Which photos count?

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There’s an age old axiom that says you truly are not an expert or well-versed in any field until you’ve practiced it for 10,000 hours.  Think about that number.  Ten thousand!  That sounds pretty daunting.  It means taking a lot of photos to get to that level.  Let’s just assume for a minute that in photography, 10,000 hours = 10,000 photos.  That would still take a lot of time.

If you take one photo a day, it will take you 10,000 days to become fluent with photography, or 27 years!  One good photo a day means it will take you twenty seven years to become fluent in the field of photography.  Look at how that extrapolates out:

Two photos/day = 5000 days (14 years)
Four photos/day = 2500 days (6 years)
Eight photos/day = 1250 days (3.5 years)
Sixteen photos/day = 625 days (2 years)

I don’t know about you, but the last time I took sixteen good photos in one day was…well, um, never really!  I could go into a long soliloquy about learning the craft encompassing more than just taking good photos.  And it’s true.  You learn when you take bade photos, because you’ve eliminated a process that doesn’t work.  You also learn from reading articles, books, attending seminars and workshops.  Learning a craft is much more than just one photo, but the math still holds true.  So, even if you spend four hours a day learning about photography, it will be a long time before you are fluent (at least 6 years anyway, right?).

The caveat now is that learning a trade or craft is more than just study and reading – it’s also doing.  So, in all of this, let’s say it breaks down to about 25-25-50 in percentages.  I say this primarily because you learn so much more from doing than studying and reading.  In the field of photography, this means taking pictures.  You have to take pictures (both good and bad) to become a good photographer.  Now comes the stickler – the question that I was asked and is the title of this post:  which photos count?

When learning, and studying your craft, does the crappy iPhone photo count?  The stupid cheesy grin shot you did with your “bff” at the beach?  My answer (surprise surprise) starts with “It depends…”  That’s the first part…the second part is:

What did you learn from that photo?

If the answer is – “I learned that on camera flash works with a portrait and the sun setting behind you”, then yes, it counts!  If the photo is “Well, I learned that on camera flash in a studio shot of a digital telephone doesn’t work too well because of excessive specular highlights”, then hell yeah, it counts!  The converse also holds though too.  If you take a snapshot during your vacation with yourself and your s.o (significant other) at Plymouth Rock, and it never sees the light of day past your refrigerator, then no, it does not count!  If you learn or gain nothing from a photo you took, it doesn’t count.  Here’s some shots from my history that I’ve learned from – can you tell which ones I shot at the beginning of my foray into the most recent?  (Don’t cheat and look at the meta data…which ones are first, middle, and last chronologically?)

This exercise also illustrates that you should never be afraid to also look at the shots you were taking one year ago, or two, or three or five, then compare them to your most recent work.  Do you see an improvement?  Has the gap narrowed between what you “saw” and what the image produced?  If the answer is yes, then who cares whether the photos in between count or not.  As long as you are striving to become better and to speak more fluently.  While trees do matter, it’s helpful to remember they are part of a forest.  Keep expanding the forest with the photos that count – the ones you learn from!

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Also, don’t forget the Louisville edition of the Worldwide Photowalk happens tomorrow – there’s still room for a couple more people, so if you wanna join us for walking, talking, shooting, and a beverage afterward – it’s free to join!  Register here by midnight tonight!

The Falling Photo Bubble

The Popping Camera Bubble

The Popping Camera Bubble

Over the course of the last several days, a conversation has been happening in the NAPP forums regarding the “photography bubble”.  I am calling it this because just like the tech boom, the housing bubble, and other historical events, the photography industry seems to be having something of an adjustment in recent weeks and months.  Have you noticed it too?

It’s happening in many communities, workshops, seminars, and other such events where participation has dropped considerably.  From what I understand of things, communities everywhere are seeing marked drops in the active member rolls.  Many colleagues who teach workshops and seminars have also noticed a drop-off in attendance and interest.  The economy is certainly having an impact on the disposable income of many enthusiast photographers.  But it’s not just that…

Even the Worldwide Photo Walk, which only two years ago drew crowds that maxed out four different locales around Denver (at 50 participants per walk) is now barely cresting the 100 member count among only three active ones.  The downtown Denver one is maxed out for 16th Street Mall, but the Louisville one and the Boulder one still have several openings.  Know what the requirements for these are?  Nothing!  They’re free!

All you need is a camera.  It can be a camera from your phone!  It can be a film camera!  A pen camera, or even a pinhole camera would be enough to go out and take photos with.  Yet the attendance has dropped more than 50% from a mere two years ago.  Probably the biggest indicator for me is the amount of Meetup activity.  Leaders and managers for photo walks are not as active, and walks are getting fewer people.

So that means attendance at free sessions has even waned to less than 50% of where it was even two years ago.What happened?  Now a lot has changed between now and two years ago.  Economic times are harder…I get that big time!  But a larger trend is occurring in photography, and I think we should be standing up to take notice.  Why?

I suspect a certain degree of market saturation has happened, believe it or not.  Many people have hung out shingles.  There’s been so many workshops, seminars, and conferences held – everyone believing that there is an infinite desire to learn from anyone wiling to teach, lead, or share.  While the capacity to learn is endless, the capacity of the market to sustain an infinite amount of instruction is likely not sustainable.

The market has peaked!  Just like the tech bubble of the 80’s, the housing bubble of the 90’s, and even (as a friend put it in the forums) the CB radio bubble of the 70’s, the bubble has burst.  People are starting to hang up their hats, cameras, and photo gear.  Many have said “enough is enough”, and simply just don’t have the time, energy, or interest to sustain their habits, creative endeavors, and SOHO businesses in photography.  The market waxes and wanes, and the time to wane has come to pass…

It’s kind of sad to one degree, because it’s never easy to sustain a creative vision or energy in a shrinking market.  Monetizing that vision is even more difficult because the almighty dollar has been stretched to capacity – and as a result, I suspect that as the dust starts to settle in the coming weeks and months, many will have stopped their craft.  As I said, a sad thing, but lest we all be concerned that our own craft will die, or go silent, it’s times like these that we must muster the energy, motivation, and vigor to continue on.  Not necessarily unimpeded, but at least try to continue…it’s those that continue through the best and the worst of times that will be more successful in the long run!

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What kind of indicators have you seen that the market for photography, and photo education has seen a peak?  Has your own interest or ability to participate waned in recent weeks and months?  What trends have you seen in your own market and demographic with regard to the photo community?

LDP # 63: Choosing a Mentor

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When confronted with a new field of study, one is often thrust into the deep end of the pool both figuratively and literally.  It’s tough to learn to swim quickly.  You will likely learn the bare bones to keep your head above water (i.e. flapping your arms about madly will  usually create enough energy to keep you afloat), but you certainly won’t learn to become an Olympic caliber swimmer on your own.

Self-study may even get you to a point where you can cut through the water relatively easily, but imagine how much easier it would be if when you first started learning to swim, you had a coach.  Someone there to stand at the pool, shouting out encouragement and instructions:  “Reach out with your hands!  Kick your legs!  Good job!  Keep going!”

Coaching always makes learning anything easier, whether it’s swimming, science or photography!  One of the things I’ve noticed as progressing on my own learning curve is that much of what I gathered would have likely been learned moer quickly if someone had been there to say “Hey, the Rule of Thirds works nicely with landscapes…put the sun in one of those cross-sections!”  or other axioms common to learning the nuts and bolts.

This raised a question in my mind, and is actually one of the fundamental reasons why I started this blog – to share experiences as I learned them to help others hopefully reach those levels of understanding sooner.  When someone asked me once how long I had been mentoring other photographers is when it dawned on me that I actually had become something of what I had needed!  Talk about a sense of fulfillment!

These thoughts and experiences were recently shared with my good friend Kerry Garrison of Camera Dojo, and as we talked about the whole concept of mentoring, decided this would be a great podcast topic!  So, enjoy the latest episode of the LDP Podcast (#63):  Choosing a Mentor:

Show notes:  What to Look for in a Mentor

1.  Desire to Help
2.  Previous positive experiences
3.  A Good Reputation
4.  Time and Energy
5.   Someone who stays current
6.  Willingness to Learn themselves
7.  Good managerial skills

We go into all of this in much greater detail in the show, as to why each trait is important, and we even throw in a few bonus considerations for you too, so be sure to catch the show!  Thanks again to Kerry for participating – it was a great discussion and sure to be one that will draw a lot of attention!  Be sure to stop over to Kerry’s blog to find out the latest activities there too at Camera Dojo.

Food for thought:  As you listen to the show, consider the following talking points…have you ever had a mentor?  Been a mentor?  Wanted a mentor?  Had one that worked or did not?  Think about what did and didn’t work, and why.  What would you want to see in a potential mentor?  As is always the case, we share our own ideas, but would love to hear from others on what their own experiences are, so please let us know in the comments and/or via email, social media, etc.

Happy shooting!

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A couple short reminders for this week:

1.  We are in the last week of the Monthly Contest Series for September.  This month you can win a year of membership to NAPP (existing members can extend for an additional 12 months!)!  It’s free, just share your best image in the Flickr thread here.

2.  The Worldwide Photo Walk is coming up this weekend, so if you’ve not registered in your nearest city yet, be sure to check out where the closest place is.  It’s a lot of fun, and is totally free too, so get out and shoot with fellow photogs, socialize, and network!  Oh yeah, and a ton of books are being given away – something from the Kelby arsenal of education will go to one lucky photographer in each city!  (If you live in the Denver Colorado area, there’s still room in the Louisville walk too where you can walk around with yours truly!)