For what I’m about to say about 90% of readers will think that this is pure BS and will reach into the fridge for another beer. This expected response is right on target as from all those trying to make money with a video camera only 10% are capable of making a good living with their skills.
Where you place yourself in this profession is all up to you. You and no one else have the power of your own success or your own failure.
When I went to art and photography schools, and this was before most here were born, our method of learning was very different. Of course we had no web and the available resources were limited, but what we had was the best resource ever created, ourselves.
We didn’t get to touch a camera until our third year. The first two years we spent it learning about images. We were taught from the very start that the equipment, whatever they might be, a brush and canvas, a pencil and paper or a still or film cameras were only recording instruments to transfer into something visible the work that was created in our brains.
We had to study famous painting, photographs and films. Based on the disciplines of arts that we learned we had to take that work of art apart piece by piece in order to understand how it was put together. With a minimum of equipment that most of the time consisted of window light, white sheets for bounce or diffusion and black cloths to absorb light, we then had to recreate that work.
We were never told how to do it, we had to find out on our own how it was done, it was a constant mental exercise. We were taught to go thru a process of accepting and rejecting a number of techniques and using series of logics until we found those that created those masterpieces. What we were unknowingly doing was going thru a problem solving process of accepting and rejecting numerous techniques until we found the right ones, and of course along the way as a process of elimination we were learning about all the different techniques.
This is exactly the process that our brains go thru when solving problems, this is with everything we do and not just with photography or imaging. It was always a mental exercise. We were never spoon-fed information because even back then there was always the fear that if the brain looses the ability to look for solutions, just like any other parts of our bodies that doesn’t get used, it gets weaker.
In this modern society most have become passive recipients of the information that our brains need to solve problems, this instead being and active participants in the creation and understanding of problem solving.
Most people today do not even try or are incapable to search or formulate the answers, most don’t know how, they google it. They can only function if information are spoon-fed to them.
There’s a misguided need of instant gratification in a profession that success is achieved by knowledge. Knowledge is bits of information that our brains were able to acquire and store year after year, problem solving is basically a function of our brains cross referencing that massive amount of information. If the information is not there then there’s little or nothing to cross reference with.
Advancement in equipment technology do not create a photographers like many today would like you to believe. Better technologies is nothing more that additional tools in our arsenal but no individual tool is ever indispensable to perform our job. It’s the applications that our knowledge can do with new technologies that create quality work.
In the history of creating images this is the worst that it has ever been as far as quality, knowledge and intelligence goes. This is also the worst that has ever been as revenue generating for most of those who decide to make a living with their cameras. This is the curse for those who become dependent and allow technology to do the work for them, they can no longer efficiently generate their own thinking process. Creativity can not be taught, its a brain function, it’s a problem solving process based on the information stored in our brains. The more information the better.
This is why those that believe that the instant gratification of achieving in weeks what should take years are only cheating themselves out of opportunities to learn, because once the individual is convinced that he no longer needs to learn the brain will stop looking for information.
Creativity is not just making beautiful pictures. Creativity is resourcefulness. Is the ability to make things happen. Engineers, doctors, financial people, etc. They all can be creative in their own field. It so happen that our field is imagery.
Creativity is not a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday brain function, you either are creative or you are not. You can’t turn creativity on and off like an alarm clock.
You can hand ten photographers the same equipment, give them the same assignment in the same location and be assured that they will all comeback with different results, some will be excellent and some will be very poor. This is because all ten brains will use different methods to solve the same problem, and the quality of the result will depend on what information (learning) is stored in each brains and how it was used.
As I said many times before, the camera is nothing more that a dumb instrument that will record whatever the photographer’s ability is to create. The image do not take place in the camera, it takes place in our brains first, then we use our technological knowhow to transfer those pieces of information into a recording instrument.
There are no short cuts in learning. Learning is an ongoing process needed to achieve a high level of proficiency and skills in any business. In this capitalistic society of ours the reward for our skills is of how comfortable of an income we are capable of generating and the level of success and proficiency is measured by the size of the checking account. Meaning that our skills are valuable to someone else, and the more valuable they are the better the compensation will be.
By “high level of proficiency” I mean the ability of doing everything well throughout the entire scale of production and with every available equipment, not just picking up a camera and start shooting insignificant little stories that nobody cares and nobody is willing to pay for. Diversity is what’s needed today in order to prosper or for some even to survive.
By diversity I mean the ability to provide services in every area of productions. It means the ability of changing direction at any time the market dictates and not finding yourself, like we’ve been reading way too often that as the business environment changes people can no longer generate sufficient revenue to even survive.
Understanding the entire process of production means the ability to be able to do everything even thou you never did it before. It’s a system of logics that applies to every area of creating images. There’s no news, advertising, commercials, documentaries, feature, etc. It’s all productions.
One of the most frequent question that I’m asked is “what lights should I buy” My answer usually is “buy whatever light will help you do to the job right” That’s where I get the deer in the headlights look. Most people today don’t even know what doing the job right means, most expect the equipment to do it for them.
I’m using lights as a typical example but many question that I see asked are of similar nature across the entire spectrum of productions, equipment reliance taking over brain functions.
Nowhere is the inability of problem solving more evident that in this business, our business should be the easiest to achieve total efficiency, that’s because the best teacher is right in front of us. We spend several hours each day in front of it, that’s our television set. Somebody else already created something and got paid very well for doing what most wished they could do it too. The results of successful application of skills are there in front of you. That’s your best teacher.
The very simple formula to make money is to look at what work already made money and direct all you efforts and goals in that direction instead of paying somebody to teach you how to do make crappy little stories that nobody wants or are willing to pay for. Does this make too much sense?
The teacher is there, learn how to read images on your own. I can’t stress enough the importance of this skill, it’s a most effective brain exercise. If you learn the technique of breaking down what the maker did you will also learn the skills of putting similar images together with the same efficiency and also with the same earning potential. But a word of warning, it will not happen overnight and advancement will be slow but steady. If you are one of those looking for instant gratification and a quick fix then don’t waste your time, this isn’t for you.
Exercise your brain. Create virtual assignment. Learn to see the light.
Next time you are at a restaurant or anywhere else think if this was an assignment, how would you handle it? You will suddenly start seeing all necessary element needed to create that scene. The beauty of virtual assignments is that you can do it mentally at your own pace without any pressure or deadlines. Who knows, maybe tomorrow that will be your assignment and now you’ll know what to do.
As I said earlier, creativity is not a 9 to 5 job.