LINKS: The 16 Behaviors Of The Serious Photographer & How it applies to life outside the lens…

April 14, 2011

Notice how the title doesn’t say anything about the “Professional” photographer. It says the “Serious” photographer… Which, if you’re reading blog posts on the subject in your spare time, I will assume you are.

I read a lot of lists… Lists are very easy to digest. They are short and sweet and point out what is important, and ignores what is not. The folks at The Photo Argus are some of the best list makers in the trade. Most of their lists are informative and often entertaining. This one however, was inspiring.

The 16 Behaviors of The Serious Photographer are not difficult. And impart, lessons not only about photography, but about life. Below is their list, reprinted in full. My thoughts, for whatever they’re worth, is below that.

1. Has achieved an easy familiarity with his equipment and the light sensitive materials he utilizes. In other words, he’s gotten enough technique under his belt to operate.

  • Does not get hung up on technique
  • Simplifies: carries no more than is necessary (not ‘dripping with equipment’)
  • Knows the limits of his equipment (and himself)
  • Uses the best gear he can afford

2. Has developed a flexibility of approach to (or treatment of) his subject

  • Prepared: never travels without camera. “Dresses for the occasion” – ready to lie down in mud if necessary
  • Ability to improvise
  • Patience when required

3. Should believe that whatever he sees (excites his eye), he can photograph.

4. Instinctively frames for the strongest possible view; a compositional sense of rightness (Balance)

  • “Composition is the strongest way of seeing” (Edward Weston)
  • Power of Selectivity
  • Includes all that is essential
  • Excludes all that is non-essential

5. Has an Awareness of Light

  • Quantitative
  • Qualitative

6. Realizes that film is cheap

  • Better to overshoot and edit later.
  • Bracket exposure when in doubt.

7. Approaches his subject with respect

8. Is his own severest critic

  • Ruthless in editing; end result that is much stronger
  • Aware of when repeating self or copying others.
  • Concern for his work to be of Highest Possible Quality
  • Remembers that “Artsy” rhymes with “Fartsy.”

9. Takes care not to abuse the Power of Photography.

  • More than the power to record, it can interpret, convey a message, evoke emotion, inspire, depress, etc.
  • Understands that photographs can lie like hell
  • In portraiture: the power of choosing the right (or wrong) instant (or angle, or lighting) etc.
  • Flatness of camera (monocular) vision vs. human (bi-ocular), three dimensional vision
  • Time exposure: film records passages of light over time. Biological vision systems do not.

10. Is gracious enough to accept and acknowledge successful ‘Accidents’

11. Understands the difference between “Looking” and “Seeing”

  • “Many look, but few see.”
  • In seeing, one perceives (visually comprehends).

12. Strives for Perfection, but hopes never to achieve it

  • The dullness (non-controversial) nature of perfection.
  • “You’re only as good as your last photograph.”

13. Has enough self-understanding to know what he’s trying to do with his photography

  • Understands the connection between his photographs and himself.
  • Realizes the danger of too close an association with any one: school, system or guru
  • Knows that at some point, he must go his own way.

14. Has at least some passing familiarity with the history and Big Names in Photography

  • Enrichment of one’s own experience by discovering the work and writings of past kindred spirits.
  • No need to replicate unknowingly what’s been done before his time.

15. Should be reconciled to spending a lifetime in the determination of What Makes a Picture

  • No formula solves the problem.
  • Same question as “What is Art”?
  • Pattern picture, for example, must be more than a pattern to be good.

16. Is sufficiently free from dogma to disregard any (or all) of the above which do not apply to his own special situation

Okay… So… Sure, adhering to these may make you better at your craft. But don’t these resonate in some other more profound way? To me the answer is a resounding yes. Some of the major points I’ve pulled out from this are:

  • Study the basics. Expertise in anything is built on a solid foundation.
  • Be agile… What you plan for in life rarely will happen exactly as you expect it.
  • Be aware of your surroundings (both literal and metaphorical)… They have more effect on you than you realize.
  • Always have a backup plan.
  • Be tough on yourself… When you work to satisfy yourself, you’ll satisfy others in the process.
  • Your actions may not always be interpreted as you intended. Be aware of this.
  • Sometimes… Things go well and you had nothing to do with it. Give thanks and don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
  • You’re always “learning”.
  • Be humble… Always. It is possible to be humble and confidant at the same time.
  • Learn the about the past. Its reach always extends into the present and future.
  • Search out your greater purpose
  • Understand that nothing that is “concrete” ever is.

Original Post (via The Photo Argus)


One comment

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