On Self improvement

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
Between nice cameras and gear lust and everything I stopped to think why I just don't get the next dream camera of mine: I don't think I deserve it.

A woman I met on a photography course shot very good street photography. The compositions were clean, there were interesting people in them, overall some of the shots had HCB-esque style to them. She told the secret was to study hard. Study the photographs, study the masters, study your personal heroes.

While on the streets, I also recognize what my weaknesses are but I lack real motivation in trying to overcome them.

I think if I should put myself on a strict training regimen to get myself towards the photographic ideals that I value. Some tough love on myself, like in those 80s kung fu movies? "Go walk that street up and down and don't come back until you got something!"

Something that could be measured would perhaps help? "Spend 60 minutes in a library studying photo books at least 4 evenings a week."

Would taking notes help with focusing? But will it actually help with progressing towards goals?
 
Location
Milwaukee, WI USA
Real Name
Luke
absolutely.

Stay away from camera forums and devour PHOTOS.

Learning about what new camera is coming out has nothing to do with making better photos.

If you recognize what your weaknesses are, that is half the battle. But the second half is even harder.....and the second half is two steps. The first step is learning what to do to overcome those weaknesses.....and the next one is motivating yourself to DO what needs to be done to overcome them.

For me, I had a good run at photography a few years back...and I got "good enough". Now, I'll just read the forums and get no better. And I'm fine with that. You can either throw in the towel, like me.....or get out there and get better.
 

agentlossing

Top Veteran
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
I don't think it's a bad idea to stop gear acquisition and focus on improving your photos - that's where I am usually at (though I'm going back into a gear phase lately). I have used wanting to write about photography as a tool to try and get better at my photos. It's a long process without much actual writing getting done. Or rather, lots of writing in small scraps but little that I can fit together in a coherent whole. Much like where my photography is at. Part of the problem is no doubt due to having a full -time job and other things going on; true focus is fleeting.

But what I've been focusing on is: what are MY good photographs? What could a meaningful and satisfying style and body of work look for ME? I find I'm usually working on a poorly understood concept of what the consensus of a good photograph is, while forgetting that consensus is only truly reached in lowest common denominator terms.

I have a lot of photos that I'd been hanging onto because I thought they did a fairly good job approximating that mental model of what makes a good photo, but which my only sentiment towards was that they "felt like good photos." Ah, but did they really express something I wanted to express? Rarely. I do have some photos that are like that, though. They are often humbler and don't necessarily get a lot of attention. But they're the ones I'm after.

So maybe, in addition to studying good photography (I recommend going to the classics, like Frank's The Americans, Fred Herzog, Saul Leiter, HCB, Walker Evans, etc.), you should look through your catalogue of work for images that have more meaning to you, and move on that direction. Not necessarily the direction of what the prevailing photographic wisdom says is good. After all, if it's what the consensus says should be done, then, well, it's been done, time and time again, already, right?
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
You didn't say what you were looking to achieve other than mentioning "the photographic ideals that I value" which I'm sure not sure is sufficient information for people to help you. So, what are you looking to achieve?
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
Good tips already. :)

Yesterday I stuck my head in a library to see if they eat me alive. They have a couple of good books in there.

Photo books are wonderful but I have minor trouble focusing on them at home surroundings. Secondly I've been trying to shed my material possessions with books and DVDs and such being the prime target.

Everybody keeps saying how it should be BAS not GAS. People should be buying more books. Or at least read/loan them in libraries. Perhaps I will finally take this to heart.

Secondly I have some trouble studying some photos: I don't always see why this or that is a remarkable shot. I mean a photo looks nice but is it so superb everyone keeps raving about? Maybe I should buy one of those "how to study a photograph" books they sell. Eric Kim's "Study the Masters" blog post series is also a small help (one example on Winogrand). When I see someone being excited about a photograph I also gain appreciation for the photo.

To be sure many works are so stellar I don't need help appreciating it!

So maybe, in addition to studying good photography----, you should look through your catalogue of work for images that have more meaning to you

Indeed. I'm building a DAM with this specific goal to have good access to my own history. Secondary a DAM will help be discover if I've been shooting a theme subconsciously.

Occasionally I dive into old photos from old times and I am quite happy that the pics look terrible. It means I have progressed doesn't it. At the same time if I looked pics from a year back they look the same as my current. That would mean bad things about my recent progress.


So, what are you looking to achieve?

Oh, nothing much. Just become the next HCB or something. 😎
 

AndyMcD

Top Veteran
My best period of personal self improvement was after reading "The Passionate Photographer" and choosing a personal project to focus on. So, I spent a year mainly photographing lone trees in black and white. Since then I have spent time concentrating on composition and editing skills whilst submitting entries to an online photo club.

I don't have a particularly good DAM system in place, I use Capture One mainly and colour tags, with some automatic albums. Every now and then, I batch export my black and whites and copy them to a digital frame I have sat on my desk, which shows the pictures in random order for about 2-3 seconds at a time. I have found this a great help to appraise my pictures over time, and I will often go back and tweak a crop or clone out a distraction that I missed first time around. I also find that some pictures that I really liked "in the moment" don't stand up over time.
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
To get the ball rolling I also made inquiries about local camera clubs and also suggestions about good book stores. I imagine if I were to buy books on a regular basis I should establish a good way to also sell the duds. And local contacts are always a big benefit. The Virus of course has slowed them down but one day....


I don't have a particularly good DAM system in place,
Me neither but I'm working on one. In fact it's a software I have written from scratch. The leading idea in its design is that it has everything in one view but you can filter by tags and searches much like in GMail.
 

Dean Smith

Veteran
I think studying the photographs of the past is worth while. Also, you may consider the free online classes from MOMA, and many universities. Several years ago I took a course from MOMA about seeing through photographs. I want to try it again since I wasn’t able to complete it.
 

Biro

Hall of Famer
Location
Jersey Shore
Real Name
Steve
I was pretty pleased with where I was in terms of photographic ability and technique a few years ago. Now, though, I don't get to do it nearly enough. As a result, I'm out of practice and need to get back into shape. But life events keep conspiring to have me do other things.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
Lexington, VA
Real Name
Steve
One problem is that so many of the ”best” photographers are street photographers. Sure, you can find landscape photographers but you really have to travel for that to work. I admire HCB, Arbus, and others but, unless I want to start sticking my camera in the faces of people, i‘m sort of stuck where I am. I like taking pictures of things, but i‘ve been disappointed by what I can find in the library.
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
One problem is that so many of the ”best” photographers are street photographers. Sure, you can find landscape photographers but you really have to travel for that to work. I admire HCB, Arbus, and others but, unless I want to start sticking my camera in the faces of people, i‘m sort of stuck where I am. I like taking pictures of things, but i‘ve been disappointed by what I can find in the library.
All it takes is one ‘different’ shot you’re happy with.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
Lexington, VA
Real Name
Steve
All it takes is one ‘different’ shot you’re happy with.
I know what you mean. I have a whole library of photo books to look through, so I’ve gotten a lot of ideas. I’ve debated setting up an area in my basement/downstairs living area for studio style shooting. Maybe I will do this once I retire. Right now I find the best thing to do is get out and shoot and then really look at the results. I find posting in this forum provides good motivation to do that. Everyone needs an audience, after all. Well, except for Vivian Maier. It says a whole lot about the motivations in photography that she left so many rolls undeveloped. I always wonder myself about the relative importance for myself of the act and the product.
 

agentlossing

Top Veteran
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
One problem is that so many of the ”best” photographers are street photographers. Sure, you can find landscape photographers but you really have to travel for that to work. I admire HCB, Arbus, and others but, unless I want to start sticking my camera in the faces of people, i‘m sort of stuck where I am. I like taking pictures of things, but i‘ve been disappointed by what I can find in the library.
Have you looked into miksang/contemplative photography... or, dare I say, snapshot photography? Those are some areas that really get my creative juices flowing, personally, when I can't get to somewhere with street photography potential.
 

mike3996

Hall of Famer
Location
Finland
One problem is that so many of the ”best” photographers are street photographers. Sure, you can find landscape photographers but you really have to travel for that to work. I admire HCB, Arbus, and others but, unless I want to start sticking my camera in the faces of people, i‘m sort of stuck where I am. I like taking pictures of things, but i‘ve been disappointed by what I can find in the library.
This is one of the fundamental problems for me too. There are things to overcome on my path.
 

doobs

New Member
Location
Reston, VA
Real Name
Christopher Dubea
I think studying the photographs of the past is worth while. Also, you may consider the free online classes from MOMA, and many universities. Several years ago I took a course from MOMA about seeing through photographs. I want to try it again since I wasn’t able to complete it.
Wow,

Thanks for this reference. I looked it up on Monday and lo and behold that was the first day of the session.

So, I signed up to audit the class and am working through the reading materials.

Thanks again!
 

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