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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Photographers are like Golfers

Shrooms on a Log
© 2010 Simon Hucko

I'm writing this post to expand on something I said in the comments of Monday's article ("Gotta Shoot Something"). If you haven't read the previous article, I suggest clicking through and having a go before you continue here.

If I had to compare photography to a sport, I'd say that golf serves as a good analogy. Golfers carry heavy bags full of gear, half of which is probably unnecessary. (If you golf, when's the last time you used your 4 iron? 6 iron? 3 wood?) Golfers are notorious for blaming their gear for bad performance, and will try anything (extra-long tee's, super-flight balls with some crazy new synthetic core, different gloves, "enhanced sweet spot" drivers, etc.) to shave a stroke or two off of their handicap. Weekend warriors are more than willing to open their wallets for a "magic" fix - something that will improve their game overnight, just in time for their Saturday morning skins game. The sad truth is that most golfers aren't nearly good enough to notice a real difference between an "ok" club and a top of the line custom-fit titanium behemoth. Sure, they might hit the ball a little farther, but with no consistency or control that extra bit of distance doesn't really matter. That's not to say that the gear is trivial - the pro golfers use the latest and greatest equipment in order to stay competitive. But the pro's also spend hours a day on the driving range, around the practice green, in the gym, studying their swing, analyzing the next course they will play, etc. All that extra work is what separates a professional from the average country club chump.

Let's bring this back to photography. The latest and greatest gear won't make your images any better, in the same way that a new golf club can't fix your swing. What makes the biggest difference to your photography is the time you spend practicing. Taking a photo walk with one lens is like going to the driving range with a bucket of balls and just your 7 iron - by the time you're done, you have a better feel for that lens and the images you can make with it. Spend time analyzing your images and study the work of others to develop your style and sense of composition. The photo above was basically a "grab shot" as I was walking around one day, but gave me a chance to work on my post processing. Shoot regularly to exercise your craft and your creative eye, even if you don't think you will be making amazing images. Practice processing your images to get different looks, so that you can apply them in a subject-motivated way in the future. Don't be afraid to make mistakes - even the top ranked professional golfers don't hit it down the middle of the fairway every time. Learn how to work through and overcome those mistakes, then move on to the next shot.

That's it for the "gear isn't everything" rants for now. I hope I didn't lose too many of you with the golf analogy... Got some good feedback on Monday's post, and would love to hear more from you :) Back to your regularly scheduled blog next week.


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