You gotta love the Allen Iverson rant. The former NBA all star was so incensed that a reporter asked him to describe his practice habits, he went on a five-minute rant. What was most memorable was Iverson repeating the word almost 24 times — "practice?!"
"We're talking about practice?!"
Now while we might all chuckle at Allen's indignation, are our attitudes as photographers any better about practice? Let's say that we agree practice is important, how should we practice?
Listen to the podcast
"Seems kind of obvious, I know, but nobody does it. No matter how much natural talent you have, if you want to get really good at something, you have to practice, says Mike.
"When it comes to taking pictures, practice doesn’t mean merely depressing a shutter release. It means finding angles, composing, judging the best direction of light. The act of doing all these things gets you into a mindset. Go out to the park, or your kid’s soccer game, or the local farmer’s market—wherever—and take pictures. You’ll see that at first you might be a little rusty, but that’s the point. Get into the groove before you go on your trip."
You might be thinking...
- Practice?! Who has time, right? I can barely find time to get out and shoot with Meetups.
- Practice?! I think I know well enough what I'm doing. I've been a photographer for so many years.
- Practice?! I wouldn't even know where to begin.
- Practice?! Let's not make this too serious. I just want to have fun.
And you'll sound just like Allen Iverson.
The data is already in on this topic. The people who get better at a skill — any skill — do it through deliberate practice.
Scientific research shows that the quality of your practice is just as important as the quantity.
And, more interestingly, these scientists also believe that expert-level performance is primarily the result of expert-level practice NOT due to innate talent.
In Talent is Overrated, Geoff Colvin asks "what really separates world class talent from everyone else?"
The answer is that it is not innate. Mozart, Tiger Woods, or Itzak Perlman all have something in common. They were good not because of skill but because of a concept known as deliberate practice.
How can it work for you?
Here's the process from Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin
- This means first identifying specific skills you need to master.
- You need to look for skills that are just outside of your reach. This is your Learning Zone.
- You don’t want to target skills you have already mastered – your Comfort Zone.
- You also don’t want to reach for goals that are too hard — your Panic Zone.
Sounds like a Goldilocks prescription, but once you have found that sweet spot, the work begins.
How do you use deliberate practice?
Use your Learning Zone to push beyond your current limitations. Is getting correct exposure giving you trouble? Go find challenging lighting conditions, and photograph those conditions regularly. Take that skill or principle and work it until you have achieved mastery. The point is not just repetition but to challenge yourself in the process.
Get feedback from an expert
Feedback is an important part of the mix. This is where you might expect the gratuitous plug, but I’m resisting. There are so many places you can learn — blogs and podcasts, classes or coaching. You know how you learn best. The key is to tap into the experience of an expert and expand your knowledge base. As you learn more, you will find yourself subconsciously incorporating new skills into your workflow.
Your personal critiques
Every picture you admire represents a learning opportunity. Take a few minutes and give it your own personal critique. What do you like about it? What captures your attention? Where do your eyes go first? Why did the photographer light it the way she did? What composition tools did he use? What is the mood or story captured? How can you create a similar or different effect?
Pictures you don’t like also have the same learning opportunity. What doesn’t work for you? Why? Build that feedback into your next shooting session.
It can be intense, but keep it fun
Remember, to be deliberate, your practice must be:
- Intentional, aimed at improving performance
- Designed for your current skill level
- Combined with immediate feedback and repetitious
Motivation becomes the real constraint on expertise.
Practice isn’t always fun. It’s an investment into improving yourself, your skills and your future.
In order to practice with intention for long enough to become an expert or gain useful skills, you have to find the motivation to make the investment.
Where will you find that motivation? When will you practice?
Yes, I'm talking about practice.
The way I see it
Last week Apple announced a new iPhone with interesting features
What I like & don't like
- Screen is the flash - I like that
- It takes a pre-flash to judge ambient light and white balance
- They push the sensor more than the MPs. - I like that
- 4K video - Good for videoheads
- iPhone 6S has the live photo
- I don't know how I feel about that one. How would you use it?
- Reminded me of Episode 002 when we talked about Lytro's Living Picture
- They are betting that this is the future of photography
- iPhone 6S has the live photo
Canon is releasing a 120 MegaPixel DSLR. Stop the madness!
- It produces raw files that are 120 MB
- At that file size, a 32GB memory card will only be able to store about 150 photos
- A 1TB hard drive will only be able to store about 4,700 photos
Who is salivating for this? Anyone?! PLEASE let me know...and let me know why