The Practicing Photographer

with Ben Long
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The Practicing Photographer
Video duration: 0s 15h 33m Appropriate for all Updated Apr 28, 2016


In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.


Avoiding the intimidation factor in photography

- We talk about a lot of different things here on the Practicing Photographer. We talk about cameras, we talk about software, we talk about connecting the two things. We've talked about printing and on and on and on. This is what it is to learn photography. There's a lot of complex stuff. Everything from how ink interacts with paper, to how electrons interact with the digital image sensor. Who can really learn all this stuff? It's hard. And that's what I want to talk to you about today. This is hard. The problem is because it's hard we sometimes make things more difficult for ourselves.

Years ago I had a computer programming project and I bought a computer programming book by a guy named Aaron Hilligass, and he had a great introduction. And in one part it had a section called How to Learn. And in that he mentions that he's noticed that his students sometimes forget that computer programming is hard. How do you forget that? So they will be having a difficult time, and rather than say, "Wow, this is hard," and just keep going, they will go, "I'm having a difficult time.

What if I'm stupid?" And they get so worried about being stupid that they stop the project they're working on and go off on these tangents about trying to prove to themselves that they're not stupid. Well, the minute you do that, you're no longer working on the problem at hand. You've created a massive diversion for yourself. And I see that with photo students also. Whatever it is we're trying to learn, they get worried that "Maybe I'm not good enough to learn this, maybe I'm not smart enough. Maybe I don't have natural, photographic talent." Any number of different things.

As soon as they're off in that realm, they've stopped dealing with the actual problem at hand. So I'm going to give you some permission here right now, not to be stupid, but to accept that all of this stuff that we're talking about in the Practicing Photographer and in all of these courses, all of this stuff is difficult. It's OK to have a hard time with it. It's OK to be intimidated by it, it's OK to fail at it, over and over and over. In some cases, you're just not going to get some of it, and that's OK, too. You can learn to work around it, and in fact, that might turn out to be a benefit.

I see students distracting themselves in a number of different ways. First, they worry that they're stupid. Second, they worry that they haven't started soon enough. That's a big one, "Boy if I started this 10 years ago, think of where I could be now." Yeah, you could be much farther right now, but you're not. Nothing you can do about that. Don't worry about that. That's a distraction from the task at hand. They worry that one part of their skill set is not as robust as another part. I go through that one a lot. And that doesn't matter.

You work with what you have. Maybe you're not great at post-production, but you're a fantastic shooter. That's OK. You can either find someone who is good at post-production and work with them, or you can learn to work within those limitations to arrive at a place that that you had never foreseen in the first place. All of this worry, all of this intimidation, it doesn't get us anywhere. But most importantly, it distracts us from the task that can get us somewhere. So it's important to try to recognize your own intimidation-based roadblocks.

What are the ways that you stop dealing with the problem at hand and go off on a tangent about some weird neurosis that actually has nothing to do with solving the problem. I've listed a few, you might have some of your own. If you can identify them, you'll probably have an easier time staying focused on the learning, and that's gonna, in the long run, give you a better discipline of practice at photography.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about The Practicing Photographer .

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Q: Why can't I earn a Certificate of Completion for this course?
A: We publish a new tutorial or tutorials for this course on a regular basis. We are unable to offer a Certificate of Completion because it is an ever-evolving course that is not designed to be completed. Check back often for new movies.
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