I’ve talked before about how photography is all about learning, and about how the learning never ends. There’s always new equipment to familiarize ourselves with, new locations to learn about, new subjects to study, new software to tinker with — it just never stops.
But sometimes, it seems like the learning hits a bit of a roadblock. And I think this roadblock is something that many photographers have struggled with. Some have even opted to let photography go by the wayside when this roadblock arises.
You see, in the beginning, the majority of learning that photographers do is purely technical. Cameras and the technology surrounding them is something new, and every photographer must have a decent grasp on these things in order to create good, aesthetically pleasing photographs.
When you think about it, this technical learning can go on for years. It goes well past learning the ins and outs of your camera body. Next, there are lenses and their various quirks to figure out. With that knowledge, you must now figure out how to make these pieces of gear replicate the vision you see in your mind’s eye. On a more advanced level, there are all different kinds of lighting setups to ponder, from strobes to studio lighting and all the reflectors, filters and so on to go with them. Post-processing techniques are many and varied, as are the different types of software you can use. All of this can take us years to master.
Someday, we reach a point where all of this technical learning slows down or even mostly comes to a halt. Of course, it will never stop completely — there will always be new bits of software and equipment to familiarize ourselves with. But for the most part, we hit a point where we’ve learned enough about our camera, lenses, lighting, software, and so on that, we can do pretty much anything we want with them.
And this is the roadblock to which I was referring. It’s that feeling you get when the learning has slowed down such that it’s no longer satisfying. For some, the photographic journey is all about learning. And when we get to this place in which it feels like there’s little left to learn, then what? It’s very, very easy to hit this point in your photographic career and start to lose interest.
But the road shouldn’t end here. Once the technical learning is out of the way, once we’ve fully mastered gear and software, at least as far as we need to for the various techniques that we use, what then? Well, it’s not a matter of throwing your hands up and claiming that you’ve done it all. Instead, it’s time to shift focus. This is when the real journey begins. Now, we have something even harder to learn: Creativity, and how to hone our creative vision so that we’re pouring thoughts, feelings, and large portions of ourselves into our work. So don’t ever let yourself think the learning is over. Creativity is the bigger challenge, and that’s something that none of us can ever fully learn.