely proprioreceptive and require much repetitive training to acquire sufficient competence in - albeit less to maintain. This is fundamentally different than photography where the fundamental skills are in seeing - as Asher points out this can and is practiced whenever we notice anything, by choice or by chance - and the technical skills are mechanically far simpler to learn. In fairness, I walk around framing even when I don't have a camera, so maybe I do practice a bit more than would be apparent.

Interpretive skills in both instances develop from within us, and are supported by increasing technical ability. But, I do think the ability to experiment freely withprobably helps us develop these.

In terms of what it takes to be a succesful photographer in any field - that may well depend on how you measure success. I know people with very little experience who shoot and burn staright from camera jpegs for weddings and they have a queue of clients waiting to pay their fees. It's not my style, but they are doing as much work as they want and generating a level of income they are happy with, so it would seem that they have succeeded by their own definition.

Alain's measure is (obviously!!) very different, but it is imporant to remember that, to some extent at least, his success depends to some extent on the 'difficulty of art' as well as the undoubted photographic and business skills and drive he brings to his work.

I should be fair and admit that I would love to have some of Alain's prints on my wall, but wouldn't even give drawer space to the shoot and burn output

Best

Mike

Mike
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 06:56 AM
fahim mohammed fahim mohammed is offline
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How much do you think ' luck' and the 'network' contributes to the success? were the 'bressons' successful because only a few could afford the pastime?

I have seen photos on forums, much better than natgeog,or travel mags. In a crowded marketplace
I think ' luck' also plays a very important role.
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 08:09 AM
Mike Shimwell Mike Shimwell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fahim mohammed View Post
How much do you think ' luck' and the 'network' contributes to the success? were the 'bressons' successful because only a few could afford the pastime?

I have seen photos on forums, much better than natgeog,or travel mags. In a crowded marketplace
I think ' luck' also plays a very important role.

In my view to a far greater extent than is acknowledged by those who 'made their own luck' and to a lesser than is believed by those who view it as being entirely about luck. Of course, in the context of this discussion, making your own luck is much more about business skilss and drive than photographic.

Mike
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 11:18 AM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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Asher, trained in less than a year? I've been working my butt off for 15 months. I have to rethink some things.
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 12:00 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rachel Foster View Post
Asher, trained in less than a year? I've been working my butt off for 15 months. I have to rethink some things.
Hi Rachel,

How many hours a day do you do photography? Two hours a day for 15 months, 5 days a week would be just 750 hours. Double that is 3,000 hours. I cannot imagine it would take more than that to do portraits of kids or adults if that is what you were training to do. I think you could do that by assisting a local photographer for 3 months full time and taking a few local courses. You'd be competent. All your pictures would go to your favorite lab who'd process and print your pictures professionally. There's no need for you to do anything more than look at them in iphoto, Bridge, Bibble or the like. For business and marketing you'd get a person to help you for a reasonable fee.

For landscape, you would perhaps need more vision for that than you have now. Some art books and walks with photographers from your local camera club would allow you to better see what constitutes a scene. If your camera is damaged, it would go back to Canon and you would not spend time trying to figure it out.

However, we all spend so much time on Photoshop and not enough on taking pictures.

Nicolas can build a boat, navigate and sail the oceans and sees the pictures he takes in magazines, books and sales materials exactly as planned. He has the vision. He also knows the mechanics of the camera. He understands what he wants: this color and not another. So he can explain to the printer exactly what he envisions and needs. There's absolutely no need for him to print beyond a small printer. His work is so good that companies pay for printing experts to do that.

Mike Spinak, walking through less traveled country roads, woodlands and climbing hills and mountains, examines plants like a grandmother the faces of each new grandchild she's blessed with. He watches the birds and understands how they ride the currents. So he is able to photograph them very well. He did not take courses in that. He just opened his eyes and looked with his soul and heart.

Others here track the dragonfly, knowing they have a route they patrol. Some are always looking at people in the street and notice children playing or two old women on a bench talking, each about a different subject and try to get that into picture.

All the photographer has to do; the very minimum is to decide what is a great view of what s/he loves, is intrigued by or is compelled to show the world. The cameras today require few skills that are difficult to learn. There's no need to process one's own photographs or even retouch them to get rid of some clutter or even to soften a few wrinkles. The price of these services is trivial in relationship to getting the picture.

It's seeing and not a lot more that makes a photographer. Getting the image is simply technique that fits with your own personality and patience and is won by perseverance.

I would not be hard on yourself, just take more pictures, upload them, print just a few of the very best and use a black marker to notate what youíd like to do better. Show them here and to your family and get feedback. Now go to a museum or gallery and look at pictures that captivate you. Gradually you will acquire your own way of seeing things thatís agreeable.

Nothing to fret about! Itís just an enjoyable journey.

Asher
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 12:21 PM
Matt Suess Matt Suess is offline
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Hi Asher,

The key phrase in what you quoted to start this thread is "researchers say it takes 10,000 hours to develop mastery in any field" and the key word is "mastery" - being at a proficiency level higher than most. And to master a field takes time, education, hard work and lots of practice. Sure you can get a commercial pilot's license in 190-250 hours, or shadow a professional photographer for a little while then soon start booking your own clients. But to become among the best in the field - that is not going to happen overnight...

Matt Suess
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 12:52 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Suess View Post
Hi Asher,

The key phrase in what you quoted to start this thread is "researchers say it takes 10,000 hours to develop mastery in any field" and the key word is "mastery" - being at a proficiency level higher than most. And to master a field takes time, education, hard work and lots of practice. Sure you can get a commercial pilot's license in 190-250 hours, or shadow a professional photographer for a little while then soon start booking your own clients. But to become among the best in the field - that is not going to happen overnight...

Matt Suess
Hi Matt,

You make an excellent point. Of course one can read it like that in "Mastery" and then the researchers might be correct in some spheres of endeavor. Yes, it's fair in a restricted sense but needs more examination to see how it might apply to our photography. Alain brings to us a challenging concept. Now we can examine this need for "10,000 hours of training" for our own needs to be proficient.

I posit that it's"mastery" for us, simply, a more common meaning of learning our tools so well that one can work with skill and as an extension of one's will and needs.

There's also the poetic notion of the "Master", a rare guru, painter or scientist, or a one in a hundred years philosopher or sage who has "mastered" some field of human endeavor beyond almost anyone we can find. Surely we are not pretending to approach that! So let's exclude the people to whom pilgrims flock and in who's honor schools are named. We're just talking about mastering skills one needs to do well and then accomplish one's will.

Talking of masters, otherwise, evokes names like Rembrandt, Einstein, Shakespeare and Alexander the Great. We cannot teach that or expect such accomplishment by 10,000 hours.

There are other "Masters", such as a term in trades like a "Master Furrier". He matches fur a using pelts from a thousand animals sorted by color, texture, hair length and more. He'll make a coat with such beauty that people will pay great sums to flaunt such a work. To achieve this with the matched mink skins, the furrier will makes scores of inverted V-shaped cuts and then the skins will be sown, pulling back each V from the one above and so lengthen the skin and make it more elegant in the coat. To do this does require thousands of hours of apprenticeship and again only a few have the innate aptitude to "master" all the demands of this trade.

Modern, even prize-winning photography does not necessarily require such intense skills today, although for certain tasks it might.

So just what are we actually trying to achieve that needs mastery? There's a mechanical tool in front of us and a vision in our mind. That vision is related to our needs, purpose or fancy. How do we use the camera to engrave what our minds see into a picture to share with others? So we need to "master" the skills needed to accomplish what we wish, nothing more. Often, one is only interested in a limited set of related subjects like wildlife, architecture or people.

One can "master" photography to allow the camera to extend one's reach. One gets to use the camera as a tool to externalize what one sees in one's mind. It's just seeing that's the big task to accomplish, little else is a big challenge. The mechanics can be learned by a teenager in the summer. Only vision, insight, a defined need and practice limit us now! The journey is not hard but one cannot get there if one has no destination in mind!

Asher
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Last edited by Asher Kelman; December 2nd, 2008 at 09:46 PM.
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 01:03 PM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
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Ah, perhaps that has something to do with it. I don't want to only do portrait studies, or only landscapes, or still lifes. I want it all. Yup. I think I see why it's taking me longer.

And yet, each of those areas builds skills that helps other areas. So, it will take longer to "come together" for me, but when it does, I think it will be at a more complete level of expertise than if I focused on only one type.

I realize that those who know a great deal advice find one specialty and stick to it. But I won't be satisfied til I have it all. Looking at it this way may give me more patience.
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 07:28 PM
Michael_Stones Michael_Stones is offline
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I don't buy the argument that 10,000 hours of practice are necessary to gain expertise. The amount of required practice depends on the gifts possessed by an individual, the type of expertise, the cultural/social/historical context, and the facility of the person to transfer related skills. To follow this line of reasoning it's necessary to deconstruct the meaning of expertise.

An expert is understood as someone with acknowledged skill. This interpretation equates expertise with competence. Although most people are competent at skills practiced routinely in everyday life (e.g., driving), use of the term 'expert' usually suggests a higher degree of exclusivity. Experts are not people who are simply competent, but those who consistently exhibit exclusive competence.

There are two types of people that possess exclusive conpetence. First, experts who are normatively exclusive lie at the upper extreme of normal distributions for specified skills (e.g., walking, running, cycling). However, normative expertise also depends upon the population providing the distribution. Running 1,500 meters in six minutes certainly denotes expertise within the overall adult population. But compared to other runners, such a performance might be merely average. Unless that runner was a male aged 80 or a female aged 65, in which case the performance would approximate a world record.

Second, other experts have exclusive skills not possessed by the majority of the population. Using the example of a 6-minute-mile once more, only seasoned race walkers can walk that distance in six minutes because none but race walkers have mastered that effective but peculiar style of walking. Although any racewalker worth his/her salt has normative expertise in walking compared with the general population, only a few are normatively exclusive within the racewalking fraternity.

So do you need 10,000 of practice to acquire exclusive competence? Not Roger Bannister who became the first person to run a mile in 4 minutes back in the 1950s. The culture he belonged to respected 'effortless superiority' with minimal training and derided 'superiority though effort' as exemplified by his arch-rival Landry. Not Fu Mingxia, who had never practiced a complete set of dives before she became part of the Chinese juniors' diving team at age 11 years. Within three years she was both world champion and the youngest Olympic champion to that time. And before anyone says that only exclusively gifted people can gain exclusive competence with so little practice, I'll offer my own humble examples of a USA gold medal and World Cup appearance during a 5-year race walking career that I doubt included 1,000 hours of practice.

Across different fields of expertise, mathematicians and musicians often peak at an early age whereas academics in the humanities do their best work at midlife or later, after years and years of practice. And anyone acquainted with Crick and Watson's modelling of the double helix is probably aware that neither was likely have made that discovery independently nor without a fortuitous viewing of Rosalind Franklin's photographs. The context was more important than the time devoted to solving the problem.

The point I'm trying to make is that the acquistion of expertise varies widely with many factors having more influence than hours of practice.
Cheers
Mike
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Old December 2nd, 2008, 08:50 PM
Will Thompson Will Thompson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alain Briot View Post
Daniel Levitin says that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. He refers primarily to musicians
This mainly pertains to muscle and reflex training and not photography. If it did pertain to photography then there would be a 1000 times more good photographs then there are!
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