andrew gibson: moving to the next level
andrew s. gibson ©
How would you describe your ability as a photographer? Do you think of yourself as a beginner? Competent? Expert? I came across an interesting post on Seth’s Blog. He talks about the five stages people go through as they learn (formally known as the ‘Dreyfus model of skill acquisition’). Here’s how I see them applying to photography:
Needs to be told exactly what to do. Wants precise instructions for everything. Doesn’t want to make any decisions for themself.
Starting to get to grips with photographic technique and theory, but lacks in-depth knowledge and the ability to place the theory in a wider context.
Has the ability to assimilate and cope with what can be vast amounts of incoming information. Sets goals, makes plans and creates routine ways of working.
Has a good overview of photographic techniques, theory and practise. Is adaptable and can apply theoretical knowledge in practise. Knows when someone isn’t doing something the accepted way.
Transcends the rulebook – experts make new rules and beat the paths that others follow. Has a deep knowledge and understanding of photography, combined with creative vision and the ability to cope with whatever is thrown at them. Experts are writing books and giving workshops – think Joe McNally, Vincent LaForet, David duChemin and so on.
Where do you fit in this hierarchy? I’m sure every photographer will be able to categorise themselves and recognise the stages of learning. The big question is, once you’ve realised where you are, how do you progress to the next level? I think there are two key areas – knowledge and practise. Read and learn as much as you can. Look at the work of expert photographers. Then go out and put it into practise. It may take time, but you’ll progress.
When it comes to learning, photographers have never had it so good. Digital cameras give instant feedback – no more waiting for a week for a box of processed Kodachromes to come through the door. The internet gives instant access to the images and thoughts of the world’s best photographers. Want to know what Joe McNally is thinking as he takes photos? The answer is right there on his blog.
There’s another factor, implicit in most learning material but not often spoken about – mentality. Knowledge is one thing, mindset another. The world’s top photographers think differently. What would you have done if Canon lent you a pre-production EOS 5D Mark II for a weekend? Vincent Laforet made Reverie. That’s the difference that mindset makes.
Growth and improvement are challenges that every photographer face. This is my call to action: what do you need to do to move towards the next level? Sit down and write a list of five things. Share them with us. Then go out and do them.
Andrew Gibson is the author of Craft and Vision’s “Magic of Black & White” series of ebooks. He covers seeing in monochrome to using digital tools such as Photoshop to convert colour images into black and white. His most recent ebook looks at advanced techniques to create more powerful images.
Craft and Vision has a limited number of gift coupons available during this holiday season. Buy this $20 gift coupon and you’ll get a code to give to someone special to use on the Craft and Vision site when they select 4 or more books from the collection. And because my friend Matt Connors asked so nicely, I’m going to give one coupon to someone who takes up Andrew’s challenge in the comments below. The winner will be chosen by random draw on November 30.