Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hole In One

Once again I'm going to borrow from golf for a photographic analogy. Hole in one is not a phenomenon limited only to the best professional golfers. I'm sure in fact that the vast majority of holes in one are made by amateurs who's only requirement is the ability to occasionally hit the ball long enough to go in the hole, there being so many more of them than of top professionals. Of course, the ability to once in your life make a hole in one does not make you capable of competitively playing Tiger Woods, at least not at golf.

So it is with photographers. The vast majority of 'Wow' images are made by amateurs. If you doubt this, check out one of the photo sharing sites. On the other hand, few of them are able to go the equivalent of 18 holes. Some part of their photographic game is really strong, but they don't have the skills or creativity to be well rounded photographers who can make creative images in a variety of situations. Their images tend to look all alike, well beyond any style to simply downright repetitive. They may win contests but are unlikely to make a meaningful body of work.

So what's the relevance of this analogy? Well, if you see yourself as being one of those specialists or lacking the ability to really work with a project or see that your successes have more to do with being there than creativity, then you might want to work on your weaknesses. You don't get to be a good golfer by only working on the driving range - even though you can make some pretty impressive shots.


KeithAlanK said...

These last two essays are very good.
I probably like them because I didn't get discouraged after reading them--you made points that I very much agree with and have kept in mind as I work on my photography.

Tim Gray said...

Yes, this essay is bang on. There's a big difference between "monkeys writing Shakespeare" or in more PC correct terms, the "law of large numbers" and creating a competent body of work. I actually don't recall seeing any workshops with that as a specific focus.

Neil said...

Very interesting points George. As you say, in the post digital world amazing one-off shots that would have sold for thousands 15 years ago are now splashed across every other page on Flickr and the like. Still, the technology that created this situation has given others the freedom to go off into our own little niches and the means to share it with a like minded audience. The other thing is that now everyone with a dslr is a 'professional photographer' albeit mainly in their own mind, there seems to be an emerging trend of the better bodies of work coming from people who don't make much attempt to commercialise it at least online. That does seem quite a healthy situation to me.


latoga said...

I would expand one of your points George by saying that most professional or high caliber photographers won't be found on the photo sharing sites because they know the value of their images and don't want to run the risk of having them lifted or they don't have the time to post to a social site.

I also agree with your second point that we all have to "sit backwards on our horse and look where we have been" (usually with the help of other trusted photographer peers) to see where our weaknesses are and work on them. Personally, this is the type of personal interaction for the improvement of our work that is missing online today. (see my comments about Searching for an honest critique