I’ve been at this photography thing for almost 15 years now and I feel pretty confident that I know what I’m doing. In fact, I teach others how to get along better with their cameras, through my critiques and online courses. And I share my knowledge and experience with you every week.
But does that mean I’m too far along to learn anything myself? Um, NO.
One of the things that I’ve always loved about photography is that you never stop learning. Once you start – and this is true of really any creative activity that has a technical aspect – you’re in it for the long haul. For as long as you keep taking pictures, or writing stories, or banging on the drums, you’ll keep learning. You’ll keep improving.
For all of the photographs that I’ve shot over the years that I’m really proud of, I think I’m even more excited about all the photos that I haven’t yet taken. I know that as the years go on, I’ll continue to grow with my skills and creative ideas, and in five, ten and even twenty years, I’ll make images that will inspire me as much, if not more, than my favorite shots from the past decade.
For this to happen, though, I have to remain open to learning, and so should you. I realize that you probably spend a vast amount of time each week crusing photography blogs like The Photoletariat, poring over photography books and practicing your craft. I’d even venture to say that for some of you, learning is how you spend the majority of your photo time each week.
That’s great, and to that I say, learn more.
The whole learning thing works as a series of gains and plateaus. Some weeks and years you feel like you’re advancing by great leaps and bounds. During others, you feel as if you’ve peaked. We all experience this, and the only way to keep yourself climbing past the plateaus is to break out of your comfort zone and open yourself up to new opportunities.
Next week, I’ll be catching The Flash Bus tour in Denver. I’m really excited, and not just for the moment when I lay my own mortal eyes upon legendary photographer Joe McNally and his partner in crime, Strobist David Hobby. I’m excited because I’m looking forward to spending the day learning. I mean really learning. The Flash Bus workshop is going to be a whole new experience. I haven’t attended a “pro” workshop in quite awhile and I’m really inspired that I made the investment and commitment to try something new, especially since it’s being run by two very accomplished photographers.
Edit: For those of you who attended the Denver Flash bus tour stop, which already happened, you might remember me. I was the guy who enthusiastically jumped and won the prize for being the person who traveled farthest to make the show. I know, I might have been a little too enthusiastic, but now I have a brand new Lumiquest Softbox III to show for it.
Happy learning and happy shooting.
Senior contributor Dan Bailey is a professional adventure, outdoor and travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.
Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter.