I recently read an article by blogger Dave for his blog, Shoot Tokyo, which made me think about the way I take photos. The basic idea is whether you should always carry your camera with you or not. In his article Dave recounts an interview he watched of a famous New York photographer called Jay Maisel who has been doing photography for 60 years. The first question Jay Maisel asks is how often do you go out shooting. And from the answer Jay Maisel can tell if you will be a great photographer or not. The reason behind this is that the more you do something the better you become at it.
The article uses a wonderful example. Unfortunately I think the example is misinterpreted. It goes like this: dancers don't practice only once or twice a month; weightlifters don't lift weight only once or twice a month. This is not arguable of course; it's a fact. But the comparison is to support the idea that just like dancers and weightlifters you should always carry your camera with you wherever you go, because the more you shoot the better you are.
Now, this is where I think the idea is misinterpreted - and if we have to use such a great analogy it should be used appropriately. Dancers don't actually dance all the time, on their way to work or when they're out and about, shopping etc... Weightlifters don't lift weight wherever they are in town or at work. No, they practice during very specific and dedicated times, several times a week, in specific locations, where they can be more focused and productive, but also to give themselves time to rest and forget about it.
Shall we, hobbyist photographers, take our camera everywhere we go? Or shall we actually learn from other artists and athletes about time management, which is, according to Wikipedia 'the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially [and this is the important part] to increase effectiveness, efficiency and productivity.'
People take photos for mainly two reasons; for fun or for work (and often both). In both cases it is important to manage inspiration and motivation. And for that, time off is needed. I think one of the most important and common fears that photographers have is to miss a moment. 'If I don't take my camera I'm going to miss something', 'if I had my camera this would have been the best photograph ever' are typical negative and destructive thoughts we all have.
I have those thoughts. And I do very often go out with my camera. But I know it's a mistake. I end up shooting more photos that I don't really want or like and then spend more time editing and looking at images that are not better than snapshots. How is that improving?
Whatever I am photographing (lifestyle, street photography, landscapes), I try to plan my outing. Photography is a skill. To take great images I don't think you can take your camera wherever you go and just shoot; that's undermining the skills of a photographer. Yes, you will get lucky at times but you'll end up with thousands of deceptive photographs and a ton of demotivation.
Be ready to hear the truth: You will miss photos. You will. And as a photographer I am still working on accepting that idea :) We can't be everywhere and we can't always carry all the equipment needed to shoot every type of photos.
As photographers we always want to get better - we are never satisfied.
So I'm asking the question: Is carrying a camera wherever we go the solution to improve our skills? Or will it make us a better point and shoot Instagramer? Everyone walks with a camera (phone) these days. As enthusiast photographers with better cameras what can we do to produce better results than snapshots?
A few days after Christmas it was very cold and there was still snow in Copenhagen. So I wanted to photograph Gentofte Lake because I knew it would be frozen and the surrounding area would look amazing. I'm not a huge planner - although I'm trying more and more - but I knew what sort of photos I would be able to take. Having this snowy wonderland theme in mind I came back with photos I was really happy with. Although I had gloves I can't describe how painful my fingers felt using the camera for two hours but the results were pleasing.
Do you carry your camera with you all the time? Does that help your creativity? Share your opinion and experience here on this post.
All the photos on this page were taken in Gentofte lake: