Why slow learners make better photographers

Why Slow Learners Make Better Photographers

Why slow learners make better photographers In the beginning, I had no idea what I was looking at. Nothing seemed to make any sense, no matter how many times I read it over.

I’ll be honest… I felt pretty discouraged. This was supposed to be pretty basic information – shouldn’t I be able to understand it?

Do you ever feel like you’re trying to learn a foreign language when you watch tutorials and read articles on photography? Because that’s how I felt!

Recently, I mentioned in a previous post how I had taken up trap shooting this year. I spent time investigating it online by reading articles and watching instructional videos on Youtube, but with no hands-on knowledge, much of the material made little or no sense to me.

This time, I decided I wasn’t going to make myself feel bad for not understanding. Instead, I decided to take action and just get started. 

After actually heading to the range, taking my very first shot and slowly improving my skills for a few months with the help of some kind veteran shooters, I went back to view some of those early videos and articles and suddenly, the light bulb went off.

Things that were beyond my grasp at the very beginning now made perfect sense

(Well maybe not perfect sense, but at least a lot more sense!)

It’s funny how in life, you can read something or be told something that just doesn’t resonate… yet weeks or even years later, with more experience behind your belt, that same information suddenly makes sense or can even be life changing. It’s all about timing – that is, receiving the right information at the right time.

This experience got me thinking about the days when I was first starting my photography business. Sometimes I felt like I would never be able to understand all the minutiae and inner workings of photography.

Everyone experiences the stage where your vision exceeds your grasp of how to reach it at that moment. For example, perhaps you have a vision in your mind of how you want to pose and light a subject… yet your lighting skill may not be quite at that point where you understand how to bring that vision to life just yet.

I can remember being totally perplexed in the beginning with using studio lighting

I had attended a lighting class where the instructor was using four or five strobes (sometimes more) in the studio – hair lights, kicker lights, lighting ratios- what’s it all mean!? But after a few years of practice, all of that is second nature and no big deal.

Looking back, I realize this class was a little over my head at the time. There’s nothing wrong with trying to learn something that is a bit advanced as long as you realize that it’s beyond your current skill level and you will allow yourself to pick up what you can without getting frustrated with yourself.

However, it may make even more sense to take the learning one step at a time, instead of trying to jump straight from beginner to expert.

Here’s how I would recommend going about improving lighting work now:

  • Instead of jumping right into 5 strobe lights in the studio, I would start by practice using one plus a reflector
  • The next step would be to add in a fill light and hair light
  • Then, down the road, once I got that setup working the way I wanted, I would add in a kicker light

Keep in mind that making something more complicated doesn’t always make it better. Sometimes a very simple lighting set up is the perfect solution to creating the portraits you envision.

This is what I mean when I say slow learners make better photographers…

Your skills are likely to be much stronger if you can improve step-by-step. When people try to jump straight from zero to expert, they tend to miss a lot of the building blocks along the way.

The building blocks – the skills that you will learn on the way from beginner to expert – will become the foundation for your photography. They will allow you to understand more advanced techniques more easily, since you will already understand the pieces that go into it.

On the other hand, the photographer that tries to speed ahead with an expert technique before they’re ready may be able to get very good at that one technique…but that is just one technique.

What happens when they want to try something else? It’s going to be tough to figure it out without really understanding the basics..

It works the same way with the business side of photography

All the marketing jargon and advertising speak in the early days sometimes sounded like a foreign language to me, but little by little things began to make sense. You just have to keep exposing yourself to the things that you need to learn and sooner or later it begins to stick.

So, rather than reader 50 different articles on marketing and overwhelming yourself with a five-page list of to-dos, why not choose one article that makes the most sense to you and that you feel will make the biggest impact on your business?

Start here – one strategy at a time – and see how it works for your business. Then, you can expand on this strategy if it works, or move on to the next one if it doesn’t.

Sometimes you will find yourself studying something you know can help your photography or your business, yet you just can’t wrap your head around it at the moment…

…That’s okay! Half the battle is recognizing the information that you can benefit from, and realizing what makes enough sense to actually put into action at the current time. Keep a folder on your desktop with articles and videos that you know you will want to revisit later as your experience and knowledge base grows.

Back in the day when I would read a book and came across something that I just couldn’t comprehend, I would stick a Post-It note on the page.

This way, I could come back later and easily find that nugget and reread it. Most of the time, with more experience, I was able to finally understand what I read, and this made it a whole lot easier to then decide whether it was something worth pursuing.

And if it still doesn’t make sense? Oh well… maybe it isn’t that important anyway.

I want to hear from you!

In the comments below, please let me know what you are in the process of learning. Have you felt discouraged by thinking you aren’t learning quickly enough? Can you give yourself permission to enjoy the process and slowly build on your skills?