The role that practice plays in photography

I just finished teaching a class on the basics of multimedia, at Calumet photo in NYC. I was teaching members of Professional Women Photographers www.pwponline and staying with friends who live in NYC. The class, and the time with my friends, who are also photographers, reminded me of the very important (but usually under appreciated) role that practice plays in good photography.

In the multimedia class, I introduced the students to the basic gear and software tools that make so much of today’s explosion in multimedia possible. I strongly encouraged them to spend time just practicing with the new tools to be really comfortable with those. New software is obviously a big part of the learning process, but any photographer who is working digitally is used to learning new software programs.

With multimedia, for photographers at least, the really new challenge is sound and especially how to capture it. After teaching the students how to use their new handheld digital recorders, I pressed them to practice in the classroom by listening to (and recording) each other. The students that actually practiced the most in the classroom seemed to do better when they went out on location.

We all know that the most adept photographers know their camera gear inside and out and can work the various, buttons, setting, and dials in ways that can best be described as intuitive, unconscious and even fluid. Those who practiced with their new audio recorders, ended up using those machines in the same effortless way they already used their “image recorders” (their cameras.) They were less likely to be flustered by the onslaught of stimulus that confront each of us when we work “in the field.” The best photographers I know have a strong ability to stay “focused” (no pun intended,) no matter what goes on around them and they generally attribute that to lots and lots of practice.

Remember the old joke about the best way to get to Carnegie Hall being “practice, practice, practice?” Why would photography be any different?

3 responses to “The role that practice plays in photography”

  1. I have taken several photography classes from David and I just want to comment on both on the quality of the images that he takes and his ability to communicate to students those principles that will help them to take great photos too. I love your new website David. Thank-you for remembering me and keeping me in the loop of where you have been and what you are doing. Wonderful work, as is your usual.

  2. There are few things shorter in life than my subject’s patience. When my focus is on them – rather than the technical aspects of shooting them – I can buy myself some time; say, three more minutes.

    However I must revise the axiom you shared above about the best way to get to Carnegie Hall. It’s “perfect practice makes perfect.”

    I’m certainly not to be appearing at Carnegie but I am practicing like it’s in my future …

    bob ray

  3. I’ve taken three workshops with David and am still learning from this new website. I’ll pass on the link to all the photographers I know who want to improve their technique.

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