OhLook wrote in post #16657920
Advice seems to divide into two kinds: the top-down approach (learn the theory first and then apply it) and the bottom-up approach (shoot a lot and consult the theory if necessary). Why such polarization? Does it come only from posters' personalities and their
various learning styles?
Heh, this is an interesting thing to think about. So I'll give my feedback on my situation. It might not be helpful to anyone else, but writing down my thoughts may help me (I find that putting things to pen and paper or type often helps me to remember it by cementing it in my mind).
Personally, I think I've been taught BOTH ways simultaneously. The focus was always shooting LOTS of images, but there was an equal emphasis on SIMULTANEOUSLY learning theory and thinking about creative ways to solve problems and push the envelope with independent study. Again, that's how I was TAUGHT. Neither took precedence over the other, they went hand in hand.
In PRACTICE, though, that's not what I do. My personal method is more along the lines of not shooting until I have an idea or a plan.And I spend a buttload of time formulating plans and ideas without shooting. Then when I finally do try applying those ideas and plans to actual shoots, I typically end up throwing them out the window anyway. The shoot either modifies the plan or renders it irrelevant, then I make up a new or modified plan on the fly.
So there's a disconnect between what I've been taught to do, and what I do. That's worth noting, and it's worth thinking about how that's working out for me.
Well, recently a class assignment had us bring in all of our best work from EVER for an informal classroom critique. And that's where I really got to see the comparison. We weren't being graded on the quality of our images, the whole point was to see where we were going with our work. And it was painfully clear. The people with the best work were the ones who shot a LOT. Many of their images were cliches, but they were GOOD cliches and they looked fantastic. And they had a LOT of good work.
By contrast, I had some cool stuff too. In all of the class, my work was probably the strangest and the most controversial and the most interesting (in terms of inviting discussion). But a lot of it was also ROUGH or looking half-finished, because I either started on an idea without enough pre-shooting, or I got some great images and then didn't follow through with them and refine the idea. And the actual VOLUME of my work was embarassing. There was definitely some really cool stuff in my catalogue. My teacher actually publicly said that my M.O. was that I don't show anyone a damn thing and then blow everyone away at the end (which he shouldn't freaking say in such a public setting, but that's another rant entirely). But it's kind of true. I'm just starting to come to accept that I've got serious freaking potential, which is a damn shame when I look over my work and see how LITTLE content I've got to show for it. And being fair to myself, much of it is freaking awesome. But awesome enough to justify such little content? Hell no. The biggest thing I learned when viewing my final images was "damn, there should be a LOT more of this stuff here."
Or to put it another way...several people in the class were actually making money on their photography on a consistent basis. Who were those people? That's right, the ones who shoot a LOT. Some of it was wedding stuff, which I never want to do, but they were actually selling quite a bit of images that were solely things that they shot just for the sake of shooting. Granted, most of it wasn't selling, but they were shooting enough to guarantee that some of their images were marketable to someone. Me? I've never sold a single print. Why? Because I only shoot when I have an idea, and that kind of self-serving attitude sort of entails "shooting only for me". When combined with a limited total output, it's no surprise that (cool images or not) I don't have a whole lot to offer in terms of things that would be of monetary value to someone else.
So, that's how my shooting style influences my outlook. I've been shooting long enough to identify my shooting style, and comparing my style and work to that of my peers provides a point of comparison by which I can determine how well my shooting style is working for me. And through self-reflection I can say this: I'm doing some stuff right, I'm just not doing nearly enough of it. I need to take what I'm doing and then do a lot more of it, because my primary problem is that I don't do nearly enough work.