What is the best way to grow as a photographer?

How can one grow as a photographer? And what’s the most effective way to improve your photographic technique and artistic vision? It was thinking about those two questions that gave me the idea for starting to blog about photography and also encouraged me to take on (another!) new photography challenge. So it seemed appropriate to make my first thoughts on the subject the focus of my first post.

Inspired by Ansel Adams' {link:http://www.allposters.co.uk/-sp/Rose-and-Driftwood-San-Francisco-California-Posters_i415533_.htm}Rose and Driftwood{/link} still life - this was shot using a 50mm lens and natural light with a gold reflector to fill the shadows in.

I think a lot of photographers are guilty of gear envy. I know I am. We think that by buying one more lens, filter, accessory, hell, even camera, we’ll become better photographers. Well that might be true, but I’m not sure it’s the only way to improve. Sometimes it’s important to go ‘back to basics’, as the Tories would have said, the last time they were in Government.

When I decided that I wanted to learn web design, I didn’t buy a new computer, I designed a website and learned to code in HMTL (the now sadly moth-balled www.shotwithsound.com was the result in case you’re interested). When I decided I wanted to try and write a book, I didn’t buy a typewriter, I just started writing things down (the sadly unpublished Two Halves was the result, in case you’re a publisher). So why when I decide I want to improve my photography, why would simply buying a new lens be the right thing to do?

About a year ago I read an article suggesting somehow limiting yourself might be a better way to reenergize your creative impulses – one of the suggestions from the article was to limit your equipment to a single 50mm lens. So I bought a new lens. And did limit myself to it for a while, and while it has helped me capture some images I am very proud of, I don’t think it has really helped me grow as a photographer.

So this year, I have a new idea about how to challenge myself – influenced by reading Ansel Adams’ Examples book, and an attempt to get back to basics. Not to sound too pretentious, but to try and do with my photography what the Dogme movement did for filmmaking. The Dogme principals essentially returned filmmaking to base principals and excluded modern special effects. As a big user of Photoshop, and as I said, a new tech addict, this might not be easy, but I’ve taken the first step.


The Rank Aldis / Mamiya 4B

Typically, that step has involved buying something. In fact, two somethings. Thanks to Ebay, I’ll soon take receipt of a Zenit E 35mm and a Rank Aldis rangefinder. My logic for going back to cameras made over 50 years ago (providing either of them work, which given they jointly cost £10, isn’t certain) is that without the swift simplicity of the automatic functions of my Canon EOS 500d, I’ll be forced to learn more and think more about photography.


The Zenit E

I plan to blog about my progress learning to use both cameras – having not used a film camera for five years, and not used a fully manual one for at least a decade, that may take some time – and also write about other areas of photography that interest me, and will hopefully interest other people too. With any luck, we can improve our photography together…


Posted in Blog by Nic Stevenson on June 18th, 2011 at 12:00 pm.

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