Practice, practice, practice

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

I often hear people say: “I take terrible pictures.” When they say that an old joke comes to mind. A tourist happens upon famed violinist Jascha Heifetz on the streets of New York City. The tourist asks him how to get to Carnegie Hall to which Heifetz says to the tourist: “Practice, practice, practice.”

Perhaps it’s the age of instant gratification but some people see that if they can’t do something well right away then they often just give up trying. But doing anything with proficiency takes time and practice. Oh, sure some people may have a particular talent for a skill but it still takes a lot of work to do it well.

We all lead busy lives and I know it’s hard to find the time, but the best way to improve your photography is to get out there and shoot. You can learn about certain techniques and theories by reading books, online articles, taking a class or just asking a more experienced photographer on how to do a specific task, but to really learn how to do something there’s nothing like getting out there in the field and actually doing it.

Don’t worry about making mistakes because you’re going to make a lot, some of the same ones more than once. I know I have. The trick is learning from them. There will sometimes were the your progress seems slow. Don’t get discouraged. Try your best to keep plugging away, for the more you shoot, the better you’ll get. If you do come away with pictures that you like, try to remember what you did right. If not, then you have to ask yourself: “what did I do wrong?” and “what can I do to make the picture better?”

When I was a beginning photo student at Sacramento City College there would be some classroom instruction then I’d go out and shoot an assignment a week for the class. When I moved up to an intermediate level the next year I also joined the staff of the college’s newspaper. That roughly doubled the number of assignments I was shooting and my skills grew even more. In a couple years I got a job as a part-time photographer at a weekly paper in Sacramento. The number and variety of assignments grew even more and my photo skills improved commensurately. In the mid-1980s I landed the job at the Record. I started shooting several assignments each day and my abilities increased exponentially from my previous experiences.

Looking back at beginning of my photography education, my skills were at best amateurish. But through practice and patience I steadily built a fairly successful career in photography. Not everyone wants to become a professional photographer or even an advanced amateur, but even for a casual picture taker the best way to improve your photographic skills is to practice, practice, practice.

This entry was posted in Column, Tips and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form.
  • Categories

  • Archives