Surfing the Learning Curve

It’s been my experience, most photographers progress through three distinct stages while they are learning and refining their image-making skills. In my friend Rick Sammon’s book Creative Visualization for Photographers, he takes the position there are four but I was surprised (even though he and I never discussed this topic) how much we had in common on this topic.

Stage One starts tight after a photographer gets their first “good” camera and discovers all of the medium’s potential for fun and creativity. During this time, novice shooters enthusiastically explore their world and every memory card they fill is crammed full of files containing images that look so much better than they could have ever imagined. Unfortunately, this blissful period doesn’t last long and is quickly replaced by the next and much longer phase.



Stage Two occurs when the photographer’s level of enthusiasm is still high but becomes diminished when reviewing their latest images only to discover these new images are much worse than they expected. Instead of the jot of discovery, all they can see is what’s wrong with their photographs. Part of surviving this phase has to do with managing expectations.

Tip: Don’t let any Internet criticism or praise of your work inflate your ego or slow down your journey on the learning curve. Unfortunately, this phase lasts a long time but as the photographer continues to improve their skills by reading magazines, blogs like this, and—most importantly—practicing their art until at last they reach the third and final phase

Stage Three is the point in which the images the photographer sees in their viewfinder and what they actually capture is exactly what they expected. There are no surprises. Interestingly, because there’s no urgency to click the shutter you will find that under this phase you may shoot fewer but better pictures. While  this phase can be fulfilling, some of that original magic is understandably lost. But until that  combination of lighting, subject, and photographer’s mood and inspiration come together to capture a magic moment, you gotta “keep banging those rocks together.”

My now out-of-print book Creative Digital Monochrome Effects on shooting and processing black & white photographs is available used at bargain prices Amazon and is a fun read.


Author: Joe Farace

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