16 Behaviors of the Serious Photographer

1. Has achieved an easy familiarity with their equipment and the light sensitive materials they utilize. In other words, the photographer has gotten enough technique under their 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 their equipment (and themselves).
  • Uses the best gear they can afford.

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

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

Behaviors of the Serious Photographer

3. Should believe that whatever they see, they 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.

Behaviors of the Serious Photographer

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 their subject with respect.

Behaviors of the Serious Photographer

8. Is their own severest critic.

  • Ruthless in editing; end result that is much stronger.
  • Aware of when repeating self or copying others.
  • Concern for their 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 mistakes.

Behaviors of the Serious Photographer

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.”

Behaviors of the Serious Photographer

13. Has enough self-understanding to know what they’re trying to do with their photography.

  • Understands the connection between their photographs and themselves.
  • Realizes the danger of too close an association with any one: school, system, or guru.
  • Knows that at some point, they must go their 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 their time.

Behaviors of the Serious Photographer

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 does not apply to their own special situation

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