Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Are You a Nervous or Anxious Photographer?

I was anxious before my trip to New Mexico.  I wasn’t concerned about the flight, family, or the typically important things people worry about when travelling.  No, I was nervous about balloons!  Yes, really.  I wasn’t going up in one, I was simply going to take pictures of them…but nervous?!
I’ll never forget a similar feeling of nervous anxiety I had moments before officiating my first boys under-16 soccer match.  My mentor, a former FIFA referee, who was there to assist me along the touchline, told me that if I was excited, that was a good sign, and meant that I was ready.  In the early days of my referee training, this same mentor emphasized the importance of reading, and re-reading the Laws of the Game.  This, he said, will set the foundation for everything you’ll see out there on the field, give you confidence, and will prepare you to act decisively in the moment when the need arises.  
So let’s see… nervous excitement would be a good thing—meant I was ready, right?  But wait a minute, I haven’t touched my camera’s manual in months…do I know my equipment inside and out, ready to act decisively in the moment, when the need arises?  I want to say yes.  But truth be told, many of us learn enough about our equipment to get it out of the box, and the learning often stops there.  Experimentation and trial-and-error typically become our only learning method after that.
(Note to self:  find manual, read manual)
The other factor explaining my nerves was the pressure I was putting on myself to capture some amazing images. I had high expectations of myself—but wasn’t sure that I would live up to them.  I’ve watched a lot of video interviews of professional photographers (Silber Studios has some great ones), and there are two common messages of advice these photographers give:  1) take a lot of pictures, and 2) research your destination before going there.
To point number one, you may have hear that practice makes perfect.  Not true.  PERFECT practice makes perfect.  If you practice bad habits, you just ingrain bad habits into your workflow.  Taking pictures is the culmination of the visioning, techniques, and thought process that goes into the capture.  If you’re not working to expand your visioning or techniques, then you might not be advancing your photography.  It’s the practicing of the new learning that’s important.  When the pros say to keep taking pictures, they assume you’re interjecting learning into that process.
To point number two, researching a destination is more than determining where you’re going to stay and what you plan to eat.  Have you ever heard that luck is where preparation meets opportunity?  I like “happy accidents” as much as the next guy, and serendipity can play a part in your getting that amazing image.    But it’s the planning that sets us apart.  Professional photographers say that the difference between them and us is not that they take better images than you and me, but that they do it on a greater frequency.  It’s their planning and preparation that often makes the difference.  Would you go on a trip and not take an umbrella?  Ok, me too.
So, you want to be better, and more confident, then be a continuous learner and a practitioner of that learning.  Then couple that with planning and preparation prior to your photoshoots.  You’ll be amazed with how much better you’ll feel, and your friends/clients will be amazed at your results.

Feel free to contact me at CostaMesaPhotography@gmail.com or check out my website gallery at http://costamesaphotography.com/

(metadata 1/90 sec at f/4.8and ISO 200, focal length 13mm)

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