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I watched the future football Hall of Fame quarterbacks practicing on the sidelines just before the Super Bowl. Although they had thrown the football perhaps millions of times before, they were practicing their throwing before the big game. They believe in the old (but true) saying, “Practice makes perfect.”
It’s important for us as photographers to continually practice our skills as well. Although we may have pressed the shutter button a million times, we need to be sure that we are always “ready for the big game”. Like the Super Bowl quarterbacks, it is important that we keep practicing our skills; whether we are professionals, aspiring professionals, or enthusiasts.
Although practice does not make perfect (we can practice doing things the wrong way), it does make our techniques more natural, and more permanent. For example, using back-button focus on my camera the first time seemed strange to me, but after practicing it over and over, it become an automatic technique that I use without even thinking about it. It’s a challenge to try turning off your brightly lit LED display on your camera once the theatre is darkened, but with practice it’s an automatic, and easy process.
Practice not only gives us a chance to make our shooting techniques more automatic, it gives us a chance to try new techniques. Practice gives us an opportunity to learn new poses, try a new lenses, or try a new post-processing technique to enhance our photographs before we use them in a client shoot. As a photographer, learning never stops; practice is a good way to try out things with no pressure or fear of failure.
Unless we are full time photographers or we have the luxury of having the time to shoot whenever we want, finding time to practice can be a challenge. Life is busy; there are so many things that need to be done that we are sometimes tempted to say, “Maybe I’ll practice tomorrow.” Sometime we need motivation to force us to make the effort, despite other things that may get in the way, to practice our photography techniques.
If someone asked me what the biggest thing was that has helped me to improve my photography skills, I would have to say that it was my commitment to what I call the Picture of the Day. A little more than a year ago I started trading photographs that I took with my sister who is a photography enthusiast. Very quickly that practice spread to other family members and friends. Today, I send a new photograph to more than a hundred people every morning. The list continues to grow. But it’s not the number of people that receive the Picture of the Day that is the motivator, it’s the commitment to taking, and sending the picture, that benefits me as a photographer.
Even though my photography business focuses mainly on people (weddings, portraits and events); my Picture of the Day photos may include people, animals, architecture and landscapes. People that receive my Picture of the Day have commented that opening my morning email is like opening a box of chocolates because “you never know what you’re going to get”. Sometimes my pictures are not meant to be works of art, but rather just funny, like the shot of my dog Clyde (above), sitting by the dinner table with his sunglasses on, waiting for dinner. The zoo is always a great place to take pictures, so I make that part of my list of places to shoot.
Admittedly, I shoot most days, but not every day. I make time during the week to practice shooting; I am committed to take that time despite everything else. I have my camera with me most of the time, and many of my shots are unplanned. I stockpile the shots so that I always have a reserve of pictures to use for my morning emails.
My commitment to the Picture of the Day has helped me to grow as a photographer more than anything, including the following:
If you are not just a picture snapper, but rather, serious about photography – make the commitment to start your own Picture of the Day project today. Like mine, it can start small and grow over time (I had only one person on my list initially.) I sometimes post my Picture of the Day on my personal Facebook page which adds more visibility to my work. This visibility also adds to my list of people that subscribe to my Picture of the Day.
How do you practice your photography?