Monday, November 25, 2013

A Self-Assessment

There are many photographers out there who agree with the notion that they alone, not their cameras, are solely responsible for creating good photographs.  They get insulted if you ask them what kind of camera they use.  They feel like it's asking a chef what kind of cookware he uses to create marvelous meals.  I've seen this sentiment conveyed many times. 

I think to an extent the camera does matter.  If you have a camera with subpar optics and a small sensor, you may not get the kind of results you would from a camera with superior optics and a large sensor if, for example, you were trying to take a photo of something in low light.  Of course, the abilities of the person do matter a great deal.  A person who has spent time learning and honing their abilities is going to be much more confident and competent about shooting a wedding or some other subject than the person who hasn't put in the time and effort.

Many people have told me that I am talented.  They think I do great work.  While those words are always nice to hear, I am not sure I could assess myself and say that I am talented.  

Talent:  natural aptitude or skill.  Does a high interest in photography, the pursuit of proper photography gear, and practice equate to natural aptitude or skill? Tough to say for sure.

First of all, I have put a great deal of consideration into my camera body, lens, and the medium I chose.  So far, good choices in my digital and film bodies and lens selections have ensured that I achieved the results for which I was striving.

Second, I did put in the time to learn basic photography.  I've worked on this since late 2008, a significant amount of time yes, but I am certain there is a lot more I still have yet to learn.

Put those two factors together, and you get some decent photos.  The fact that I cared enough to do all this predicts that I'd get good results, better than the person who may not have cared as much about learning a technique or having a particular 50mm focal length prime lens or whatever.  The more effort you put into something, the better the result will be, right?

But talent?  I am not sure.  How can we tell for sure if someone is really talented, or if they are just doing things the right way?  Are talent and competence synonymous?  What about access to subject matter?  Isn't that a factor too?  Richard Avedon took some great photos of Marilyn Monroe.  Brad Pitt captured a nice photo of Angelina Jolie.  Julian Lennon snapped a memorable photo of Bono juxtaposed with a photo of his father John, which hung in his villa in the South of France.  Are they talented photographers or did they just have access to some insanely awesome subject matter?  Or both? 

What makes a person consider a photographer to be talented?  It could be that they saw a photo that moved or impacted them.  I surmise that talent, the determination of which is mighty subjective, could be comprised of some combination of technical knowledge, inspiration, great subject matter, an artistic eye, waiting for the right moment, and decent photography gear.  Perhaps included in this is the ability to evoke emotion in the viewer.  At any given time maybe I have some winning combination of those attributes present when I click the shutter and a respectable result emerges.  But I still hesitate to say I'm talented.  For the moment, I think my technical knowledge and wise gear choice are driving positive results.  I'll reassess myself again after a few more years of this and see if I change my mind.

the cat

1 comment:

  1. Very thoughtful! Good posting! Theme seems to be: At any given moment, anyone with a camera might be talented for that moment. I guess talent is correlated with how consistently one can have such moments.


    Talent might best be understood as a spectrum, a continuum, that runs from little talent up to great talent. Everyone who takes a photo falls somewhere on the continuum. The more consistently one takes very good photos, the higher up one moves on the talent continuum.


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