There are so many different things that photographers prize highly. From one photographer to the next, the answer might be different, too.
Take prints, for instance. One photographer may treat them as a precious artifact, storing them in perfect conditions, using only the best archival materials, and handling those prints with gloves. To them, that’s the most valuable thing, so they take great pains to keep those prints pristine for decades.
Other photographers might have different answers. Cameras are something we all value very highly. They’re the tool of our trade, same as painters value their brushes. Other types of gear might be the most valuable thing to you—the perfect lens that allows you to take just the sort of pictures you enjoy, whether that’s a wide angle, a fast lens, a long lens, macro or tilt-shift. Some of us value the latest and greatest post processing techniques and software highly. We might spend hours researching, learning and experimenting with new techniques.
You can see what I mean. There are lots that become precious to us, and for each photographer, the answer to the question “What do you prize most highly?” could be different.
It’s about this point where I have to pause and wonder if maybe we need to reprioritize a little bit. Sure, all of the things I mentioned are valuable things, important things to our art. They do require our attention. But perhaps we’re overlooking that one most valuable resource, the one we can’t buy more of or get any other way. Perhaps time is what should be most precious to us.
That’s the thing. We’ve only got so much time. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in all the details, worrying about prints, gear, post processing, and all the rest. And these are all things that take away from the time it takes to create photographs.
Looking at it a different way, what good are all of these details if we’re not actually producing photographs with which to use them? What good are prints if we’ve not created photographs that need to be printed? Does it do you any good to know all of these post processing techniques if you haven’t had the chance to create the digital negatives on which you’ll use them? The same goes for a camera. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to afford and purchase a high-end camera. But that cost is wasted if it never leaves the camera bag.
I’m not saying that photographers routinely waste time. Far from it—we’re all mostly quite productive. But I do think it’s worthwhile to stop and ponder this most valuable of resources once in a while. In so doing, we might find that we need to rearrange things a little bit. Redirect time so we can spend more of it doing what’s most important: creating.