4 Lessons Being a Programmer Taught me about Photography

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photography.jpgWhile photography might be where my heart is, I make my money as a computer programmer by day.  At first I thought these were two completely different fields.  One is very mathematical and logical – where your program either works or doesn’t – and you usually know right away which one it is.  The other is more creative and subjective, and it’s hard to know if the photo you took is “right” or “wrong”.

It was because of these differences that I thought my IT background and love of photography combination was a relatively unique one, until I started looking through the professions listed in a number of my flickr contacts, and realized that I’m far from alone.  There are a number of IT-geeks-turned-photographers out there!  So maybe some of you can relate to these things I’ve learned to take from my programming day job and transform into working for me on my photography:

1. Documentation

As far as I’m concerned, undocumented code can never be good code, no matter how well it works.  I feel the same about my photography.  Why is it so important?  So that you know how to duplicate it later if you want to.

I document while I take photos.  The camera does most of the documentation for me with the EXIF data, but there are other things that I write down in the moleskine that I keep in my camera bag – like where I was, what the weather was like, and how I felt about the shoot.  That last one might not seem important, but I find it helpful to know if I was frustrated about certain things or happy about something else – if I know that a certain street downtown was really busy at 4:00 because of the bus schedule, that might make me want to come back at a different time.  If I was happy that

I document while I edit photos.  I think this is even more important. I didn’t used to do this, and I have so many photos that I stare at and I wish I knew how I had edited them.  Now that I’m getting better at documenting as I go, I’m able to duplicate the same effect from one photo to the next. I was also able to start to notice some patterns- which things that I do to almost every photo; which things that look best in portraits; which type of photos look best in black & white, and so on.

2. Trial and Error

Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t some really fantastic logic behind my code. I’m just saying that sometimes, I’m not exactly sure what the outcome of a particular method is going to be.  And so, I run it, and I see what happens.  If the result wasn’t right, I tweak something, and I run it again.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve done the exact same thing with my photos.  In 2008, I did a Self Portrait project – taking a photo of myself every day for the year.  I don’t think I got any of those photos right the first time.  I’d set the timer, run into the shot, and then run back to see how I did, and then tweak something – stand a bit more to the right, hold a prop slightly differently, or adjust something on the camera.

The trial and error applies to editing, too – I have a few favorite “tricks” of mine when it comes to editing photos, and on a photo that I really think has potential, I’ll probably try all of them just to see what looks the best.

3. Searching the Internet for a Solution

I can’t tell you how many times Google has saved the day when a problem arises at work.  Why should I sit and bang my head against the wall trying to figure something out when, most likely, someone else has already figured out how to fix it and written about it online?  The same is true for photography.  The internet has shown me how to use Gimp, helped me determine what lens to buy next, and given me tips on how to shoot into the sun – and more!

Unlike programming, though, the internet has also inspired me. By browsing photos on flickr, and the forums here at DPS, I’ve gotten ideas and inspiration that I never would have even thought to look up.

4. Extreme Programming

Not too long after I started the job I have now, there was a big buzz-word in my field (buzz-phrase, I guess?) called Extreme Programming.  It’s just an exciting way of saying you have more than one person working together.  A programmer left in a bubble might write code that works, but it’s not necessarily the best way it can be writen.  Someone looking over your shoulder can offer suggestions you might not have thought of, or show you a trick to help with your productivity.

I think input from other users is a vital part of improving on your photography. I could sit in a bubble and work on improving my own photography, and it might get better, but until I look around and see what other people are doing – what’s possible to do – I could never reach my full potential.  Interaction with other photographers is a significant part of learning – you can only look up stuff on the internet when you know what it is that you don’t know.  Talking with an expert, though, shows you what it is that you don’t even know that you don’t know!  When you talk with other peers, too, it helps you reinforce the knowledge you have.

So, I’m curious, how has your day job helped you to become a better photographer?

About the Author: Jennifer Jacobs is an amateur photographer who runs iffles.com – a site for photography beginners. She’s also addicted to flickr and you can follow her stream here.

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  • Also: Backups. How important they are, how easy it is for them to be broken, and how important it is to have a broad, consistent backup strategy.

  • Willie Coyote

    What I learned about programing and photography:

    – I spend too much time in my computer.
    -Photography is way better
    -You can’t take photos while you are infront of the monitor looking for ways to improve lens sharpness and pixel count.
    -No matter how good you planed your photography session… there is always an uninvited pigeon taking a dump on the brides dress. FAIL!
    -I spend way too much time on my computer…

  • Ed V.

    Thanks Jennifer, this was a welcome read. I’m a mechanical engineer by profession and I’m still searching for what it is I like about photography. Maybe because it’s so far removed from the daily grind. Either that or I’m just a gearhead with an excuse…

  • Jennifer,

    I really like your post! You have got me to really think about this. I too am in IT as my day job (infrastructure servers, etc) and have been wondering how to take my day job’s good points (few and far between anymore) and apply those to my photography.

    I can sum it up succinctly, IT fails because it’s disorganized and mismanaged. I aim to NOT do that with my photography 🙂

  • Jesse Kaufman

    @willie coyote lol great comments! i completely agree … with doing programming and web design for my day job and photography when i’m not at work, i spend WAY too much time on my computer!

  • I’m an electrical engineer myself, and I’m surprised you didn’t mention that people who do IT or engineering work are naturally more curious about the technical aspects of photography.

    I imagine there are a lot of people who have the artistic capability to be an amazing photographer, but are intimidated by the advanced concepts that a technically-minded person can more readily understand.

  • victa

    Sounds familiar! Its been like 3+ yrs since my last visit to Hawaii and I decided thereafter to get ‘serious’ on photography. Like many of my endeavors, it started on a fervent pitch only to diminish in a few months…not because of fading passion but because of my techie work. And yes, although I’m in the mid level management now, I started as a programmer many eons ago.

    Also:
    -organized your photos in a systematic way to facilitate quick & easy search.
    -a good naming convention of folders and file names.
    -a good depository of originals.

  • @Joe Decker – oh man, that’s a great one that I didn’t think of!

    @willie coyote – also good points, though luckily I’ve never had to deal with the pigeon one 🙂

    @Caroline – yet another excellent point I didn’t think of!

  • Jesse Kaufman

    “So that you know how to duplicate it later if you want to.”

    or, it seems to me, the more often case: “so you don’t make the same mistake again next time” 😉

  • Richard Taylor

    I am now retired however I spent years as a tech fixing telephone exchanges etc so camera technology and software did not faze me at all.

  • You might be surprised at just how much applied discipline and organisation is a part of the creative process! I came from the other spectrum: Fine Arts and Photography into IT and back to photography. And it was my artistic training that helped. There’s a reason why Art Schools teach one to respect and understand the tools used. Knowing how to use a tool, and developing good work habits, helps free up the creative without the distraction of not using available tools to the best ability. And that’s when the fun starts. The best way to break the rules is to know and understand them first. And that definitely applies to photography. Nice Blog!

  • Philip

    Thanks for the article! I’m a programmer too and I always saw photography as a counter-weight to programming, for relaxing and getting outside. Now I know that both fields are actually connected. Especially to documentation part is so true. I bought a paper notebook (sad that you have to write *paper* notebook these days) recently but I didn’t put it to good use yet.
    Thanks again, great article!

  • I’m a computer programmer too… and like someone said… I found myself many time front in front of the computer. The photography it’s a good way of took my inspiration off the closet. Not only photography but other type of art.

    Like programming… it’s pratice, try, error… read… make a lot is always full of fun. By default I store all my photo walk, even the “not wanted” photography… all mistakes. Maybe I can made a useful thing of them, but one of the most important reason, like in coding… it is the possibility to go back and see where are the weak and strong points to do better…

    It’s constant learning!

  • I would agree with everything except for when you said a program is either wrong or right. Programming is an art (and no I’m not talking about interfaces). A piece of code can be written a million different ways with different optimizations in each. I have been trying to convince people of the beauty of programming for ages.

    By the way, I think that backing up and documentation are the two most important lessons learned from programming for me.

  • No matter how much you plan, things will never go exactly as you plan in photography. Planning too much means you have less time to shoot.. so, plan enough, but not overly.

  • Anyone from any kind of profession can or may have an interest in photography. Doesn’t mean a scientist cannot be a good photographer.

    I am someone who works with facts and figures but I enjoy photography.

  • Graham

    I’m another IT-er… and funnily enough – it was the advent of digital photography that pulled me back after 20 years of ‘snapping’. I think it is the technical side of photography that interests me most – I’m certainly not overly creative or artsy. So I find I’m approaching each photo logically and breaking it down into problems – just like my day job… want DOF so use large aperture, high speed moving subject so pan the camera….

    Just like my day job, while I can design a system that meets functional requirements, it may not always look pretty – the same is true with my photos – exposed well but composition often lacking 😀

    I spend way too much time on my PC (according to my wife – LOL) but if I’m not out taking photos, that’s just where I want to be.

  • I, too, am from a technology perspective rather than a creative one, in general. I’m fortunate, however, that a large part of my role as educational technologist involves media–and I take advantage of opportunities to take pictures!

    I do have a question, based upon this post. I’ve been wanting to do more documentation of my editing process, but I don’t want to make it wind up taking more time than the editing! What is your documentation process? Where do you store it–with the edited photo or with the original? I really need to improve my workflow, so any advice would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

  • I’m a technology strategist / Enterprise Architect (and I frequently work with programmers). I really appreciate your viewpoint. it kind’a sums it up. I would build on your #4 One of the other things that XP or any of the other “agile” methods prepares you for is dealing in the abstract, You don’t always have a concrete set of requirements.

    When you move into the realm of strategy that’s really all you have is a set of ambitions, possibly constraints and prejudices, with very little else to work from. It’s a great lesson for how to approach photography:

  • (got cut off)

    1. have set of goals even if you don’t have a plan (an understanding of what you’re trying to communicate)
    2. work with what you got. Just like in the strategy business, you are surrounded by environmental factors. any idiot can make a great strategy (or photograph) with complete control over every factor, true genius comes from creating something impactful with what you got.
    3. Refine your vision iteratively, and be prepared to accept an iteration that wasn’t exactly as you thought or intended, but turned out awesome. Brilliance is often that a well planned accident.

  • I couldn’t agree more with you! I’m a photography loving IT geek too, hehe! Nice post! 🙂

  • DM|ZE

    I too am in IT… in my shop (Public School) I were many hats. I agree with Caroline, I think us geeks are more interested in the technical aspects of photography but at the same time the creative side of it. Techie stuff is mostly cut and dry, photography is open to interpretation. I also agree that I spend way to much time reading about photography and post-processing and not enough time putting it to practice. Thanks for the article and I love your blog, I’ve been reading it a lot lately.

  • botack

    I am in IT too and one thing I learnt from my day job is that you need to know the strength and weakness of the tool you use. You can push it to the limit, but at some point you should evaluate other options. The same thing applies for the lens choices to use, the software to use for post-processing, flashes, etc.

    And as always in programming, you get better with practices and you never stop learning.

    Thanks for the article.

  • This article really hits the nail. I am myself an IT Engineer by education and have always loved photography. For the past 5 years I have taken photography seriously and everysingle point you mention applied to me too.

    But what surprised me most during these 5 years is the incredible amount of photographers I met, especially in the microstock area, which also had a background in IT. It really surprised me.

    Thats why I like this article, because it kind of describes clearly what I had been observing without understanding all along.

    Cheer and happy christmas!
    Luis

  • joe

    interesting article which gives a different view and response from another group of photographers,
    can not say I can relate to their views, seems to me they are technically photo “bound” before they actually get the camera out of their bags. Heck,photography to me is a way of relating a scene at the given time you actually decided to take the shot, be it with any reservations to your equipment.
    I guess that’s how I enjoy my Photography especially now you can video record the areas you have visited. a quick video shot viewed on my return to base always brings back moments I have enjoyed.Sure you can analyze,organize and alter certain aspects to that “shot” but to me the most important part of photography is to take that shot feeling that in some ways a part of yourself is there.

  • well my work has helped me improve my photography no end.

    the boredom allows me to spend endless hours seeking inspiration on flickr as well as improving my technical skills by reading site like this!

  • Leandro

    Programmer here too. I agree with Edward: good programming is an art, I see it that way, I don’t see it as a mechanical/mathematical discipline at all. In fact, sometimes to write a piece of code (or to read someone else’s) gives me the kind of aesthetic satisfaction I get from looking at a painting, a photography, or playing the piano.
    But on the other hand, I knew several programmers who are photographers too, and art is not the most important thing for them. More often than not, I see them very interested in the technical aspects of photography: the like to think on lens and camera models, they like brands, they like whatever is in the camera and off its USB cable: memories, firmware, editing software, image formats, Gaussian algorithms, HDR processing, you name it. They seldom think on what’s behind the camera, even behind the eye, downwards the brain: sure they know how to make a proper composition, how to perfectly measure the incoming light, but in a geeky way: they don’t know the first thing about how Vermeer or Rembrandt understood the light, they watch Matrix instead of knowing who is Christopher Doyle, when it comes to books they usually prefer Ballard and Asimov to Kafka or Joyce.
    I’m not saying that’s right or wrong: it’s more a pattern I see in my fellow programmers who also take photographs. Just my two cents.

  • jonathan parker

    hi, im a programmer as well, and i second your thoughts, i think that applying my mentality when working to my photography has helped me immensely…after a while i began to apply the same problem solving faculties to a photograph…nice write up, glad to see there are many of us out there!

  • David Lasdon

    I am a retired programmer and have taken up photography precisely because it is non-technical in composition and execution. although I understand to the minutest detail how the lenses and cameras work, I am in the dark about artistic creativity. I have decide to use the other (non-technical) part of my brain for a change.

    P.S. Loved your article.

  • Nice to know your story Jennifer. Actually, I don’t probably agree entirely with your ideas… But to each their own!! 🙂
    If you asked me, it’s again a totally different story, but what important is, are you taking something back to learn from everything you do…

    I’ll probably tag you on Flickr, you’ve got some amazing shots.. Seems like a long journey from the start!

  • Brantley

    I’m a Network Engineer by trade, but this year I purchased my first DSLR and I have completely fallen in love with photography. I agree with all the points made here today. I enjoy digital photography because it is technical, but also the artistic side of this is what I enjoy the most. I can share my network diagrams and plans with only a limited audience, but my photos I can share with many more people who will enjoy and appreciate them.

    Being a good network engineer requires good vision to how you want your network to work, but also you have to understand limitations and best practices while you are working with your design and building it out. I can apply this to digital photography as well. You have to have a “vision” to what you want to show the viewers on your photographs, but have to know the tools to get it right!

  • James Ellis

    Hi,
    I’m a land rural land surveyor and my camera is always with me. Some of my favorite shots were taken while working. Since surveying involves a lot of computer work, I tend to work on a survey plat then work on a picture, then go back to a plat. Also Autocad (for surveying) and PS (for photography) are somewhat similar and sometimes I use one to help the other.

  • Kermicito

    Man, you’re right – there are lots of us IT-by-day photographers out there, aren’t there?

    I’m a business analyst and project manager by trade, and the planning for a photo gig is directly improved by my organization and planning skills I use at work. It also helps me think ahead and try to foresee the obstacles that could happen. Even if you can’t prevent the pigeon from pooping on the bride… 🙂

    Thanks for the great article!

  • I really enjoyed reading this!

    I’m a graphic designer, but I’ve also dabbled in a LITTLE programming, and I find that my of the photographers that I look up to on Flickr or across the internet are either programmers or graphic designers.

    Maybe it’s just that people who enjoy photography and the visual aspect of it also enjoy designing or programming. I love it all!

  • I like your post. I am a programmer at the day, working an 8-5 job. I am also into photography. It is my hobby and I want to be good at it. I guess there are similarities.

  • I really enjoyed your article and the points you make about photography. I also have a notebook in my camera bag. It is a sketchbook and pencil and I use it to add to the photos I take.

  • Glenelg

    This is exactly like me, i am a programmer too and “whats a Programmer” without a notebook to jot down anything. it makes a lot of sense. i love this post. these 2 fields really complement each other.

    i think the same way i make my code neat, “clean” and easy to work with, my photography can take the same route too by engaging the same culture.

    Thanks

  • thanks jenifer, i am in IT also, as system analyst, always fighting for the time of works, very stressfull but i found out that this expensive hobby will make me different. I started my interest in photography when I accidentally attended seminar, “Introduction of Photography” in 2006, and after that I bought my first point and shoot digital camera, but I did little use of it and just taking pictures occasionally. Lately, I found myself that my small skills in photography was not improved and my interest was slowly deteriorating until I met my friend, he help and guide me to this hobby. I got my first DLSR Cannon 50D… and started recalling my initial knowledge, and tried to study technically of my camera, attended some seminars, and went some photo shooting with my friends. I started sharing my photos, then as long as i time i do shooting, it was very expensive hobby and gradually it swallowing your spare times for shooting to do more practice and to improve the skills. also, we need to document and have a proper backups.

  • I have to say that I had the same issues you had when I started picking photography (not too long ago). Being an engineer by profession, I am very objective. It was a big challenge for me to start being subjective. I’ll give you an example, when I edit my photos, the changed parameters have to be easily divisible figures e.g. 5, 10, 15, 2 4, 6, 8, etc. I still haven’t fully overcome that though. 🙂

    Thanks for your article. I especially liked the “documentation” section. In fact, I think it would be a good project to post the photos and documented thoughts on a blog. I plan to try that out. So stay tuned to my blog at: http://www.shutteria.com

  • “Never forget why you started taking pictures in the first place. Excellent technique is a great tool, but a terrible end product. The best thing your technique can do is not call attention to itself. Never let your technique upstage your subject.” – Cheryl Jacobs

  • shellcode

    Hello,

    I just wanted to say I’m an analyst/programmer too and I agree entirely with the analogy =] Just one little thing though… Didn’t you want to say “Peer Programming” instead of “Extreme Programming”?

    Best regards and thank you for the article!

  • Isn’t amazing how many of us have art/technical backgrounds, and how art and technology goes hand in hand.
    always did!

    It was the artist/engineer who built the Pyramids, dug canals, crossed rivers, streams and continents.

    I am also from an engineering background! I did not find it strange then to combine art classes with my drafting & design and math classes, and still don’t.

    And it was engineering that lead me to photography.

  • Just received the news letter great work.keep it up.will be back to your web site many times,Thank you.

  • Anas

    200% sure about Google part, it does help a lot

  • viejomiguel

    Well, I don’t know how you techies ever imagined that your jobs worked against you. I’ve been a carpenter for 40 plus years (though i did attend university for a science degree), and just entered the tech world four years ago when I bought a computer and dSLR camera. I’m used to being able to solve most problems with a sharp blade and a precisely placed hammer blow. As was once said, “Violence and technology, not good bedfellows!”. Plus, precise planning leads to desired results (being whimsical in construction leads to expensive disasters). I really love the spontaneous side of art and photography, but it is definitely a shift in gears for me. Thanks for the comments on keeping notes.

  • Priest

    Wow, thanks for that!!! I am new to DPS and what great timing! I am(was) a computer programmer and really enjoy photography and videoing so much more, that now I am teaching in this field in our Middle school!!! Glad to see I am not alone with the passion! I agree that having the IT degree and background has helped me gain some ground in this field of teaching! What pleasure I have in sharing my passion for photography with the next gen!! And our next gen is more tech savy than us old folgies! Thanks for all the great ideas on you website also!

  • Programmer/DBA here. You’re right about Google. In fact while working on my MS degree we had to write a paper on our top 10 development practices. One of mine was “If you can’t find the answer on Google you’re taking the wrong approach” 🙂 I do need to document my photography more. I’ve taken several shots out in the field where I’ve tried different settings thinking the differences would be obvious when I got home and looked at them later in LightRoom — wrong!

  • Thanks for the post. I just wanted to clarify that you are talking about Pair Programming, and not Extreme Programming as a whole. Pairing is just on facet of XP.

  • Jake Tenenbaum

    Moleskine? Really? You couldn’t just say “notebook?” Look, a person reading your article shouldn’t have to go google a word LIKE THIS from anywhere in an article of this nature. There’s no nice way to say this: It’s name dropping, and no one really cares that you buy expensive notebooks instead of something from Target. Dude, seriously, it’s just a notebook.

Some Older Comments

  • Hemant J. Naidu January 10, 2010 06:26 am

    Thanks for the post. I just wanted to clarify that you are talking about Pair Programming, and not Extreme Programming as a whole. Pairing is just on facet of XP.

  • Zack Jones December 29, 2009 07:07 am

    Programmer/DBA here. You're right about Google. In fact while working on my MS degree we had to write a paper on our top 10 development practices. One of mine was "If you can't find the answer on Google you're taking the wrong approach" :) I do need to document my photography more. I've taken several shots out in the field where I've tried different settings thinking the differences would be obvious when I got home and looked at them later in LightRoom -- wrong!

  • Priest December 29, 2009 04:44 am

    Wow, thanks for that!!! I am new to DPS and what great timing! I am(was) a computer programmer and really enjoy photography and videoing so much more, that now I am teaching in this field in our Middle school!!! Glad to see I am not alone with the passion! I agree that having the IT degree and background has helped me gain some ground in this field of teaching! What pleasure I have in sharing my passion for photography with the next gen!! And our next gen is more tech savy than us old folgies! Thanks for all the great ideas on you website also!

  • viejomiguel December 27, 2009 09:02 am

    Well, I don't know how you techies ever imagined that your jobs worked against you. I've been a carpenter for 40 plus years (though i did attend university for a science degree), and just entered the tech world four years ago when I bought a computer and dSLR camera. I'm used to being able to solve most problems with a sharp blade and a precisely placed hammer blow. As was once said, "Violence and technology, not good bedfellows!". Plus, precise planning leads to desired results (being whimsical in construction leads to expensive disasters). I really love the spontaneous side of art and photography, but it is definitely a shift in gears for me. Thanks for the comments on keeping notes.

  • Anas December 26, 2009 12:05 am

    200% sure about Google part, it does help a lot

  • keith December 25, 2009 05:23 pm

    Just received the news letter great work.keep it up.will be back to your web site many times,Thank you.

  • starrpoint December 25, 2009 06:03 am

    Isn't amazing how many of us have art/technical backgrounds, and how art and technology goes hand in hand.
    always did!

    It was the artist/engineer who built the Pyramids, dug canals, crossed rivers, streams and continents.

    I am also from an engineering background! I did not find it strange then to combine art classes with my drafting & design and math classes, and still don't.

    And it was engineering that lead me to photography.

  • shellcode December 24, 2009 09:17 pm

    Hello,

    I just wanted to say I'm an analyst/programmer too and I agree entirely with the analogy =] Just one little thing though... Didn't you want to say "Peer Programming" instead of "Extreme Programming"?

    Best regards and thank you for the article!

  • CyberGus December 24, 2009 06:00 pm

    "Never forget why you started taking pictures in the first place. Excellent technique is a great tool, but a terrible end product. The best thing your technique can do is not call attention to itself. Never let your technique upstage your subject." - Cheryl Jacobs

  • Joel December 24, 2009 05:54 pm

    I have to say that I had the same issues you had when I started picking photography (not too long ago). Being an engineer by profession, I am very objective. It was a big challenge for me to start being subjective. I'll give you an example, when I edit my photos, the changed parameters have to be easily divisible figures e.g. 5, 10, 15, 2 4, 6, 8, etc. I still haven't fully overcome that though. :-)

    Thanks for your article. I especially liked the "documentation" section. In fact, I think it would be a good project to post the photos and documented thoughts on a blog. I plan to try that out. So stay tuned to my blog at: http://www.shutteria.com

  • Zosi Noriega December 24, 2009 05:20 pm

    thanks jenifer, i am in IT also, as system analyst, always fighting for the time of works, very stressfull but i found out that this expensive hobby will make me different. I started my interest in photography when I accidentally attended seminar, “Introduction of Photography” in 2006, and after that I bought my first point and shoot digital camera, but I did little use of it and just taking pictures occasionally. Lately, I found myself that my small skills in photography was not improved and my interest was slowly deteriorating until I met my friend, he help and guide me to this hobby. I got my first DLSR Cannon 50D... and started recalling my initial knowledge, and tried to study technically of my camera, attended some seminars, and went some photo shooting with my friends. I started sharing my photos, then as long as i time i do shooting, it was very expensive hobby and gradually it swallowing your spare times for shooting to do more practice and to improve the skills. also, we need to document and have a proper backups.

  • Glenelg December 24, 2009 04:46 pm

    This is exactly like me, i am a programmer too and "whats a Programmer" without a notebook to jot down anything. it makes a lot of sense. i love this post. these 2 fields really complement each other.

    i think the same way i make my code neat, "clean" and easy to work with, my photography can take the same route too by engaging the same culture.

    Thanks

  • starrpoint December 24, 2009 02:53 pm

    I really enjoyed your article and the points you make about photography. I also have a notebook in my camera bag. It is a sketchbook and pencil and I use it to add to the photos I take.

  • organic baby crib December 24, 2009 12:02 pm

    I like your post. I am a programmer at the day, working an 8-5 job. I am also into photography. It is my hobby and I want to be good at it. I guess there are similarities.

  • Catherine December 24, 2009 07:50 am

    I really enjoyed reading this!

    I'm a graphic designer, but I've also dabbled in a LITTLE programming, and I find that my of the photographers that I look up to on Flickr or across the internet are either programmers or graphic designers.

    Maybe it's just that people who enjoy photography and the visual aspect of it also enjoy designing or programming. I love it all!

  • Kermicito December 24, 2009 05:23 am

    Man, you're right - there are lots of us IT-by-day photographers out there, aren't there?

    I'm a business analyst and project manager by trade, and the planning for a photo gig is directly improved by my organization and planning skills I use at work. It also helps me think ahead and try to foresee the obstacles that could happen. Even if you can't prevent the pigeon from pooping on the bride... :)

    Thanks for the great article!

  • James Ellis December 24, 2009 03:36 am

    Hi,
    I'm a land rural land surveyor and my camera is always with me. Some of my favorite shots were taken while working. Since surveying involves a lot of computer work, I tend to work on a survey plat then work on a picture, then go back to a plat. Also Autocad (for surveying) and PS (for photography) are somewhat similar and sometimes I use one to help the other.

  • Brantley December 24, 2009 03:31 am

    I'm a Network Engineer by trade, but this year I purchased my first DSLR and I have completely fallen in love with photography. I agree with all the points made here today. I enjoy digital photography because it is technical, but also the artistic side of this is what I enjoy the most. I can share my network diagrams and plans with only a limited audience, but my photos I can share with many more people who will enjoy and appreciate them.

    Being a good network engineer requires good vision to how you want your network to work, but also you have to understand limitations and best practices while you are working with your design and building it out. I can apply this to digital photography as well. You have to have a "vision" to what you want to show the viewers on your photographs, but have to know the tools to get it right!

  • Arun December 24, 2009 02:08 am

    Nice to know your story Jennifer. Actually, I don't probably agree entirely with your ideas... But to each their own!! :)
    If you asked me, it's again a totally different story, but what important is, are you taking something back to learn from everything you do...

    I'll probably tag you on Flickr, you've got some amazing shots.. Seems like a long journey from the start!

  • David Lasdon December 24, 2009 12:52 am

    I am a retired programmer and have taken up photography precisely because it is non-technical in composition and execution. although I understand to the minutest detail how the lenses and cameras work, I am in the dark about artistic creativity. I have decide to use the other (non-technical) part of my brain for a change.

    P.S. Loved your article.

  • jonathan parker December 23, 2009 11:40 pm

    hi, im a programmer as well, and i second your thoughts, i think that applying my mentality when working to my photography has helped me immensely...after a while i began to apply the same problem solving faculties to a photograph...nice write up, glad to see there are many of us out there!

  • Leandro December 23, 2009 11:18 pm

    Programmer here too. I agree with Edward: good programming is an art, I see it that way, I don't see it as a mechanical/mathematical discipline at all. In fact, sometimes to write a piece of code (or to read someone else's) gives me the kind of aesthetic satisfaction I get from looking at a painting, a photography, or playing the piano.
    But on the other hand, I knew several programmers who are photographers too, and art is not the most important thing for them. More often than not, I see them very interested in the technical aspects of photography: the like to think on lens and camera models, they like brands, they like whatever is in the camera and off its USB cable: memories, firmware, editing software, image formats, Gaussian algorithms, HDR processing, you name it. They seldom think on what's behind the camera, even behind the eye, downwards the brain: sure they know how to make a proper composition, how to perfectly measure the incoming light, but in a geeky way: they don't know the first thing about how Vermeer or Rembrandt understood the light, they watch Matrix instead of knowing who is Christopher Doyle, when it comes to books they usually prefer Ballard and Asimov to Kafka or Joyce.
    I'm not saying that's right or wrong: it's more a pattern I see in my fellow programmers who also take photographs. Just my two cents.

  • James K December 23, 2009 11:04 pm

    well my work has helped me improve my photography no end.

    the boredom allows me to spend endless hours seeking inspiration on flickr as well as improving my technical skills by reading site like this!

  • joe December 23, 2009 09:23 pm

    interesting article which gives a different view and response from another group of photographers,
    can not say I can relate to their views, seems to me they are technically photo "bound" before they actually get the camera out of their bags. Heck,photography to me is a way of relating a scene at the given time you actually decided to take the shot, be it with any reservations to your equipment.
    I guess that's how I enjoy my Photography especially now you can video record the areas you have visited. a quick video shot viewed on my return to base always brings back moments I have enjoyed.Sure you can analyze,organize and alter certain aspects to that "shot" but to me the most important part of photography is to take that shot feeling that in some ways a part of yourself is there.

  • Luis Alvarez December 23, 2009 08:36 pm

    This article really hits the nail. I am myself an IT Engineer by education and have always loved photography. For the past 5 years I have taken photography seriously and everysingle point you mention applied to me too.

    But what surprised me most during these 5 years is the incredible amount of photographers I met, especially in the microstock area, which also had a background in IT. It really surprised me.

    Thats why I like this article, because it kind of describes clearly what I had been observing without understanding all along.

    Cheer and happy christmas!
    Luis

  • botack December 23, 2009 04:36 pm

    I am in IT too and one thing I learnt from my day job is that you need to know the strength and weakness of the tool you use. You can push it to the limit, but at some point you should evaluate other options. The same thing applies for the lens choices to use, the software to use for post-processing, flashes, etc.

    And as always in programming, you get better with practices and you never stop learning.

    Thanks for the article.

  • DM|ZE December 23, 2009 12:11 pm

    I too am in IT... in my shop (Public School) I were many hats. I agree with Caroline, I think us geeks are more interested in the technical aspects of photography but at the same time the creative side of it. Techie stuff is mostly cut and dry, photography is open to interpretation. I also agree that I spend way to much time reading about photography and post-processing and not enough time putting it to practice. Thanks for the article and I love your blog, I've been reading it a lot lately.

  • Federico December 23, 2009 12:00 pm

    I couldn't agree more with you! I'm a photography loving IT geek too, hehe! Nice post! :)

  • Leigh McMullen December 23, 2009 11:24 am

    (got cut off)

    1. have set of goals even if you don't have a plan (an understanding of what you're trying to communicate)
    2. work with what you got. Just like in the strategy business, you are surrounded by environmental factors. any idiot can make a great strategy (or photograph) with complete control over every factor, true genius comes from creating something impactful with what you got.
    3. Refine your vision iteratively, and be prepared to accept an iteration that wasn't exactly as you thought or intended, but turned out awesome. Brilliance is often that a well planned accident.

  • Leigh McMullen December 23, 2009 11:19 am

    I'm a technology strategist / Enterprise Architect (and I frequently work with programmers). I really appreciate your viewpoint. it kind'a sums it up. I would build on your #4 One of the other things that XP or any of the other "agile" methods prepares you for is dealing in the abstract, You don't always have a concrete set of requirements.

    When you move into the realm of strategy that's really all you have is a set of ambitions, possibly constraints and prejudices, with very little else to work from. It's a great lesson for how to approach photography:

  • DigiLaura December 23, 2009 11:13 am

    I, too, am from a technology perspective rather than a creative one, in general. I'm fortunate, however, that a large part of my role as educational technologist involves media--and I take advantage of opportunities to take pictures!

    I do have a question, based upon this post. I've been wanting to do more documentation of my editing process, but I don't want to make it wind up taking more time than the editing! What is your documentation process? Where do you store it--with the edited photo or with the original? I really need to improve my workflow, so any advice would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

  • Graham December 23, 2009 11:11 am

    I'm another IT-er... and funnily enough - it was the advent of digital photography that pulled me back after 20 years of 'snapping'. I think it is the technical side of photography that interests me most - I'm certainly not overly creative or artsy. So I find I'm approaching each photo logically and breaking it down into problems - just like my day job... want DOF so use large aperture, high speed moving subject so pan the camera....

    Just like my day job, while I can design a system that meets functional requirements, it may not always look pretty - the same is true with my photos - exposed well but composition often lacking :-D

    I spend way too much time on my PC (according to my wife - LOL) but if I'm not out taking photos, that's just where I want to be.

  • Mei Teng December 23, 2009 10:19 am

    Anyone from any kind of profession can or may have an interest in photography. Doesn't mean a scientist cannot be a good photographer.

    I am someone who works with facts and figures but I enjoy photography.

  • CanonRebelz December 23, 2009 08:55 am

    No matter how much you plan, things will never go exactly as you plan in photography. Planning too much means you have less time to shoot.. so, plan enough, but not overly.

  • Edward December 23, 2009 08:48 am

    I would agree with everything except for when you said a program is either wrong or right. Programming is an art (and no I'm not talking about interfaces). A piece of code can be written a million different ways with different optimizations in each. I have been trying to convince people of the beauty of programming for ages.

    By the way, I think that backing up and documentation are the two most important lessons learned from programming for me.

  • Daniel Bento December 23, 2009 08:31 am

    I'm a computer programmer too... and like someone said... I found myself many time front in front of the computer. The photography it's a good way of took my inspiration off the closet. Not only photography but other type of art.

    Like programming... it's pratice, try, error... read... make a lot is always full of fun. By default I store all my photo walk, even the "not wanted" photography... all mistakes. Maybe I can made a useful thing of them, but one of the most important reason, like in coding... it is the possibility to go back and see where are the weak and strong points to do better...

    It's constant learning!

  • Philip December 23, 2009 08:11 am

    Thanks for the article! I'm a programmer too and I always saw photography as a counter-weight to programming, for relaxing and getting outside. Now I know that both fields are actually connected. Especially to documentation part is so true. I bought a paper notebook (sad that you have to write *paper* notebook these days) recently but I didn't put it to good use yet.
    Thanks again, great article!

  • SusanG December 23, 2009 08:10 am

    You might be surprised at just how much applied discipline and organisation is a part of the creative process! I came from the other spectrum: Fine Arts and Photography into IT and back to photography. And it was my artistic training that helped. There's a reason why Art Schools teach one to respect and understand the tools used. Knowing how to use a tool, and developing good work habits, helps free up the creative without the distraction of not using available tools to the best ability. And that's when the fun starts. The best way to break the rules is to know and understand them first. And that definitely applies to photography. Nice Blog!

  • Richard Taylor December 23, 2009 07:56 am

    I am now retired however I spent years as a tech fixing telephone exchanges etc so camera technology and software did not faze me at all.

  • Jesse Kaufman December 23, 2009 07:43 am

    "So that you know how to duplicate it later if you want to."

    or, it seems to me, the more often case: "so you don't make the same mistake again next time" ;)

  • Jennifer December 23, 2009 07:39 am

    @Joe Decker - oh man, that's a great one that I didn't think of!

    @willie coyote - also good points, though luckily I've never had to deal with the pigeon one :)

    @Caroline - yet another excellent point I didn't think of!

  • victa December 23, 2009 07:31 am

    Sounds familiar! Its been like 3+ yrs since my last visit to Hawaii and I decided thereafter to get 'serious' on photography. Like many of my endeavors, it started on a fervent pitch only to diminish in a few months...not because of fading passion but because of my techie work. And yes, although I'm in the mid level management now, I started as a programmer many eons ago.

    Also:
    -organized your photos in a systematic way to facilitate quick & easy search.
    -a good naming convention of folders and file names.
    -a good depository of originals.

  • Caroline December 23, 2009 07:18 am

    I'm an electrical engineer myself, and I'm surprised you didn't mention that people who do IT or engineering work are naturally more curious about the technical aspects of photography.

    I imagine there are a lot of people who have the artistic capability to be an amazing photographer, but are intimidated by the advanced concepts that a technically-minded person can more readily understand.

  • Jesse Kaufman December 23, 2009 07:13 am

    @willie coyote lol great comments! i completely agree ... with doing programming and web design for my day job and photography when i'm not at work, i spend WAY too much time on my computer!

  • DantePasquale December 23, 2009 07:06 am

    Jennifer,

    I really like your post! You have got me to really think about this. I too am in IT as my day job (infrastructure servers, etc) and have been wondering how to take my day job's good points (few and far between anymore) and apply those to my photography.

    I can sum it up succinctly, IT fails because it's disorganized and mismanaged. I aim to NOT do that with my photography :)

  • Ed V. December 23, 2009 06:45 am

    Thanks Jennifer, this was a welcome read. I'm a mechanical engineer by profession and I'm still searching for what it is I like about photography. Maybe because it's so far removed from the daily grind. Either that or I'm just a gearhead with an excuse...

  • Willie Coyote December 23, 2009 06:31 am

    What I learned about programing and photography:

    - I spend too much time in my computer.
    -Photography is way better
    -You can't take photos while you are infront of the monitor looking for ways to improve lens sharpness and pixel count.
    -No matter how good you planed your photography session... there is always an uninvited pigeon taking a dump on the brides dress. FAIL!
    -I spend way too much time on my computer...

  • Joe Decker December 23, 2009 06:12 am

    Also: Backups. How important they are, how easy it is for them to be broken, and how important it is to have a broad, consistent backup strategy.

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