I’ve heard it said that one needs to practice at a craft for 10,000 hours before they master it. As interesting a concept as this may be, I feel it’s important to note that putting in 10,000 hours just isn’t enough, especially when it comes to artistic pursuits such as photography.
I can’t tell you how many portfolios I’ve seen on modeling/photography websites where the photographer boasts ten, twenty, or even thirty years of experience, yet their photographs are poorly executed and look very amateurish. However, if you consider that these photographers have likely been teaching themselves; either by trial and error, books, or worse through random YouTube tutorials, it comes as no surprise. Essentially, while they have indeed been practicing, they have unfortunately been mastering bad techniques and amateur practices.
When I began feeling stuck with my photography a couple of years ago and desired to move forward, I, too, sought out information through books, online tutorials, and workshops. Some of the information helped me progress a bit, but I came to the conclusion that I was in jeopardy of succumbing to the various pitfalls of following the path of misinformation, or partial information, which can be just as detrimental.
I think I heard this quote (don’t laugh) in “The Karate Kid,” but they probably also got it from somewhere; “There are no bad students, only bad teachers.” I had been considering enrolling at my local university to finish my MFA in photography, although it had been over 20 years since I had dropped out of the program.
Around this time, I heard about the Shoot The Centerfold workshops. I attended one, since I am a big fan of glamour photography and the photographers of which STC boasted. Like any good education, it was overwhelming at first, but I learned so much in those couple of days.
I later got in touch with Jarmo and asked him about the possibility of a personalized tutoring session or mentorship. He said they were thinking about something along those lines but hadn’t figured it out yet. I kept calling and asking him about that type of program and soon enough, I was doing my first One-on-One over the phone. The results were impressive, as my photographs instantly became more professional looking.
Since then, Jarmo and I have done several One-on-One sessions and each time, I feel my knowledge of HOW to practice and WHAT to practice grows exponentially. I am confident that the next 10,000 hours I dedicate to my photography craft will lead me in a positive direction instead of wasting my time with bad habits and poor techniques.
While I don’t have any “wax on, wax off” philosophy to impart, I would advise that if you’re thinking about ways to improve your work and you desire to become a student, make certain to choose your masters wisely.