Agility has its manifesto. Zen programming has its manifesto. There are probably more. Technical disciplines often implicitely require much creativity and their most advanced pracitionners seem to create these brief documents to impart an underlying philosophy that elevates the discipline from mere execution and extract the best from it.
Digital photography has become very technical minded and deserves similar love, to offer those who wish to think of it as more than that, a guide for finding greater fulfillment 🙂 No one has to abide by the following rules. But anyone who has mastered the technical side of digital photography can benefit and become far more proficient through them.
Personal beats spectacular
Deliberate beats personal
Innocent beats deliberate
Talent is a muscle
Success requires practise
Practise requires feedback
Feedback requires knowledge
Raw is the score
If it’s not printed it’s not a photograph
Printing is a craft
Craft serves intent
Available isn’t an excuse
Have a philosophy
Intent is Knowing Thyself
Bonus track: Life works in cycles
Personal beats spectacular. Spectacular captures the attention immediately, and releases it just as quickly if that’s all it offers. Personal work keeps us interested for much longer. All successful artists put a part of themselves in their work.
Deliberate beats personal. Doing it ‘your way’ isn’t an excuse for being sloppy and avoiding the judgement of others.
Innocent beats deliberate. You’re an artist (like it or not). Treat every photo as your first, with a sense of awe and opportunity. Deliberate practise is in service of that moment.
Hold attention. It defines your success. Photography is about communicating something to others. The longer it takes to fully grasp your photographs the more you bring to others, and the more you grow.
Gear matters. Choose whatever frees your mind. Choose what serves your passion. Choose what draws the way you love. Then stick with it.
Talent is a muscle. Flex it. In sports, you can have an initial physical advantage. There’s no such thing in photography. Your talent depends solely on your determination to experiment and learn from your mistakes.
Success requires practise. You can’t bottle success, but you can sure distill it. Try, try, and try some more. HCB wrote “Your first 10 000 photographs are your worst”.
Practise requires feedback. Those 10 000 hours to mastery are 10 000 deliberate training hours, not a very long and wasteful random walk. 100 with feedback will take you further than 10 000 without.
Feedback requires knowledge. Good feedback only comes from people who’ve walked the talk and have your best interest at heart. Forget social media. Find a group of friends and ask the hard questions.
Raw is the score. In the immortal words of Ansel Adams: “The negative is the score, the print is the performance”. The file holds the promise of what entered your mind when you clicked. Post processing makes it come alive. With your touch.
If it’s not printed it’s not a photograph. It’s an image. Screens lie. And graph means drawing (on paper). Above all, the joy of the physical object is second to none. We are tactile creatures.
Printing is a craft. Clicking print on your digital printer is only a first step. The joy of crafting (processing for print, choosing paper, chosing alternative printing techniques, creating books …) will greatly deepen your satisfaction with your work. And that of those who view it.
Craft serves intent. How you create your physical object greatly determines how others perceive the meaning behind the work.
Available isn’t an excuse. Travel photography is available light, available sight, available time. So? If it’s not going to be a good photograph, don’t take it. If it doesn’t support your intent, your worldview, don’t take it.
Have a philosophy. There’s the Zen of beautiful, clean, efficient, minimalist code. I try to get the shot at my first attempt. Any philosophy is OK, but find one that speaks to you and guides you.
Intent is Knowing Thyself. We make photographs from photons and ideas. No light, no photograph. No idea, no photograph. Always ask yourself “why?” The answer to that why is your statement.
Life is a cycle. You can circle down through bad habits, circle flat through inaction or circle up by trying, getting good feedback, and thinking about why you like something or don’t.
And we’re back to where we started. Personal is better than …
This post is also a roadmap for future content. I’ll dive deeper into each idea in future articles. Contributions are more than welcome, if you wish to build this up with me 🙂
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