16 Behaviors of the Serious Photographer

1. Has achieved an easy familiarity with his equipment and the light sensitive materials he utilizes. In other words, he’s gotten enough technique under his belt to operate.

  • Does not get hung up on technique
  • Simplifies: carries no more than is necessary (not ‘dripping with equipment’)
  • Knows the limits of his equipment (and himself)
  • Uses the best gear he can afford

2. Has developed a flexibility of approach to (or treatment of) his subject

  • Prepared: never travels without camera. “Dresses for the occasion” – ready to lie down in mud if necessary
  • Ability to improvise
  • Patience when required

3. Should believe that whatever he sees (excites his eye), he can photograph.

4. Instinctively frames for the strongest possible view; a compositional sense of rightness (Balance)

  • “Composition is the strongest way of seeing” (Edward Weston)
  • Power of Selectivity (Includes all that is essential, Excludes all that is non-essential)

5. Has an Awareness of Light

  • Quantitative
  • Qualitative

6. Realizes that film is cheap

  • Better to overshoot and edit later.
  • Bracket exposure when in doubt.

7. Approaches his subject with respect

8. Is his own severest critic

  • Ruthless in editing; end result that is much stronger
  • Aware of when repeating self or copying others.
  • Concern for his work to be of Highest Possible Quality
  • Remembers that “Artsy” rhymes with “Fartsy.”

9. Takes care not to abuse the Power of Photography.

  • More than the power to record, it can interpret, convey a message, evoke emotion, inspire, depress, etc.
  • Understands that photographs can lie like hell
  • In portraiture: the power of choosing the right (or wrong) instant (or angle, or lighting) etc.
  • Flatness of camera (monocular) vision vs. human (bi-ocular), three dimensional vision
  • Time exposure: film records passages of light over time. Biological vision systems do not.

10. Is gracious enough to accept and acknowledge successful ‘Accidents’

11. Understands the difference between “Looking” and “Seeing”

  • “Many look, but few see.”
  • In seeing, one perceives (visually comprehends).

12. Strives for Perfection, but hopes never to achieve it

  • The dullness (non-controversial) nature of perfection.
  • “You’re only as good as your last photograph.”

13. Has enough self-understanding to know what he’s trying to do with his photography

  • Understands the connection between his photographs and himself.
  • Realizes the danger of too close an association with any one: school, system or guru
  • Knows that at some point, he must go his own way.

14. Has at least some passing familiarity with the history and Big Names in Photography

  • Enrichment of one’s own experience by discovering the work and writings of past kindred spirits.
  • No need to replicate unknowingly what’s been done before his time.

15. Should be reconciled to spending a lifetime in the determination of What Makes a Picture

  • No formula solves the problem.
  • Same question as “What is Art”?
  • Pattern picture, for example, must be more than a pattern to be good.

16. Is sufficiently free from dogma to disregard any (or all) of the above which do not apply to his own special situation

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